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.”
Apostles don’t just plant churches. Apostles are to bring an understanding of the revelation of Gods purposes on earth. So as to ensure that the churches for which they are responsible understand this revelation and their part in it.
In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul prays for his readers that God may give them ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelations’1. His passion was revealed in the prayer: “Do you really understand the amazing purposes of God now being fulfilled through Jesus Christ? Do you understand the role of the church of Jesus Christ in God’s great purposes in the earth? Do you understand your place as members of God’s church in God’s overall purposes?”
The first three chapters of Ephesians give a summary of Paul’s understanding of this mighty revelation. The apostolic revelation is about the glory of God in his purposes for Christ, the church and the world. You might say that any Bible teacher could teach this so why is apostolic ministry relevant in this context? It is true that all Bible teaching should reflect these truths, but as Paul goes on to write in Ephesians 4, God gives different gifts. What, if anything, is distinct about the teaching gift of the apostle?
Firstly, apostolic teaching is foundational (even in churches the apostle has not founded), whereas, we might say, the teacher usually builds on an apostle’s teaching – perhaps maintaining and clarifying it.
Secondly, the gift mix of the apostle is typically broader than that of a teacher. For example, apostles are particularly skilled at ensuring both correct doctrine and correct application.
An understanding of God’s revelation must precede any practical outworking of what apostles do. As Barney Coombs put it, commenting on this section of Ephesians, ‘Revelation precedes methods. If people do not see it you automatically end up with systems’2. We do not want to devise new systems or start new organisations; rather, apostles are concerned to see the church of Jesus Christ fully understand the revelation of God.
What Barney Coombs is saying is that in our eagerness to see churches grow; it is not helpful simply to transfer methods that have worked in one part of the world to another part. Though we can learn from the whole body of Christ worldwide and helpfully study what has been successful in different contexts, it is ultimately an understanding of the revelation of God that will enable us to play our part in accomplishing his purposes, rather than attempting to copy methods which may work in one culture but not in another. Methods relate to a particular culture or church context, while revelation transcends and transforms us, as we express the gospel in any cultural or church context.
1 Eph. 1:17
2 Barney Coombs, hand-out at seminar by Barney Coombs attended by David Devenish, Yarm, UK, March 2007
Another basis for my belief in the continuing ministry of apostles is that the term ‘apostle’ is used more flexibly in the New Testament that is sometimes taken into account. Those who justify the continuation of apostles today often see three different ways in which the term is used in the New Testament – three categories of apostle, if you like:
1. Jesus Christ himself is described as ‘the apostle and high priest whom we confess’1. He was Messiah, the One supremely sent to accomplish our redemption from sin and the restoration of everything lost through the fall and its effect on the whole of creation.
2. The twelve – the apostles of the resurrection and foundational to the whole church throughout history, whose names are symbolically on the foundations of the eschatological New Jerusalem.
3. The apostles of the ascended Christ, according to Ephesians 4:11, given (alongside other leadership gifts) to equip the church until it comes to maturity and unity. Terry Virgo helpfully clarifies the distinction from category 2 above: ‘They were not witnesses of His resurrection but gifts of His ascension.’2
Those who are recognised as apostles by particular church networks are sometimes accused of making themselves equivalent to Paul or Peter, but this is not the case. In the similar context of prophets today, Jack Deere says:
It is simply not reasonable to insist that all miraculous spiritual gifts equal those of the apostles in their intensity or strength in order to be perceived as legitimate gifts of the Holy Spirit. No one would insist on this for the non-miraculous gifts like teaching or evangelism. For example, what person in the history of the church since Paul has been as gifted a teacher to the body of Christ? Luther? Calvin? Who today would claim to be Paul’s equal as a teacher? … Therefore, since no one has arisen with the gift of teaching that is equal to the apostle Paul’s, should we conclude that the gift of teaching was withdrawn from the church? … We can admit to varying degrees of intensity and quality in gifts of evangelism, in gifts of teaching, and in other gifts. Why can’t we do that with the gift of healing? Or the gift of miracles? Or the gift of prophecy? 3
To be fair, Jack Deere does not make the connection, but surely we could add ‘or the gift of an apostle?’
It is worth also considering the New Testament’s warning against receiving ‘false apostles’. If it was known and accepted that there was a fixed group of apostles then this warning would hardly have been necessary. This is also the case a little later in church history, as the Didache (dating from the end of the first century or beginning of the second) records ‘Concerning apostles and prophets, act according to the ordinance of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord … But let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stays three days he is a false prophet.’ I do not know why the length of stay was taken as measure of an apostle or prophet’s genuineness, and I am not suggesting that in a relational context such guests should only stay for two days! This quotation, however, does indicate that the ministries of apostles and prophets continued after the competition of the New Testament, and that there was an ongoing need to discern between the false and the genuine.
1 Heb. 3:1.2 Newfrontiers Magazine, Issue 04: September-November 2003, p. 8.3 Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Kingsway 1994), p. 67.
A few years ago I was the guest speaker at a conference in a Scandinavian city where in my introductory comments I must have referred in passing to ‘apostolic ministry’ or ‘apostolic oversight of churches’, because after I had spoken, the first question was from a pastor who asked what I meant by the word ‘apostolic’. In my reply I outlined the responsibility of apostolic ministry in the planting of new churches and providing ongoing fathering care for those churches and their leaders.
My questioner was happy with this reply, but advised me not to use the word ‘apostolic’ in the conference – or indeed in any ministry in that nation – because it would be misunderstood and taken to refer to excessive authority and the takeover of local churches. It is this misunderstanding that means it is so important to teach about the role of the apostle today, to explain the nature of apostolic ministry among the churches and to ensure that it is not misunderstood, either by those exercising such authority, those receiving such ministry, or others looking on.
On my first visit to southern Russia, a region to which I have returned many times since, I was again speaking at a conference on Christian leadership, with particular reference to the ministries referred to in Ephesians 4:11. A Church leader present, who was also overseeing a number of churches represented at the conference, responded very positively. He commented that I had clarified what they were seeking to do, given it a biblical framework and shown them by example how to do what was already on their hearts.
My relationship with that group of churches has grown very strong since then, and I am sure that God is raising up many in other nations of the world who sense his call to plant and oversee churches and who see the need to be fathers to leaders but need a framework of understanding as to how it is to be done in a relational rather than an organisational way. Helping others like that particular Russian church leader is another reason for seeking to put my thoughts on this subject onto this blog.
This series is going to be about the role of apostolic ministry today, looking specifically at the questions ‘What is an apostle? And how should this biblical role function in the church today?’.
This was originally posted on the Catalyst Network.
Paul wanted followership based on heart-felt conviction. He wanted people to follow him because deep down they really wanted to, not because they 'had to' or because 'Paul says we must do that'. He wanted them to follow him with 'a clear conscience' (2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Cor. 5:11). Here are some ways that leaders can help people follow with a clear conscience:
When a leader lacks conviction about a doctrine or strategy, followers catch the uncertain vibe and their conscience may begin to rebel.
When correcting the doctrine of the Galatians and Corinthians, Paul was very thorough. He contended and persuaded them with well-laid-out truth. Rather than rely on personality pull or bullying, he let truth do the heavy lifting to help them line up their consciences with what you wanted from them.
It is important to go beyond 'the elders and I have decided…' For example, when embarking on a new initiative such as planting a church, starting a new Sunday meeting, or purchasing property, present the vision to the people in a compelling and thorough manner. Talk them through how and why God seems to be leading you. Lay out the prophetic, logical, and situational factors. You want them to come out of that meeting persuaded within themselves that this is a good plan that they can back with a clear conscience.
Don't gloss over the concerns and difficulties that lie ahead. On the contrary, I usually find it best to pre-empt and honestly lay out the challenges up front. Three years ago when we embarked on an audacious land project, at a church meeting I invited everyone to shout out the potential pitfalls and fears concerning starting to raise millions of dollars. They threw them into the middle like hand-grenades … and we defused most of them. People were reassured.
Speaking your faith is essential, but also articulate that you are open to God's direction and leading at every stage of the initiative. It helps people to know that the leadership is pliable and constantly looking to God to confirm the direction you have embarked on.
If you have one of the foolish and controlling environments where to question the leadership is on par with 'rebellion' or 'challenging the Lord's anointed', then you and your church have serious problems! On the contrary, actively develop a culture where no question is too silly or faithless, and model being open to the advice of your people.
I have started two churches from absolute scratch. On both occasions I gathered a few friends and asked them to give me 'just three months' to help get the church started. I said, 'after three months we will know whether or not God is with us'. This cut-off point helped them commit with a clear conscience. And all of them ended up staying way beyond the three months!
As leaders we have an ace in the hole called 'my way or the highway' or 'please, just trust me on this one'. But I recommend you hold this back for when you really, really need it. Persuade, don't bulldoze.
John Maxwell tells a story of a tribe in Central Asia who had a curse they would use on their enemies. They would say, “May you stay in one place forever.” May this never be the case for God’s people!
To be a healthy church leadership team is to never stop learning. Strong teams are never static but always growing and developing in order to be more effective in ministry.
Team members are willing to take risk in innovation. We are ever learning in order to be more effective in propagating the gospel. This means each leader is to be a learner. We are to read the bible, observe videos, the internet, etc. in order to be a listener and to stay current. Every person we meet has the potential to teach us something. John Maxwell notes, “The greatest obstacle to discovery isn’t ignorance or lack of intelligence. It’s the illusion of knowledge” (J. Maxwell, Leadership Gold, p.127).
The team leader will model learning and growing to team members. He does so by reading, attending conferences or retreats that aid learning, networking with others in order to learn. As a leader, you must train others for ministry. Expose yourself to a wide variety of information (i.e., not only theology books but TV, movies, music, etc.). We observe diverse information to be a more effective team in order to reach today’s world.
John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensible of each other.” To lead as a team, every team member must be a continual learner.
Jesus commanded the Apostles to go and make disciples. They instinctively went and planted churches. Church life is the key to discipleship and creates an alternative culture where heavenly values can be formed on earth. Getting the church right is therefore a vital issue and one which should constantly stir and motivate us.
The purpose of Paul’s letters was not to teach theology but to mold behavior in and through churches that lived in the light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and enthronement, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is possible to be objectively orthodox, but fail to live the life that God wants. So, although we do not undervalue doctrine, we emphasise the kind of church life that good doctrine properly observed and embraced should produce.
It is virtually impossible to live the Christian life alone. It was always God’s purpose that we should work out our discipleship corporately. The good health of the local church is, therefore, imperative, and we have tried to develop local churches living inter-dependently and focussed on world mission.
It is important for the local church, cared for correctly by its own elders, to embrace its own autonomy. Free from denominational constraints, it must nevertheless be aware of its inter-dependence on other churches and the vital role of trans-local ministries working among the churches in ongoing relationship.
This lack of independence has helped to establish the strong ‘family feel’ associated with Newfrontiers. When recently in South Africa we met people from Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Dubai, the UK, Australia and the USA – just a sample of our Newfrontiers international community. Evan Rogers’ infectious worship-leading resulted in a surge of shared joy, soon followed by intense corporate intercession. Enjoying fun (ie rejoicing!) before the Lord doesn’t inhibit our ability to cry to him in zealous prayer together. Laughter and longing happily combine. Love, joy and zeal easily co-habit.
God-centredness must characterise our churches. So much modern religion is man-centred, celebrating man’s skills, insights and personality. Although church planters can by nature be entrepreneurs, seeing openings where others see only problems, they must beware the danger of self-sufficiency and overcome the tendency to despise team work, finishing up as loners. Even the most faith-filled leaders need close friends and companions. The powerfully anointed David was so encouraged by Jonathan and supported by phenomenally gifted lieutenants.
Check back soon for Part 2
Church leaders who operate in team regularly give authority and responsibility to others and avoid any sense of hierarchy in their daily practice. Team-led church leaders function as coaches: giving advice, equipping, training, and encouraging people in ministry.
This team approach is a return to the biblical leadership model of Jesus. The church began by being led by a servant-messiah who crossed the religious establishment to bring genuine faith back to the people. Paul's analogy of the church was “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:14-20). This model is highly effective in a postmodern world. You will not be given to hierarchal models of leadership based upon the New Testament model of the body. "The body is a bottom-up network based on cooperation, freedom, and the common good" (W.M. Easum, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers). Easum writes, "individual members of the Body of Christ find their fulfillment, not as their ministry makes them feel good but when their ministry contributes to the health of the Body of Christ" (p. 45).
In the community of God's own Triune self, there’s no sense of domination hierarchy according to Miroslav Volf in After Our Likeness: The Church as The Image of the Trinity. Volf cannot find a connection between the communal nature of God and hierarchical systems.
So how does one formulate and build a team based church?
First: Begin with the team itself
Second: Everyone in the church is involved in a team-based approach
Third: Give yourself to structuring around team (not committees but teams)
Fourth: Create an enabling environment. (For example, you may change configurations of chairs in meetings…meet in a circle. Make sure elders are getting with with people.)
Fifth: Make team-building a lifestyle, not a technique. This lifestyle is not only in small groups but can be seen in other things, such as releasing gifts, letting others baptize new converts, and developing ministry teams in a variety of areas in church life.
This is the final post in Terry's series on leading through transition. Read all of them here.
In recent weeks I have visited churches in the midst of major transition. One church is aiming to prepare its people for multiplying its services so that in the near future they will become two congregations meeting at different times. Another church, outgrowing its present meeting place, is beginning to face the challenge of buying a building and the certainty of the cost reaching a seven figure bill.
When predictable routine dominates the scene, leadership requires little skill, but leadership is never more tested than in a time of transition! By definition a leader should have followers or he or she is no leader at all. As John Maxwell says, ‘He who thinks he leads and has no one following him is only taking a walk.’ You may have been appointed to a leadership role but this simply means that you are now in a context where the gift of leadership can be proven and manifested. Real leadership is demonstrated when people confidently follow.
Such a view of leadership is in contrast with what many expect in the modern church; pastors are often seem merely as Bible teachers who also attend to any problems that might arise in the flock. Their main goal is to discover the consensus or majority view of the people they lead and to facilitate it. This tends to make them followers rather than leaders!” Charles Simpson once described a man being dragged down the road by a large dog. He was asked, ‘Where are you taking that dog?’ and replied, ‘Wherever he wants to go!’
The Biblical view of leadership is in stark contrast. The Bible consistently shows God’s chosen leaders having encounters with Him and being commissioned by Him. Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah were reluctant to lead but their limitations were brushed aside by the overwhelming awareness of being apprehended by God for His sovereign purpose. With the call comes a commission or vision to be fulfilled. Paul’s testimony was that throughout his life he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). He counted his life as of little value in order that he might fulfil the ministry that he had received from the Lord (Acts 20:24). King Saul, in contrast, testified, ‘I have sinned…because I feared the people and listened to their voice’ (1 Sam. 15:24).
When authentic leaders such as David, Nehemiah and Gideon devoted themselves to their calling, others were drawn to their vision. True leadership is the ability to obtain followers and a real leader is one that others gladly and confidently follow.
Leadership inevitably leads to tension in that it takes you into the future. In fact, a leader’s heart is already there. Leaders live in the tension between the present and the future. Abraham’s heart was gripped by a vision of the city of God which was so powerful that it forced him to leave Ur. As Abraham erected his tent in the desert we can imagine Sarah asking, ‘Where is this city that you claim to have seen?’ They were living in a tent because Abraham had seen a city!
Similarly, Moses was captivated by the certainty of a land flowing with milk and honey, but meanwhile two million people had to eat manna every day! At such times leadership comes under close scrutiny. Can I really trust these guys enough to follow them? When asking such questions, what are people really looking for?
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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