Ten Negotiable Core Priorities
A short list of the ten includes:
- New Measures of Success (L5 vs L3)
- Liberated Financial Systems
- Minimal Ecclesiology
- Level 5 Leadership within an Apostolic Atmosphere
- Kingdom-centric/Geo-centric Focus
- Everyone a Missionary
- Sending Impulse
- Easily Accessible (everyone gets to play)
- Bias to Yes
- Relational Affiliation to a Tribe, Family or Network of Churches
Let’s stretch our thinking by expanding on these ten. Please understand that each of these 10 negotiables requires decision-making on your part. It might be wise to read the next few pages with a journal in hand. Jot your thought as you read, then formalize them into a working document that you can use to disciple your most promising leaders.
1. New Measures of Success/Scorecards (L5 vs L3)
Do you seek to grow a single congregation or to disciple nations my multiplying disciples and churches? Do you seek to create the best possible “come and see” environments AND “go and be” environments or are you captive to the Level 3 “come and see” bias?
What gets measured gets done! If you measure conversions and baptisms, you will get them. Measure church attendance and you will figure out how to make it grow. But you need to measure more to disciple a nation.
At Level 5 a church will measure how many people are involved in active disciple making. It will look at what proportion of the budget went into church multiplication. It will keep its members focused on the possibility that they could involve themselves in multiplying a new church. It will celebrate the number of churches stemming from itself and it will make heroes of the people who took new territory for the kingdom of God by planting those churches. A Level 5 church will want to know what percentage of its church plants reproduced themselves.
2. Liberated Financial Systems
Whenever money is involved, things get sticky. This requires a redefinition of excellence away from perfection toward multiplication. If you spend all your funds perfecting a Sunday morning performance, you grow addicted to money and find it difficult to invest, significantly, in the world outside your congregation.
A multiplication movement places a higher priority on multiplication than it does on presentation. This means that you consumer Christians either mature into fully surrendered Christians or they become uncomfortable in church. One handy tool for this is a statement of mission on your church website. If you make it clear that you intend that every Christ follower learns to live life as a mission, you can begin to filter out “consumer Christians” or spectators.
By reconstituting our priorities around disciple making and church multiplication, we drastically reduced our overhead while expanding the Kingdom at a much higher rate. Remember that if you build a beast, you must feed it. I would rather feed a menagerie outside our walls than a monster within. A liberated church can afford to invest heavily in church planting, especially when planting overseas. Or a liberated church might stick with business-as-usual while planting a movement of microchurches at almost no cost. Whatever pathway you take toward multiplication, can you liberate your finances (change your spending priorities) to the point that you could invest a tithe of your church income to church multiplication in your community, across the country and overseas?
3. Minimal Ecclesiology
Does your church polity enable multiplication or is it a hindrance? The simpler your ecclesiology, the more potential pastors you can embrace. To frame your minimal ecclesiology, you MUST stay true to New Testament truths while minimizing the number of man-made rules that stifle mobilization. We can’t expect to deviate from Jesus’ way of doing things and expect strong impact.
“What is church?” Is a microchurch a “real church?” How does the Bible functionally describe church minimums? When two or more are gathered together in His name, is that church? It can be. If so, is a Super Bowl party church? I think not. The word, ecclesia, appears 114 times in the New Testament. Mostly it refers to the universal body of Christ—there is little theology attached to local gatherings. You would do better to define the roles of leaders, especially pastors (elders) and deacons, including deaconesses because you have scripture for these roles while there is so little scripture describing local assemblies. As you attach biblical qualifications to these roles inside your particular culture and church culture you can identify your minimum threshold for multiplying churches. The idea is to remove, or at least reduce, impediments to individuals reproducing churches.
Do the hard work to wrestle through these questions. Don’t just toss out everything that stands in the way of rapid multiplication. Think this through as you don’t want to lose something biblical in the name of pragmatism, but you shouldn’t further mere church tradition at the expense of f the Great Commission. Find balance. You don’t want to stand before Jesus someday and have him say, “Why were you so legalistic and controlling?” You also don’t want him to say, “Why didn’t you take my words more seriously? Did you really think you could get my intended results by using human regulations?”
4. Level 5 Leadership within an Apostolic Atmosphere
Discussing Ephesians 4 in the light of the modern church can incite volatile conversations. In his classic book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements, Alan Hirsch summarized the gifts in that chapter as APEST or apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers.
Along with Alan, many hold that these five leadership gifts are offices in the church and necessary to its current success. Others believe that the gifts ceased with the death of the last of Jesus’ immediate disciples plus Paul (all of this begs the question about whether Barnabas, Andronicus or Junia who are called apostles in the New Testament). Another question is whether, or not, the list of gifts in Ephesians 4 is comprehensive or simply mentioned as means toward a goal of maturing the body of Christ. These are open questions—with answers open to negotiation.
Whatever your view, the functions mentioned in the list are more important than the forms. I’m uncomfortable with people describing me as a pastor if I must conform to a definition. First, I am not as much a shepherd as I am a teacher. I have an apostolic bent but won’t answer to the title. My point is that we can put aside our definitions and forms in favor of an environment that seeks a well-rounded ministry that reflects the spirit of this important passage.
5. Kingdom-centric/Geo-centric Focus
Do you pastor a church or a geographic area? Do you disciple others with a goal of releasing them into the larger kingdom of God to carry the fullness of Jesus into every corner of the geographic area you pastor? We can disciple nations if we organize toward that goal. This implies that leaders serve as hero-making multipliers. These leaders are willing to sacrifice what they might enjoy at home for what they can produce in other places and cultures. A posture of giving rather than holding.
If you view the Great Commission as a call to disciple entire nations, you’ll never be satisfied just leading a single church—large or small. Instead, you’ll seek to discern whatever part of the world is your parish and then attempt to saturate it with the gospel. When I lived in Southern California, we saw California beach towns as our unique cultural ballpark. When we moved to Hawaii, we understood the whole state was our primary mission field. Our goal was one percent of the population in churches we planted or helped plant in 10 years. It took 11 years but caused a rise of apostolic leaders (outside our own circles) that moved the needle from four percent in 1983 to 62 percent declaring their faith in Christ by 2006. The same survey had 34 percent of people stating that they had been in church during the past seven days.
Japan was next and finally, whatever doors the Lord opened elsewhere. The goal was never to build either a movement or an organization—we always sought to expand the Kingdom through a “disciple and release” approach to ministry and church multiplication.
6. Everyone a Missionary
Does the “priesthood of all believers” work in shoe-leather for you? Your members will seize unexpected opportunities if you train them to.
Statistics show that the church in the U.S. is not penetrating every crack and cranny of society. Our answer is in part to mobilize people to “go and be” the church into their unique mission field in society rather than simply trying to attract people to “come and see.” The “footprint” or “shadow” of the church’s impact is greatly increased when we mobilize an army of everyday missionaries.
The challenge is that the prevailing paradigm in the Level 3 operating system is one of “we can do it, you can help.” The Level 3 church is possibly the best mobilizer of volunteers in the world (possibly the history of the world). Unfortunately, we mobilize volunteers primarily to run the internal operations of the church and to build our capacity for more growth. Imagine the impact of shifting our approach to “you can do it, how can we help!” What if the church became a mobilizing and launching platform for followers of Jesus to discover and engage and catalyze their unique personal calling! What if we mobilized missionaries into the mission fields represented by everyday life? BTW, I see everyday missionaries ministering in their workplace, neighborhood or serving in a soup kitchen as distinct from people operating microchurches. Everyone is a Matthew 28 missionary, not everyone functions as a pastor.
The secret of Hope Chapel as a movement has been the idea that every member is on a mission. We focus on the priesthood of all believers as pragmatic rather than symbolic. Each member of the body of Christ has a function. All are called as fishers of men, and all are called to make disciples capable of making other disciples. The most important task of church leadership is to help these folks find their way into ministry through intentional disciple-making systems. Our network of home groups is a starting place. Often, these people band together to join a single member in some outreach venture. This, then, inspires us to do more which, in turn, helps people find their way into some unique ministry.
7. Sending Impulse
Can you see the value in lining up with Jesus in Acts 1:8? Are you a sender or an accumulator?
The question is never: “Are you called to ministry?” but rather, “What ministry does God have for you?” Helping people discern this leads to an outward mentality. Again, people will come to you with farfetched ideas. Learn that ministry is about what happens “out there,” rather than fitting more bodies into your church machine.
Last summer I spent a week, training leaders in a Level 4 reproducing church in Russia. The leader had recently left a successful church (and network) in a small city to start anew in the former Russian capital of St. Petersburg. He’s operating with more faith than money. In spite of the difficulties, he launched two new churches in just two years from a congregation numbering fewer than 100 on a weekend. The church he pastors is young, poor, and filled with possibilities.
Their biggest struggle is to grow fast enough for their finances to catch up to their ability to multiply ministry. We hit a speed bump late in the meetings. Confusion arose over one man, Dmitri, potentially planting a microchurch among recent Jews immigrating from Muslim lands. To the pastor, the idea of one of his mature leaders launching small churches seemed like a threat, “Why not just invite them to come to our service? Why deny them the joy we have in our worship and teaching?” The answer: These folks speak broken English and could not fit into the Russian language congregation.
Once he grasped the idea that a leader might remain in the mother church while planting a microchurch as a freelance pastor, everything fell into place.
Ten hours after our discussion, one immigrant family contacted Dmitri to ask if he could hold “church” for them and a few of their friends who wanted to know about Jesus. At the end of the day, this pastor was excited to see that he could extend the boundaries of his ministry with a new tool that would not demand the financial resources he puts into ordinary church plants.
The Russian pastor already has a spending impulse, but financial considerations along with performance driven church meetings inhibited it. Once freed from those restraints he now launches churches at a faster rate. Ten months later, Dmitri has replaced himself as pastor of that microchurch and is moving to Sochi with a plan to plant 12 microchurches in villages surrounding that city. We must guard our own sending impulses. If you are reading this book it underscores the sending impulse within you. The key is to root out any obstacles to that impulse. Lives depend on it.
8. Easily Accessible (everyone gets to play)
What training and rules must a person negotiate before joining your ministry team? The fewer you have, the more likely you are to multiply.
Everybody plays. Make it easy for people to gain access to ministry. Rereading Matthew 28 (verse 17) tells us that some of those commissioned still doubted the resurrection. This is interesting. Jesus wasn’t bothered by the contradictions common to a movement. Some people go off half-cocked but if you eliminate them, you tend to stomp out the tender seedlings of good grass (Matt. 13:24-30). If you want to lead a Level 5 movement, you must get used to an inclusive messiness, which can be as simple as inviting unskilled people to join a ministry team. For example, we allow musicians to hone their skills while serving on our worship teams—we just don’t plug them in until they reach a certain Level of musical competence.
Our churches must allow every member to play a role in ministry. Early on, we began breaking every job description into four pieces. We’d arrange them hierarchically by order of difficulty. The easiest chunk became an entry point for new believers to enter ministry.
One metaphor that sticks with me is the idea that you would feed an army of rabbits rather than elephants because they multiply so rapidly. When it comes to disciple-making ability, we need thousands of rabbits reproducing all over the place. Instead, we see rabbits trying to morph into elephants—which never works!
9. Bias to Yes
Do you find it easier to give permission than to withhold it? Mobilizing the priesthood of all Believers requires that we move from “we can do it, you can help” to “you can do it, how can we help?” This requires letting go of some control and allowing new ideas which are often messy and risky.
Do frontline people have the ability to change protocol to meet needs or seize rising opportunities? Christ followers run everything from households to small businesses to huge construction projects, yet some pastors want to retrain them in basic skills before allowing them to participate. In churches I’ve pastored, some of our most productive ministries came through people whose “crackpot schemes” would only get them into trouble—according to the naysaying voice in my head. It often took discipline to say, “Yes, you can; how can I help?” However, it usually paid off.
The interesting thing about saying, “yes,” was how often the next 14 days would introduce me to someone with a similar idea. I became an effective networker through granting permission. The Jerusalem church did well in sending Peter and John to help Philip when he got in over his head. They did even better when they endorsed the goings-on in Antioch after sending Barnabas to explore the new (and radically different church). A bias to yes, usually involves building a support net of relationships around the new idea.
10. Relational Affiliation to a Tribe, Family or Network of Churches
Are you connected with others who see beyond the local church into the unreached people groups in your community? You need likeminded peers.
We can’t live fully without human relationships. Most multiplication movements are birthed inside an existing denomination or network much like Microsoft and Apple; both incubated in the lap of IBM. A multiplication movement generates a tribe by maintaining contact with churches born of it. How you construct this is vital to your success.
Besides your original tribe, you need to connect with likeminded peers who can help feed your fire and pick you up after a mishap. You’ll often discover these relationships through people you meet at events like the Exponential conferences.
Finally, you should build a tribe among those you commission to multiply churches. Over my adult life, a host of churches have come from a single congregation my wife and I planted in 1971. We have no formal organization but do maintain a tribal relationship. Through written materials, email and my personal website, we’ve maintained a “Hope Chapel identity,” (though most of our churches don’t use the Hope Chapel name). Larger training venues have helped, but sometimes we felt we needed to cede that territory to the denomination that birthed me. My point, though, is that you must build tribal relationships or face a breakdown in your future and the futures of the pastors you commission.