Archive for May, 2017

NEW-TO-FIVE-ebook-cover-6-HR-400x630The book, New to Five, by Ralph Moore and Jeff Christopherson, is all about moving our thinking as church leaders from addition to multiplication.  I grew up during the Church Growth movement.  I helped an inner-city church in Fort Wayne make 18,000 phone calls inviting people to our services.  We launched billboards, held “bring-a-friend” events and started new worship services.  And guess what, even though we were in the “wrong” part of our city, we were able to attract people and grow.

The authors of New to Five, however, question the biblical underpinnings of such an approach.  Even more they point out that addition isn’t cutting it, that a growing percentage of people aren’t interested in attending our churches, that U.S. worship attendance continues to decline, and after all, isn’t it about making disciples rather than building our kingdoms?

So what’s their alternative?  Multiplication!  The New Testament church is all about equipping and sending.  A healthier metric moves us from “seating capacity to sending capacity.”  Ralph writes:  “I think that the Great Commission will require us to start and multiply numerous smaller congregations that can reach into every nook and cranny of society…. Addition-focused churches have started to look alike, and ‘alike’ tends to be middle class–leaving lots of people outside the family.”

He goes on to say, “Many common church-planting methodologies seem to start with an eye toward multiplication until they gain momentum and multiplicative behaviors are shut down for the much sexier addition….If you don’t now it already, feeding a Level 3 [addition-focused] church takes a lot of money, talent, leadership and dedicated volunteers.  Start releasing and sending them out, and your church might implode.  At least that’s the prevailing fear…”

So the underlying question is, “Will you build a kingdom, or are you intent on building the Kingdom?”  Churches focused on building the Kingdom, referred to as Level 5 churches, look for effectiveness rather than excellence.  After all, look at who Jesus chose to lead His church?  Jeff writes:  “Instead of hand-selecting the obviously impressive, He chose the noticeably common.  Never has a less-impressive team received a more important assignment. ”

As Ralph says, “If you fully commit to pursuing Level 5 multiplication, the recognition that Level 3 pastors receive for leading large, growing and innovative churches won’t be  part of your story.  Simply put, fame and fortune are not coming your way, so get used to it.”  And just because a church may be small in size doesn’t limit it from focusing on multiplication rather than addition.

The reality is that growth shouldn’t be thrown out the window, but the writers point out that growth comes as disciples are released and sent out, churches give birth to new faith communities, that in turn give birth.  It’s exponential growth not growth through addition.  Adding new programs, improving worship services, and marketing creates a consumer-based church, where making disciples is more of an add on and doesn’t get much traction.  In a church based on a multiplication mindset, disciple making comes first, its at the core.  The church, its worship services, and programs grow out of the disciples being reached.

So in hindsight, I wish that the inner-city church I served years ago would have focused on sending its people out to build relationships with those in need of the Good News and a relationship with Christ, rather than on growing through attraction.  Had we done that maybe it would still exist…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P.S.  New to Five is available electronically at no cost.  I encourage you to read it!

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18010760_1380122238677676_4717157016528137471_nHave you ever looked at a problem and upon looking at it from a different perspective, and being open to God, something beautiful results?  That’s what happened at a small United Methodist church in Scipio, Indiana, a tiny community between Columbus and North Vernon.  Pastor Dereck Fields’s wife, Angela, was looking out her kitchen window at the church’s garage.  A large tree had fallen on it and it was beyond repair.

At that moment she had a thought, what if rather than replacing the structure, the church built a larger structure designed for ministry.  What if rather than a structure used for storage, the church built one used for connecting and growing people in relationship with Jesus Christ.

And that is exactly what the church has decided to do.  This spring the church has been constructing a shelter house on its property near busy Highway 7.  And on June first, after much prayer and planning, the church is launching a new Thursday night worship service designed to reach those who aren’t connected with a church.  The hope is that using a shelter-house setting, rather than a traditional sanctuary, and using food, bands, and speakers on various practical life issues, the church will be able to provide people in its area with a Christ-centered community and connect them to Christ.

The church recently was awarded a $25,000 Church Development grant to help launch this project, the cost of which is estimated at over $85,000 for the next four years.  In its grant application, Rev. Dereck Fields wrote:  “In 1 Corinthians 9:19 the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people.’  In the spirit of these words, we have decided to put together a worship service designed to better meet the needs of our community.”

The Indiana Conference’s Church Development Committee jumped at the opportunity to partner with this congregation because it already had a track record of intentional outreach to its community.  Its annual Easter Egg Hunt attracts 150-200 each 17990579_1377429712280262_6606864339592548734_oyear, its annual Halloween Trick-or-Treating 200-300 people, its annual Vacation Bible School 75-120, its weekly Mommy & Me Class 15-30 people, its monthly Thursday meal for the community 150-200 people, and the list goes on!  The town of Scipio, incidentally only has 124 people!

These outreach efforts are viewed by the church as ways to begin developing relationships with people in need of God’s love and good news.  As a result, lives have been changed, and the church’s worship attendance has doubled in size to around 60.

So, what problem are you facing?  Could it be that God has a plan to take the brokenness resulting from the problem and do something incredibly beautiful through it?  God, through Scipio UMC, has demonstrated just that!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development