from the email bag – part four

from my continuing dialogue with the frisky young future church planter, i received this note:

I see a distinct line between the authentic relationship model of building God’s kingdom and the MEGA powerful, mega staff, mega administration, MEGA personality model. But what if you could combine the two?  Mars Hill (Seattle) may have done it.  What if you can strike a balance between missional + attractional.  Jesus met peoples needs and attracted crowds.

I like meetings and planning and strategizing.  I love administration and full calendars. I love setting goals and gunning for them (I know…pretty freakin warped).  Still, I am convinced that a church can be relational and grow bigger at the same time.  Now, how do WE do it?  And in the interest of setting goals and planning for milestones…I’ve got to at least have an idea of what to do when we hit this ____ # or this ____ #.

and following is my response.  be cautioned, though, to me it seems like so much drivel.

frankly, i am probably not the best source for direction on this matter.  mark driscoll is obviously doing an amazing job at mars hill, but i think that is something of an anomaly.  i have worked hard to build my church family relationally and we have not grown numerically.  however, even though the weekly meeting i lead is no bigger than it was five years ago (in fact, it is smaller), i find that kingdom influence seems to be expanding exponentially (this conversation i’m having with you, for example).  granted, some of these ministry avenues are unconventional (that is a generous description) and i won’t get paid for my efforts or invited to speak at leadership conferences, but isn’t that what kingdom is about?  consider the words of jesus:

“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it (or how many people come to your church). For the pagan world runs after all such things (things like money and cool buildings and recognition and reputation), and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  (Luke 12:29-33a)

as to the matter of jesus attracting crowds, i contend that was never his intention.  in fact, sometimes he ran them off on purpose (see john 6 :60-66).  jesus was about pouring himself relationally into a handful of followers.  he left the details to them and they left the details up to the holy spirit.  seems like a pretty good plan to me.  some time back i shared a video clip of francis chan speaking to this subject .

i still believe that the key to growing bigger while maintaining a sense of community rests in intentionally growing smaller.  this happens by establishing a team (perhaps this is where your planning.strategizing/goal-setting gift fits in) and raising up leaders who will help you care for people in smaller groups.  perhaps it means having a plan to start a new church every time your church plant gets over 200.  everything i’m reading and hearing is about a paradigm shift away from “always bigger and bigger” toward strategically growing smaller.  consider a couple of intriguing articles here and here.

while you are asking the lord to use you, i challenge you to continue to submit your pre-conceived notions to him as well.  we literally have no idea what the church will look like in a year or ten.  the church desperately needs young men who are laying their dreams and passions on the altar for the sake of the kingdom.  get to the place where you are completely devoid of what you want, and desperately hungry for whatever god has.

god will always use a man like that.


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