Monday, October 18, 2010

Do You Have The Right Growth Mix

This quarter at CSCU I'm teaching a course on 4 great models of Church life. Consider the fact that in North America between 80-85% of the churches are either plateaued or in decline and approximately 50% of the churches did not record a single conversion addition to their church. America is now the world's 3rd largest mission field in terms of unreached and unchurched persons. I believe it's time for us to reconsider our practices and look at what God has been blessing. Donald McGavran my mentor and friend talked about Biblical pragmatism by saying we should look at what God is blessing and do that.

So on this post I want to explore the 4 models that have proven effective in reaching persons with the gospel and the principles that they use are transferable to any church wanting to move their church to the next level.

The first model is what could be called the Cell Model. Utilized by the largest churches in the world the cell model has been called the best way of both reaching new people and caring and discipling the Christian community. Here is a list of the top 25 churches world-wide. Note that numbers 2-21 are all regional house-church cell models and all have a combined attendance weekly of over 250,000. Numbers 22-25 are in countries around the globe and all are cell based churches.
1. Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea (900,000 Plus) Yoido is considered the largest church in the world and beyond the home campus there are satellite campuses around the city of Seoul. In the last couple of years since Dr. Cho's retirement they have been releasing these churches to function on their own
2-21. Regional house church networks around the globe (Over 250,000)
22. Works and Mission Baptists Church, Abidjan, Ivory Coast (150,000)
23. Yotabeche Methodist P. Church, Santiago, Chile (150,000)
24. Mision Carismatica Internacional, Bogotá, Colombia (150,000)
25. Deeper Life Bible Church, Lagos, Nigeria (120,000)
Last year while visiting Yoido Full Gospel Church with a group of our students we examined their cell group structure and found in the previous12 months 170,000 persons had come to Christ from an unchurches/unreached background.
Another church that is cell based and also in the city of Seoul is Myung Sung Presbyterian Church. In the last 12 months they reached 17,000 people with the gospel. Their church averages approximately 100,000 people a week in the prayer services as well as the cell groups. It is listed as the largest Presbyterian Church in the world.Their founding and current pastor is Dr. Kim Sam Whan. We had the privilege of visiting him and this wonderful church last year with our students.

The second model has been called The Purpose Driven Model. Pastor Rick Warren has led Saddlebacks ministry since its inception. So great has been the impact that 1 out of every 9 people in the Saddleback Valley call the Saddleback Church their home. The priority of bringing people from the community to the crowd to the congregation to the core has mobilized 10's of 1000's of people to use their gifts talents and abilities to spread the gospel. Through the PEACE plan the gospel has been taken to the neediest parts of the world by these well discipled brothers and sisters.
Pastor Warren has outlined their philosophy of ministry and strategy for impacting their world in his book The Purpose Driven Church. He has developed resources and conferences to assist other pastors in America and around the world. Today literally 1000's of churches have adopted this model and their ministries are reaching more people with the gospel as a result.
The third model is what I've called the Seeker Model.

When Pastor Bill Hybels saw that most non-Christians had no interest in the Christian faith he began Willow Creek Church with the goal of developing a church to reach the unchurched. He shifted the Sunday Services from a primarily meeting for Christians to a service that the unchurched would love to attend. This was based of the most obvious of findings. He asked unchurched persons if they wanted to go to church what would be the best time. When they said Sunday morning he made Sunday morning the time sacred to reach the unchurched. He was the first church in America to have a weekly attendance in excess of 30,000. He with his key leaders wrote one of the best evangelism training tools in the world called The Contagious Christian. Books such as The Contagious Church, and The Contagious Christian have provide insight and help to hundreds if not 1000's of churches. The Willow Creek Association was formed with resources and conferences to train other churches and their pastors and leaders. Also developed was a unique plan to develop a turn-key kit to help plant new churches. All the resources including nursery equipment, chairs, lighting, information and coffee center, all the audio visual materials etc. put into a trailer or 2 and it can be used to set up church in any rented facility or school to establish a church. I personally know of church planters who have used this kit and the Willow Creek model and have built great churches in a few years because of this help and training.
The fourth model is called the Oikos Model. Its doesn't matter if the church has been growing or not. The reality is that 90% of all the persons who join the church will do so as a primary result of a friend or relative (the greek word oikos). The model is the intentionalizationOikos model organizes itself around equipping its members through all it does to reach their oikos.
This principle is seen most clearly in an examination of Scripture as the oikos principle is found all throughout the New Testament.
Donald McGavran observed it on the mission field and wrote about it in The Bridges Of God. Win Arn popularized the concept through seminars and his book The Masters Plan and a church training kit by the same name. He also produced a film called For The Love Of Pete. Literally 1000's of pastors and churches took the materials he developed, and have as a result, intentionalized this oikos principle with the result in a greater number of Christians being involved in the greatest task of all, changing their world for Christ. Thousands have come to Christ as a result of simply identifying their God ordained circle of influence and doing whatever it takes to see them come to faith.
In the last few years the best model of this principle has been the High Desert Church led by Pastor Tom Mercer. This church in a small High Desert community has grown to an average weekly attendance of over 12,000 people. The church has grown by over 4000 people since last year. This growth is all the more remarkable since it primarily comes from 1st time adult conversions. Pastor Tom has developed a book, OIKOS: Your World Delivered as well as additional small group materials to help churches train their members how to reach their oikos. His book has already been translated into Korean and Pastor Tom has been released by his church for a limited amount of time to travel and help other churches. He is in high demand as a speaker and trainer. As he likes to say, "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
As I looked at each of these 4 models the first question I asked was what is it that makes a model effective. The following are the criteria I developed for a model to be considered
  1. Be effective in accomplishing it’s stated mission
  2. It must have identifiable principles and practice
  3. It must be duplicatable (others can use it)
  4. Culturally relevant and transferable (It can meet the needs of a variety of target audiences)
Each of the 4 mentioned models meet each of these criteria and as such are worth the study of any church desirous of increasing its missional effectiveness.

What is even more interesting is that each of these churches they have 5 ingredients in common and these 5 need to be part of the DNA of every church seeking to grow by conversion. In my consulting practice I noticed these 5 common denominators in every church that was growing primarily by conversion and was impacting its community in a significant way.

What are these 5 Common Denominators

1. They have a clearly understood and communicated understanding of their mission. The Southern Baptist Church studied churches that grew each year by a minimum of 5% by conversion growth (The growth came neither from biological growth or transfers)
· They have clearly articulated statement of mission and that mission statement keeps the church focus. It outlines for them what they should be doing and what they should not be doing. It is what helps them keep first things first.
· The mission statement is clearly outwardly focused. Just as Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost so the mission statement of these churches keeps their eye on the primary mission Christ left for us as his body.
· The mission statement is regularly communicated. That which is important to be kept, as a priority in the life of the church and its members must be extolled persistently and consistently
· It is consistently used in decision-making process. A purpose statement has the wonderful ability to help us be good stewards of our resources of people, time, and treasure but only if used as a filter in the decision making process
· It is regularly reviewed. A purpose statement must be affirmed again and again. They by review and by examining the scriptures have affirmed that yes indeed this is what God is calling us to be and do.
As Pastor Tom Mercer states over and over again “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing”
Peter Drucker the great management guru and a friend to churches and all not-for profit organization said, “More failures arise because of an ambiguity of purpose than any other reason".
2. A worship experience that both edifies the believer and gives the seeker/unbeliever an opportunity to be brought into the family of God

  • In our culture most first time visitors touch the church through the worship experience first and the decision of first time visitors about ever coming back is made before they leave the first time
  • There is little instruction in scripture related to worship styles but the instruction that is given is given for the sake of the stranger, or unbeliever present (See 1st Corinthians 14) There is no style or form in worship that is more important in priority than reaching the lost
  • Most churches and Christians tend to be preference driven rather than purpose driven. This self-centered attitude has led to the numerous worship wars that occupy so much energy that should be put into our mission of reaching the lost.
3. An Effective Cell (Small Group) system
A church never outgrows the capacity of the infrastructure To be big enough to make an impact you have to be small enough to care for the individual
To grow beyond the single cell or the saturated single cell (most churches fit here) this principle must be implemented
Putting small or cell groups in as a church program will ultimately fail. It must move from program to essential a critical part of the DNA
These cell groups become an important part of both the evangelistic and assimilation strategies and are essential. The world's largest churches in their worship are a gathering of the many cell groups that comprise the church
It reflects the New Testament model of “the Temple” and “from house to house”. When Saul sought to destroy the church he went house to house. He knew the real strength of the church was in the cells not the public gathering. The church in China when public worship was prohibited thrived. Churches who put their primary emphasis on the size of their worshipping congregation have a very fragile number if not under-girded by the cells.
4.A way to develop and deploy leaders in/for ministry
Every study in leadership has concluded that the majority of failures arise as a result of character not competence. Churches who are impacting their communities with the gospel know the quality of their leaders is as essential as the quantity
Many training programs if present at all only deal with the skill The spiritual development as well as the skill level of leaders both need attention
John Maxwell has rightly stated; “leaders are the lid!” The church will not rise above the level of its leaders
Research done by Church Growth Inc shows that growing churches everywhere have a greater % of persons deployed in meaningful ministry.
5.The Intentionalization Of The “Oikos” Principle
All additions to every church are 90% dependent on this principle. It’s true whether the church is growing or not. It explains growth it doesn’t cause growth
It is called different things by different people: Your oikos, your 8-15, your fishing pond, an extended family, your circle of influence. Regardless of the term used it recognizes that Jesus is the planter and he has placed each one of us in a field (our world) with 8-15 people who he has supernaturally and strategically placed there.
When intentionalized it moves evangelism from the world (overwhelming) to my world (doable) Evangelism moves, for the average believer from the scary and unnatural to the natural and productive.
Since the 8-15 people in our oikos know us and whether the testimony we give is real or not oikos evangelism integrates who we are and what we say.
The blessing of having persons in the church who have the gift of evangelism is that those who have it can harvest easily and frequently outside of their personal oikos. The gifted evangelists create new “oikos” and the church can continue to flourish.

I want to conclude this rather lengthy post with asking these questions.
Which of the 5 essential ingredients would you say you do best right now?
What of these 5 essential ingredients is missing and needs attention?
Someone much smarter than me observed that stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. What needs to change if your church is to become everything God intended it to be?

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