In the 1970s through 1990s the church went through a time of “methodological mania.” Everyone became an expert on how to could ensure church growth. For some the focus became so heavily saturated in the mechanics necessary for the work of the Lord that the temptation was to miss the Lord of the work.
It is interesting how the pendulum of extremes can swing even in churches. Now it appears there is such a fear of pragmatism and being too practical that we ignore the importance of good organization, systems, and proper mechanics. The most important thing is your starting place.
First of all, you can become so focused on your methods that you miss the Master in the process. You can focus on a formula and strategy that will guarantee a particular outcome in the end. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
Secondly, the tendency is to be drawn towards the “plug and play”, which usually indicates your trust in methodologies more than the moving and working of the Holy Spirit. You focus on planning, strategies, developing teams, structure, and your organizational chart. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but you must make sure that in the process you are on your face before the Lord.
According to Matthew 23 (and multiple other scriptures) real transformation flows one way: from the inside out. It requires constantly pursuing God’s best and refusing to give up until you resemble the disciple He desires you to be and your church embraces His kingdom agenda. Refuse to stoop to a multi-level marketing scheme while also understanding the times, just like the men of Issachar, and becoming all things to all men that you may win some (I Corinthians 9:22). Adopting His kingdom agenda for your life and your church requires you coming under the redemptive rule and reign of God:
Step one, proclaim the gospel.
In Culture Shift Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro state, “Unfortunately, it is easier to duplicate than to incarnate. If we follow the pack, we often bypass the incarnational power the Lord can provide. If we’re not careful and continue to clone ourselves with a string of programs from other churches, we may forget who we are and lose our identity. We become a shell without true spiritual substance.”
The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Continue to focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ and how you can proclaim it throughout the week, not just on Sunday mornings.
Step two, do the hard work and refuse to hit the easy button.
It begins with you and your personal walk with Christ. You are 100% responsible for your spiritual walk and how you pursue your relationship with Christ. They are called spiritual disciplines for a reason. Discipline requires the denial of immediate gratification and begins a lifelong journey of pursuing intimacy with Him. In What Really Matters: The Seven Values of an Inside-Out Leader Bill Wellons does an excellent job of reminding us that who we are is of much greater importance than what we do. The transforming process of being rather than doing.
This is too important to not spend more time challenging you to consider and evaluate your spiritual walk and rhythms. You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself. If your well runs dry then the problems, challenges, and obstacles multiply and increase exponentially. Leaders must guard their hearts, and the best way to do that is by abiding in Christ. The world may value charisma over character but God does not. The world may value image over substance but that is not God’s standard. In the performance-based culture that we live in you must know who you are in Christ and develop a deeper relationship with Him.
Step three, make sure that you stay on your knees.
One pastor shared with me recently that when he was about to begin his ministry he asked his pastor and mentor for advice. He was wanting the one thing that he should never forget and would help him throughout his years of service. His pastor said, “Stay on your knees.” Though it was not the golden nugget he expected it was exactly what he needed to hear. Make sure you do not go first to strategies and methods by default but instead seek God’s direction. There is no quick fix but a sustained faithfulness to God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit is required.
It is far too easy to come up with solutions where you are treating your unhealthy symptoms with the wrong prescription. Begin the journey by working from the inside out. Develop a prayer culture in your church and do not be afraid to start small. You do not have to have 200, 100, or even 25 to begin a prayer movement. If two or three show up for focused intercessory prayer, be faithful to pray with them. Allow prayer to be the fuel that builds a prayer movement. The best classroom for teaching how to pray is by praying. What we need is prayer, more prayer, more intense prayer, more time in prayer, and more people praying.