Planting churches is not an option for the adventurous – it is a mandate for all of God’s church.
In this mandate we see mirrored, or, more properly, fulfilled, the creative and obligatory decree of Genesis 1:28 – that of being fruitful and multiplying. The authority given in this original proclamation is given new impetus, authority and focus in the words of Jesus that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. That is why we can and should Go. We are participating by the expansion of churches in the New Creation project of God.
The making of disciples, the last command of the Risen Christ, is best accomplished in the expansion and formulation of new churches/locations/campus – the fact being more important than the form.
The prophet Isaiah called out:
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitation be stretched out;
do not hold back; length your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations,
and will people the desolate cities.”
These verses have long captured the prophetic imagination of C3 Churches, and in particular Ps Phil Pringle. They have provided vision and focus. And it is these two things that are essential to enlarge, stretch, strengthen and possess. Vision is necessary to fulfil the mandate, and focus is required to give legs to vision.
At one juncture in the history of the early church it was persecution that forced the church’s hand to, “go and make disciples.”
They were forced to relocate around the Empire, taking the good news with them and forming loose communities, which became the seedbed/precursors to the eventual establishment of churches under the more deliberate intentionalized apostolic ministry of Paul and Barnabas (and others).
It has been sagely stated that the hope of the world is the local church. (And so it was, and so it is, and so it will be.) He meant that as we expand and gather God’s people we are providing hope for the world, the country, the community we find ourselves in. It was the gospel embodied (incarnated) in the life of the believers that became the reason for the triumph of faith in the Roman Empire. Love verses power, and love won.
Ed Stetzer states, “Any church wishing to recover the dynamic nature of the early church should consider planting new churches.”
Whilst recovering the dynamic of the early church may be a little more nuanced than Stetzer’s comment accounts for, we would be well advised to, at least, make a start by doing what he does suggest. New life engenders new life.
The temptation to only maintain what we have may well be irresponsible, and at very least negligent as it tends towards atrophy.
By nature most of us are conservative; we find expanding a stretching exercise, not always comfortable – and neither is it. But the call of being in Christ asks something more of us, more than we think we are capable of, more than seems reasonable, and more than becoming less – as that is what we will become it we don’t think and live out, if we don’t some how, some day, Go.
 Matthew 28:18
 Matthew 28:19-20
 Isaiah 54:2-3 (ESV)
 I highly recommend Rodney Stark’s, The Rise of Christianity. (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1997). He is a sociologist/historian with unique insights.
 Ed Stetzer, and Daniel Im. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches That Multiply. Second edition. (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2016), 42
Faith in ministry includes setting goals so incredibly bold that you’re bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. We plant churches and lead churches to expand. And we want to expand greatly. Expansion represents transformed lives, people connected to Jesus and His saving power, and people living their best lives for His cause in our world.
God has designed all living things to reproduce, to multiply and to expand. It’s the way things work. How much more His church?
The Bible opens straight out of the gate with a Creation Commission for all human beings created in the image of God: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
The gospels open with Jesus calling for the same. He taught kingdom expansion in parable after parable. The King is looking for hearts that, like good soil, bear fruit 30, 60, and a 100 fold (Matthew 13:23). The kingdom begins small like a mustard seed and grows into a large mustard tree. The kingdom is seemingly insignificant at first like yeast in a lump of dough but grows In significance as it permeates the world. The kingdom progressively advances like the growing seed becoming first the blade, then the ear and then the full grain in the ear. (Mark 4:26-29). Growth. Increase. Expansion. It’s what the kingdom does. It’s what kingdom people do.
Jesus’ final words in the gospels – the Great Commission – is an expansion of the Creation Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-20). Reproduce yourselves. Multiply. It’s a global vision for expansion.
I therefore regularly ask myself as a leader if my faith is based on what I think is possible, or on God, who says all things are possible?
My prayers at times are small-minded. I limit my requests to things I think are possible. What if I prayed God-sized prayers?
What would this mean in practical terms for the expansion of your church and your ministry? Rick Warren suggests adding a zero to every goal you set. Do you want to reach 100 for Christ in your community? Then set a goal to reach 1,000. Set a bold goal that is bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. It is in the realm of the impossible that faith works.
None of this happens by accident. We pray and work hard. We develop the skills to reach our communities. Expansion thinking focuses on building big people. Quality people. Big people build big churches.
There is a church growth and church health progression recorded in the book of Acts. It describes the exponential growth of the church in direct relation to the growth of the quality of person. In other words, the Acts Progression shows us that the quantity of people we reach happens because of the quality of people we develop.
“Souls were added…” Acts 2:41
“Believers were increasingly added…” Acts 5:14
“The number of the disciples was multiplying…” Acts 6:1
“The number of the disciples multiplied greatly…and a great many of the priests were obedient.” Acts 6:7
As the quality of people progresses from saved souls to believers, and from believers to disciples and from disciples to the salvation of the Jewish opposition’s most influential leaders, the church grows exponentially. People are added and then increasingly added, they are multiplying and then multiplying greatly.
Seek God, hear what God has to say and then believe Him for big, big things. He is more committed to expansion than we realize. God’s kingdom works by expansion.
Adam & Keira Smallcombe
“We’re just checking you out…” is one of the most common phrases church planters hear when starting a church.
I remember when we had just started holding *real* services in our church. This is after the pre-launch phase and team meetings. Now spectators, and even critics, were coming to church.
Each Sunday we were so excited, anticipating the new guests that would walk through the door and finally see if our marketing efforts and dollars had actually worked. Every week Keira and I would stand in the lobby greeting people as they came to church. And for some reason, when talking to guests, I began to hear a pattern emerge in conversations.
Every time I would welcome someone new, they would make a statement like, “We’re just checking you out.” As if to make sure I understood that they were going judge everything about the service – my preaching, the sound levels and everything else – before they would commit to joining. I can remember the nervous pressure that put on me as a pastor, to make church as comfortable and attractive to them as possible.
Now, not only did these comments come with pressure to do things right, there was also pressure from some new guests to not do certain things at all.
Like one time I was greeting a gentleman who I hadn’t met before. He was a big guy and as he walked into the lobby I reached out my hand and said my usual welcome greeting, to which he responded… “This isn’t one of those ‘tongue’ speaking churches is it?” A little startled, I replied… “Well, umm, maybe, sort of, yes?” He then rolled his eyes, grunted under his breath and without shaking my hand (that was still stretched out) just walked straight into service.
I began to notice that all the people who I wanted to like the church were also the ones that didn’t stay very long or caused nothing but frustration while they were there.
So one time, as I was greeting a family that had just stepped into our church for the first time and said that annoying sentence, “We’re just checking things out…” I, maybe out of frustration, replied with… “Oh good, because we’re just checking you out also.”
They looked immediately shocked at my response. I continued… “Because we’re a passionate church, with wild faith and a big vision, and this church isn’t for the faint hearted.” The husband looked at his wife and then looked back at me and said, “I think we’re going to like it here.”
That was the moment we began to build a church we actually liked.
You see, so many church planters feel the pressure to perform for people and make church nice and neat so that people will stay. This will cause you to play things safe and may even prevent you from moving in the Spirit, for fear of things getting messy.
It will also create a church that you don’t even like going to. What a tragedy, to build a church of 1000 people and not like any of them.
Now I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be diligent with following up new guests and being smooth with our transitions… but if you begin to forego values in order to keep people, then you are in a dangerous zone. You urgently need to get the leverage back.
The Bible says that the church is the bride of Christ. We aren’t some ‘thirsty’ girl.
We are not desperate for a date and willing to negotiate on our values so that people will like us. No, we hold to our convictions and create an atmosphere that is a privilege to be a part of. Everyone is welcome, of course, but at the same time we clearly know who we are and who God has called us as a community to be. This is how you gain the leverage and create an atmosphere where new guests are intrigued by the service, rather than critical of it. In fact – let me give you three simple ways to do this.
- Define your distinctives.
Most churches similar to yours will believe in the core elements of Christianity, faith and the Presence of God, but what is it that makes you distinctively you? Is it your passion, your discipleship, your responsive culture or your lean toward social justice? These distinctive’s are what set you apart and define the flavor and feel of your church.
- Set your standards.
Simply put… what you allow and don’t allow. For example, is barefoot worship leading cool with you? Can people freely spirit dance with streamers in the aisles? Are random exaltations from shofars appropriate? If not, these things have to be addressed immediately, with the only reason being that it isn’t the way you do things.
- Create a strong culture.
Is your culture stronger than the culture people will bring with them? Most people coming to your church plant in the early days will be Christians coming from another church setting. They will bring with them a strong idea on how church should be done (even though they left that church). You will find that a fledgling church is more susceptible to strong opinions, so these voices can hijack your culture fast. Be steadfast in your convictions and repeat, repeat, repeat your culture at any and every chance you get.
Trust me when I say that you will still build a large church, now it will just be one that you like going to.
There are probably as many approaches to doing multi-site as there are multi-site churches. Across this diversity, the location pastor role is always key, even if there are differences in the way the role operates. Despite the great variety of multi-site models, I believe that there are foundational characteristics for someone to be selected and to thrive as a location pastor, and we will focus upon those here.
Before we dive into these characteristics, we need to look at what makes a multi-site church.
A multi-site location is not just like the sending church – it is the sending church.
It’s the same church, but in a different geographical place. Whilst there are variations to this depending on the senior minister’s approach to multi-site, in most cases there is a desire to have one vision and one culture across all locations; to have the same look and feel, which may have some agreed allowances for contextualization. In most cases there is a uniform way of doing important things, some agreed practices across all locations, so that the multi-site church can multiply and not get bogged down in complexity that is neither scalable nor reproducible.
Characteristic 1: The Location Pastor is a Steward of Responsibility & Authority
The location pastor must have a highly developed understanding of what it means to steward responsibility and authority on behalf of someone else (in this case, the senior minister).
You may be thinking, “Isn’t this the same as with any leader who is under the authority of another leader?”, and that is true. However, it does seem to be more challenging in the multi-site scenario, as there is a degree of isolation due to being in another part of a city or even another nation. This ‘distance’ can create shifts in culture, practice, look and feel that, over time, result in a ‘different church’ and not another location of the first church. Indeed, this is such a recognized phenomenon that many multi-site churches will only use video preaching in an attempt to maintain one vision and culture. And so, the ability of the location pastor to understand and operate as a leader of delegated authority is paramount.
The location pastors must understand that for there to be one church, which is the church that Jesus has placed in the hands of the senior pastor,
each location pastor must be able to put the ‘team they are in’ above the ‘team they lead’.
They must be able to embrace and promote the priorities of the multi-site church as a whole above the particular location they are leading. This approach will bring great health to the multi-site church as it will avoid the creation of silos of culture and practice. It will circumvent the development of an ‘us and them’ mentality between the central team that serves all locations, and a team that is serving a particular location. It creates a great sense of alignment across the team, thus releasing creative energy and activity towards the health and growth of the multi-site church as a whole.
I’ve heard it said that the location pastor is not like an echo of the vision and values of the senior pastor, but rather an amplifier: there is no dilution of vision, values, look and feel, no matter how geographically isolated the location may be.
The importance of alignment on the multi-site team cannot be emphasized enough. This means that the Location Pastor is able to thrive in an environment where decisions are made where they may personally have a different preference or philosophy or approach. This requires a maturity from the Location Pastor where, after the discussion has been had, they are able to embrace and implement something which, if it was their church, they would do differently. A great Location Pastor realizes that the Location is not their church. It is the Senior Minister’s church and the Senior Minister is accountable before God for the calls they make as the leader. And the Location Pastor is under the authority of Christ which is earthed in their coming under the authority of the Senior Minister.
Characteristic 2: The Location Pastor Has High EQ and Communication Skill
One of the unique characteristics of a healthy multi-site church is that the central team, comprising all areas of ministry and operations that support all locations, is able to work effectively with each location team, and vice versa. This outcome is often assisted through the creation of a matrix structure that seeks to clarify the flow of authority and decision making. However, even if a clear matrix-structure is developed, there is always a need for high EQ and respectful discussions between the Location Pastor and the central team.
A location pastor needs to be skilled at having discussions that clarify and bring alignment.
It’s also worth noting that the central team need to be great at listening to location pastors, as aligned locations pastors will bring keen insight into how to best do multi-site church.
Characteristic 3: The Location Pastor is a Leader
Just about all models of multi-site church require the location pastor to demonstrate leadership, but the type of leadership that is necessary will be determined by the philosophy of ‘central leadership vs location leadership’.
If leadership is mostly vested in the central team, the role of a location pastor is to implement the vision, values, look, feel and practices that come from the senior pastor via the central team. In this case most decisions to do with leadership and ministry are made by the senior minister directly or via the central team. The location pastor must be a leader who can raise leaders and build the teams needed for Sunday services, but initiatives and ideas are not implemented independently in the location; rather, they are referred back to the central team for consideration for the whole multi-site church.
The person who will thrive as a location pastor in this style of multi-site is more wired to implement the vision and initiatives of another.
They are a leader, but are not entrepreneurial to the extent that they have a high need to implement all of their ideas and initiatives. They contribute ideas to how the church operates across all locations, but understand and are able to thrive when not all of their ideas are implemented.
If leadership is mostly vested in the location pastor, the role requires understanding of vision, culture and practice set by the senior pastor, but there is a lot left to the location pastor to lead and contextualize as they see fit for the location. It could be that the only things linking locations of this style are central governance, finances and a broad vision. Here the location pastor will determine preaching themes, song lists, outreach programs, team names and function – indeed, pretty well everything except for the few unifying areas required by the senior pastor.
And then there are multi-site churches where leadership is not vested only with the central team nor with the location pastor, but rather with both working together. In such multi-site churches, much on-the-ground leadership in a location is vested in the location pastor, but common vision, culture, look, feel and practices are determined and led by the central team. In these multi-site churches Location Pastors and the central team work together in a collegiate way to achieve the vision and culture of the church. Authority may flow through the location pastor and influence through the central team, but they work together on everything, submitting one to another. This requires a great deal of personal strength around areas of security and identity, and the ability to have respectful discussions and resolve differences.
Ultimately, the location pastor needs to know and be at peace with the understanding that they are not the senior minister of the location.
This enables them to handle those moments of philosophical difference and to thrive. If this is not truly understood, there will always be a measure of frustration and conflict.
The location pastor role is based upon the particular approach taken to multi-site church. This determines the leadership, ministry and management that a location pastor will need to undertake, and the wiring and training that will enable them to do that well. Identification and development of location pastors therefore flow from clarity around these fundamentals.
World best-practice around identifying and developing location pastors usually comes down to having a leadership pathway which provides systemic opportunity for visibility and development of leaders. This is where multi-site gets very exciting:
Rather than not having enough opportunity for development and release of leaders, which may be the case in a mono-site church, with lots of people on the bench waiting to have a go, in a multi-site church there is no bench. Everyone is in the game at some level.
Connect leaders are releasing new connect leaders. Connect leaders are being developed into connect coaches. Team leaders are identifying new team leaders. Every department, whether kids, youth, music, service production, pathway, whatever… are all identifying, developing and releasing leaders. Eventually these leaders are overseeing departments at a location, and location pastors can be hands-on in mentoring the next group of location pastors for the new locations that will be started. Together with the central department heads, they develop the new location team overseers. There are leaders popping out everywhere, as leadership development is a culture and everyone is identifying, developing and releasing. The development of a leadership pathway or pipeline is a whole topic in itself. Needless to say, a good one will intentionally produce new location pastors who have the characteristics to thrive in the approach to multi-site adopted by your church.
- The leader thermometer.
John Maxwell says, “If you want to know the temperature of an organization, put a thermometer in the leader’s mouth!”
In other words, the organization will not grow BEYOND the mindset, thinking, paradigms, culture and spirit of the leader. For the church to grow, the leader must also grow.
I found this to be both sobering and humbling at the same time. I realized that if I want to GROW a healthy, thriving church, I needed to BECOME a healthy, thriving leader!
Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master…” Matthew 10:24-25.
In other words, the leader sets the pace, culture, potential and ceiling in an organization. If you WANT generosity in your church you have to BECOME generous. If you want HONOR in your church, you must BECOME honorable. If you want great marriages in your church, you have to build a great marriage.
Every seed can ONLY reproduce after its own kind. A seed of mediocrity CANNOT produce a harvest of excellence. A seed of small mindedness CANNOT produce a harvest of big thinking. If you want a different harvest, you must first change the seed.
The most beautiful thing about the kingdom of God is that God is ALWAYS at work and the HELPER is ALWAYS willing to bring you into greater dimensions of leadership, capacity and understanding. If you and I are willing to absorb the pain, He will lead us beyond where we can go by ourselves!
- Thermostat setting – a healthy core.
As it goes with the core so sets the culture. The hub of the wheel determines the rotation of the wheel. Centrifugal forces flow from the core outwards. To build a HEALTHY growing church, the leader/pastor MUST give himself to developing a healthy, growing core.
What does your core team look like? Do they carry your culture or a different culture? Do they have your spirit or a different spirit?
When Moses was told to appoint the 70 elders, God took the spirit that was UPON Moses and put THAT SAME SPIRIT upon the elders. He did NOT give them a different spirit!
It has taken us the better part of a decade to build a culture where we see and hear the echo of ourselves in our leaders while NOT transgressing their personality and individuality. Most people attempt to clone or duplicate ‘bricks’ (like the Tower of Babel) as opposed to shaping ‘stones’ in the construction of their key and core teams.
A leader sets the vision, but the core team determines the pace.
Embracing the gifting and strengths within each individual on your team is not a threat to you but an advantage. The raising and releasing of leaders and ministers is perhaps my primary role as the apostolic oversight of C3 San Diego. The fruit of my life are the leaders and ministers I reproduce. The shaping of their heart, soul and paradigms are my chief responsibility while developing and deploying their gifting and anointing.
Remember, one of the chief symbols of the Holy Spirit is the dove, which has nine pin feathers in each wing. It is no surprise that there are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as nine fruits. Both must be developed in a healthy leader, and core team!
The goal is ‘diversity of gifting, anointing, and ministries’ while the vision, values and culture are homogenous within each team member!
Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the twelve and he spent the next three years developing them. Therefore, selection and development are essential in setting the thermostat of a healthy growing church!
- Use the keys! Whatever you bind on earth…
You are creating culture either by design or by default. If your church is toxic for raising and releasing leaders, or terrific, guess what – it’s your leadership or lack thereof that has created that.
Jesus said; “Behold I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven!” Matthew 16:18. In other words, you have been given the keys to create a reality on earth that reflects heaven.
Many years ago, I was struggling as a youth pastor in New Zealand. Continual issues with leaders, morale, volunteers and infighting. Exasperated I went for a drive into the country side to try and pray and hear from God. Sadly, my cassette player (shows my age) had just chewed up the one worship tape I had playing in the car. I tried to tune in to the Christian radio station but couldn’t pick that up either due to my antenna being ‘removed’ as a practical joke by some over enthusiastic youth. The only station was a local talk radio program where they were discussing the wearing of bicycle helmets. I was done! “How can God speak to me through this garbage?” I gasped. Then all of a sudden, I heard these words jump from my radio…
“Whatever you tolerate you teach.”
It pierced me. It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Sure, the context was about the ‘enforcing’ of kids wearing bike helmets to prevent head injuries should they fall. But for me, it was an epiphany. A game-changer! It literally opened my eyes and I began to see that the attitudes, mindsets, squabbles, bickering and lack of morale were the direct result of what I was tolerating.
The first Adam was a gardener, authorized by God to ‘tend and keep’ the garden. The word ‘ground’ or ‘earth’ in the Hebrew is Adamah and it is female in gender because God designed the earth to receive seed and then produce fruit/life. God calls us to sow and plant seeds that produce the fruit of the kingdom and the life of the kingdom. What are you sowing? What are you preaching, teaching, modelling, instilling into your church, team, people and yourself?
It’s been a delight for us to build a culture that produces and develops powerhouse leaders. As we expand into sixteen campuses, we DO NOT have to compromise quality or strength because we have a fountain overflowing with powerful ministers and leaders.
- Regular check-ups and examinations.
Because I love surfing, every year I have a scheduled appointment with my dermatologist. He will check me for any potential skin cancers and melanomas. He tells me his job is to keep me ‘cancer free’ and enjoying my active surfing life.
When we built a new house, the city sent an inspector to make assessments at each juncture to make sure the foundation, structure, and electrical systems were all up to safety code. Sadly, most pastors and leaders that I know never do a basic exam, or carry out basic assessments, to check the health of their church, systems, fruitfulness and structures.
There’s a saying: “We are foolish to expect from what we fail to inspect!”
Here are 7 inspections that I constantly assess in our church to determine its health and viability:
- Visitors – Influence in the community. Effectiveness of people in the church feeling confident to invite and bring their neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers etc.
- Salvations – Is the gospel reaching the unchurched or have we become a ‘holy club with a monastery mentality?’ (Our main goal being to NOT be affected by the sinful world around us).
- Attendance – Where excitement meets commitment.
- Assimilation – Stewardship and discipleship happens AFTER salvation and are NOT necessarily reflected in the weekly attendance. (You can gather a crowd, but be failing to make disciples!).
- Volunteers – This shows me the ‘BUY-IN’ to the vision and mission of the church.
- Money – “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!” Matthew 6:21.
- Leaders – Fruitfulness in our development of leaders and our discipleship mandate. In fact, the single most determining factor over the strength of our future is the leaders we are producing, or failing to produce, today!
If you give yourself to these four areas, then you will begin to see great health and growth take place both in your personal world as well as in your church. (For other resources on this see my book Leadersight).
Senior Pastor C3 Fulham and Regional Director C3 Europe
If we join a few dots it’s possible to trace changes that are on the way, if not already with us. These changes won’t be all-encompassing (changes seldom are) and in some cases, they may prove counterproductive. They appear to be nudging above the horizon like the morning sun – unstoppable, inevitable, and bringing light.
I submit the following for comment and reflection.
COMMUNITY isn’t just another way of describing the church. It has specific local implications. People are less likely, and less willing, to travel long distances and we would be hard-pressed to suggest that this is due to a lack of commitment to God’s church. In fact, it could prove to be the exact opposite.
People want a localised community of believers that connects them to each other, as well as the broader community around them.
Some churches will buck this trend for reasons of size, influence, pulpit dynamics, multiplicity of ministry, etc.
Globalisation, the great liberal and economic dream to contain prosperity and peace, is waning in popularity as people wish for a return to national identities. This terrifies many (in Europe) as they see a possible return to the days of fascism seen in Germany and Italy. However, globalisation simply doesn’t and can’t account for a real, reasonable and heartfelt connection by nationals to their own country. This comes out very clearly in sports. For better or for worse (we are yet to see) the UK abandoned its membership of the European Union, in part because the of the perceived loss of national sovereignty around laws, finances and borders, all of which create identity.
All this to say: people want identity as much as belonging.
Large churches will and should always exist, but two thousand years of Christian history has taught us that most will be considerably smaller, despite all the consulting, encouraging (and occasional chiding) that we do. This is not pessimism. It is realistic, without dishonouring Christ’s promise as the head of the church to build his church. It is a challenge to us: do we believe he will?
BUILDINGS are very expensive to build and maintain, and they are often empty for much of the week. Exceptions exist, but that is why we call them exceptions – they are exceptional, not normal. Some pastors are talking of renting buildings for Sunday and buying ministry centres – with multiple and consistent weekly use. There are always advantages of owning your own, as you aren’t at the whim, the mercy, of landlords, who can be everything from accommodating to not so. A building may also make us less flexible under times of duress – not something I am prophesying.
These in themselves are not defining arguments. I suspect the bigger issue is fiscal resourcing for smaller churches. Locking up their money in bricks and mortar is less appealing than mission and staff.
I’m a fan of owning but I am also a baby boomer to whom owning was and is sacrosanct. Others don’t necessarily feel this way. Whole nations don’t feel this way.
LEADERSHIP structures are changing or, at least, diversifying. A common trend seems to be the flattening of structures, whilst not diminishing the need for leadership.
Trends can be reactions, and in the case of leadership, the reaction is towards unilateral decision making. Some younger pastors and leaders are wanting to avoid the liabilities of top-down leadership structures seen in corporations. The collapse of so many high-profile leaders is a worrying trend, but to throw the baby out with the bath water wastes both water and child.
Some of this change is biblically-driven in the recognition of gifting or role as the means of governing God’s church. Paul was a strong leader (a great understatement) but he asked Titus and Timothy to set up leadership structures that were elder-based, and not so much individual-based. It looks to me like a case of both, not either/or.
The call for accountability and confession in younger leaders is a healthy reaction and should be welcomed.
In conclusion, these are far from the only trends, as Mark Kelsey affirmed at the Pastors Gathering in Sydney this year, in his excellent session on trends within the church.
In some ways these trends are oblique, but identifiable nonetheless.
To find out more about Ps Simon McIntyre and C3 Fulham, visit c3fulham.com.
Leanne Matthesius, Senior Pastor C3 San Diego
In Luke 18, Jesus is found having a conversation with the crowds and His disciples, and He asks them this question: “When the Son of Man returns, will He still find faith on the earth?” This story tells me that Faith is something that Jesus prizes most highly, and Faith is something that He will be looking for on His return!
Jesus consistently spoke a Faith narrative. “What is impossible with man shall be POSSIBLE with God.” “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but only BELIEVES, it will be done for them.” “Did I not tell you that if you only BELIEVE you will see the glory of God revealed.” “Go your way, your FAITH has made you whole.” The whole Gospel is built around Faith, and Faith was THE script Jesus never deviated from.
If Jesus were to come to our churches and our homes today, would He find Faith?
In Mark 9, Jesus has an encounter with a desperate father whose son is severely demon possessed. His child is being physically abused and tormented by an evil spirit. The Bible tells us that the demon, “often threw the young boy into fire or water to kill him.” How traumatizing this must have been. It is interesting to note that earlier in the chapter, the Bible tells us that His disciples were unable to cast the demon out. Jesus is clearly ticked upon hearing this and calls His disciples out!
“Oh FAITHLESS and perverse generation, how long must I be with you? How long must I bear with you? Bring the child to me.”
The father of the demonized child comes to Jesus in desperation. “Teacher, IF YOU can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” Jesus’ response is epic: “What do you mean, ‘IF I CAN’? Anything is possible if a person believes.”
As men and women of God, it is our job to do everything we can to remove the “IF” from people’s expectations around what God can do.
Some churches, especially in the Western world, are backing up from preaching “Faith” and instead teaching around how to “live with certain conditions.” They are replacing miracle nights with seminars on how to cope with issues, as opposed to imparting Faith to see people set free from them. While we are called to be compassionate and understanding around people’s unique situations, the Church of Jesus Christ was always meant to be a house of Faith! A place where the impossible becomes possible!
People are struggling with unbelief partly because they are constantly bombarded by stories of defeat. Bad news sells, and thanks to our modern 24-hour news cycle, the messages of defeat and despair are hard to escape from.
In order to start seeing Faith rise in the hearts of the people, we must be faithful to “rehearse the right kind of stories.”
For example, in the book of Judges, Chapter 4, the nation of Israel was suffocating under the grip of a very powerful enemy. But everything shifted when, “Deborah arose as a mother in Israel,” and through her leadership, the Israelites were able to end 20 years of enemy occupation.
What was the reason Deborah was able to secure victory for her people in a time of great oppression? How did she break a 20-year cycle of defeat? I believe the answer is revealed in the Song of Deborah in Judges 5:11: “They recount the righteous victories of the Lord, and the victories of His villagers in Israel.”
THIS IS KEY to us seeing Faith levels rise in our hearts and our churches. What stories are we telling? Are we adding our Amen to the promises of God and recounting testimonies of victory? Or are we settling at empathy alone?
The temptation will be to back off from sharing victory stories, because we do not want to offend the people who haven’t had them. While we must always approach our congregations with sensitivity, this DOES NOT and MUST NOT negate our responsibility as leaders to put Faith in the hearts of the people. We CANNOT allow unbelief to creep into our pulpits and our conversations. Unbelief is a thief, and its desire is to do the bidding of the devil himself, which is to “steal, kill and destroy.”
Of all the things we are to fight for and preserve, it is Faith!
God’s house is a place where weary men and women should find FAITH for their families and their futures. A place where broken lives are restored, the sick are healed, the oppressed are set free and people are inspired to “have faith in God” even in the midst of life’s fiercest battles.
Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs will accompany those who BELIEVE: In My name, they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Jesus was very clear about His expectations of His followers. And there is no doubt about that!
To find out more about C3 San Diego, visit c3sandiego.com.
Lars Halvorsen, Senior Pastor C3 Church Darwin
One thing I know is that I’m called to make disciples. And it’s not only because it’s the Great Commission, the final charge of Jesus for His people to obey.
For some reason, since my teenage years the echo of those two words “Make Disciples” lingers with me every time I read Matthew 28:18-20 or hear it preached.
In Christian bookstores I have sought out books on discipleship for no particular reason other than I felt drawn to them more so than any other topic. Further cementing this call in my soul were the years I spent teaching ‘Discipleship’ at C3 College in Sydney.
In the Book of Acts we see that when disciples are made, the church multiplies with growth. This is great news because most of us want to see our churches grow and multiply. But I have found I need to be careful because it’s easy to become enamoured with “growth”.
Growth is exciting and growth gets us noticed but if we’re not aware of the danger, discipleship (which is a long process in today’s microwave society) can get pushed to the side to make way for things that produce more immediate results.
This is where leaders get burned out, people live under sustained pressure and volunteers can feel like chattel. Things can, will and do only get worse from there.
Discipleship will always bring growth. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
It is a classic case of the exponential curve. For a long time it seems like nothing much is happening. You are investing yourself into a small group of people, teaching them what it really means to follow Jesus. Then, after a couple of years they start doing the same thing with another small group of people. When you have produced disciple-making disciples, it starts to really take off. The cool part is that this is how Jesus did it. He invested Himself in a small group of people who then went and reproduced other disciples and by Acts 17:6 they had practically “turned the world upside down”.
If we will make discipleship the goal we will set in motion a community transforming kind of growth in our churches that has the added benefits of being healthy, sustainable and virtually unstoppable. And, we will be fulfilling the Great Commission.
For more information about C3 Church Darwin, visit c3darwin.com.
Erika Croxford, Senior Pastor C3 People
Worship is the recognition that we were made to love Him, and that He has given us breath.
So what we do with that breath is our response, our worship, and our praise. Everything that breathes, shines, beats, sways, yields, grows, glistens, and spins was created to praise the Lord.
Psalm 100:4 (TPT)
‘You can pass through His OPEN gates with the password of praise. Come right into His presence with Thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to Him and affectionately bless His beautiful name! For the Lord is good and ALWAYS ready to receive you. He is so loving that it will amaze you –
so kind that it will astound you!’
Praise moves us through His gates to be with Him in His presence. It is so exciting to hear that His gates are not closed but open – thank you Jesus! Sometimes though, there is a great chasm in our lives. I would like to write about the in-between, the dichotomy of the now and the not-yet that a lot of us sit with.
I have learned (Lord, I hope so!) to praise while I wait. As people who love Jesus, we praise in the waiting, we choose to bless Him when we don’t fully understand it all.
When we praise, suddenly we move from a place of impossibility to an infinite amount of possibility.
You may have places of pain and pressure (my hand is up in relating to that), you may have things you’re waiting on; you have been waiting on that promise for a miracle and you’re right in the middle of it all.
When you are plagued by the quiet of disappointment, it takes discipline to make a sound of praise.
When there is silence around you, its very hard to open your mouth and praise, but you must because breaking the silence will silence the accuser like nothing else.
I have found that this kind of sound is untouchable. No dark power, demon or person can bring it down! Every time I imagine what untouchable praise would look like, I literally cannot help myself, a true hallelujah bubbles within me and I let it fly.
Praise, high praise, is bringing everything – all of it! Hiding nothing and not holding back. It is honest, not sad lamenting but authentic and true. You have to mean it to offer Him the sound of praise, you’ve got to really talk to Him. In these moments we can’t hide. Don’t hide. Do not hide. (I mean, we can but everyone will know it because even if it sounds right to the hearers’ ears, it will carry no authority.) Take it all; take everything to Jesus. It is in the hiding that we can find little parts of our heart left unchecked. It is in the pretending that we can allow the little foxes of rebellion to take residence there.
Oh man! It has become so clear to me that it’s my heart that He’s after, always and always, with a fierce love.
It’s a sacrifice. It’s an honest evaluation of where things are at, and laying down your human perspective. To trust will, at times, be a sacrifice for you and I. Sometimes what we offer up on that altar of obedience will be our will.
Today, in a moment where I chose to lay me down through tears and grit, I wrote this piece –
here I am
in the ashes
I lift my eyes
not part, but all the way to the high places where the air is clear and my
eagle eyes can see for miles to
the other side.
I slip off heavy clothing
and burn on the altar of praise
I am the bride of the mountain.
my fire heart
loving freedom and life more than anything
Thats it – when we praise, we find ourselves in His presence. Then we see more of Jesus in His beauty and His glory and we are changed, transformed to be more like Him, and that my friends, is true freedom.
I believe that there is a sound coming to us all. It is the sound of praise! There will be a rumbling in the people, and a yearning will grow within us for something solid and real, something honest and authentic. We, His people, will rise in a hallelujah, and it will be a war cry that silences the voice of shame and anxiety. The time of languishing is over; now is the time to sing.
To find out more about Ps Erika or C3 People, visit c3people.org.
Dave Gilpin, Senior Pastor Hope City Church
Quite a while ago, I double booked a date with Jen, and made a massive error telling her I’d cancel my other plans but it would be a bit of a sacrifice – and in classic Jenny Gilpin form she replied that if it was going to be such a sacrifice, then I could put dinner where the sun don’t shine!
I have a feeling it’s the same with God. We can be so full of complaints and find ourselves dragging our feet, thinking ‘Do I have to?’ I want to say on behalf of God, if it is going to be such a sacrifice, then you can place your obedience where the sun don’t shine!
God trades in love, and love trades in desire. If you have lost your desire then you’ve lost the ‘magic’ that started the whole thing. God is looking for a desire of Him that changes what you do from a demand to a delight.
Psalm 37:4 says, ‘take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.’
Why would God give you the desires of your heart, unless that is His will? It seems to me that the will of God is wrapped with the wrapping paper of desire.
God is crazy about your desires for a number of reasons.
1) It reveals love. Spontaneous presents are the best, because there was no need: just love.
2) It reveals worship. Real worship needs options: it needs to be something you choose, not something you choke on.
3) It reveals real excellence. After 33 years of marriage, if Jen repeatedly reminds me of a job that needs doing it moves from being a delight to a demand. If something is a demand, I will only do it half well, but if I do it out of delight, I will do it brilliantly.
There are five levels of our desires we need to get in touch with.
1) A Liking – An attraction, curiosity, inclination, soft spot or a fancy.
The mildest kind of desire.
2) An Inkling – A niggle, itch, restlessness or an unease.
You steamroll your inklings when you’re led too long by ‘I’ve got to.’ Come back to the inklings.
3) A Searching – A wanting, yearning, eagerness, excitement or an urge.
What you are currently desiring is possibly your future. Everything starts with a hunger.
4) A Hankering – A pining, craving, fervour or an aching.
There’s an unease in you that’s trying to push you out of your nest of predictability and comfort into the new pathway.
5) An Obsessing – A driven-ness, smitten-ness, infatuation, consuming or an addiction.
Level Five desires have led to most of the greatest breakthroughs in science and invention.
There are four layers of emotion we need to carve through before we reach the layer where our desires meet with God’s will.
The Four Layers of Emotion:
- Our Volatile Emotions
Anger, spite, hate, recklessness, rage, jealousy (mixed with the virtuous emotions of the fruits of the Spirit).
- Our Vulnerable Emotions
Anxiety, fearfulness, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, rejection, inferiority.
- Our Visionary Emotions
Desire to win, be significant, live for a higher cause, to make a mark.
- Our Victorious Emotions
Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Joy contains the impulses of your deepest desires.
To dig down into your deeper emotions in order to discover God’s will for your life, you need an altar. A rededication of your ambition to God, saying, ‘everything I have is yours’, and then refuse to be squeezed into the pattern of thinking in this world. Stop being overwhelmed by the top layer volatile emotions and dig down until you find the deep-seated emotions of peace and joy. That’s where your deep desires live.
To learn more about Dave Gilpin or Hope City Church, visit hopecity.church.