The Purpose of the Church Is…?

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In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said that we are to “therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” He did not say to go and make church members.  He did not say to go and make believers.  He was very specific in telling His disciples then, and us today, that we are to make disciples of Him!  A disciple is someone who adheres to the teachings of another and spreads His teachings to others as well.  The Christian church was created to make disciples of everyone, and everything it does should help achieve this goal.

Discipleship, however, entails two distinct aspects.  First, we must share the good news of Jesus and what He has done for all mankind.  This is the essence of Acts 1:8 where we are called to “be His witnesses, in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  In other words, to go to all nations or people groups and be a witness for Christ, and encourage them to put their faith in Christ as well.  But that is only one aspect of this calling.  Second, we are also called to make disciples, or followers, of Jesus Christ.  We are to do this by “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” as Jesus says in Matthew 28:20. Our job is not complete if we only make believers in Christ and not followers of Christ. And we have failed miserably if all we do is make church members.

So the goal or mission of every Christian church, and indeed every Christian ministry, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and every activity of the church or ministry should involve discipleship.  If it does not, it should be eliminated and replaced with one that does.  Too often churches have activities that do not include discipleship as an element so that they become nothing more than  service providers or a gathering place for sinners to commiserate.  I do not believe that this is what God intended the church to be.  God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) He wants the church to not only proclaim the gospel, but train and equip all believers to also be followers of Christ.  We need to begin to see the church as a training center, to equip Believers with the truth and send them out to spread the gospel and equip others.   This is what the first disciples of Jesus did and what we are called to do today for Christ!

This is a big challenge for the church, because so many Christians have become comfortable in simply attending church and not being the church.  We are seeing the erosion of Christianity in our American culture today, and I believe it is because many churches have not been focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ, but rather have focused on attracting church attenders and marketing to their consumer choices.  This is evident from surveys that show that around 75% of Americans say they are Christian but only 20% attend church regularly and even fewer are involved in church outreach. The Bible says in Romans 10:17 that “consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”  In other words, we should not be trying to attract people to church through our own ploys or a slick marketing strategy, but rather to invite people to church to hear the Word and the Truth! All we need to do is proclaim and teach the Word and let God draw the hearers unto Himself!

The purpose of the church is… Discipleship! It is time for churches and ministries to get back to the basics and return to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ through all of their activities and functions!

If I Were a Pastor…

Pastor PreachingI have been training pastors and church leaders now for 12 years on  leadership and management, focusing on teaching them Biblical principles and giving them practical tools to help them lead & manage their churches more effectively.  I have 25+ years of experience as a leader and manager in business, in church, and in my own ministry, but yet I have never been pastor of a church.  This often makes it very difficult for me to relate directly to what pastors go through and deal with on a day to day basis because I have never been in their shoes, so to speak.  And it also makes me a little uncomfortable giving advice and counsel to pastors when I have not had any direct experience in that position.  So I often ask myself, “what qualifies me to teach pastors?”

Every time I begin to feel that way, the Lord will remind me of the 3 qualifications that I possess for this ministry work.  First, God Himself called me to this ministry.  This was not my idea nor my intent.  God used a pastor in the Philippines who needed help to ask me to share my experience from the business world with his pastors and church leaders.  As I responded to that invitation in obedience to the Lord, God then began to show me that there were others who needed this training as well.  He gave me a Vision for this ministry and has also led foreign partners and contacts to me who desire this training, and thus the ministry grew.  Second, God had prepared me for this ministry.  Prior to being called to this work, God had given me business and church leadership roles for more than 25 years. He was giving me experience in leading and managing people and resources.  He had also led me into His Word so that I could learn His principles and concepts and not my own. Third, God has affirmed my calling to this ministry through the testimonies of participants and the enthusiasm for this training from our foreign partners.  This was never about me or my experience, but rather about teaching God’s Word as it relates to leadership and management of His church.  I do not try to tell pastors how to run their church, but instead focus on teaching Biblical principles they can use & apply to their church situation to help them lead and manage the flock the Lord has given to them.  I do not give them some pre-packaged program guaranteed to ignite their ministry, but rather the Biblical fundamentals that will result in a growing church.  I simply remind them of what God’s Word says and encourage them to put those principles into action (“faith without action , is dead”James 2:17).

However, I have often thought about what I would do if I were the pastor of a church.  What are the things that I would focus on and implement?  Like any good sports coach, I believe that learning & practicing the fundamentals is very important.  Practice does not make perfect, but rather it makes permanent.  But a coach must also have a goal for the team and a strategy of how to achieve it, and he must know his players abilities and how to encourage & develop them.  So as a pastor, first I would  focus on encouraging the fundamentals of daily Bible reading and prayer, participation in ministry, and being a witness for Christ through missions for every member of my church without exception.  These are the basics that support all endeavors of the church. Second, I would  develop a vision or goal for the church to work towards as well as a clear and simple strategy to achieve that goal.  I would want all church members to know where we are going and how we plan to get there. Third, I would also look for ways to develop the faith and participation of every church member in the ministry & vision of the church.  The church is not a building but rather the whole Body of Christ working together for God’s glory!  These are what I believe to be the fundamentals of church leadership and management.  They do not require an MDiv or a PHD in  Theology to implement either.  Any church leader can do these basic things.

For many years I worked as a business consultant.  And in that role I often went to companies and after assessing their problems simply advised them to do the things they already knew how to do but were failing to do.  The same can be said of churches.  Sometimes churches get so busy trying to be the best they forgot to do the basic things that will make them the best.  And for pastors and church leaders the basic thing is still to “go and make disciples” of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19), and to teach them to be a “doer of the Word” (James 1:22).

 

New Year Visions & Plans

MR900055285As we begin another new year, we are often led to think about the future and to set goals for ourselves and our ministries.  And it all starts with a vision of what could be.  A vision is simply a look into the future and seeing something that does not exist today.  It might be a new church building, a new church plant, taking your ministry to a new nation, or something else that is a tangible and measurable goal.  As Christ followers we must get that vision from God, who “makes all things possible.”  If we try to develop a vision apart from God it will fail (“Apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5). So the first thing we must do is ask God what He would have us accomplish for Him this year.  That then becomes our vision (goal) and what God would have us work towards.

Once we know the vision we must then develop a plan of how to achieve that goal.  Robert Schuller, a famous author and pastor, once said, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Without a plan a ministry is unlikely to achieve its goal because it will either waste resources or use them in a haphazard or ineffective way. A plan is not just a list of tasks that will ultimately produce the goal, but rather a strategy of how we can acquire, use,  and deploy the resources that God gives us that will best lead us to our goal.  Those resources are prayer, people, time, money, equipment, and facilitites.  And because the world around us is changing all the time, a plan must also change in order to adapt to a changing reality.  As every football coach knows, you start out with a game plan but when you are down by 28 points at halftime, you have to come up with a new plan/strategy if you want to win the game.  If we seek God’s input into our plan, He will guide us and help us develop the best strategic plan.  But we must also continually seek His counsel so we know when & how to change it when needed.

So, have you asked God what He wants you to accomplish for Him this year?  Are you willing to accept His vision for you or your ministry?  Do you have a plan or strategy of how to accomplish it?  If not, then I would strongly suggest you ask God today and seek His vision for you in 2013.  And God will respond, because He says in Matthew 7:8, “for everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  

Have a blessed and successful 2013 serving the Lord!!

 

Leaders Develop People!

The church is about people—their relationship to God and to one another.  God’s ministry is accomplished through people, and the Bible says that all Believers are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).  A leader who is responsible for others must therefore develop them to their full potential.  This is true of any leader, whether in business or any other organization.  In the church we call this discipleship, and a leader must help his or her followers to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives  But it is also practical ministry management. The Church leader has 3 main responsibilities with respect to developing people.  First, their primary purpose is to make disciples.  This is the Great Commission and the sole purpose of the church.  Second, the church leader must train and equip others for ministry.  All Believers are ministers for Christ.  I like the way Paul says it when he says that “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20).  As ambassadors we are all representatives for Jesus Christ to the non-believing world. We are all called to be ministers of the gospel.  No one gets a free pass on this one. And third, church leaders are to develop other leaders.  In order for the church to grow or multiply, more leaders are needed.  Pastors cannot do all of the ministry work themselves, nor should they.  Church leaders should also be concerned about the future and should always be developing others to take their place. The Apostle Paul’s development of Timothy is a great example of this.  Being an effective developer of people is key for any church leader.