Tim Keller Answers the Question “Why Plant Churches”?

The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.

Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing mega- churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.

The normal response to discussions about church planting is something like this.

A. “We already have plenty of churches that have lots and lots of room for all the new people who have come to the area. Let’s get them filled before we start building any new ones.”

B. “Every church in this community used to be more full than it is now. The churchgoing public is a shrinking pie. A new church here will just take people from churches that are already hurting and will weaken everyone.”

C. “Help the churches that are struggling first. A new church doesn’t help the existing ones that are just keeping their noses above water. We need better churches, not more churches.”

These statements appear to be common sense to many people, but they rest on several wrong assumptions. The error of this thinking will become clear if we ask, “Why is church planting so crucially important?”

 

>>Download Tim Keller’s response to that question here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Keller

Timothy Keller is the founder and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. He has also mentored young urban church planters and pastors in New York City and other cities through Redeemer City to City, which has helped launch over 200 churches in 35 global cites to date.

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4 Steps to Community Engagement

I’ve said many times before that if the 1950s were to make a comeback, there would be all too many churches who could go on without missing a beat. The good news is that they found a ministry strategy that works. The bad news is that the people they reach are now seventy years old.

Many of these churches have succumbed to this tendency: when something works, people work it. This backfires because the more they “work it,” the more they get trapped in it. Before long, the ministry strategy is sixty years old and the church that once thrived with innovative ways to reach their community has now shriveled to a handful of people that has completely lost touch with the surrounding neighborhood. In their well-intentioned but often insular focus on strategies and programs within their own walls, they have stopped knowing the people around them in their neighborhood.

Those that are leading local church bodies today know that there is more to pastoral care than simply caring for the needs of the local congregation. While that is certainly a part of it, the church also needs to have an effective connection with the community outside the church. There should be a difference in the community because the church exists, and if it left for some reason, there should be a void that’s felt. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. We become more about church preservation than community transformation.

When we took on the comprehensive study at LifeWay Research known as the Transformational Church Initiative, we surveyed over 7,000 churches and conducted hundreds of on-site interviews with pastors. We wanted to change the scorecard from strictly looking at numbers to one that really asks if churches and people are being changed. We found that the churches that could be known as “transformational” had a number of characteristics in common. One of those traits was that transformational churches engaged their respective communities on mission.

We found that the common thread was that these churches were willing to invest deeper in the mission than other churches. They wanted to move the mission forward. The priorities were engaging the lost, winning the lost, and maturing believers to repeat the process. What does that process look like? Four steps are clear.

The first step to engaging in God’s mission is to define success.

The standard church scorecard of bodies, budgets, and buildings is too weak. High attendance goals must be a secondary measurement. We must look to seeing that number meeting Christ, and advancing the gospel into the lives of unbelievers. Changed lives are the obsession. The goal is to see lives being transformed by the power of Christ.

The second step to engaging God’s mission is to prepare.

Churches that reach their communities will always be training their people, in a wide variety of ways, to reach out to those around them with the gospel. Modeling how to engage people far from God in relationships is a key strategy. Too many churches rely on surface-level orientation when we need training to be on mission.

The third step is providing personal leadership to believers.

The activity of community converged with the value of vibrant leadership provides the right environment to help believers move out into the mission of the church. The most valuable resource for the missional journey is real-life examples and real-time conversations. In order for churches to reach their communities, they must break the clergy caste system and place the mission in the hands of all believers. Believers will respond to the task of being on mission, because God has made us all to be on mission. The clergification of ministry confused this greatly. When we as pastors do for people what God has called them to do, everyone gets hurt and the mission is hindered.

The fourth step for engaging in God’s mission is moving into the community.

Many churches seem to struggle with building a good reputation in their neighborhood. But churches that are transformational are not waiting for the neighbors to come to them. Instead, they go out and meet the neighbors. They have abandoned the “come and see” model for the “go and tell” model.

The “come and see” mentality results in pastors who consider themselves “religious professionals who can put on a show” instead of people transformed and sent on a mission. Instead, pastors and church members should have a desire to engage their neighborhood with great passion, and a vision to change the fabric of the community around them. In Transformational Churches, 53% agree with the statement: “Our church celebrates when members serve the local city or community.” And 44% agree with “People regularly become Christians as a result of our church serving.”

The picture here is of a body of believers that celebrates not just ministry that builds up the local church, but also when the community is blessed and transformed. The opposite effect happens when the vast majority of celebration is over internal ministry engagement. One church feels like a movement into the city. The other feels like an institution seeking self-preservation.

Also, we always want to be intentionally looking for ways to engage their community at large. The mission is “out there” and not “in here.” We must go beyond evangelistic presentations in favor of a missional lifestyle. Training in evangelism is part of preparing for God’s mission, but not living it. Service is a portion of God’s mission, but not all of it. The mission of God should be so apparently active among the people of a church that the city misses them when they are not around.

This is not an abandonment of sharing the gospel in favor of acts of service only. In fact, most members of churches that engage their community are quite comfortable sharing their faith. The mission of God does not progress unless people are talking about God’s mission to save. Transformation of individuals and communities happens at the same pace that the gospel is proclaimed.

Churches that are making a difference engage people in ministry within the church and mission outside the church. The church has made a conscious decision that their existence is directly related to God’s mission of seeing people reconciled to God through Christ. A Cross-centered and resurrection-powered life no longer lives for itself. It dies daily for the kingdom mission.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Do You Have a Church of Abercrombie People?

I’ve been watching the controversy surrounding Abercrombie and Fitch the last couple of weeks.

First, CEO Mike Jeffries made some comments which confirmed what everyone knows: that they don’t actually want most of us wearing their clothes.  That backfired.

Then, Greg Karber tried to make a clever statement by giving used A&F clothes to homeless people.  A lot of us (including me, I admit) thought at first glance that it was a cool idea, until we looked closer and realized it wasn’t.  That backfired too.

No one appreciated Jeffries’ bold honesty about his company’s vision.  So, what does a clothing store for the coolest kids in school have to say to churches?  Maybe more than we might think.

Not My Style

I’ll be honest.  Abercrombie and Fitch is not marketing to me.

I don’t feel comfortable entering the Abercrombie store at our local mall.  I don’t feel comfortable walking past the Abercrombie store.  Something about the oversized photos of half naked models in the entrance clues me in that I don’t belong there.  I never was part of the crowd that they are going after, and I never will be.

But I also get the feeling that I’m not the target market of Hollister.  Or Hot Topic.  Or Gantos.  Or Forever 21.

I think I’m part of Kohl’s target market.

Think about it.  Every store has a target market, a specific niche of people who they want to buy their products.  There’s nothing special about Abercrombie’s strategy.  It’s just that when their CEO admits what is usually implied in such a crass and cavalier fashion, it offends our desire for inclusiveness.  It’s hurtful to people like me (and I’m guessing perhaps you) who aren’t “cool” enough to be included.

Homogenized, Pasteurized Friends

Now, let’s ask a tough question, and get ready to be honest.

Who is in your target market?  Like, as the CEO of your life, what niche of people are you generally spending your time with?

I’d like to think that my target market is pretty diverse and inclusive, but the results show otherwise.

I’ll go first and admit that my friend-group is pretty darn homogenous.  My close friends come from generally the same socio-economic level, have about the same amount of education, and behave in a way that I find, in general, socially acceptable.

At times, I have tried to be inclusive.  But there are many more times when I have not.  I have taken a step back.  I have withheld myself from people because they are a little too different from me in one way or another.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I realize that my target audience is people who are sort of like me.  Maybe that makes me a horrible person.  If that’s the case, then maybe my target audience is horrible people.

The _________ Church

Now, let’s ask another tough question.

Who is our churches’ target audiences?  Can we really say “everyone?”  Why do so many of our churches looks so homogenous then?  Even if your church bucks the trend and looks pretty diverse, is there someone who would have a hard time fitting in at your church?

Is it that homeless man who hasn’t had a shower or clean clothes in months?  Is it the mentally ill woman?  The guy with the left-field theology?  The family with the special needs child?  The teen mom?  The alcoholic?  The guy with the “alternate” lifestyle?

It’s a struggle that churches have had since the New Testament was still being written – how do we help people belong who don’t usually belong?  The alternative is to admit that, on some level, we are running Abercrombie churches:

where of course everyone is equally welcome…

…but some people are more equally welcome than others.

So what do you say?  How diverse is your friend-group?  How diverse is your church?  Who do you think is your church’s target audience?

Read more from Matt here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Appling

Matt Appling

For starters, I am an elementary art teacher, guiding children ages five to twelve in creative pursuits, as well as high school art history. I consider my job to be providentially arranged and a calling from God. I am also a seminary educated pastor, and lead a wonderful little house church. Over the years, I have taught in a variety of places. I have been a youth pastor, and a freelance graphic designer.

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VRcurator — 06/30/13 6:51 am

Thanks Jay! Matt was dead-on target. As we say at Auxano, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything."

Jay Hawes — 06/29/13 8:21 am

I couldn't stop laughing after "I think I’m part of Kohl’s target market!" Great post which brings up some interesting questions: 1. Is our vision so focused that we know who are target audience is? 2. Is our vision so unfocused that we have no idea who we're attempting to reach? Again, thought-provoking. Thanks!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Moving Toward a Counter-Cultural Community, Part 1: Societal Segregation

For the past several weeks, my disciple-making team and I have been working through what a counter-cultural, gospel-centered community of servants looks like. I think this is an important subject matter, one to which I hope to devote several blogposts.

In order for a gospel community to be counter-cultural, we first have to assess what we are encountering in the culture. How does culture and society determine how community is formed and fostered? What are some of the guiding principles and motivations behind its formation? These are questions I find important to determine the starting point, that is, the current reality in which we enter.

I have discovered 11 aspects “societal segregation” that form and foster the community at large. By segregation, I’m talking about ways society separates or isolates individuals to form groups favorable to their preferences and/or convictions. Positively speaking, they may be referred to “affinity” grouping. Most often, this happens naturally.  When multiple aspects of societal segregation are combined, clustering sub-cultures are formed. The eleven aspects of societal segregation are:

11 Forms of Societal Segregation

  • Demographically – “age and stage” in life; boomers, busters, Xers, Nones, etc.
  • Economically – low, middle, upper class
  • Ethnically – black, white, hispanic, asian, “other”
  • Sexuality – heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender
  • Spiritually – religious, spiritual, atheist, Christian, Catholic, etc.
  • Geographically – downtown, midtown, suburb, exurban, rural, etc.
  • Linguistically – English, Spanish, Korean, German, etc.
  • Educationally – not just levels of education but philosophy as well
  • Politically – republican, democrat, independent, tea party
  • Occupationally – white collar, blue collar, no collar; government, private sector
  • Extra Curricularity – hobbies, sports, music, third-place loyalties

These eleven forms/aspects have several uses in society, most notably being how they serve as filters for societal identification. When you get to know someone, you will discover their age (demographic), perhaps where they live (geographic), what they do for a living (occupation), and maybe even what they enjoy doing in their free time (extra curriculars). These aspects can not only serve as filters but also barriers to keep out (separate) those most unlike yourself. If you find someone to be a Hispanic (ethnic), speaking Spanish (linguistic), practicing Roman Catholic (spirituality), construction worker (blue collar), and you are none of them, it is possible that a person with those aspects may never become a part of your community as barriers have been erected (either knowingly or unknowingly) to prevent that from happening. As you can see, using them as filters can lead to creating barriers, but using them as barriers can lead to judgments and stereotypes. These aspects become the basis or grounds for security the kind of community that most suits your preferences or convictions, that makes you most comfortable by security people most like you. Judgments are made about people to determine who is allowed into the community you (and others like yourself) have formed.

In my next post, I will share what I believe to be the internal driving motivations behind societal segregation and five components of heart idolatry surfacing in the process.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Developing a “Missional Moleskine” to Understand the Community Around Your Church

INCORPORATING “PLACES”

In my first place (my home), I have started a neighborhood through Next Door. Since doing this six weeks ago, I already know about a dozen of my neighbors’ names that I didn’t know the four years prior to living here. We are engaging online through our private/secure community and meeting in person through dinners, events, activities, etc.

In my second place (my work), I recommitted my intentionality with work at Panera Bread. No, I don’t work for Panera. I just work at Panera, about 20 hours a week. By spending this much time there, it becomes my “second place,” giving me the opportunity of getting to know almost all of their employees (I have twelve in my MM right now).  If you are a pastor and are not in your community, let me strongly encourage you to reconsider your work environment if at all possible, at least for a portion of your work week.

In my third places (community), I am mapping my rhythms of where I eat, get gas, buy groceries, go to the park, etc. For example, every Tuesday for lunch I usually eat at Chili’s with my fellow elders. I buy groceries at the same Publix weekly. I go to the same park every Thursday with my boys on my day off (sometimes more). I buy gas at the same 7-11 gas station. My son’s t-ball team plays every Tuesday and Thursday. I have mapped out 6-8 of my “third places” and try to massage that rhythm each week. I bet if you took the time to sit down and map out your life in the city, you could come up with at least five “third places” to be tapped for life on mission.

Since incorporating “places” in my missional moleskine, I am finding ways to befriend non-Christians in every arena of ordinary life. In the last six weeks, I have gone from knowing just a few non-Christians on a first-name basis to now more than 30 whom I encounter on a regular basis. As I anticipate opportunities and open doors to build on those relationships, there will be some that I can make progress.

CHARTING “PROGRESS”

Here’s the progress I’m trying to make to live as a missionary in my city:

  • Commit to being intentional, wide-eyed, and receptive to the Spirit’s sending and working.
  • Determine to dwell deep (incarnationally) in the city by redeeming ever “place” God puts you.
  • Take time to learn and write down the names of non-Christians in the missional moleskine.
  • Begin having short, friendly conversations with them, using their first name and making eye contact.
  • In those short conversations, express the desire to pray for people in your life, and since you “know” them, you want to include them in your prayers. Ask them to give you one (our a couple) specific things you can pray for them about.
  • When non-Christians know you have an interest in their lives to the extent that you are regularly conversing with them and praying for them, they will begin to share more about their lives, at which point you can begin to understand their life narrative/story. The progression moves from context (talk about external matters) to subtext (talk about internal matters).
  • Discover ways to build redemptive bridges in everyday conversation based on their narrative. In each story, there are people made in the image of God, living in a fallen world, experiencing brokenness, separation, rebellion, idolatry, and restlessness. You can prayerfully weave nuggets of the gospel in compelling, contextual, and disarming ways that open the door for longer gospel conversations.
  • If you have not already, make your life accessible to them, giving them permission to contact you (using appropriate measures). Make sure your posture is one of listening with compassion, openness with trust, and caring with sincerity.
  • Address their objections and understand their challenges to understanding and embracing the gospel. While we know that only the Spirit of God can awaken sinners to new life, we also understand that we are those “through whom they believe.” Rarely are people converted the first time they hear the gospel. As you repeatedly share the gospel with them, God does His work through the Word, creating faith and repentance in them. You need to be patient but continually press them into the call of the gospel to repent and believe.
  • Incorporate them in gospel community, inviting them to a life of learning and knowing Jesus.  This gives them an opportunity to see what gospel-centered lives look like–where love and forgiveness is experienced and where sin is repented regularly and Christ is treasured preeminently.

This progression is not necessarily linear, as if sharing the gospel or inviting them in gospel community could not come earlier. They are simply steps I try to take in building relationships with those who were at one time strangers and now friends and hopefully soon brothers and sisters in Christ. I did not include ways of blessing, serving, or practically helping others, which certainly could be added here. But one thing I want to stress is that, in the relationship of word and deed, we need boldness in gospel proclamation. Sinners are saved through the sharing of the gospel, not just showing the impact of the gospel in our lives.

WRAPPING IT UP

Like I said earlier, the missional moleskine is just a travelogue of life on mission in your city. If we understand Jesus’ words correctly as sent people in the world (John 20:21), then every one of us is on a mission trip called “life” in the city God placed us. Over time, my hope and prayer is that the missional moleskine will be filled with names of non-Christians in my city being challenged and changed by the good news of Jesus Christ. As they learn to become disciples of Jesus, the relationships established by life on mission become a great avenue for developing them as ambassadors for Christ.

With their own missional moleskine.

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Read more from Timmy here.


Would you like to learn more about disciplemaking and understanding the community around you? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Understanding Megachurches Part 2: Finances

Recently, Leadership Network released a new study entitled The Economic Outlook of Very Large Churches: Trends Driving the Budgets and Staffing Activities of North America’s Biggest Congregations. The infographic below was part of that release. Considering the discussion yesterday here on the blog about the growth of the number of megachurches, I thought this was worth sharing today.

Again, the number of megachurches is not declining. And based on these statistics, they are financially healthier than non-megas.

According to our most recent LifeWay Research economic impact survey, 22% of all churches reported giving below budget. Only 17% of megachurches expect giving to be below budget this year. Also, 70% of megachurches showed an increase in giving as compared to just 40% of all churches.

Despite 50% of large churches being slowed by the Great Recession that has marked North America since 2008, a majority of large congregations met or exceeded their budgets in 2012, and most have seen offerings increase over that same time period.

You can find those and other findings in Leadership Network’s most recent report, The Economic Outlook of Very Large Churches: Trends Driving the Budgets and Staffing Activities of North America’s Biggest Congregations (free download).

Church staffing trends, giving patterns of worship attenders and the role of e-giving are also part of this year’s findings, which draw from two Leadership Network surveys of more than 700 large churches.

EconomicOutlook

 

Read more from Ed here.
Get a free download from Leadership Network here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Understanding Megachurches, Part 1: Growth

One of the more popular series last year on the blog dealt with the question “Can Megachurches be Missional?” It was part of a continuing– and important– dialogue within the Christian world.

Several people have written and researched at length the trends found in megachurches. Whether it is our LifeWay Research/Outreach Magazine list of the 100 Largest Churches in America or John Vaughan’s helpful research, Elmer Towns’ articles for Christian Life, or what Warren Bird and Scott Thumma are researching, megachurches are of interest to many.

The fact is that many practices found in smaller churches trickle down from larger ones, but also because we are a numbers-oriented culture– we want our church to grow, so we try to copy what the growing churches are doing.

While imitation is often the greatest form of flattery and many copy their methods, their terminology, and their programs, megachurches tend to face scrutiny– some fair and some unfair. In the process, several unhelpful things are said about them either out of jealousy or ignorance. One piece of misinformation spread about megachurches is that they are a dying breed.

I have heard this over and over again– that the megachurch is dying out. That people are wising up and getting into organic churches. That the mindless robots who blindly follow a the charlatan megachurch pastor have seen the light. The day of the megachurch is done.

One problem: the claims are just not true (and some of it is quite insulting to many passionate believers who attend megachurches who actually have higher levels of involvement and service according to the best research).

Facts are our friends– and we need some here. And the fact that Christians are choosing megachurches– and megachurches are thriving– is not a matter of debate, it is simply a matter of math. (This is not to say that there are issues to consider, but it is helpful to get this fact straight.)

So, the number of megachurches is not declining. Recent analysis from Scott Thumma and Warren Bird show the opposite, actually. There are more megachurches every year, not less. And, they have exploded in number in the last few decades.

megachurches-in-the-us

You are entitled to your opinion about megachurches, but not to your own facts. The fact is, they are not going away. Instead, they keep coming.

The graphic might show a slowdown in the last two years from the explosive growth (from explosive to electric?) we saw over the past decade, but Warren and I don’t think so (yet). Two years does not make a trend, and the trend is quite remarkable when it comes of the number of megachurches.

For example:

  • The number of megachurches in America has nearly doubled during every decade over the last half century.
  • In 1960, there was 1 megachurch for every 7.5 million Americans. In 2010, there was one for every 200,000 Americans.
  • There are as many megachurches today in the greater Nashville area as there were in the entire country in 1960.

Now, I don’t think that every megachurch is good– I assure you, I think some are quite terrible and fulfill every stereotype out there. Yet, there are also some great ones, and for that I am thankful. I want to understand them more and, when possible, to encourage them on their journey.

We are actually considering some learning communities (with D.Min. credit available) for megachurch pastors who want a peer group to considering that question. More soon on that, but for now… you have the facts.

For more information on megachurches and many of the stats cited in this article, visit Leadership Network’s megachurch resource page.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Study Your City: Key Questions Missional Christians Should Be Asking About Their City

Over the last few years, the word “missional” has gained particular amounts of attention. However, defining missional can be a complicated process. For example, this week I had a conversation with an aspiring church planter who wants to plant a church in a bar in the southeast as I did a few years ago. He’s been reading, praying, and thinking about what a man on mission looks like. Let’s say you’re in this boat too: being convinced by Scripture and convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out, deeply burdened to see lost people in your neighborhood, bars, coffee shops, gyms, grocery stores, and schools meet Jesus. This means you have to think like a missionary—a mindset that requires both studying the culture you find yourself in, as well as engaging with it.

For starters, identifying the needs, the idols, and the history of the city must become part of your routine thinking. This is the prep work, and oftentimes the success of your ministry rides on it. That’s not to say that God can’t use you or accomplish his will or that all the pressure is you, but a call to lead is a call to prepare. A call to obediently make disciples as Jesus commands (Matt. 28:18–20) is also a command to focus on what’s in front of you. This part of the job can be really fun! Most of it can be done by using a concept already in your vocabulary. No, it’s not what some long word theologians constantly debate over—e.g. sublapsarianism, variegated nomism, or penal substitutionary atonement—rather, it is a simple, but often overlooked word: intentional.

KNOW PEOPLE TO REACH PEOPLE

All missionaries (and if you’re a Christian, you are a missionary) have got to be the most intentional people in the world. Asking questions, studying demographics, and making note of trends help make this possible! If you intimately know whom you want to reach, then you will be better set up to engage people effectively with the gospel of Jesus.

What are the goals, values, and beliefs of your city?

Here are just a few questions that we, as missional Christians, should be asking:

  1. What’s happening in my city?
  2. Who’s moving into my city?
  3. What buildings are going up in my city?
  4. What buildings are coming down in my city?
  5. How many schools are there in my city?
  6. How many people are here in my city?
  7. What is the crime rate like in my city?
  8. What are the goals of my city?
  9. What are the values of my city?
  10. What are the beliefs of my city?
  11. What is the history of my city?
  12. How long has my city been a city?
  13. At what times and days does everything come alive in my city?
  14. What do the people in my city love about my city?
  15. What do people despise about my city?
  16. What’s the media saying about my city?
  17. What do people in my city put their hope in?
  18. Who’s hurting in my city?
  19. Who’s succeeding and thriving in my city?

For everyday missionaries, the questions are endless.

Bank clerks, grocery store checkers, hair stylists, and property development workers can tell you so much of what you need to know about your city because they are in the city, working in the city, and up to date on what’s going on in the city.

Perhaps if you don’t know where to start, you should go get a trim and practice asking the person cutting your hair questions.

Dear Christian, are you studying your city?

Read the full story from Alex here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Early

Alex Early

I planted Four Corners Church in Newnan, Georgia, three and a half years ago with Acts 29. Our church plant was a bit peculiar being that the calling to plant was birthed out of first seeing an interview in 2006 with Pastor Mark where he described his week of ministry as a pastor who was on mission in the city, reaching the broken, burned out, and hopelessly lost. After that I was convicted: I quit my easy church job, got a job at a bar, and started reaching out. Before long, I had a vision and planted the church in Newnan, factoring in a one-year leave where Jana and I moved to London to pursue my second master’s degree in hermeneutics at the London School of Theology. The church was planted and today has over 300 in weekly attendance. Jana and I have been married for eight years and have two kids. Our daughter is Tovah (2), and our son Jude (13 months). I joined the Lead Pastor Residency Program because I deeply love the ministry of Mars Hill and now have the oppurtunity to serve as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Ballard.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

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Your Church and the Art of Neighboring

I met Jay Pathak in some consultation work I’ve done with the Vineyard. I was immediately struck by his passion for the community and the mission.

So, when he published The Art of Neighboring, I was excited to endorse it. The book is getting strong reviews on the web, and I wanted you to hear more about it through this interview. There are also some related free resources at their website for the book.

I recently asked Jay and his coauthor Dave a few questions about the book.

You discuss how your assistant city manager talked about how Christians and non-Christians neighbored in the community. What did she say and how did you guys respond?

We invited our assistant city manager to speak with us as a group of pastors, and one of the things she said stopped us in our tracks:

“From the cities perspective there’s not a notciable difference in how Christians and non-Christians relate to their actual neighbors.”

We had been looking for an initiative to take on as pastors, and that’s when we knew we had it. We needed to take the Great Commandment seriously and literally. Starting with our actual geographic neighbors, and then we needed to encourage the people in our churches to do the same.

What if Jesus was asking us to love our actual neighbors?

When Jesus says that all the law and the prophets are summed up in this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s easy to be busy doing ministry, but not engaging your literal neighbors. By the time you come home you can be too tired to even notice your neighbors, let alone love and serve them. But that’s when it hit us: Jesus is a genius. He gave us a strategy that could touch every household in our city, the only problem is that hardly any Christians are actually trying it.

What’s the main reason Christians fail to take the Great Commandment seriously?

We have turned the Great Commandment into a metaphor. We try to take Jesus seriously when he tells us that anyone in need is our neighbor, that even our enemy is our neighbor. We make bumper stickers, t-shirts and posters about loving our neighbor, but don’t even know those that live 30 feet away from our house.

When everyone is our neighbor, no one is our neighbor. We love a metaphoric neighbor with metaphoric love and the metaphoric gospel changes our city… metaphorically of course.

We need to start somewhere, and why not just start with our actual geographic neighbors?

Explain to the readers what the “Chart of Shame” is.

We prefer to call it a “Block Map” (download the map here) This has been a tool we’ve used with many people to help them identify where they stand right now with their neighbors.

We ask people to write out the names of those that live in the closest proximity to them. Most struggle to do this.

We aren’t theologians or poets, so we probably aren’t qualified to talk about love… but we’re pretty sure that loving someone might begin with knowing their name. Or at least making an attempt to know their name.

This is a starting point for being a good neighbor, knowing and retaining the names of your neighbors.

Every homeowner/buyer wants a big backyard. Why might that be counterintuitive for being a good neighbor?

Many of us use our backyards as our primary outdoor space. We have six foot security fences and only venture into our front yards in order to get to and from our cars. Houses used to have front porches so that you could see everyone walking by. In most neighborhoods we moved our interactions to the backyard and as a result we have less interaction with our neighbors.

If we want to be a great neighbor we can start by moving to the front yard so we can be visible to those that surround us. This is a small step we can take to begin to get to know our neighbors.

What are some of the obstacles to overcome when moving from stranger to an acquaintance to a relationship?

One obstacle is learning and retaining the names of our neighbors. It makes a big difference if you can say “Hey Joe” instead of “Hey Bro.” Instead of our neighbors being invisible, we actually begin to see them as real people with real names.

In what way are my motives in neighboring important?

No one wants to be a project. Too often Christians are nice to people in order to get someone to believe what they do. Many of us have been trained to serve others in order to get an opportunity to give a tract, or share our faith. This often comes off as fake, salesy and cheap. Many people around us are wary of the “bait and switch” tactics of evangelical Christians. Not only are they wary, but many believers themselves are tired of feeling guilty and pressured about sharing their faith.

To truly love people we need to stop believing we’re to only be kind to people in order to share our faith. We’re called to be kind to people because we are converted, not in order to convert them.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t share our faith, or that we should be nervous to do so. When it comes to neighboring, you will find yourself in a number of deep conversations and if you love Jesus it would only be natural to talk about Him.

We’re still naïve enough to believe that people will share what they love. If you truly love Jesus and you seek to love your neighbors, you will end up talking about Jesus. If you don’t talk about Jesus, you might want to ask yourself why that is the case. Either you don’t have a relationship with Jesus that naturally flows out into your life, or you don’t love those around you enough to share the deepest parts of your life.

Let’s be clear: The Art of Neighboring isn’t an evangelism strategy. However, when Christians do this people begin to follow Jesus all around them.

What’s the importance of setting boundaries as neighbors?

When you start to love your neighbors, it will be messy. Most of the time we choose those that we want to love, and we choose people that are like us and won’t be too much of a strain on our lives. When we begin to love and serve our neighbors we eventually come across someone who is in real need. Usually they haven’t had someone who truly loves them and they are unsure of how to react to the relationship.

Their needs can begin to overwhelm our capacity. And we need to have a clear sense of the difference between being responsible for others and responsible to others. (We are borrowing this language from the great book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.)

Read more from Ed here.
Read more from Jay here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Neighborhood Transitions and the Local Church, Part 4

So far we’ve looked at two options churches typically consider when the neighborhood in which they are located goes through change. The first was to to create a true multicultural church. Those options are often the most common, especially relocating, but they also leave out a third scenario which is becoming more common in large metropolitan culture: multilingual neighborhood churches.

I should add that these are broad categories. You could start another campus, relocate part of the congregation, and be a multilingual multisite. Or, you should move to multicultural ministry AND have language congregations as well. You get the point– these are broad categories.

However, if the community transition is dealing with more distant cultures that speak different languages, an important third response is to create a multilingual church or different congregations meeting in the same buidling (and, better yet, part of the same church).

I once preached at a church in Boston that had five languages represented in the church. They had a multilingual church with different language congregations. In the midst of this, however, they were clearly one, unified church They shared an elder board containing people from each of the congregations who prayed together, worked together, and led together along the way.

I think that the best scenario is not relocation (option 1), though I understand there are times and situations when that it the best thing to do– and congregations need to listen to the leadership of the Lord. The church is not a building and, if the church has moved far from its building, something has to be done with the building. So, if you relocate, start another church and ministry in the building the Lord gave you.

However, I think multicultural transition is a better choice, either in one multicultural congregation (option 2) or in multiple congregations in one facility or (even better) one church (option 3). With that in mind, let me conclude with some thoughts that are applicable to both options 2 and 3.

Practically speaking, how can this pursuit for a genuine multicultural community in a transitional neighborhood be accomplished? Based on my own limited experience, and more broad experience researching and consulting with churches, I see five foundational steps:

  1. Begin to build leadership reflective of the community. When we were planting our church in Buffalo, our neighborhood was about 40 percent African-American, 30 percent Anglo, and the rest was a mix of other races. We tried to model those percentages in our leadership from the very beginning. The community responded.
  2. Intentionally engage ethnicities present. Multicultural engagement will not happen by accident. A strategic plan should be created. Intentionally seek sufficient knowledge and background about the culture from someone who knows this information.
  3. Move beyond tokenism and give actual representative leadership.Disingenuity will be spotted a mile away. Multicultural leadership must be present across the church: in worship, administration, and teaching to name a few areas.
  4. Consider calling a pastor that is reflective of the predominant ethnicity of the community. Ultimately, it is God’s call who to place as pastor, but be intentional, however, to broaden the search to include candidates from a number of different backgrounds.
  5. Reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. Above all else, our church, and the people that make it up, needs to be a picture of Heaven on Earth. Only through God’s grace, love, and guidance can this kind of miracle happen. I can’t think of too many other images that can better illustrate what Jesus Christ can do in the hearts and minds of people who love Him first and each other second.

 

Since pursuing a multicultural setting goes against individuals’ natural tendencies toward homogeneity, church growth WILL be slower. Nevertheless, when God gives the opportunity to move to multiculturalism, take the risk and make the commitment. When changed lives are the fruit, it’s worth it.

This is the final post in a series of 4; read the rest here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.