Recently, I read a blog on several ways churches hinder their growth movements. Personally, I feel it’s important to rather focus on ways to not only guarantee church growth but an explosion of His love to everyone in our lives! If you desire to see this happen in your life, then I encourage you to read on…
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” ― Bruce Lee
Sadly, a hindrance to sharing the love of Jesus Christ is the expectations we imply. For example:
- “Do you go to church and btw, MY church is so …great!”
- “We are saved by grace and not of ourselves… but don’t forget to tithe if you want God’s blessings!”
- Or, things can even get a bit weird. “Now that you have been baptized, son: Luke, I am YOUR father!” 😉
Going to a church for worship and fellowship is awesome! Giving ten percent of your income to a ministry you rely on and believe in is a wonderful habit and step of faith. Having a person you can consider a spiritual father or mother, praise God, I wish everyone could have that mentorship. However, expecting any of that from another person is … NOT YOUR BUSINESS!
Whatever happened to the many books on “grace” Paul wrote? What about, “It is by grace you are saved, not your works?” Our job is to get folks to Jesus as disciples (followers) not to ourselves as (disciples) followers of us or our church! I don’t need any carbon copies of Ryan Gray…’cause he’s still figuring a lot of stuff out.
Main point: Let’s encourage copies of perfection, then let Perfection tell others what His expectations are of them.
2. Being a “Secret Agent”:
When Francis Chan famously left his Californian megachurch in search of something more meaningful- he traveled all over Asia, getting intimately acquainted with some of the most explosive church growth movements around.
He observed that the more anonymity the founders and leaders of the movement there was, the longer the movement lasted building more and more unstoppable momentum.
Chan returned to San Francisco, to begin, a home church movement. Although he has done some awesome stuff, he is hamstrung by his own popularity and recognizable face. My experience and research thus shows me, that if you and I help start a society altering movement we have a better chance of succeeding, precisely BECAUSE, we are NOT Bill Johnson, John MacArthur, John Piper, Joyce Meyer or Francis Chan, etc.
Main point: Keep the focus off yourself and on Jesus!
3. Go Pro in Your Prayer Life:
I remember hearing a quote from Tiger Woods that read something like this: “Anyone can go pro, just hit a thousand golf balls a day for ten years and you’ll be good enough.” Whether it is Steph Curry hitting the most three-pointers in history, or a home run setting baseball season, superstar athletes have honed their skills so much that they’ve surpassed their brains need to think about shooting or hitting a golf ball. Their craft is an extension of who they are. Tiger Woods doesn’t think about how he’ll hit the ball, he probably just thinks about the best strategy? Steph Curry probably hasn’t thought about how to shoot a basketball for years.
Prayer is the precursor to all talent.
Knowing who you are, why and when you should do something is key to success, but impossible without connecting to the Creator of your goals. Taking your prayer life “pro” is essential to rip a hole into the spiritual space-time continuum around you. We must wipe away hatred, bitterness, gossip and pessimism that has smogged the spiritual sky around us, unabated for years by our attitude of helplessness.
This is actually not very complicated, Jesus told us what to say in Matthew 6:9-13 (Dad in heaven, You are holy, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, etc.) However, the “why” can often trip us up.
You see, Jesus wasn’t praying in the garden before His death just for show. If Jesus needed to pray before His biggest miracle, then you better believe we need to also. After His resurrection He gave us power on earth, so you must believe that our prayers carry incredible weight.
The more we demand His kingdom be done right now, wherever you are…in your home, neighborhood or workplace, the more a spiritual power of peace and love will sift the hearts of those around you. This takes time, and in order to persevere, your reason “why” must be solid. As I’ve gone pro in my prayer life I’ve learned it’s necessary to focus on the “prize” or our main goal. I go through different seasons of focusing on goals:
I might imagine 50-1000 years from now, what will still be important? I have times of focusing on my family and what my prayers mean to them, and to my children’s future. The list of worthwhile reasons is endless, yet valid to keep my heart, as remaining focused on an eternal “why” is what keeps me digging deep when no one is looking.
After all, every athlete knows, what separates the best from the average is the intensity and consistency of practice you perform when no one else is around.
Main point: Know the reason behind your goals and then continously take it to Jesus in prayer.
4. Become a Hippie:
Put on some bell bottoms, stick a flower in your hair! We need “hippies” back in the church! Now, when I say hippies, I’m not talking about political radicals, drugs or “free” sex, but the genuine freedom-loving nature of children of the ’60s. Those who sincerely sang, “Come on, people now, smile on your brother and everybody get together, gotta love everybody right now.” I’m not denying the drug, alcohol and sexual issues which plagued so many in the ’60s and ’70s, but instead of judging them, have you taken time to think, where did the “free-love” movement come from? Why were all these kids searching the word for love when virtually the entire western world at the time claimed to be Christian and an enormous percentage of the population went to church on Sunday? Weren’t the Churches the leader of showing love? History tells us, sadly, they were not.
So, when rock ‘n roll musicians, acting as the modern age prophets began questioning where the love was, the youth of the day responded with a sincere and genuine open search for meaningful love. Even though sex, drugs, Hinduism and New Age were all explored, guess who showed up? Jesus!
He began visiting folks, miracles happened and a massive movement, unlike the church had ever seen, exploded like wildfire. It was untamed, uncontrollable, unplanned and incredible! You see, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Brother and Sisters: that includes people with messy clothes, sex issues, drug problems, etc. or did you forget that Zacchaeus and Matthew were collaborative cheaters when they were called by Christ. Judas we a thief and traitor but NO ONE was rejected by Jesus. All were welcome, all were loved and challenged equally. Jesus seemed to respond much more positively to a group of “sinful” sincere lovers of people, than a group of “righteous” grumpy folks choosing who doesn’t deserve love.
I can’t say which group is more Christlike but can say which reminds me more of the Pharisees from the Bible. There’s an old Doobie Brothers song that’s been overlooked by much of the church my entire life. It’s really simple in composition but powerful in context. Here’s this gospel song, very mod, sung by a proud, weed-loving band, totally outside the comfort zone of the church at the time, being played over and over on every major radio station. Even to this day, “Jesus Is Just Alright” will pop up on mix stations and classic rock praising God with the words:
“Jesus is just all right with me…I don’t care what they say, or do (to me) well…Jesus, He’s my friend,” Don’t know about you, but that alright with me!
Main Point: Show love to everyone around you.
5. Be an Animal!
Have you ever seen a group of dogs recruit for cat chasers or cats schedule a time for mouse hunting? No. Neither is necessary because cats and dogs just need to be, cats and dogs. The chapter of John 15 seems pretty clear to me, live with Jesus, and you’ll have lots of fruit, period. Yes, there are times to administer, like in acts of caring for the orphan and widow. But there should be no reason to administer who you are. Are you really the church or not? If the answer is yes, then stop trying to prove it, and just be the church!
Main point: Stop always having to do something and just be a child of God.
6. Viciously Kill your Nemesis
Identify your greatest enemy and kill…every day. Sounds harsh, right? In my short story, Fighting Obstruction, I wrote about what I’ve identified as the only real threat to my joy, my happiness and the journey God has placed before me. My hopes and dreams will not be realized if I let this one enemy live. Paul said that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers of darkness. However, Jesus also said that He has given us all power and authority over evil. The simple answer to this contradiction is that the devil is not out to kill you, he doesn’t have that authority. However, he does want to trick you into hurting or killing yourself. When we fight against unseen forces, nine times out of ten, the demonic fight will come through losing your own emotions: temper, feeling unworthy or ugly, inappropriate sexual urges or even blatant suicidal thoughts, etc.
Since we are new creations in Christ, this is not you, but the devil distracting you from greatness. As a matter of fact, the closer you get to your current hopes and dreams, the more often and intense you can expect these spiritual attacks.
However, the only part of you susceptible to these attacks, Freud called “Ego”. You can also call it your flesh, old self, pride and insecurity. However, whichever way you look at it, there is an old life we all have to keep on ice and identify that when we lose our spiritual focus, it will reanimate and feed on our souls like a ravenous zombie. Don’t let it, take a heavy sharp object to its head and take control.
Here’s a practical way to do this: I will say out loud to myself, at least three times or until I feel and believe it, “I am not that person, I am a new person now.” For instance, “I’m not _______ anymore! Thank you, Jesus, I have no _______addiction, I’m set free!” And I say it with conviction!
I don’t care if your name is Mother Theresa or Billy Graham, every great leader deals with their old self making a monstrous undead come back. Often times “Ego” wins when we get that raise or promotion, or a breakthrough in business or church, maybe life has been easy for a while and we are starting to feel pretty good about life… loss of vigilance and focus on what is important will eventually lead to a fall. Learn from it, and go back to focus and winning.
Main point: Be aware of how satan uses your own emotions against you and be vigilant to conquer his tactics.
7. Give Up Control:
Can someone please tell me where in the Bible I am commanded to grow the church? For those of us who have spent a lifetime reading the Bible, we know the only mention of growing the church is was when Jesus said, “I will grow My church.” Don’t know about you, but I am not thrilled with the prospect of stealing God’s job.
Let me ask you: If I had a mural that needed painting and suddenly, Michelangelo appeared next to me, offering to create a masterpiece that would never be forgotten, the only thing is he needed complete control of the “canvas.” What if I said NO, ’cause I wanna do it my way, and needed to understand and make sense of it first. I needed a committee to decide which picture, which color, how big, when and who. What would you think?
Our actual command is to make disciples and share the gospel. Twice the Lord gave us a blueprint for how to make disciples in Matthew and Luke when he sends out the 12 and then the 72. He also gave us a solid guideline to sharing the gospel when he tells the tale of the Sower of seeds.
It’s not my job to convince or make anyone into a Christian, I only scatter seeds. Whether someone believes and accepts Jesus is between them and God.
Main point: Our main job is to show people God’s love.
So, yes, let’s share Jesus’s love to everyone. Let’s make disciples of all nations. However, let’s keep in mind that by focusing solely on planting and growing churches we are potentially ignoring our duties and trying to do God’s duty. Although many good things do happen through “church plants and church growth” it is a mere shadow of the world-changing movements we are called to ignite.
Since I began trying to do ministry His way, instead of the way it’s expected or has always been done, I can’t point to a huge church meeting on a Sunday, or massive book sales or a fat bank account for “proven success” … however, I can tell you about countless supernatural healings and provisions for the rich and poor alike. I can show you dozens of new ministers released into ministry without titles but doing even more exciting love based ministry than I have seen large churches do! I can relay hundreds of stories of personally sharing Jesus’ love with those from multiple economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, faiths, and political beliefs.
However, the biggest evidence of fruit in my life is – A passion and need in my heart to share about my Jesus… is there anything more special?