evangelism

Disciple Making Movements

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By Kent Parks. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

 

In the mid-1980s, 24% of world’s population (1.8 billion people) had little or no Gospel access. Today, that figure has grown to 29% (2.1 billion people). Two interchangeable terms, while technically different, essentially define this population:

 

Unreached People Groups (UPGs) — less than 2% evangelical Christians (Joshua Project).

 

Least Evangelized Peoples (LEPs) — with little or no Gospel access per a multiple-factor list (World Christian Database).

Tragically, only about 3% of global missionaries serve this 29%. Christ-followers should be outraged by this spiritual injustice. That Jesus’ command to make disciples of all ethne is unfulfilled is disobedience. Doing more of the same activities expecting different results is futile and irresponsible.

 

Mission revolution

A holy urgency has caused many to re-study Scripture as a strategy manual—and has as a result revolutionized results among some UPGs. Sound motives fuel these efforts, including a deep love for Jesus; a joyful desire for all to have the chance to love and serve him; a holy concern to bring spiritual justice; and a commitment to obey Jesus’ command. The resulting radical methodological changes have resulted in amazing results reflected in the quantity and quality of disciples and churches.

 

Church-planting movements

Globally, ‘Book of Acts’-type movements (called ‘Church Planting Movements’ below) have recently emerged, often among the ‘hardest’ peoples to reach. The reality of these movements should not be skeptically or lightly dismissed. These exciting, transformational results—with millions of new believers and churches in hard places—should receive greater emphasis from those committed to bringing Jesus’ gospel to all peoples.

At least 158 Church Planting Movements (CPMs) resulting from a process called Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) have begun since the mid-1980s, but especially within the last 15-20 years, and largely, but not only, among UPGs.

A movement is defined as when a number of the initial churches each reproduce to fourth generation (great-grandchildren or later) churches. When this ongoing reproduction happens in multiple ‘family-tree branches’, critical mass and ability to reproduce is achieved. This does not seem to be the case if the reproduction stops at only second-generation (children) or third-generation (grandchildren) churches.

 

Biblical model

Jesus launched a movement in three years, with disciples learning to love him and obey all his commands. The numerical growth of disciples in these three years is clear: twelve, 72 others (Luke 10), 500 (1 Cor 15:6), more than 3,000 at Pentecost and then at least 5,000 (Acts 4:4). The belief that God uses people to start movements today is based on Jesus’ promise that His disciples would do greater things (John 14:12-14).

Every segment. Jesus went to every town and village (Matt 9:35-38). He sent the twelve to a specific population segment (Luke 9:1-6). He sent 72 others, but now to all the places to which he was about to go (Luke 10:1-23). Thus, when Jesus expanded their scope to make disciples of all population segments globally, his disciples were already experienced in the pattern.

Jesus’ pattern. His pattern was simple but deep. He modeled it regularly (eg Luke 4 and 8) and sent them to do the same (Matt 10, Luke 9 and 10). He focused on discipling whole groups (oikos—households), such as one of his first households of peace (Mark 1—Simon and Andrew’s household) and the Samaritan village (John 4). Sent workers were to pray for local workers to be found within the harvest. The welcoming person of peace (one spiritually hungry and God-prepared) is the focus. The person of peace opens his/her social unit/group to hear the message. Focusing on discipling whole groups makes great sociological, numerical, and practical sense, which results in sustainable growth.

Holistic role. The disciples’ role is holistic—both to tell the good news of the Kingdom and to heal the sick and cast out demons. They are to depend on the receiving household rather than providing all the resources or answers. They must focus on discipling the household of peace rather than going from household to household. This new group will be better able to disciple and influence their community than the outsider can.

Discipling groups. This focus on discipling groups continues in the Book of Acts, as all but three people (Saul, the Ethiopian eunuch and Sergius Paulus) came to faith in groups. Paul and his teams, following Jesus’ model, started movements among population segments, which were multi-cultural, multi-religious, and often hostile. These movements ensured that all in each area had a chance to hear of Jesus:

 

Jerusalem: ‘numbers of disciples increased rapidly’ (Acts 6:1, 7).

 

 Cyprus: ‘. . . the whole island’ (Acts 13:6). 

 

Phrygia: ‘The word of the Lord spread through the whole region (Acts 13:49).

 

 Galatia: In Iconium ‘a great number of Jews and Greeks believed’ (Acts 14:1); in Lystra . . . ‘some disciples’ (Acts 14:22); and in Derbe . . . ‘won a large number of disciples’ (Acts 14:21).

 

Macedonia: In Philippi, the families of Lydia and the jailer (Acts 16); in Thessalonica ‘some Jews and a large number of God-fearing Greeks and many prominent women’ (Acts 17:4); and in Berea many Jews believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men (Acts 17:12).

Achaia: In Athens ‘some believed’ (Acts 17:34); and in Corinth the family of Crispus and many Corinthians believed (Acts 18:8).

Ephesus: Within ‘two years, . . . all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10). Some 15 million people (Roman census) in much of the area of modern Turkey could only have had access within two years if obedient disciples were reproducing.

Paul’s missions: Only the use of several disciple-making movements with multiple branches can explain Paul’s following statement: ‘. . . from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum [the Balkans], I [Paul] have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ’ (Rom 15: 19). Within the 15 or so years represented in this statement, Paul and his small teams would not have had the time or physical ability to ‘fully proclaim’ Jesus in this whole area. The only way this scriptural statement could be accurate is if they served as catalysts to raise up reproducing disciples and groups who reproduced all across this region.

 

Some key principles

God through his Holy Spirit is the teacher. The outsider helps new disciples to learn directly from the Father and to obey everything Jesus commanded. (Isa 54:13; Jer 31:33-34; Matt 23:8; John 6:45; 14:25).

Obedience-based group discipleship is an essential factor. Without it DMMs do not happen. The group members hear the Scripture, retell it to each other, discuss God-given insight and the obedience God is asking from the passage. People are to obey what is learned each week. Each person is to share the passage with another. At the next meeting, each shares what they obeyed (or did not) and who they told. Group accountability is built into the process. Their theology is strong. ‘Accurate obedience’ leads to ‘accurate belief’.

Results transform. Testimonies from several movements indicate that alcoholism diminishes in their area. For example, a drunken colonel in South Asia fired his rifle point blank at his newly believing wife—and miraculously missed. He then broke her legs with the rifle. Through her continued witness, he quit drinking and became a believer and reproducing church-starter. In other movements, husbands learn from God to stop beating their wives.[1]

Churches seek God’s provision together to help the poor and widows and orphans in their communities, such as a South Asian movement where whole communities quit selling their daughters into sexual slavery. In another South Asian movement, one church branch hired a Hindu seamstress to train young women to earn a living. They only asked that this training group read each week’s Bible story and ask the simple questions. Soon, the Hindu seamstress, five Hindu girls, and three Muslim girls came to faith and were baptized—along with the Hindu and Muslim families, because they saw the change in their daughters.[2]

 

Movements today

Researchers are tracking over 150 church planting movements, and more are being added every year. There is at least one per continent. Disciples reproduce. Leaders reproduce. Churches reproduce and love and obey him by helping the widow and orphan, healing the sick, stop selling children into slavery, casting out demons, and sharing the good news of the Kingdom:

A movement born four years ago in India has over 7,000 congregations including some eighteenth generation churches.[3] One of the earliest movements began about 25 years ago in another part of India among the Bhojpuri language group. It has been audited several times by researchers. The latest audit shows at least 8 million baptized believers and approximately 200,000 congregations, which serve their community through literacy efforts, health education, etc. Movements of several thousand congregations are growing in several continents in areas hostile to the news of Jesus. A movement has emerged in the US among groups often ignored by existing churches. Exponential growth necessity

Churches must reproduce obedient churches more quickly than traditional expectations because it is the only way to exceed population growth and give all peoples access to the gospel. If it takes five years for a church to reproduce, it will require 30 years for one church to become 64 churches. On the other hand, if each church starts a church every twelve months, 32,000 churches could start (and sometimes have started) within 15 years.

 

Concerns addressed

Does this kind of rapid growth result in heresy? Less heresy is evident in these movements than is often seen in more traditional approaches. Most heresies historically have been fostered by a key leader/s (eg Judaizers), not groups. The group process of obeying God’s Word together reduces this possibility.

Are movement proponents diminishing or insulting existing churches? This is not the case. These proven and biblical strategies to disciple many people groups should excite the church, even if these approaches cause re-examination, discomfort, and change in order to achieve greater impact.

Is not a formally trained human leader required for accurate teaching / prevention of heresy? Might this be an arrogant lack of faith that God is really the best, most able teacher?

Might movement success hurt feelings of traditional workers? The more important concern should be how the Least Evangelized Peoples feel without Christ.

 

Implications

Many missiological theories promote strategies that should reproduce. Church planting movements are based on strategies which have reproduced.

The existence and legitimacy of church planting movements should not be skeptically dismissed, as is the tendency among some in Christian mission circles. The comment that UPGs have been over-emphasized needs to be disputed. The call to have a ‘balanced’ mission emphasis should be affirmed.

It is indeed time to bring balance. At least 30% (not the current paltry 3%) of global missionaries should be assigned to serve the 30% of the world’s population (UPGs) who have never enjoyed gospel witness of any kind, using proven best practices.

Jesus’ simple but deep strategies (rather than our often complex but non-reproducible efforts) need to be used to change whole people groups. These proven, biblical, multiplicative, and transformative discipling methods should be used rather than theoretical, unproven, and unscalable approaches. Church planting movements which transform societies represent the only strategy which brings the scalable growth needed to exceed population growth and to finish the task.

How are we doing (from Missions Interlink NZ)

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The following has been shared from the most recent Missions Interlink Bulletin

Is recent emphasis on “missional thinking” making a Kingdom difference? Alan Vink, National Director at Willow Creek Association NZ, recently shared some sobering statistics concerning Christian realities in Aotearoa NZ. He was the opening speaker at the ENGAGE Evangelism Conference in Tauranga, September 2 – 3 2016. By sharing the raw data with the church and parachurch ministers present, Alan wanted to encourage us to reassess how we are doing and therefore what we are doing to extend God’s kingdom in Aotearoa (and, by association, beyond).

Having “done the numbers”, Alan placed the number of churches in NZ at around 3,000. According the data he had access to (presumably the last NZ census), 10 to 12% of our 4.7 million NZers “regularly” attend a church, of any type. “Regular”, Alan clarified,”is about once every three weeks”. More number-gymnastics followed to expose how infrequently “regular” church goers are exposed to communal Christian life, potentially missing out on transformative disciple-forming teaching, worship and fellowship.

The point Alan rammed home was that the percentage had not changed in decades. His research showed a very short lived rise during the charismatic renewal of the 70’s/80’s but attendance soon returned to around the 10% mark. For all the resources poured into outreach efforts and community ministries, all the new churches planted and mega churches grown, and all the immigrant believers bolstering city church numbers, the percentages remain consistently low.

Furthermore, Alan noted that conversion rates (as determined by recorded baptisms) are even more lamentable. Selecting a reasonably representative denomination, he reported that in 2015 225 ‘average’ sized churches in this denomination baptised 500 people—that’s just over 2 per church per year. He claimed that 70-80% of the NZ population is now beyond the reach of a gospel witness. Drawing on research by Nick Thompson of Auckland University, Alan identified the most gospel-resistant sector as “middle-class NZ” declaring, “affluence is a clear barrier to the gospel.”

How are we doing? For all our community outreach initiatives and so called “missional” thinking, apparently we have a long way to go and much prayerful rethinking to do. Future mission from Aotearoa NZ is contingent on this situation changing.

Inviting People to Cross the Line

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In our Evangelism edition of Intermission last year, Sam Harvey talked about the importance of offering people an invitation to ‘cross the line’ and come to faith. We may not be aware of how many people in our churches and in our communities are actually ready to make a commitment to follow Jesus; they may just be waiting to be invited over the line.

We found the following article from Sermon Central provocative so thought we’d offer an excerpt. Read the full article by clicking here and if you’re a church leader, why not consider taking up the ‘Weekly Gospel Challenge’?.

By Hal Seed.

For a long time I’ve wondered if there is a relationship between the number of salvations a church experiences, and the number of times it offers salvation invitations. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m conducting an experiment this year.

My friend Ron Forseth (long-time overseer of SermonCentral.com) recently challenged me to offer an invitation every Sunday for an entire year. For the past 25 years, my habit has been to present a salvation invitation about once a month in our church services, but I’ve often wondered, “If we offered salvation more often, would more people come to Jesus?” So I’m taking The Weekly Gospel Challenge.

Results So Far

I started my experiment on the July 3 weekend. One lady raised her hand in the Saturday night service. So cool! The next we hosted a high-profile guest for what we call a Wow Weekend. Lots of visitors were present. 32 raised their hands for salvation. The next weekend (July 17), 12 hands went up. Last weekend (July 24), 5 more indicated they had prayed to receive Christ with me. There’s no way to know for sure how many of these decisions will bear out as “seed that fell on good soil” (Matthew 13:8). But some God-honoring intention motivated each one of those people to raise their hands.

Without Ron’s challenge, I probably would have given invitations 2 out of those 4 weekends. God is sovereign, so He certainly could have saved all those people without my invitation. Yet I believe that my faithfulness to proclaim the gospel made a difference, so I’m going to continue this every-Sunday habit for the next 52 weeks and see what happens. Would you like to take the challenge with me?

 

The article then unpacks five arguments against offering an invitation every week. Here’s number 4.

Why present an invitation if there are no lost people in the room?

This is a good point. But what if there are no lost people in the room because your members think they have no reason to invite their lost friends? What if presenting the gospel 4 or 5 weeks in a row causes a mind shift in your members, so they begin thinking, “If I invite my friend to come this weekend, he will hear the gospel, and his eternity might be changed?” It’s possible that sharing the gospel will breed more lost people being invited to church.

 

Read the full article by clicking here. If you’re a church leader, why not consider taking up the ‘Weekly Gospel Challenge’?.

Walking the Camino

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Thanks for your prayers for the week on the Camino. It was such a blessings to spend time with people from all over the world, hear their stories, share some of mine and work with such a diverse team. God was gloried in lots of ways and we keep praying that people will search and find the Good Shepherd.

Every day we had 7 different pilgrims stay the night with us. Together we reflected on the Camino & spiritual things, watched a film about Jesus life and ate dinner. There were many sunny days to chat with the pilgrims walking past, give away free drinks and fruit. I even got to walk one leg of the Camino on the first day. Such a beautiful experience to do solo.

I am the way and the truth and the life. John 14 Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida Juan 14

A View from the Outside (Issue 25)

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By Kate Cremisino

When my husband and I prepared to move as mission workers to New Zealand, the Lord gave us several words to help us gauge the spiritual climate of the land. We were made aware that New Zealand had moved into a post-Christian era but, putting a fire under our feet, God strongly spoke to us about renewal sweeping through the land. We arrived with passion and anticipation.

We realised we’d be facing new territory. Our American roots meant we were unacquainted with ministering in a post-Christian environment. While America is perhaps at a tipping point, it’s still the norm to run into nonbelievers who nonetheless know something about Jesus.

Many grew up attending Sunday school, Catholic Mass, the local synagogue or at least attend Christmas and Easter services. It’s easier engaging nonbelievers who have a context for understanding Jesus. We wondered what evangelism and discipleship would look like in a land that had ‘moved past’ the Gospel.

Upon arrival, we quickly noticed the chasm that existed. While there was a beautiful family of believers populating our city, many people we encountered had never even heard of the name of Jesus and had no context for understanding.

One afternoon in 2013, I was interviewing a young woman at the mall for a project. Right away she asked me to speak louder because she was deaf in one ear. My prayer radar perked up, my interviewing was put on the back-burner and I asked if I could pray for her. She said yes, and amid the ridiculing laughs from her friends sitting with her at the food court, a friend of mine joined me in quietly praying for her healing. We felt God’s peace despite the awkwardness of her friends’ laughter and found out later that she was healed that day. Yet when I tried to explain Jesus and the backstory of the Gospel, it dumbfounded me that she had no paradigm for God. To be transparent, I struggled to explain it to her because I expected her to be at least vaguely familiar with Jesus. Everything I said suddenly sounded airy fairy.

How could she not have heard about him in a nation filled with churches? And how come I was so unprepared to talk about him in a way that made sense?

Playing our part

Not long ago I had a similar situation with my hair dresser. When he casually mentioned his partner was deaf, I immediately thought back to the girl at the mall and asked if I could pray for his partner to be healed. He said yes, pausing from snipping while I said a simple prayer. He was thankful and inquisitive about my beliefs – he knew nothing about Jesus or God.

A few weeks later I checked in and learned that his partner’s hearing had improved. I was elated! He was shocked. But even though he witnessed the miracle, his eyes moved into sceptical hesitancy when I explained about Jesus. Again, I struggled to know how to share without sounding like a nutter. God was moving, cracking open the door, yet I felt unprepared as I overanalysed every word coming out of my mouth. But before I came down too hard on myself, I was encouraged when he mentioned how he was intrigued by the coincidence that he’d been recently befriended by two other clients who were also believers. I felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders as God reminded me that it’s not all up to me. We’re each playing a part.

As time passed I continued to pray for salvation for the guy and his partner. Recently, I popped by the salon to chat. He had no clients when I walked in and the timing proved divine. He said he was just thinking about me the night before because his partner’s ears were ringing and he thought he should ask me to pray again. So we sat on the art deco couch of his salon, but this time I suddenly felt to encourage him to be the one to pray. After some convincing, he offered some genuine prayers and we talked freely about God for another 20 minutes. The words came easily this time and my hairdresser was opening up more and more. I left feeling inspired by God’s goodness. God is doing the work. I just have to be available.

It reminded me that coming to faith in Jesus is often a journey. My interactions with someone may be just one step of that journey. My main responsibility is obedience. While evangelising can appear difficult in a ‘first-world nation’ where science, logic and sensuality trump spirituality and moral responsibility, I’m realising that reaching anyone – western or not – comes down to being led by the Holy Spirit and trusting him with the outcome. If I can let go of the pressure I place on myself, I know I’ll find peace in just doing my part, however eloquent or simple it may be. I also need to let go of overanalysing what I sound like. Because what I’m saying is true, I need to trust God to help my words resonate in the person’s heart. Speak the truth. The truth will set people free.

If we want to see a move of the Spirit in New Zealand, the key is obedience. See yourself as a missionary in your sphere of influence. Train your heart to hear God guiding you on his mission and be ready to speak, pray, listen or serve. There is no reason to fear. God knows who’s ready and what they need to hear. Be the vessel and leave it to God to manage the outcome. What would quickly transpire if every believer tuned in daily and stepped out in obedience? I imagine God’s Gospel would spread like wildfire, setting hearts across this nation aflame for him.

Kate, Noah and their daughter live in Christchurch where they support grass-roots missional engagement here and around the world.

For discussion

What small steps were significant in your journey to faith in Christ?

What are some of the barriers that have kept you from sharing your faith? What would God say in response to these barriers?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Crossing the Line (Issue 25)

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By Sam Harvey

There are those moments when you’re ‘all in.’ Palms sweaty, heart racing, trying to look cool on the outside but feeling the nervous excitement that comes when you’re taking a risk for God. There’s something about the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom that seems to centre around these sort of moments… but what do we mean by ‘Kingdom of God’ and how does it relate to evangelism?

As a fan of theologian NT Wright (particularly his outstanding book Surprised by Hope), my worldview as a Christian has been centred around the belief that Scripture is a unified story of God putting back together a world marred by sin, and of Jesus as the climax of that great narrative. Through his death and resurrection the future reality of God’s redemptive plan burst into the present, and we don’t just wait for the return of the King but we partner with God to see his Kingdom come now.

This shapes our ‘good works,’ our serving the poor, the sick, the lonely, those that society has left behind. This shapes our expectation around the supernatural, as we pray for the sick and the broken. And this shapes our evangelistic passion – we can confidently, wisely and humbly invite people to embrace love, wholeness, life and healing in a relationship with Jesus, the humble King.

What kind of pants do you wear?

Two quite distinct camps have emerged over the years that have caused us to lose something of our effectiveness. Scot McKnight has captured something of this in his recent book Kingdom Conspiracy. He talks about ’Skinny Jeans Christians’ who love Kingdom work – helping the poor, drawing alongside those society has left behind, and sometimes living in ‘intentional community’ to outwork this. Yet there is reluctance to invite people to give their lives to Jesus. But Scot doesn’t stop there. He critiques ‘Pleated Pants Christians,’ saying they’ve reduced the Kingdom to ‘redemptive moments’ where people come to faith, neglecting things like caring for the poor as a waste of time since mission is all about getting people into heaven.

I am convinced we’re called to it all! We’re called to serve the poor, care for God’s creation, care for the refugee, draw alongside the lonely, roll up our sleeves and serve our communities. And we’re called to invite everyone to the banqueting table of God’s love, challenging them to give their lives to follow Jesus, to pursue and be pursued by him, and to partner with him to see his Kingdom come.

So the skinny jeans and the pleated pants crowds need each other. I wonder whether we’ve lost something of a humble spirit that would learn from those who have a different focus or passion (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). There’s great power in a passion for both servant hearted Kingdom works and helping people journey towards Jesus. If I’m honest, I don’t think we’re weak in doing ‘good works’ here in NZ. I’m proud of all the initiatives just about every church I come across is doing to serve their wider community. But I wonder whether we’ve lost some confidence in God’s power to break into the world and move supernaturally.

For example, a whole article could be written about Power Evangelism. A friend of mine was recently talking to someone who was very resistant to the topic of Jesus! But my friend asked to pray for the man’s back which had been causing him pain for many years. He said yes, even though he didn’t believe in God and had never been to church. His back was instantly healed, his eyes just about popped out in surprise and a conversation ensued that ultimately led to the person asking Jesus into his life! What a reminder that God’s Kingdom is not just of words but of power (1 Corinthians 4:20).

The Awesome in the Awkward

The area I’ve felt particularly challenged in is the lack of ‘redemptive moments’ I’ve offered people. I felt the Lord gently challenge me earlier this year: “Sam, in your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line to come to faith?”

I realised I was afraid nothing would happen, that people would reject me, that I’d look like a fool. So I began to step out, giving people an opportunity at the end of our services to become a Christian… and I was excited to see people actually respond! I realised I needed a ’Kingdom expectation’ around people coming to faith in our gatherings. Often God’s awesome power and Kingdom are found in awkward moments where people step out in faith. Sometimes the awesome is in the awkward!

We’re called to make disciples not converts, but conversion is a vital step in the journey. It requires someone asking a question: “Do you want to give your life to Jesus? Can I pray for you? Do you want to come to our Alpha course? Do you want to come and visit my church?”

The most thrilling part of seeing God’s Kingdom break in is when we see one of his precious children return to him. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the indescribable privilege of watching people who are a part of our latest Alpha course take real steps towards faith. Every Alpha night people from our community who wouldn’t call themselves Christians come in to our building. Some are going to Alpha, some to a parenting course, some to community youth programmes, some have engaged with our free budgeting service throughout the week. Through all of this we’ve created an ‘on ramp’ for people to journey towards faith in Christ.

My prayer is that there would be a fresh passion for God’s Kingdom in all its expressions and a fresh confidence in the power of the Gospel to change lives. May there be a ‘new normal’ in our expectation of the supernatural, the expectation that people will come to faith, and a great passion to pour out our lives to see God’s Kingdom bless all who encounter us.

Sam is the pastor of Grace Vineyard’s Beach Campus in Christchurch.

For discussion

Are you in the ‘Skinny Jeans’ or ‘Pleated Pants’ brigade? How can you find a better balance between these two extremes?

What’s needed for your church to become a place where people can cross the line and come to faith regularly? What role will you play?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Space for people to cross the line

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Sam Harvey, pastor of Grace Vineyard’s Beach Campus in Christchurch, recently spoke at a Laidlaw College class on evangelism. The following is an excerpt from one of the points he made.

The questions Sam was wrestling with are questions we all need to consider. In your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line and come to faith? How can we build a culture in our churches that reflects a desire to see people come to know Jesus?

This is what Sam had to say:

Church culture: This for me is a big one when it comes to ‘How do we Proclaim the Gospel Today?’. I think this is something that needs to be restored to our church culture or encouraged in our church culture.

I felt really challenged this year as we were looking at this whole thing of evangelism. As a pastor I felt the Lord gently challenged me and said, “Sam, in your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line?” I’m passionate about helping people journey towards Christ (the first parts of the Engel Scale) and I’m all about discipling people, but when do I just give a moment for this to happen? Why don’t I? And the reason I don’t is because I’m scared about rejection, I’m scared about nothing happening, I’m scared that I’m going to look like a bit of a fool, I’m scared it’s going to be awkward. But I really felt challenged to do it.

So I decided that at the end of every service, regardless of what it’s on, I’m going to say “Hey, if you’re here today and you want to say yes to Jesus”… and then I’ll grab my little Alpha booklet which will talk about being sorry for the things I’ve done, please forgive me, I thank you for what you’ve done on the cross, please come in to my life, a little formula or whatever… and I’ll say, “If you want to pray that prayer with me, stick your hand up where you are at right now.” I’ve trained our section leaders in our church to watch for hands and go up to them after the service. And I said to our church that I’m going to ask people if they want to receive Jesus at the end of the sermon, and so you know, if you bring a friend to church, I’m going to be doing this every sermon. So I’ve been doing that over the last three or four months. And you know what? People were putting up their hands.

For me the challenge was the question: ‘when are we giving people the opportunity to cross the line – regularly, as part of our church culture?’ I got really really convicted about the fact that I wasn’t doing that in our church services. For me it was part and parcel of just going ‘I want to continue to build a culture in our church that reflects that heart to see people come to know Jesus.’ We may have all the theories in the world but in real terms, what does it look like? That’s the pastor part of me saying yeah the theory’s great, but what are we actually doing as a church?

 

THE MUSE

You may not be a pastor, but how does Sam’s perspective challenge you? Has your church fostered a culture where it’s natural to invite people to commit to following Jesus? If not, what would it take to change that?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re a church or youth group leader, this week ask yourself and your team what you can do to create space to help people ‘cross the line.’ If you’re not, talk to your church friends about how you can contribute to developing this sort of culture.

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

God and Skydiving

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I spend the majority of my time in what we would consider ‘Christian’ circles, and have realised two things.

1) I need a wider circle of friends, and

2) I’m more uncomfortable than I want to be about sharing faith-stuff with people I don’t know very well. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about missions, evangelism and courage, and how to become a more courageous person.

Usually when I think about courage, my first instinct is to think of big, bold and decisive acts… but I think that’s a very narrow view of courage. Sometimes it takes more courage to follow Jesus day in and day out than we recognise. Courage doesn’t just have to be about extreme acts of bravery – sometimes courage might be simply inviting someone out for coffee who you notice doesn’t have many friends to talk to. Courage might be volunteering at an afterschool programme, even though kids terrify you. It takes courage for me to be open about faith and God when I’m hanging out with friends who I know think differently from me.

There are a few things that can freak me out, most of which are pretty run of the mill: spiders, mice, and snakes (which luckily we don’t have in NZ!) My biggest, and most extreme fear, is heights. When I plan a tramping trip with friends, I have to check the route beforehand and make sure that we aren’t going to spend four days wandering along exposed ridgelines, because I won’t make it if we do. My fear of heights is pretty bad… so last year, my friends were somewhat confused at my decision to jump out of a plane at 13 500 feet. I’m the girl who will sit down and wait while everyone else climbs the summit, so I can’t really blame them for being surprised.

When you go tandem skydiving, you have to empty your pockets, and then put on a jumpsuit and a cap, before posing for selfies in front of the plane. You and your instructor then walk to the plane, where you then basically have to sit on their lap for the next twenty minutes while you fly to the jump height. The instructor straps you together on the way up – and you hope they do it right, because you can’t help at all. Once you’re in the plane, there is no way out. The door opens, and you shuffle to the edge and swing your legs out… hang there for a moment… and then suddenly you’re falling. The actual act of falling out of a plane is the instructor’s job, and not yours, since their the one who pushes you out. Oddly enough, when I found myself falling towards the ground at 200 kilometres per hour, I wasn’t afraid, and thought it was great.

This skydiving analogy, although cheesy, is the best I’ve come up with so far in my current ponderings about courage. Courage isn’t listed as a gift or fruit of the Spirit, but I still think that it’s something that God is actively at work shaping in us. I think that the way God causes us to become more courageous is similar to skydiving – we find ourselves in situations that are more uncomfortable, or harder than we would like them to be… but as we continue to follow God in those moments, courage is formed deep within us. We become more courageous people.

 

THE MUSE

What would you like to be less afraid of, and more courageous about?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re scared of heights, try skydiving. For the rest of us, remember that being courageous starts with small steps, and try to do something that makes you nervous this week.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

Evangelism Course in Christchurch

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For many of us, the word “evangelism” is overloaded with negative connotations. It may bring to mind pushy tactics, manipulation, TV preachers. Yet, it’s pretty clear in Scripture that evangelism is important – after all, how can we not want to share the One who gave his life for us?

Laidlaw College in Christchurch recognizes this tension – that evangelism is important yet that it hasn’t always be modelled well. That’s why they are starting a new course in the second half of the year. It won’t be so much about training how to ‘do’ evangelism as much as digging into the theology that motivates and influences the ‘how.’ This will be an evening course, Mondays 6-9pm. This means the course can be audited by anyone who is interested in exploring this important topic. Alistair Donaldson will be facilitating the course, but much of the training will be delivered by various people with a variety of experience and backgrounds.

 

CONTENT OVERVIEW

Topic 1: Mission, evangelism and the Gospel Lesson 1: What is evangelism? Lesson 2: Mission and evangelism Lesson 3: What is the Gospel? Lesson 4: Proclaiming the Gospel today

Topic 2: The process of evangelism Lesson 5: Divine action and human response Lesson 6: A theology of conversion Lesson 7: The call to discipleship

Topic 3: The church and evangelism Lesson 8: Towards a theology of church and evangelism

Topic 4: Contextual issues in evangelism Lesson 9: Post-Christian society Lesson 10: Evangelism in a multi-faith society

Topic 5: Apologetics and values in evangelism Lesson 11: Using apologetics in evangelism Lesson 12: Values for respectful evangelism

 

If you’re interested in this course or would like more information, please email Laidlaw College.

Connect, Discover and Respond

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I’ve been known as a coffee aficionado (read: addict) for a few years now. I will drink instant coffee on the rare occasion where it would be rude to refuse hospitality, but I can usually be found at my desk by about 8:30am sipping on freshly brewed java, or beginning any roadtrip with a stop for a latte. However, I realised a couple of years ago that my coffee history is blemished in the eyes of coffee purists.

My dirty secret?

I worked as a barista at Starbucks for four years while I was a somewhat-broke undergraduate student. In the New Zealand coffee scene, Starbucks probably ranks somewhere above Wild Bean and McCafe, but is definitely sneered at by those who like to purchase their soy flat white from the local organic hipster roastery.

People who love their local café often hate on Starbucks because of its sameness. It’s why you can walk into stores in Nelson, Sydney and New York, and they all have a similar vibe. This doesn’t happen by accident. Although the décor, the uniform and the menu options are always similar, baristas have also been thoroughly trained – indoctrination might not be too strong a word – into the all-important Starbucks culture. The two hundred and fifty page training manual doesn’t only teach you how to correctly apply caramel sauce to a caramel macchiato (a single-drizzle crosshatch followed by a double-drizzle circle, in case you were wondering), but also about how to be Starbucks.

Baristas are taught five ‘green apron’ behaviours – be welcoming, genuine, knowledgeable, considerate, and involved. These are followed up by other customer service techniques, such as to ‘Connect, Discover and Respond’ – greet your customer and connect with them, discover something about them, and respond accordingly. I worked under fun shift supervisors, who would facetiously singsong this to me as they walked past, but I hated the sense that my interaction with people had to be moulded to this three point list.

It did work though – apparently, people feel safe telling their barista confidential news, like the customer who told me she was pregnant but hadn’t told her partner or her children yet.  Someone at Starbucks headquarters has been very smart and has caught onto an important principle – if people feel like they belong, are valued and are wanted, they’ll keep coming back (and, most importantly for Starbucks, spending money). The company plays on human emotional needs in order to keep their profits increasing.

So what does this all have to do with mission? Over the years, I’ve been in hundreds, if not thousands, of church services where people have been invited to raise their hands to signal that they want to become a follower of Jesus. It’s great when people genuinely respond, and not so great when it becomes a bit of a social-pressure scenario. What I’ve noticed tends to happen, however, is when people wave their hand in the air without having some sort of personal connection to the community, they’re a lot less likely to continue attending church. The ones who keep coming back are those who are welcomed and embraced as the glorious and creative individuals that they are, into the messy and diverse family of God – they know that they are wanted and that they genuinely belong.

Have a think about how this might apply to you, or affect how we think about missions and evangelism in our local churches? My suspicion is that our first question should never be ‘Are you a Christian’, but something more along the lines of ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’ It might mean being a bit less focused on the moment of decision… and more committed to walking it out together for the rest of our lives.

 

THE MUSE

How do you feel discovering that the friendly barista from Starbucks is simply following a careful marketing strategy to make you buy more coffee? Why is that? What difference should this make for us when we talk to others about our faith?

THE MOVE

Find an opportunity this week to Connect, Discover and Respond. Kate’s question is a good starting point: ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’

 

Kate spent her late teens connected to YWAM, the prayer movement  and working at her Church in Wellington. She’s since blasted her way through a Bachelor in Theology with Bishopdale Theology College in Nelson and is now beavering away at a PhD. Her passion is to see the local church grow in its understanding of and passion for mission.