Part 2 (of 2)
Once your church finds itself on the event hamster wheel, it’s extremely difficult to jump off. An event mentality conditions pastors and churchgoers to grow accustomed to particular roles within and outside the “4 walls”. As we outlined last week, those roles are misaligned with expectations the Bible lays out for church leaders and members.
Expectations of Church Leaders…
- Self-Imposed – Feel responsible for keeping many balls in the air, serving as spiritual guide, counselor, peace-keeper, manager, administrator, fundraiser, and strategic planner.
- By Members – Provide an entertaining worship service, engaging sermons that feed and lead people to Christ, support in times of crisis, vision to grow the church, and ample financial stewardship to supply them with requested programs and services.
- By Jesus – Follow His model of equipping, empowering and mobilizing disciples to advance His Kingdom.
Expectations of Members…
- Self-Imposed – Frequent attendance is sacrificial, serving at the church deserves a pat on the back, participating in an occasional outreach event checks the box, and sharing the gospel merits extra credit. However, Jesus says that no credit is due to the servant who does only what he is told.
- By Leaders – Simply Invite, Involve, and Invest. Pastors ask the trick question “Are any of you ministers?”, knowing few will raise their hands. Yet despite responding that “all of you are ministers”, most pastors don’t hold them to that Great Commission standard.
- By Jesus – He expects all of His followers to live out both the Great Commandment and Great Commission; overflowing with love for the Lord that spills out in the form of evangelism, discipleship and compassion to those around them.
What Will it Take to Break the Event Mentality?
Reprogramming our hard-wired mindsets to align with Jesus’ expectations will require drastic measures rarely undertaken by churches today – intensive discipleship.
Unfortunately, given all of the resources necessary to keep the event wheel spinning, church leaders had to give up something. What they chose to dispense with, not coincidentally, were the two Biblical mandates that most conflicted with the expectations churchgoers have of themselves in the event-centric model – discipleship and serving outside the church. At the same time, pastors stepped up requests for members to do “church chores” to tackle the extra event-related workload. Serving inside the church during service times also happens to fit within the low expectations church leaders have of members today – and members have of themselves. Asking the congregation to invest outside of church service times in changing themselves (through discipleship) and changing the world (through local missions) given their busy schedules and low level of commitment to life change well exceeds those expectations. To fill those gaps in more convenient ways, church have opted for a more easy, fun event formats for discipleship (i.e. small groups) and for local missions (e.g. holiday outreaches like bringing IN backpacks and shoe boxes during church services at Christmas versus going OUT before or after church).
These event-centric habits are deeply ingrained. Event-centricity comes with pastor-centricity – but church leaders are not the definition of “church”, despite any appearances to the contrary. Yet church growth consultants, books, articles, and celebrity pastors tout better leadership as the answer to all that ails today’s church. Meanwhile, churches down the road continue to offer faster, no-commitment, challenge-free environments – further reinforcing the status quo. All of this can only be overcome through a radical change of heart and mind where we acquiesce and accept the Lord’s expectations of us and dispose of our own. Personal, rigorous discipleship will reveal that the responsibilities of churchgoers closely mirror those of pastors and should consequently flatten the church hierarchy – truly viewing members as ministers. Yes, breaking the prevailing event mentality will most likely be bottom up, not top down.
What Should Church Look Like Instead?
When discipleship finally convinces Church leaders and members to reclaim the Biblical definition of church (i.e. believers) and its intended “customer” (i.e. non-believers), we will discover an alternative model for church, one that will break the event cycle. Once we realize that church is not a place to visit or an event to attend, but is instead Us, then we’ll understand that church happens all year and all week long as we do life. This perspective flips conventional church models INSIDE, OUT…
- Weekend Services – Collective services continue on weekends; however:
- Less planning and scripting, leaving more room for the Holy Spirit to intervene
- Fewer resources poured into ensuring a great “customer” experience, freeing up churchgoers to spend more hours discipling and serving those inside and outside the church
- Less concern about appealing to non-believers, recognizing that church is intended to be a gathering of Christ-followers for worship and edification; instead investing services in building and equipping disciples to serve as the “church” personified to reach non-believers outside of church services.
- Discipleship – Initiate a church-wide process that runs year-round, all-week long:
- Pastors – Disciples leaders 1-on-1
- Leaders – Each then disciples a couple people 1-on-1 or in triads
- Multiplication – Encourage all discipled members to disciple others
- Sunday School – Consider resuming this dying tradition, making sure it’s taught by disciples
- Small groups – Facilitated only by discipled leaders
- Immersion Bible Study – One night a week (several hours)
- Greater emphasis on private devotion – The fundamental blocking and tackling of Bible study, journaling and prayer
- New Members/Attenders – Lay out a discipleship track for all to follow
- Communication – Church leaders connect throughout the week with the congregation, not with announcements (intended to build loyalty to and engagement within the institution), but with reinforcing teachings (that build loyalty to and engagement with Christ and with those inside and outside the church).
Interestingly, churches that reduce their local missions efforts typically also cut back their discipleship programs – and vice versa. That correlation stands to reason since members in those churches will have fewer (church-sponsored) opportunities to practice sharing their faith. To use a business analogy, sales training is only necessary if you’re going to send the sales force into the field.
Here’s how to mobilize disciples to maximize impact:
- Relational, Not Transactional – As churchgoers become disciples and realize they ARE the embodiment of “church”, they will quickly learn that their role is not transactional, simply to attend and extend invitations to weekend church events. Instead, their role is relational, to invest in the lives of those who don’t know the Lord and personally bring them to Christ, not leaving that to the “professionals”.
- Lead with Compassion – Following Jesus’ instructions when sending out His disciples because people don’t care what you know until they know you care.
- Not Seasonal – Families are still hungry and lost in January and February when the holidays are over, so the Christmas “season of giving” shouldn’t apply to churches.
- Not Through Big Events – As we discussed last week, church events often do more harm than good by giving the impression that compassion was not genuine (because it wasn’t enduring).
- Frequent – Ask lay leaders to take responsibility for organizing local missions efforts on a continual basis by turning Small Groups into Neighborhood Groups, forming Cause-Based Teams, doing Ministry Planting, and creating Semi-Autonomous Mission Groups.
- Willing to Take on Tough Jobs – A ministry working with troubled youth couldn’t find any churches to provide mentors willing to invest the long, painstaking hours in those kids. The churchgoers they finally found had one thing n common – they had been personally discipled by another individual.
- “Shock and Awe” – Encourage acts of kindness that blow people’s doors off, going well beyond what they would expect; then surprisingly stay engaged with them over the long haul.
- Bring the Community In – Use the church building Monday through Friday, not letting all that square footage go to waste, by offering support, coaching, classes and services that address local needs.
- Consider #WhereWouldJesusBe (#WWJB) – Disciples recognize that service is key to evangelism because they’re studied the life of Jesus extensively. Jesus did not retreat into the comfortable confines of church for months at a time, waiting for the next holiday season to organize a service event. Jesus constantly healed and fed, demonstrating His love, before telling them who He is.
New Initiative from Meet The Need to Help
We don’t want your church to take a breather from evangelism, discipleship and community engagement after all the holiday events – so Meet The Need isn’t slowing down after Christmas either! We’re working hard to equip your church to have a tremendous impact 7 days per week, 12 months per year.
First of all, on the heels of our highly successful “Ice Bucket” challenges – #CastAnEternalVote and #GiveAnEternalGift – Meet The Need is launching our next initiative to help your church make that difficult transition from event-centric to year-round evangelism, discipleship and community engagement…
#MeetAnEternalNeed encourages Christians and churchgoers everywhere to follow Jesus’ model by performing intentional (not random) acts of kindness for a friend, neighbor, coworker or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the Gospel. Then…
- Post pics and tell your stories on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #MeetAnEternalNeed (and #WWJB, #WhereWouldJesusBe) to inspire others
- Challenge 3 friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”
Meet The Need also provides the following to help your church break the event mentality:
- Online Assessment
- Strategic Planning Workbook
- eBook – The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church
- eBook – Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months
- Personalized coaching – Contact Meet The Need at email@example.com
Meet The Need provides a complete suite of software to back up our coaching. Many church consultants identify issues but don’t provide an effective, Biblical means to get churches back on the path to health. However, Meet The Need spent over a decade and millions of dollars developing systems to help churches equip and mobilize their members. The consequences of churches failing to equip and mobilize are so serious that Meet The Need gives all of those systems away at no charge! For more information, go to www.meettheneed.org.