Posts Tagged ‘disciple making’

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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Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 1.38.10 PMThe Indiana Conference’s Church Development team is tracking 25 new-faith communities that have been launched the past few years.  Together  they average 2,500 people in weekly worship attendance.  Praise God!

Each person reached has the potential of a changed life–like Amber Bean who a year ago wasn’t a Christian.  But now, thanks to Kristo’s Hands & Feet and the work of the Holy Spirit, Amber is passionate about her relationship with Christ and serving Him.  You can view her amazing testimony by clicking this link.

There are many, many others like Amber in your neighborhood.  So who is God counting on you and your church to bring the hope and joy of new life in Jesus Christ this Lenten Season?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

God continues to move in the Indiana Conference in amazing ways.  One such way is the addition of a new Korean United Methodist Church in West Lafayette named Korean Disciple that is already averaging around 100 in worship and has baptized nine people, including six adults.  Praise God!

church-plantingIts founding pastor, Jong Hyun Jung (a.k.a. Tim) has this to say…

“Korean Disciples Church started as a non-denominational church on July 7, 2013. Two families along with me (pastor Tim) began to gather together to pray for a new Korean church that is dedicated to serving the Korean community in the Greater Lafayette area in the summer of 2013. At the top of our goals was to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the area. I was the first leader of the church, and we first met in the lounge at the Purdue Village Community Center. We had 20 people attend the first worship on July 7, 2013.

“And, then, God sent us an amazing wave of revival and it grew to almost 100 in a year. As the number of people who come to our worship increased, we were in a desperate need for a place that is large enough to hold all of us. At that moment, Craig LaSuer, a lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette, graciously let us use the building at a very low rate, which helped us keep the momentum. We now develop many ministries and actively serve Korean undergraduate students who study at Purdue University.

“Because of my plan to graduate from Purdue University (I am a Ph.D. student in sociology at Purdue University), Korean Disciples Church formed a pastoral search committee and looked for a new pastor to fill in my shoes. With almost over 90% of yes from all-congregation vote, Korean Disciples Church decided to welcome Pastor Kookjin Yun (an UMC elder pastor) as our next senior pastor and become affiliated with UMC. The whole congregation is very excited about this transition. Our prayer request is that God helps us go through this transition period smoothly and make a great stride in making disciples of Jesus Christ in the Greater Lafayette area.”

Northwest District Superintendent, Rev. Chris Newman-Jacobs, points out “There are approximately 5,000 Koreans in the West Lafayette/Lafayette area and as one of their [Korean Disciples Church] leaders remarked, ‘About 200 of them attend other Korean congregations.  That means there are 4,800 more that we need to connect with and invite into the saving grace of Jesus Christ.’  Their spirit of mission outreach and evangelism is inspiring and exciting.  I believe this is an outstanding opportunity for the Indiana Conference a new population of disciples in the Lafayette area.”

The Conference Church Development Committee recently approved a $50,000 grant to help the congregation as it continues to develop and reach more people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Indiana Conference has two other Korean congregations, in Indianapolis and Bloomington, and we warmly welcome our newest sister congregation into our UM family!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Kristo's-131020aSt. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been spearheading a non-attractional church plant on the Fort Wayne’s south side the past few years called Kristo’s Hands and Feet.  Steve Mekura, the effort’s leader, recently reviewed an updated discipling plan with leaders from St. Joseph.  What the leaders discovered was that Kristo’s wasn’t a project that simply flowed from the mature Christians of St. Joseph to the non-believers and new believers in the south part of town.  God turned it around and now the Kristo’s project is actually challenging and shaping how St. Joseph members view disciple making where they live too.  Typically God, huh?

Here are comments from one St. Joseph member…

“The conversation completely changed for me when Steve started describing his formalized discipleship plan.  My heart was not open to the idea.  I thought our mission field is filled with people that often aren’t home, miss events, etc… there is no way we’re going to be able to convince them to stick to such a plan. I was skeptical that the idea of laying it out in such an intentional way, to people who have only begun to walk with or understand Christ, was way too much to ask.

“Then I started thinking about myself, “How would I react if someone from our church leadership asked the same of me?” What if there was something to hold me accountable for areas my personal spiritual growth is struggling and how I could be discipling others – which would both elevate my growth and impact others.  The thought was still terrifying and seemed like a huge undertaking – but the possibility of the growth it could bring began to be exciting.

“Then the conversation turned to responsibility … if I’m spiritually responsible for discipling those around me through the church activities I participate in, how does that change the way I act? What if everyone had that change in mentality, so that we are all discipling each other?  Putting aside the community for a moment, how would that change the culture of Saint Joseph?  What would it look like if instead of saying, “I get to hang out at camp with 27 senior high youth,” the conversation changed to the challenge of discipling them?  What if when we returned from camp, someone held me accountable for each person and asked what conversations I had with them … how I helped them grow for Jesus.  It would change the dynamic completely.  It could change the dynamic of Saint Joseph completely.  If it spread across Fort Wayne, it would change Fort Wayne completely.

“I commented that following Christ was never supposed to be easy, but we tend to make it very easy.  Maybe it’s time to make it more of a challenge.  Steve’s comment about ministry doesn’t end when he crosses Coliseum stuck with me too.  We need to be engaged in ministry at all times.

“The way God is leading us is consistent with what I felt at camp this year as well.  God loved us first, which the speaker turned into a verb: firstlove.  My takeaway from that week was, “Firstlove. Love first.” If we combine a genuine love for everyone with an intentional missionality focused on making true disciples, the possibilities are pretty exciting.

“Now, we do have to be careful not to make ministry a corporate chore. It still needs to flow out of a joy and not a duty … but if God is giving us joy by serving him, it may be important to formally recognize that comes with duty and responsibility as well. – Ryan”

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

imagesOne hundred people finding salvation!  That’s the goal of the South Whitley United Methodist Church, located in a town of 1,700 people in northeast Indiana.  This church, which averages fewer than 200 in worship, takes its vision “to passionately pursue those seeking God” seriously, so seriously that it set this lofty goal.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Chris Stahlman, says that the church arrived at the goal after some laity researched the matter.  They found that the average vital church in America averages 12 first-time commitments to Christ for every 100 in worship.  Rather that set a goal of 24, however, church leaders set a goal of 100 for 2015.  (I guess they see themselves as above average, which, of course, they are!)

The past few years, the church has been participating in the Fruitful Congregation Journey, a three-year revitalization process offered through the Indiana Conference.  As a part of the process, the church developed an intentional system for making disciples, including helping people respond to the invitation to follow Christ.

They track first-time commitments on the “connection card” used in worship.  Each preaching series provides an invitation to make a commitment to follow Christ.  Every small group, including Sunday school classes and Bible studies, are encouraged to provide a similar invitation at least once every three months.  Invitations are also being incorporated into special events, like Vacation Bible School and summer church camps.

Once a person indicates on his/her connection card that they’ve made a commitment to Christ, the church follows up with contact from the pastor, focusing on the person’s commitment to God.  They give them a book one month later that is a 60-day study about their commitment to Christ, and then three months later the pastor meets with them about making a commitment to the Kingdom and the church.  Of course, during this time the person will hopefully be worshiping, attending a small group, and be welcomed into the church family.

So, how has the church done so far toward its goal in the first two months of the year?  Pastor Chris acknowledges that it’s had fewer than ten people so far, but that the church will be really gearing up later this year.  Yet, think about it, had the church not set the goal perhaps they wouldn’t have extended any invitations to Christ and, as a result, they wouldn’t have had anyone who had made a first-time commitment to Christ.  What about your church?  What’s its expectations?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 12.52.24 PMWhat is the biggest concern of United Methodist laity according to a recent survey commissioned by UM Communications?  Our mission!  Nearly four out of ten respondents said that “creating disciples of Christ” is the first or second most important issue facing the church.

There are so many other things that easily distract us from our mission–our buildings, aging congregations, declines in worship attendance and giving.  In addition, there are voices that are placing issues of sexuality at the center of conversation, some even calling for church schism.  Yet, despite all of this, a significant percentage of laity are primarily concerned with us accomplishing our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

This certainly doesn’t mean other issues–poverty, social injustice, and sexual orientation/same-sex marriage–aren’t important too.  They’re simply not the main thing, our primary agenda.  They may be a part of it, but not the main thing.  And as I heard Rev. John Ed Mathison, former pastor of Frazer Memorial UMC, say many years ago, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  Especially in this day in which the institutional church is becoming more and more marginalized, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

HirschI was recently with Alan Hirsch–a South African-born missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement–talking about the future of the church when he made this provocative comment:  

Eighty percent of the youth in our churches go to college, or leave home, and drop out of the church within their first year.  Why?  Because we, the church, created an “aquarium” environment during their growing up years–sanitized places, free from risks and danger.  He pointed out that the movie, “Finding Nemo,” captures this beautifully.

Hirsch explained that we in the American culture, especially the middle and upper classes, have almost a fixation on safety and security, comfort and convenience, which is different from those living in most other cultures.  The church reflects this, which is ironic given the fact that most transformative experiences in the Bible occurred in those moments of instability, danger, and risk.  After all, God created out of chaos.

So, rather than disciple within an aquarium environment, how might we in the church foster discipleship, especially of our young people, out on the edges, out where the real action tends to be?  Perhaps one reason young people gravitate to short-term mission trips, which take them “outside the aquarium,” is because they innately long for such experiences.  Isn’t that what Jesus constantly did with his disciples?  He took them out of their comfortable, familiar positions–fishing, tax collecting, etc.–to those places on the edges–sending them two-by-two without their gear, traveling among Samaritans, occasionally even breaking the rules of the day.  Why?  Because he knew disciples are more likely made outside the “aquarium” than within it.

Think about it!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development