Bryan is the lead pastor of Jubilee Church in St. Louis, MO. Today, Jubilee runs four services across three locations and is aggressively pursuing its vision to see twenty locations in the St. Louis Metro area. Bryan also serves the Newfrontiers churches in the Midwest and oversees the Mobilise USA Conference. His passion is to see the gospel impact cities and devotes much of his time teaching and training leaders. He and his wife, Rachel, have three children (Ella, Simon & Josephine).
The fact that the church made it out of the first century is nothing short of remarkable. How did it survive the early part of the 1st century when the Jews tried to stop it in its infancy and had the law on its side? How did it survive the later part of the first century when the Romans took their shot and had all the power in the known world?
Well, it wasn’t the coffee they served at their services. It wasn’t their liturgy, their kid’s ministry, their worship style or because they preferred topical sermons to verse by verse. The reason why the church survived the first century and why now more than 1/3 of the world believes Jesus is the risen Son of God wasn’t because of anything peripheral, but because they kept the message of the gospel central in their personal lives and corporate lives together. They were outward focused.
However, over time, the church got comfortable. They got buildings, comfortable chairs and plenty of parking. A shift took place from outward to inward. And if you are a pastor, you know that this shift happens very quickly. How can you tell if this is happening to you personally and the church you are a part of? Pay attention to your prayers.
What do you pray about? What does your church pray about? Are you prayers centered primarily around Jesus’ mission or your mission? I think a lot of us tend to pray for ourselves, our families and perhaps a few sick people, and that’s about 90% of it. So we want to do better on our exams, we want to get better jobs, bigger houses, few diseases and lower taxes. These types of issues tend to dominate our prayer life. Of course, those are perfectly fine things to pray for but if that is the bulk of your prayers, self-centered prayers is a leading indicator for you becoming a self-centered person. And when that becomes the norm for you and your church, you have lost your edge and your mission-focus is lost.
Consider the early church in Acts 4. The context is they almost lost Peter and John to prison because they preached Jesus and thousands were being added. It must have been a frightening moment because although there was big energy in the church, Peter and John were #1 & #2 and it would have been a devastating blow. After their release, the go back to the brothers to pray and what do you think they prayed about? I know what we would pray as Americans. We would pray for protection. We would pray God would keep us safe and that we would have favor with the government or we would pray that the government would change and become more moral. Perhaps we would organize a group to go picket the Pharisees? But what did they actually do? What did they pray for? They prayed for boldness to continue to preach Jesus (Acts 4:29). Wow! They knew that their biggest threat wasn’t personal safety or even that the local government and power brokers were opposed to their message. They realized that their biggest threat was going inward and they would lack courage to continue to preach Jesus.
Does your church have that kind of laser like focus for the mission? Do you see going inward as the greatest threat to you and your church? What do you pray about?
If you want to keep your church outward-focused and mission-focused, I would suggest you pay attention to your prayer life and the prayer life of your church.
Missional churches require missional leaders. At my home church, we ask our people on a weekly basis to engage their neighbors with relationship and the gospel. We ask them to stay in prayerful contact with at least 2 or 3 who are un- churched to develop genuine friendships and to be listening to the Holy Spirit for opportunities to share the gospel and/or invite them to church. We feel it is essential that we build a missional mindset into our members for three key reasons: 1) to disciple them into what it means to be a Christian, 2) for Jubilee to be evangelistically relevant and 3) to progress in our mission to Connect People to Jesus. Our primary evangelistic strategy isn’t mass revival, but one-on-one evangelism. I agree with Bill Hybels who says, “The Kingdom of God advances one life at a time.”
For us to maintain integrity to our vision and be effective leaders, it’s crucial that we are effectively modeling what it means to be missional. Leaders are the pace setters in the church. People will ultimately follow our example. After all, what right do we have to ask our people to do something that we are not? Andy Stanley in his book Making Vision Stick helpfully warns leaders by stating, “Your willingness to embody the vision of your organization will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader.”
It is human to lose focus and lose energy even for something we are convinced is true and right. We all know that personal evangelism is something we should do, but it’s very easy to let this slide especially if we have lots of great friends in the church (also important). There’s a tension that we must manage personally and then help others manage which is cohesiveness and inclusiveness. We must not let one win over the other.
There are a few us that will pull too hard on mission at risk of community (what happens when an evangelist leads a church), but most of us will pursue community at the risk of mission. So it’s easy to get out of the habit of being consistent in evangelism. Let a couple of months slip by and before you know it, you can easily lose all contact with un-churched friends. It can be difficult to stoke the fire back up for the unsaved because it’s really comfortable to stay true to the churched relationships.
There are two pitfalls as leaders we must avoid at this stage: 1) Faking it and 2) Avoiding it. We fake it by acting passionate about something that we are neither passionate about or are we actively participating in. This is very dangerous leadership. Avoiding it can be equally dangerous. Because you are not doing it, you don’t feel in good conscious that you can ask others so you avoid it. The result is that no one is engaging and the entire location can soon lose its missional edge.
With Easter coming soon, we wanted to serve local church leaders by helping them to equip their church for mission. You can read Bryan's first post on the topic of being a missional church by clicking here.
What kind of habits will help you develop a more missional lifestyle? Go to the same places at the same times to develop a report with people. Some ideas would be the gym, gas station, coffee shop, grocery store, etc. Join a sports team. Coach your child’s sports team. However, the best way to grow in being a missional person is to show hospitality. There are 21 opportunities a week to invite someone to a meal. Take advantage of those opportunities. You might also consider starting a once a week/month desert night for your block.
In Thom Rainer’s book The Unchurched Next Door he reveals research that says that 82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if someone invited them. Additionally, the unchurched are more likely to consider matters of faith during: 1) Christmas, 2) Easter, 3) Major Crisis, 4) Natural disaster and 5) a birth of a baby.
“I would love to see what you make of my church.”
“Our mutual friend __________________ is getting baptized/becoming a member and I think it would be great to support her. Let’s go as a group and get a bite afterwards to celebrate the occasion.”
This is the first in a two part series on the missional church. Check back soon for the second part.
Missional means to be intentional about sharing the gospel with non-believers (in Jesus). It’s to take seriously the ‘Great Commission’ to go into all the world and make disciples. It’s to be like Jesus and ‘seek and save the lost.’ In actuality, to say ‘missional church’ is like saying ‘wet water’. Of course water is wet, and, of course, the church must be missional! We agree with Ed Stetzer who says, ‘the church of God doesn’t have a mission as much as the mission of God has a church.’ Jesus specifically prayed that we would not be taken out of the world (John 17:15). We believe we are a cultural infiltration agency not a cultural evacuation agency.
In contrast to the rampant individualism in our culture, the Bible teaches us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and to love others AS (or in the same way) we love ourselves (Galatians 5:14). It is the command of God that we love each other and look after each other. But not only are we to look after those inside the community, we are to be mindful of those outside community who are not yet a part. God tells Paul in Acts 18:10 to keep preaching the gospel “…for I have many in this city who are my people.” Individually and as a church, we must be concerned for those not yet a part. We must be like Jesus who is filled with compassion for them (Matthew 9:36).
Consider Ezekiel 33:6 (NLT). "But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’" In the first coming of Jesus, He began a work that we are meant to finish (Acts 1:1). To do this job, He gave us 1) the gifts (Romans 12:5- 8), 2) the authority (Mt 28:18), and 3) the power (Acts 1:8) to do this task. He even promised us to be with us always (Mt 28:20). In His second coming, He will hold us responsible for how we used what He has given us towards the expansion of the kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30). This is not meant to bring us under condemnation (Romans 8:1), but to free us from apathy and the bondage of self-centered living (Galatians 5:1, 13-15)
Paul encouraged leaders to respond to prophetic words. He suggested that it should be done after 2 or 3 words/contributions. We don’t want to be legalistic about this, but it is helpful to summarize what we believe God is saying in a meeting after a few prophetic words have been given, otherwise we can lose track and their effect can be lost. I see our job to anchor a meeting not just there to test, but to give weight to the word that has come. Sometimes that means asking the congregation to respond and to be bold in doing so. We see this with Peter in Acts 2. He stood up in the middle of Holy Spirit activity, preached an average message, but boldly asked people to respond and the result – 3000 added.
I like to think that leading a meeting is like riding a wave. There are two extremes to avoid: One is where people try to work up everything in their own strength not realizing the power of the Holy Spirit’s wave and he other is where people don’t paddle when the wave comes and miss the momentum the wave can give your church. The only thing you got out of it was, “Wow, that was a great wave or wow that was a great meeting!”
Like Paul, do not let people walk out of your meetings saying, “They are out of their mind.” To help prevent this, our anchors always ask the question, “Would a new person understand what’s happening.” So we are always thinking, “How can I connect what is happening to the truth with Scripture?” How can I connect this to another experience that would be common to them? Sometimes it’s just a language barrier. Tim Keller, “If you want the neighborhood to show up at your meetings speak as though they are already there.”
The art of “Bridging” is the ability to link up potentially disjointed segments of the service, so that the actual experience is a smooth one. The helps people follow along and is conducive to the flow of the Holy Spirit. Meetings that start and stop and go off on tangents are seldom great meetings. God is a God of order and is not the author of confusion.
We need to let people down gently from the heights of heaven to the more mundane matters of notices. This requires that the leader recap through a statement (i.e. Isn’t God’s presence wonderful? We are going to continue to enjoy God’s presence through the teaching of Scripture.) or a prayer. Don’t rush this part and be gentle with people.
While sometimes singing a good song is a sufficient blessing, it can also be the launching pad for something more explosive for prophecy, prayer or ministry. For example, we were singing the song, “Savior, He can move the mountains…” And I popped up and said, “Everyone in this room has a savior. We are all looking to someone or something to save us. Can your Savior move mountains? Jesus can move mountains. Let’s continue to sing this song with the understanding that no matter the situation, Jesus has the power to move mountains in our life.”
While praying in the upper room, the disciples were “readying” themselves for a move of God. However, their readiness might not have meant as much if Peter hadn’t recognized what the Holy Spirit was doing and was in touch with the people around him.
This is where it’s important to get both right…recognizing both the Holy Spirit and people because you can sense spiritually activity, but be disconnected with people (“leading” implies that others are following). On the other hand, you can also connect with people and not sense spiritual activity. We need to recognize both.
Recognizing God activity only happens if you have made yourself ready by being prayed up, being full of the Spirit and having discussed with your team what you hope happens. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot it when it occurs.
For Peter, it was Joel 2:28, the teachings of Jesus, and an understanding of where his “brothers” were. Do you know what you are looking for when you gather? Do you know what Holy Spirit activity looks like? Do you know where your people are at (what their week may have been like)? Do you know where your community is at (are you in touch with culture)? Do you understand the spiritual climate in your city?
Acts 1:14 & Acts 2:42 says that they devoted themselves to prayer.
Jesus is the Model
Peter, most certainly, would have noticed the pattern of prayer in the life of Jesus because He was always praying. At Jesus’ baptism, he is praying. The night before he selects the twelve disciples, he goes up on a mountain and for the entire night he prays. He prays early in the morning and late into the evening. At the transfiguration he is praying. Before the cross he is praying; and, then, on the cross he is praying. Jesus did not just simply teach on prayer, he lived prayer. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that prayer is not so much a thing Jesus commands us to do as much as it is the way of Jesus (what it means to be a Christian) because he was always praying. He always seemed to be connected, inseparably connected, to God the Father. I think Peter, who was a part of Jesus’ inner circle, remembered this and said to get it done we need to be continually in prayer and ministry we’ll happen in the middle of those times.
Peter Continued this Model
We know that Peter guarded this time, because in Acts 6, ministry got a little overwhelming, and one of his primary concerns was that prayer not get pushed to the side. So he got someone else to look after the day-to-day ministry so that he and the other apostles could focus on prayer and ministry of the word.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” On Sunday morning (as well as on Tuesday at the coffee shop), there people amongst who want to know why we sing songs they way we sings songs, why we give money the way we give money, why we serve the way we serve, etc. We need to be prepared to stand up in the middle of that and give a defense…a reason.
I suggest that you learn to share the gospel in 15-20 seconds (brevity is key) from multiple different angles. If you need to borrow one in the meantime, try this gospel nugget from Tim Keller: “Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.
EVERY week the elders discuss Sunday morning and the part of the meeting that always lasts the longest is the part where we discuss the contributions (use of spiritual gifts) given and more importantly how we handles those contributions. Did we lead too strongly? Did we lead strongly enough? Did the contributions help? How could we have better guided people? I believe “getting it right” is a moving target and requires you to live in the tension of too loose and too tight. Your church is probably either or and discussing it often keeps you from favoring one side over the other.
In the Bible, nothing good happens because of a lack of knowledge (Isaiah 5:13; Hosea 4:6). It is important to continue give good teaching to your people on spiritual gifts and how to rightly administer them. At Jubilee, we include an entire section on “Charismatic Worship” to help people understand both they why and how when it comes to spiritual gifts. We want people to understand what is prophecy and why spiritual gifts are Biblical. We also will pepper in teaching right in the middle of worship. We will often quote 1 Corinthians 14:26 and add, “If you are new, it’s possible that you have never experienced worship like this. Let me assure you that this is completely Biblical. ‘When you come together, each one has a hymn…’” These little moments offer assurance to people and I have found releases them to share.
Dull should never describe any church. When the early church gathered, "...awe came upon every soul,..." (Acts 2:43 ESV). There was an edge to this group that poked and prodded everyone that came into their midst. There are many reasons for this, but one for sure was there was a razor sharp prophetic edge that was released and pastored among them. I fully believe that for a church to be harvest focused and effective among the lost, that church must not settle for dull prophetic gifts, but rather ensuring that they are sharpened and deployed in powerful ways.
I think leading or anchoring a meeting is one of the more difficult jobs on Sunday morning. It requires Holy Spirit sensitivity/awareness, sound doctrine, split second decision-making, and confidence to lead. The elders in our church spend more time discussing spiritual gift contributions than any other aspect of our meeting.
Let us take a look at Peter at Pentecost as a model of leading the church into dynamic Holy Spirit activity that is guest aware. The principles we’ll see in this event are: 1) Readiness, 2) Recognition and 3) Response. I think they work together like a pyramid.
In the beginning of Acts 1, Jesus gives his Great Commission speech – to go be the church, and then He ascends into heaven, leaving the disciples gazing into the sky. A couple of angels appear and to say the disciples, “now come on, let’s get on with it!” So the disciples get on with it by devoting themselves to prayer. In the midst of their prayer gathering, the first great move of the Holy Spirit came crashing down on them. It was characterized by things like “sounds from heaven like a mighty rushing wind”, “tongues of fire”, “all being filled with the Holy Spirit”, and some “spoke in different languages.” So you can understand why this drew the attention of people walking by from every nation under heaven. They were bewildered because they were hearing praise to God in their own language. Luke goes on to record that some “were amazed and had questions”, but somewhere like, “these guys are drunk” and in my imagination starting to walk away. However, something stirs Peter and ignites him to stand up and give a response that connected the current Holy Spirit activity with the Old Testament prophet Joel, something his crowd would have been aware. Luke then writes that they “were cut to the heart and repented.” The result of this gathering was that 3,000 were added.
What can we learn from this about running our meetings as it relates to Holy Spirit activity and the prophetic? Check back for my next posts about readiness, recognition and response.
One of the greatest challenges a pastor faces is carrying the vision burden for the church he leads. Understanding this burden and setting things in place to deal with it appropriately is of critical importance. Otherwise, it can depress you, over stress you, and make you angry.
In Exodus 32-33, Moses gives us a good picture of how we should deal with our leadership burden. Prior to this point, Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and was used by God to provide for them in miraculous ways. Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai at God's request to get more direction on the way to the promised land. He spent 40 days on this mountain taking detailed notes of God's instructions. When it was all done, he might have thought, "the people are going to be so excited!" However, as Moses came down the mountain in Exodus 32 with a fresh word from God, he witnessed something he hadn't anticipated. Instead of the people rallying around God's word to them, they had abandoned God and Moses for a golden calf.
If you have been a pastor for more than a couple of years, you've been through what Moses experienced. You had moments where God spoke to you and in delivering that vision, things didn't turn out as you expected. Perhaps you've even felt like people turned their back on you despite your proven track record. It's at these points that we realize the burden God has given us to carry is actually a burden. When things are going well and everyone is giving each other high fives, the burden feels like it's a feather floating in the air of excitement. When you face challenges, it feels like someone put a two ton truck on your back. What we do next is critical.
At first glance, it looks like Moses flies off the handle Old Testament style for not going along with his vision. However, when you take a closer look, Exodus 32:32-33 records Moses once again going before God pleading on behalf of the people that rejected God and rejected him. Moses represents Jesus' leadership style who "lays does His life for the sheep." It's of critical importance, that we don't see the people as our enemy and allow anger to set in.
Moses comes to a profound conclusion that we all must realize: what God has called us to is something we can't do on our own. In Exodus 33:12, Moses says to the Lord, "See you say to me, 'Bring up these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me…" Sometimes the leadership burden we carry seems too heavy because we are trying to carry it alone. This is why working in team is so crucial. You don't just need guys who will carry out tasks and ministry, but you need guys who will stand with you, shoulder to shoulder. Guys who will bear it with you. Guys who will pray for you and hold you accountable. Building team is of critical importance for the leader not just to multiply and expand ministry, but to help carry the burden. They will never carry it like you, but they can sure take on most of it. If you are a primary leader and don't have this, make this a top priority and go after it. If you are a team member who serves alongside a primary leader, make it a goal to seek to do what you can to bear this burden with him.
When Moses finds himself unable to get traction on the vision he's been given by God, he once again realizes the importance of God's presence. Moses pleads to God in Exodus 33:15, "If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here." Moses realized that he cannot only do this without a team but much more critically, he can't do it without God's presence. Low moments can be helpful for us to realize who is really making things happen. Psalm 127:1 states, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…" Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:7, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." Learning to be dependent on God is a gift. It not only keeps us from pride, but it prevents the burden that God has given you from crushing you. Know this, whatever God calls you to do is much, much bigger than you are able to handle. It's the way God designed it to be so that you would learn to depend on Him. We must have God's presence. The good news is that He promises to be be with us always (Matt 28:20) and He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). God promises Moses as well as us in Exodus 33:14, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Do you hear that? We will still carry the burden, but in God's presence we'll find rest.
The Psalms are great for knowing how to take our burdens before the Lord. Psalm 116:3 says, "The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish." Ever feel distressed and anguished by the leadership burden you carry? The Psalmist continues in verse 4, "Then I called on the name of the Lord: 'O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!' Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low (humbled), he saved me." Here's the payoff in verse 7, "Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." We must ultimately trust in the character and nature of God and that He has good plans for us. When we do, we find rest.
As an achiever and someone who likes to be busy, the idea of a sabbatical sounded more like torture than life giving. However, after just a few years of leading, I soon realized the benefit of working "on" the church and not just "in" the church. We work in the church by preparing sermons, leading meetings, and caring for people. We work on the church by taking a stepping back to learn and reflect. Therefore, after seven years as Lead Pastor, I decided it was time for me to take a step back to learn from others and to reflect on my life and the church.
My sabbatical isn't perfect. It's seven weeks long, but has a few interruptions that were unavoidable. However, I don't feel like the interruptions will affect my overall goal to learn and reflect. Sabbatical legalists would probably sneer at me though.
People who have done sabbaticals before told me that you should do whatever it is you feel like doing. So far that's been the case. I flew to South Africa to learn from PJ Smyth and Godfirst Church. That was a tremendously rich time of learning. The 32 hours on the plane gave me plenty of opportunity to reflect. The rest of my time has been spent on the road with my family...half the time I am relaxing, the other half I'm using to write down what I'm learning. When I get back off the road, I plan to visit a couple other churches and their leaders. I had planned to visit several more, but realized that for this sabbatical to be effective, I need more time to process what I'm learning before I get back into my routine.
I'm just about half way through my sabbatical and I am already convinced that I'll do this about every seven years. I may even try to build in something every year for a couple of weeks. The creative space and time to reflect is so helpful. If you're a Senior Pastor, I would recommend you do the same.
Confluence is a place where the reformed, the charismatic, and the mission-minded converge to equip and serve the church to transform communities. Our authors are mostly leaders in the Newfrontiers family of churches. Read more.
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