Monday, July 4, 2011

Early Stirrings

For several years, my wife and I volleyed the idea of one day starting a church. The past several years we have both struggled with frustrations of how we do church. We would often find ourselves asking questions like, Is this the way Jesus would have us “do church?” If the Lord formed a new church today in our county, what would it look like? What would be on His heart for a church? As do many pastors who have a heart for the Great Commission, we often wondered if all of the manpower, man-hours, and money that were funneling into our existing church were actually accomplishing the purposes of making disciples.

At the same time our church staff began many similar discussions, often frustrating, for several years. During that time we read Andy Stanley’s book The Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. Stanley explains that most churches follow the structural habits of the 1980’s and 1990’s by offering a cafeteria approach to church. Churches offer a wide variety of programs in an attempt to meet needs, spiritual or felt. Church members pick and choose what suits them often resulting in larger churches who can fund more programs attracting more people. With this model, churches often organize around keeping as many people in their organization as possible. Stanley challenges whether or not this approach actually helps you to effectively produce the most number of fruit-bearing disciples. He also writes suggesting that churches should organize around their primary purpose of making disciples (however they see is their best approach) – and they should structure around that primary purpose.

Later we read Thom Rainer’s Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. This widely read book, following in the steps of Andy Stanley and North Point Church, challenged church leaders to radically orient their structure around a simple process for making disciples. Instead of a “yahoo” approach to church, Rainer suggests that churches adopt a “google” approach.

Church leaders who really want to produce disciples and see changed lives struggle with how to structure the organization so that the manpower, money, and hours are not just used to spin wheels, have meetings, and keep the machine moving forward.

The desire for equipping families

At the same time my heart became more and more stirred with helping families. The first reason was when my oldest son turned nine. I was suddenly faced with the reality that ½ of my time with him during his first 18 years was over – from then on I had less time with him than before until he graduates from high school. I began wrestling with the fact that I desperately want to get it right with him during these years and that I want the church we were a part of to assist – and not hinder – the process of his becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. I do not want to just “do church” and in the process lose him. I do not want him nor his siblings to become some of those statistics in just a few years of young people who leave the church. More importantly, I want them to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and strength and to walk in His Word, His commandments, and His ways.

The second reason my heart was stirred with helping families was that I continued to witness numerous “church” families falling apart. Dads not doing a good job of leading their families spiritually. Moms not knowing how to help their husbands lead. Teenagers growing up with lives marked by ungodliness rather than holiness. And young adults who have grown up through the church organization choosing to not live passionately for the Lord as adults. With all of the well-known statistics of the number of churched teenagers who leave the church and never return after they graduate from high school, the questions beg to be answered again and again, Why are our churches not making a bigger impact in the lives of these young people? Why are we not making a bigger impact in family life? With all of the activities we ask people to be involved in, are we really equipping dads and moms to be spiritual people and to lead their families spiritually?

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