By ministry standards, I’m a young buck.
When it comes to me peers…by comparison, even with better than a decade in ministry…I’m pretty inexperienced. Still wet behind the ears. I’ve not been everywhere and done everything and I have NO problem telling you that I do much more learning than I do teaching because of that fact. Truth is, I’ve transformed into quite the sponge when it comes to ministry…I want, and NEED to keep learning.
One of my favorite ministry past-times has become sitting with the veterans of what I do and soaking in what they have to say. My generation of leaders could glean from the wisdom and experience of those who’ve been in the trenches, if only we’d take the plugs of arrogance out of our ears long enough to do so.
Now, I must admit that I’ve not always been one to lend an ear to an older generation. I used to be the ministry maverick who viewed all recent church history and methodology with disdain. I used to cast aside anyone outside of my own generational scope as Mr. Irrelevant himself. The traditional “Brick and mortar” church (and all that comes with it) was at one point, at least in my own mind, the problem…not part of Gods solution.
MY, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED (Praise Jesus)
Today, I Pastor a Brick and mortar church. In fact, I’ve invested my life into the service of Christ through the brick and mortar church. I believe in the power and possibility for transformation through the brick and mortar church.
The metamorphosis of my thought pattern came from a pretty unlikely source…older, seasoned pastors. Men who have faithfully served the local church for decades and have the scars (and stories of triumph) to prove it. Men who passionately love the local church and believe in its mission. Granted, not every “seasoned” Pastor that I’ve come across has been an encouraging Paul to a young, needy Timothy like myself. Some are so battle hardened, grizzled, jaded and dogmatic about things like methodology that they are likely to extinguish the flames of passion a young pastor may possess instead of fanning them. But most of the older Pastors I’ve encountered have added much value to my life and ministry.
Take for instance a conversation that I had with one of my Pastoral mentors a couple of weeks back. Now keep in mind that this man desperately loves Jesus and His Church (try as you may, you really can’t love one without the other).
During our conversation, he asked, “Kyle, if I asked you or most any other pastor how healthy your church was, where would the conversation go?”
My reply, “I assume we’d talk about our attendance numbers, in-house ministry successes, so on”
“Exactly.” He said. “That is exactly what most would say. We have the unfortunate habit of measuring church health by hineys”.
“What?” I quipped, with a chuckle.
He went on (with dead seriousness…no chuckling)….”In our minds, a healthy church is measured by how many hineys we can put in the seats when it should be measured by how many hearts we are sending out into the fields”
The thud you just heard is the echo that’s still reverberating from the sound of my jaw hitting the floor as he made that statement.
He was dead right. About me. About most every Pastor/Ministry leader that I know. Dead right.
Whether we’re talking about the Church as a whole, various ministries or even Sunday School classes and small groups – our measuring stick for their value and effectiveness is almost always “Well, things are great because X amount of people are coming“. We list that number in our Bulletins, post it on our websites, see it listed (if it’s high enough) on our denominational literature. We view churches and ministries with big numbers as succesful, churches / ministries with smaller numbers as utter failures. Victory by attendance….and we’re all guilty.
NOW – before you articulate a comment on how Jesus cared about numbers, God wrote about numbers, ect, ect….I’m not saying numbers don’t matter. I know it’s cliché to say but every number does have a name and is wonderfully significant. The numbers game can be a great tool to use when evaluating all sorts of things. Numbers DO matter and we’d be foolish to throw the baby out with the bathwater….but when/if they are the end all, be all….when they are the ultimate proof of legit ministry success, it’s an indicator that we’re missing the big picture. We’re missing the point of the local church.
After the conversation I had with my mentor, I began really chewing on what we discussed. I started digging through the scriptures, thinking deeply, talking with other leaders-with the intention of punching a hole in his theory.
Yet the deeper I dug, the more convinced I was that he was right…and the implications were terrifying.
Let me explain what I mean by that. You see, when we’re gauging health by hineys, we’re consciencly or subconsciously aborting the Biblical mission of the Local Church. We’re establishing personal castles instead of enhancing Gods Kingdom.
You see, the local church was birthed not as an ultimate destination to be seated in but a vehicle to be sent through. Scripture is clear on the subject – Win, disciple then SEND. I think we’re doing fairly well with the winning (globally, more people are converting to Christ today than ever before), we’re working hard to better disciple too but the SENDING part. Well, I don’t even think we like the idea of that.
SENDING would require us to adjust our membership roles. Sending would entail loosing hineys. Sending, ultimately affects the standard of measurement we’ve grown accustomed to using when assessing church health…you got it…numbers. If we’re sending people out to the mission field, sending them out to revitalize existing churches or plant new ones, sending them out to start new classes and ministries….that means they’re not here and if they’re not here, they can’t be counted and if they can’t be counted….our churches aren’t healthy.
We’re establishing Personal Castles.
Pastor, ministry leader – I know you love the Kingdom of God. I know you desire to see the Gospel advanced. I know the pressure you feel to build a great church….but there is a better way. Seating hineys can’t be the goal of our ministry. We’ve got to send them. Imagine a church so focused on the grand mission of God that it sends some of it’s mature, even core membership to a struggling church just miles away to be a catalyst for revitalization and Gospel change there. Imagine a church who sends out it’s best and brightest to the unreached mission fields of North America and the Uttermost. Imagine a church that cultivates an attitude of sending, that’s membership class includes the line, “ultimately, we hope that you don’t stay long…we’re planning to train you up and send you out”.
Hard to imagine? Shouldnt be. It’s Biblical.
The language of sending found throughout the Old and New Testament is substantial.
There are multiple passages in Scripture that speak to the missionary nature of God and use terms that conjure up a “sending” feel. For example, the widespread use of the word “go” in both the Old and New Testament is paramount for our accurate understanding to the mission of the local church.
Take Genesis– God told Abram to “go to the land I will show you”. There God’s plan was to bless Abram so he in turn could be a blessing. Reading the Major and Minor Prophets, the word “go” is central to commissioning of the prophets. In Ezekiel, the prophet is told to “go and speak to the house of Israel” (3:1), Amos is commanded to “go and prophesy” to God’s people (7:15), and Jonah is told not once but twice to “go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (1:2; 3:1).
In chapter 6 of the Book of Isaiah not only does the prophet respond to God’s question, “Who shall I send? And who will go for us?” in the affirmative; but after he does respond, God tells Isaiah to “Go and tell this people” (6:9). Also, in the sending of the 72 in Luke’s gospel they are told to go as Jesus was sending them out, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (10:3).
The language of “go” is evident in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 & Mark 16:15-18. However, it is still clear that Jesus, the one who was sent on mission and who accomplished his mission, now becomes the sender. The eleven disciples are the sent ones. Jesus had called them with a view to mission. He taught them about kingdom living, kingdom mission, relationships within the kingdom, and the future consummation of the kingdom – all in order to prepare them more effectively for their mission….. To be sent.
Win, Disciple, Send. = Biblical mission of the church.
Personally, this hits me hard. I pray that the church I Pastor becomes a conduit for Kingdom work. I pray that we become a sending agency.
Just something to chew on.
Soli Deo Gloria! – Pastor Kyle