Five key practices

So some church planting advice from Floyd McClung. The black type is his, the grey type are my comments.

Pray – Meet – Make – Gather – Multiply
by Floyd McClung 

Pray. Pray fervently with God’s heart for the people you are reaching out to. Pray to meet people by “divine appointments.” Pray until you can weep over people. Pray fervently. Fast and pray. Walk and pray. Ask God to let you see what he sees and feel what he feels. It is in the place of prayer that God will reveal the unfulfilled purposes and broken covenants for the people you are reaching. Pray for a man or woman of peace to open the door the hearts and minds of people you are reaching. Pray for understanding and love of the culture. Pray for the word of the Lord to guide you and give you specific strategies to make disciples, train leaders and plant a church planting movement.

ac – I’ve seen the results of ministry baked in prayer and ministry not baked in prayer. Prayer is the key. So easy in our enthusiasm to forget that even Jesus only did what he heard his Father tell him to do. God help us all to do this…prayer before action.

Meet. Meet people where they are and meet their needs. Hang out with those who don’t know Jesus. Get outside the Christian bubble. Resist the temptation and emotional need to focus on teams issues that absorb your time and energy. As you pray, trust God to give you strategies for meeting people. Begin to build a network of relationships, what the Bible calls an oikos (literally a household). This network is the beginning of your future church plant. This network of relationships will become the future support system for those who accept Christ if they are disenfranchised by their family and friends. Build this network in faith that it will become a church for God in that place.

ac – we’ve been hearing it for years ‘go to them’ ‘church without walls’ ‘missional church’ – and my desire is that it will become a reality. Here is a small confession…I want to know more not-yet-Christians than Christians. I want to follow Jesus and be friends with the kinda people he was friends with…a pretty diverse group from all strata of society with a bias towards the marginalised. We want to literally become part of the very fabric of this community to the extent that they greet me like they greet the people who’ve lived here all their lives. The hope of this community is that the gospel of the Kingdom be made tangible. Meeting needs is a key for us…there are so many. Yes, we want to meet them as a simple expression of God’s love, no strings, but we also want to connect deeper with people when the door is open for that.

Make. Make Disciples. Invest in people’s lives. Don’t wait for them to pray a prayer to accept Jesus or say they want to follow Jesus to invest in them as people. Disciple making is another way of describing evangelism, and of building meaningful relationships. As you build those relationships, seek to discern what God has in his heart for each person.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples. Disciple making is about introducing people to Jesus in such a way that they get to know him personally, and then learn to love and obey him. When it’s the right time, teach people the seven commands of Jesus:

repent and believe
be baptized
gather with others
make disciples of all nations

Do not hesitate to tell new believers the cost of following Jesus. Emphasize the privilege of going to other nations so God’s mission is part of their spiritual DNA.

ac – in a culture where people can be several generations de-churched, there are ground that has to be covered before the gospel makes sense. Yet, as we make disciples, we don’t stop at ‘making mates’ because we want to disciple. The HUGE challenge for me is in asking ‘when did Jesus disciples become disciples’ followed straight away by the question ‘when did they realise he was their Saviour and Lord?’ I think this question has an important missiological challenge in that we need to recognise that discipship isn’t just something that happens after evangelism….but evangelism comes at some poing in the discipleship process. Go figure.

Gather. Gather those you meet who are spiritually open with other seekers for fun, hanging out, enjoying common interests, prayer, and study of God’s word. Focus on the words and stories of Jesus. Don’t wait for them to say they want to become a follower of Jesus to gather people into a community of friends. Gathering around a meal with others is one of the best ways to build community. Jesus said that where two or three gather in his name, he is with them. This is “church” in it’s simplest, most essential form. Nothing more is needed to “be church.” There is more that can be done to contribute to growing a healthy, vibrant church (see Acts 2:42-47), but gathering people together is the beginning of planting that church.

ac – I confess to ‘gathering’ being one of the biggest challenges. In any sized group where you have ‘pre-made’ Christians, its so difficult to lay aside any pattern other than what we are used to and somehow we thing we’ve been short changed unless we have a hymn-sandwich type meeting.  Having said that, we aim to begin with not yet Christian folks.  Getting people together and helping form community can’t be forced, it needs time and investment from everyone. Challenging!

Then, having gathered people successfully, that task is then to lay the foundation, Jesus Christ, and teach the church how to build on that foundation in the way that they meet.

Multiply. Plan for growth. From the beginning, train new believers to take responsibility for your meetings and outreaches. Stay in the background as much as possible to encourage others to grow and exercise their spiritual gifts. As soon as you reach 15-20 people, multiply. Start a new gathering. Give those you have been investing in assignments that will help you discern their giftings, strengths, and weaknesses. Build the community from the beginning, just like Paul did, by facilitating the development of indigenous leadership.

ac – . Its key because this thing won’t happen on the effort and ministry of one or two people, its a whole community thing. Praise God.

Let’s practice these five simple steps (pray-meet-make-gather-multiply) to see the gospel transform the lives of people and so that we can see a church planting movement that spans the nations.

ac – The World for God!

More on leadership…

The lid on the coffin of my Salvation Army officership was probably the series of articles I wrote on leadership which didn’t just appear on my ‘Army Renewal’ blog, but appeared a few places in online journals and stuff.  I can’t really think of anything else which would have provoked the cold shoulder we eventually received from the Army here in the UK.  If you want to read it, it is still in the archives of the Journal of Aggressive Christianity  Issue 66.

By way of summary I was exploring for the following:

  • the non-clericalisation of leadership (and re-thinking the theology of ordination in the Army)
  • the roots of heirarchical leadership and asking if it fulfills the purpose God has for his people
  • the use and abuse of authority in leadership
  • the recruitment and development of leadership
  • the ‘pastoralisation’ of leadership (ie why has the role of ‘pastor’ become so elevated)
  • the funding of leadership

None of the theology we do is, in my opinion, ever helpful to be set in stone.  So I was asking myself ‘was there anything that I’d add as a comment or revision to that writing?’  Incidentally, the questions I was asking myself which produced the article were simply part of the discussions we had with Army leadership about our future within it. I mention that simply because you’ll realise these were pretty strong convictions that we felt we had to follow through on.

So, on reflection, here are some things I’d say now in addition:

  • with an experience of churches with a much heightened view of the ordained person, much thinking is still needed by the church on this whole issue.  It still lacks biblical support for the credence we place upon it as a concept.  Where I work, I’m not recognised as an ‘ordained person’ and come under the rather derogatory term ‘lay’ which is as unhelpful in these circles as it is in the Army.  In many ways, I can say with greater clarity how important it might be for the Army to utterly avoid the clerical trap, but I doubt the Army is listening to the likes of me (as if they ever did). Any changes to my views in this area?  Well, not significantly.  Quite simply, I believe the Spirit witnesses to each of our calls to ministry.  I don’t particularly have a problem with the church recognising and confirming that and if a church wants to do that publically so be it, but I really believe that we still must guard against making distinctions between the calling of one and another.  We CAN still do that without compromising the theology of the priesthood of all believers. 
  • heirarchical leadership:  I’m now almost at the opposite end of the scale here in the bowels of the Methodist machine….where everything is democracy albeit with a slight heirarchy.  I have found that there is less heirarchy, much more collaboration but still, there isn’t always a full appreciation of the functions of the body of Christ in the decision making process.  Less heirarchy doesn’t necessarily mean that a better system has been found.  Democracy and voting reign and it seems to me to be slightly at odds with Spirit-reliant Christian community.  Just because members have a vote, that doesn’t mean to say that the right result is always produced.  Acheiving a consensus ‘body’ decision is surely more difficult at times, but I think its the goal.
  • authority:  well, incidentally, General Linda Bond spoke so passionately about this issue on her election as general.  I’d emphasise with her that any leadership is spiritual, we needn’t get entrapped by any wordly concepts of authority.  ‘Not so with you…’ says Jesus.  We lead in a different way to the world and with a different kind of authority.  Lets continue to learn from Jesus in this.
  • recruitment and development of leaders:  well, I’d still love to see a full five-fold leadership taking place in the body of Christ not as heirarchy, but as ministries building up the body in those roles.  If we’re going to have full time workers, lets make sure they are equipping leaders and others as a priority.  This is, if anything, the biblical pattern handed on by the apostles and I don’t think you can improve on it.  I think any sensible leader surrounds himself with a full-compliment five fold input. 
  • pastoralisation of leadership:  linked to the last post, I still hold to the fact that the Christendom model
    isn’t helpful and that a missionary church needs a five-fold collaborative ministry.  It doesn’t make any sense that churches should be lead primarily by pastors.
  • funding:  I think pragmatics will dictate this much more in the future, but that there is great insight in the New Testament about this with regards to how the church supported itself and its apostolic workers (I’ve made the point that it was often only the apostles/apostolic workers who were funded in their work due to the nature of it and that its the institutionalisation of churches and the clerical model which has led to paid ministry).  I think we must be more open to bi-vocational ministry and one of the reasons I am developing a relationship with one particular denomination (Church of the Nazarene) is simply because this situation is the norm amongst their leaders rather than the exception.  The church of the future needs to be thoroughly creative in the area of funding ministry – we all know that.

So, there you go.  A few thoughts from me.  Still on the journey of making sure my leadership and ministry is increasingly Jesus shaped and true to scripture as I read it.  Its an exciting journey and I’ve never been happier.