Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why People Leave The Church

Watch this interesting 2 minute talk from Matt Chandler on why people leave the church:

  1. Do you think Matt Chandler is right or wrong? Why?
  2. If you think he’s right, is this the main reason people leave the church?  Are there other major factors?

Think and pray about this:  How have you presented the Christian faith in a way that is legalistic and puts God in your debt?  What was the issue you were addressing?  In retrospect, How would you address it now with the Gospel?

Challenge:  Do you know people who have left the church?  Do you know why they left?  Make it a point to talk to them to find out why they’ve left and correct their misunderstandings of the faith with he Gospel.   

Image found here.

The Difference Between Irreligion, Religion and The Gospel

ireligion, religion, and the Gospel

A quick note on what how “religion” is used here.  We’re not using “religion” to describe a dedicated Christian who attends a church service.  Rather, Religion here really means religious performance, trying to attain God’s salvation by your own goodness or works.   The diagram above, I believe clearly shows this, yet I felt it necessary to make the distinction since so many are caught up in the delusion that one can belong to Christ and not be part of his Church.   

That said, seeing the distinction between religon, irreligion and the Gospel is pretty important.  We daily fall into disbelief and need to examine ourselves as to where we aren’t believing the Gospel.  I often use the 4 G’s for this.  Yet this diagram is helpful to check your motives and attitudes to see if they’re in light with Gospel belief or are the result of falling to the left or the right.

Tim Keller’s in his book, The Prodigal God, draws this distinction from the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  He talks of how there’s really two lost sons in that story:  The irreligious younger son who runs away from home and disownes his father by trying to make his own way, but also the prideful religious Pharisaical son who stays but really wants to replace his father through his own performance and hard work.  Keller says the Story leaves you yearning for a true elder brother who would go out and look for his lost brother.  He says it leaves you yearning for Christ.

The Gospel is the answer to both religion and irreligion.  Only in the Gospel can you rest, trusting in your true Elder Brother, Jesus, to save you and bring you home, and trusting in the gracious love of your Heavenly Father to run and accept you when you arrive.

Picture found Here along with some great Gospel-Centered resources.

Transforming Community Through Community

How much does Community matter to our neighborhoods?  Watch this short video from Incommon:

None of our current Missional Communities are in “At risk” neighborhoods.  While MC West is maybe interacting with people in poverty as they meet in Jackson Park, neither of our initial MCs are really in neighborhoods of poverty.   Yet I think that the message in this video can teach us something about community that is pertinent to our mission to bless and the greater community in which we meet and live.

Think through following questions:

  1. The video said, “People are the foundation on which a strong neighborhood is build.”  Do you know the people in your neighborhood?  If not, how can you take a step to get to know more of your neighbors?
  2. How are you investing in the people of your neighborhoods?
  3. Is there anyone else in your neighborhood already engaged in helping their neighbors and fostering community?  If so, how can you partner with them?

Check out Incommon on their work of building Community to lift areas out of poverty.

I found the video on Communities First Association’s blog.

What is the Church: Why We Won’t Be Launching A Service Any Time Soon.

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Church”?   Chances are you think of a buildings with steeples, organs, praise bands, hymns, liturgy, sacraments and sermons.  When we think of the word, Church, our minds usually jump to an activity that happens during an hour on Sunday morning.  So what is the Church, and what are we called to do?

  • Gathering around Word and Sacrament – According to the Augsburg Confession, The Christian church is “the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to God’s word” (Kolb, Ac VII, 1).  These are the “Marks of the Church”.  When we gather publicly, we gather around God’s preached word and the sacraments. 
  • Holy community – The greek word we translate as church means, “Assembly”.  Some claim the work of the church only happens then when we assembly around the Word and Sacraments.  However, In the Large Catechism, Luther calls the church a “Holy Community” “Holy Christian People” (Kolb, LC II,  48,49).  He says this is the correct translation of what the creed means by, “Communion of saints.”  The church is more than an assembly, we’re a people, and as a people we gather to receive God’s gifts and to praise him.  Yet we also are a community that has a mission to be a priesthood, to proclaim God’s praises, to call others to God’s light (1 Peter 2:2-10)
  • A Body, a family, – Scripture describes the Church as a body and family and as gathering something more regular than a weekly thing (1 Cor 12:12ff, Ro 12:4-7, Eph 2:19, Acts 2:42-47).  The purpose of the church service and church workers is, in part, to equip us for living the Christian life  (Eph 4: 11 ff).  It is to help us in our love for God, Love for neighbor, and witness to the world. 

While what we do on Sunday morning is part of being the church, we often focus on the corporate worship as being the only thing of importance at the cost of the rest of the Christian life. 

 

Why We Won’t Be Launching A Service Any Time Soon

  1. We want to spend our time and energy on reaching the Lost.  The goal of this new church is to reach people for Christ and to disciple them in the faith so that they reach and disciple others. If we launch too soon, the church service is going to become central.  Everyone, even non-christians recognize that a weekly gathering is an activity of the Christian.  For most, it’s the only activity and mark of a Christian’s life.  We want our energy and passion to focus on reaching the lost.   If we launch too soon, the majority of our energy will have to go into a service rather than the mission. 
  2. We need discipleship structures in place so we have enough leaders to disciple a large influx of attenders that is typical of a launching a service.  We have been working hard to create a new kind of church.  If we don’t have the disciples/leaders in place to help disciple new members, our identity will soon become watered down and new Christians will fall into a passive understanding of the Christian life (i.e. “Jesus/the church is here to serve me and I’m here to serve me too” or “Being Christian just means I sit here an hour on Sunday morning”)
  3. We Don’t want our DNA watered down.  As i mentioned above, there is usually a large influx of attenders when a new church launches a public worship service, many of these people are disgruntled church hopping Christians.  You need a DNA strong enough that it remains primary and doesn’t get replaced by what your visitors expect to receive from church.  It would be a great shame if after all this work, we launch a church that ends up being filled with people of the same mentality where only 20% want to help in any way and 80% are largely passive.  It would be even a greater shame if these people we all just transferred from another congregation.
  4. We want to see people coming to Christ before we start a service.  In the New Testament, churches are started as a result of people responding to the Gospel.  If we start a service before we start seeing conversions, the service again will become about us and our wants and desires rather than about reaching the lost.   Unchurched people have more relationships with unchurched people than those who are faithful church goers.  The more people we can win for Christ before the launch, the more unchurched people we can invite through them.

The purpose of this is not to give an exhaustible definition of the church.  Rather it is simply to describe a couple of the dimensions of church that are pertinent to why we would put off holding a weekly service.  If you have any thoughts on what could be included in what the church is or in the reasons why we should or shouldn’t put off having a service, feel free to leave a comment.

Steps for Launching and Reproducing Missional Communities

As we are near to launching our first two Missional Communities, I wanted to try and record a critical timeline for how Missional communities are launched and reproduced.  I recognize that not all MC’s start the same or grow at the same pace.  I still thought that putting together a template timeline might be beneficial in launching more MCs. 

Below are the steps towards launching and reproducing Missional Communities.  Each step occurs within a season of the process.  Many of these steps happen simultaneously and are not always necessarily completed before the next step begins.  

 

Sowing Seeds

Step 1- Starting and Growing Relationships

Note: As Christians we should always be engaging our unchurched family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors for the sake of establishing and growing relationships with them. The Season of Sowing Seeds and the Step of Starting and Growing Relationships is one that does not end with the launch of an MC but should be a regular Rhythm of life.

Things to consider are:

  1. Who are the people you know?  What networks of relationships, friends, hobbies and…
  2. What people group (network/neighborhood) are you feeling called to reach?
  3. Who are the prospects who’s hearts God had been opening? Who will help us accomplish this work?
  4. Who are the people that have the potential to open up a wider network of prospects?
  5. Discern who is the most open to spirituality and church.

 Preparation for A New Missional Community

 Step 2- Select Leader and 2-3 person leadership core of the Missional Community

Things to consider:

  1. Who of an existing MC feels called to lead a missional community? Have they been mentored?
  2. Who does the sending MC feel is able and qualified to lead? 
  3. Who has a passion to reach a certain people group?

Step 3 – Select a Mission

 Things to consider:

  1. The leader (and the core) selects a mission to a specific neighborhood, people group, etc, usually connected to the relationships built up with prospects. 
  2. If the leader does not yet have a core of a few Christians, including 1-2 fellow leaders, who will join him on this mission, the leader should present his mission to his MC to seek those people. 

 

Preparation for Launch

Step 4 – Heightened Intentional Outreach to the Prospects of each Core Member

 Things to consider:

  1. Schedule weekly intentional parties, social gatherings, and activities in which to engage with prospects and to introduce them to the other members of the core.  These could be large-scale parties involving all core members and many if not most of the prospects.  Mostly these events are the sharing of everyday life and activities with one or two prospects and a member of two of your core.    
  2. Regularly serve within the context you’re trying to reach.  You could assess and try to fill the need of one of your prospects or invite your prospects to serve others in the context with you. 

 Step 5 – Pray for God’s Blessings

Things to consider:

  1. Gather weekly with your core to pray for the MC and the prospects.
  2. Distribute a prospect list with first names to other members of the core so that they can be prayed for individually.

Step 6 – Set A Date for Beginning the Story-Formed Way 

 Things to Consider:

  1. This is usually 4-10 weeks out depending on how much past work has been done in building relationships with prospects. 
  2. Prayerfully discern who the “low hanging fruit” are and invite them to join you for the Story. 

Launching and MC Life

Note: While the mission and outreach aspect of the MC has been going on for some time, the MC officially starts with the beginning of The Story Formed Way

Step 7 – Launch with Beginning The Story-Formed Way   

Things to consider:

  1. Create a weekly rhythm of gathering on the same night in the same place.
  2. Decide how often you will gather for the Story and if you’ll take a break from it to celebrate or serve in that same gathering time. 

Step 8 – Mentor and be Mentored

Things to consider:

  1. Involve apprentice leaders in telling scenes from The Story and/or leading the dialogue as well as any further bible studies.  
  2. Involve apprentice leaders in choosing and scheduling service and social events.
  3. If no one is willing to be an apprentice leader, casually involve them in leading the story, praying, planning, etc. and gradually give them more responsibility.
  4. Each leader and apprentice leader should attend Leadership training.
  5. Each leader should attend leader huddle and have a Coach.

Step 9 – Create a Rhythm of Serving and Celebrating

 Things to consider:

  1. Serve within the context of your mission, that is, always connect your serving to the people you’re trying to reach and disciple.
  2. Continue the activities from Step 1. 

Multiplication and Reproduction

 Step 10 – Plan for Multiplication

Things to consider:

  1. Talk from the very beginning about the purpose of the group is to multiply and to reach others. 
  2. Officially or unofficially mentor and train new leaders.
  3. Teach each member how to share the Gospel through telling the Biblical Story.
  4. Regularly rehurse among the leadership how to share the Gospel Story

Step 11 – Reproduction and Sending

Things to consider:

  1. Reproduction happens when an apprenticed leader is trained and ready.
  2. Sometimes that apprenticed leader is released with 2-3 others to start a new MC.
  3. Sometimes the existing leader takes 2-3 members and starts a new MC and the apprentice takes over. 
  4. In the case where many members of the group were mentored simultaneously, the group then splits into as many teams are there are ready leaders to start new MCs.
  5. Other MCs and the Church celebrate the birth of new MC through a commissioning event with the church service.    
  6. These new MCs began again at Steps 1 & 2

Whether you’re a member of our Church Plant and MC or not, Please comment if you think that there’s something that is needed.  If you’d like a copy of the excel doc or the material please let me know.

Missional Training #16 – Listening

The church that we are working with Jesus to plant is pretty void of programs.  We want it to be as incarnational as possible where we are in the lives of others.  We want to demonstrate the person of Christ through our presence and participation for the good in the lives of those around us.   The incarnation is when Jesus took on human flesh, became one of us, and moved into the neighborhood.  We too want to enter the stories of those around us and change them for the good by pointing to the one who changed and redeemed our story.

Listen to this five-minute Verge Network video from Michael Frost entitled, “How to Listen to your neighborhood”:

As we start planting Missional Communities, listening is a very important activity in determining how to reach and bless those we seek to disciple.  As you think of your prospects, Have you listened to them? 

  • What is their story?  
  • What do they take joy in?
  •  What do they struggle with?
  • Where do they need help?
  • What will it take for them to succeed, be happy, keep their family together, feel worthwhile, etc?
  • What do they think they need to have in life and what, if lost, do they feel would free them?

How do you feel you can incarnate their world?  In what ways can we as an MC enter into their story and bless them and show them Jesus?  In what ways can we, as an entire church, do the same?

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