Is your church moving or simply meeting? Is it making a measurable difference in your local community or is it simply conducting services? Is it organized around a mission or is it organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation?
These are pretty unsettling questions, huh? Try kicking off your next staff meeting or leadership meeting with a couple of those questions and watch where the conversation goes. As uncomfortable as they are, questions like these reorient us to the mission Jesus intended when he announced the formation of his church.
Since the beginning of the New Year, me and my staff have been laboring through questions like these and more. We have been attempting to recenter ourselves on the mission. You see, I believe that the natural gravitational pull on every local church is towards it's insiders. Just read the book of Acts! The first century church that included many eyewitnesses to the resurrection, often struggled to maintain their focus and mission. What makes us think that we won't struggle with the same issues? I believe it takes great effort on the part of us as leaders to fight this natural drift and to keep the church mission focused.
Here's how we have been working it through with our team:
The first thing a local church needs to come to agreement on is the MISSION. I described the mission to our staff as the non-negotiable mandate of the global church. There wasn't much discussion over this point. We all quickly agreed that the mission for the global church was clearly given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." It's hard to argue with that! The mission of our church would simply be to make disciples.
We did however, have to discuss at length what a disciple was. How could we go and make disciples if we are unclear about what one is? We settled on a four-step process of making disciples as described by the Apostle John in 1 John 2. In his book he clearly addresses 3 distinct groups in the church. He wrote to "little children," "young men," and "fathers." We talked about each of these as being stages in a person's spiritual growth.
- But firstly, they must be born again.
- Next, they become little children. What characterizes a little child is that they are completely dependent on others feeding them and taking care of them. According to John, their biggest struggle is against sin.
- Those who overcome become young men. Young men are commonly characterized as independent. They have the ability to feed themselves, plus they are fighters. John characterized them as bold warriors who's biggest battle was against the evil one. He called them strong because they were full of the Word, and that's how they got to this stage.
- The last group he addresses is fathers. It's interesting that John didn't categorize them as old men, but instead chose to use the term father. Apparently, this category had nothing to do with age or length they had been saved. What makes a young man become a father? Simply, he has reproduced. This is a disciple who has led someone else to the Lord and this new believer is dependent upon him and he is responsible to see to it that they are fed. His battles are no longer for himself, but he fights on behalf of another.
The deeper we went into discussion about "making disciples", we became more and more confident that this was our overarching purpose as a church. Making disciples was our "WHY'. Next we would discuss "HOW" we could effectively follow this mandate.
I will go into detail of those discussions in my next post.
Question: Read 1 John 2. In which one of John's categories of maturity would you place yourself? Do you see how you could move to the next category?