Step Two: Planning

Today we continue with Step 2 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Every project requires planning. Jesus taught us no one begins to build without first calculating the cost.  This does not mean we must wait until we have all resources in hand before planting a church.  We know it is a work of faith and that Jesus taught us we do not need to bring along a cloak or a bag for money, but rather that we should trust the One who has power over all of heaven and earth.  The One with this authority is the one who sends us into the fields.  Planning is better applied to strategy we should follow in our new church planting effort and in learning the characteristics of the community we hope to contact. For instance: Who are they? Where are they? What types of jobs are common? How do they live? What do they believe? What needs to they have? What services do they have? How do they govern themselves? Are they receptive or resistant to the gospel? Etc.

Plan for the church to grow beyond your abilities to lead it.

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If the Ten Steps are faithfully implemented, the inevitable result will be the founder of the church will realize it is impossible to do all the work.  The founder will be forced to transfer some ministry responsibilities to the new believers.

We must learn that this is one of the most important and positive moments in our ministry, and we must be willing to live with the frustrations, tensions and problems that forcibly produce these transitions.  Our true identity will be reflected in the multiplication of our vision and convictions in the lives of the new leaders.  It will not be reflected in rotating the people, programs and activities around us.  Nor is the solution “importing” leaders from other places to attend to the needs in the new church.  It is more probable that these approaches will produce problems.

Principle:

Evangelism must be planned in the life of the church or it will NOT succeed.

***We will continue this series with step three in our next article.

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Step One: Intentional Prayer

This is the first step in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Prayer begins with the church planter or the mother church when they discover God is guiding them to plant a church in a particular place. Pray for:

  • Local leaders who will participate in the project
  • A strategy
  • The people you hope to win to Christ
  • The material resources you will need
  • Community leaders
  • Permits and approvals you will need

Prayer will become one of the disciplines of growth for the new disciples.  It will become a daily part of their new lives.

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We must persist in prayer with expectant hearts (Col. 4:2-4), expecting God to bring receptive individuals and to guide us in what we will say.  In that way we will be sure it is NOT human strategies that guide our ministry, but rather the Holy Spirit.  This approach establishes a pattern of dependence on the Holy Spirit essential for success in following the steps in our strategy as founders of the new church (Zechariah 4:6).

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit will come to be our guide when we allow him to direct our methods and most effective tools.  Sometimes we do not have access to sufficient funds to purchase materials, but the Holy Spirit’s help will be fundamental in giving creative ideas to the church planter or cell group leader.

For example, we use a map to pray for the city. We put our hands on it and ask God to direct us to the place ready to receive the Word. Later, we pray while we walk the streets of some hidden place.  Many times, the response of a family that will open their home to the church has come first in the streets where we begin to pray.

Principle:

Prayer must be modeled by the church planter, not only taught.

***In the next article we will continue with Step 2. 

 

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Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches

In the next few weeks we will be sharing “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina, who has served as a pastor, missionary and church planter in Mexico.

When the gospel came to our land, it traveled with itinerant preachers who planted the seed of the Word without waiting for it to bear fruit.  The goal was for people to hear the Good News.  They even sang, “I will plant the precious seed of the glorious gospel of love…and I will leave the results to the Lord.”  With the passing of time, Christian denominations that came to our country placed an emphasis on forming churches to teach new believers.  Today we know the best way to advance the Kingdom of Heaven is to plant new churches in communities.   When a healthy church is established in a community, it impacts the entire neighborhood with the power of the gospel.  Desperate people find hope, sick people are healed, sinners are forgiven, wicked people are transformed, and the power of evil must retreat in the face of the Word of God.  There is nothing that impacts a community more than establishing a healthy, growing church.  It was God’s greatest invention to organize his disciples to accomplish the Great Commission in this way.

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The Ten Steps are not magic or original keys to planting churches, but church planters actively working in the field have developed them. They can simplify the planning process and give church planters the tools to use so they can focus their energies and resources in the areas that produce the greatest results. If you follow the steps in order, the church will develop in accordance with the principles and goals the planter envisions.  The order is important, but in some cases, it might be possible to change or adapt them.

***Discover step one in the next post.

Maximum Mission – Honduras, 2019

From June 28 to 30, 2019, representatives from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the United States and Honduras worked in the La Ceiba community in Honduras, 98 participants gathering together to serve others through the Maximum Mission program. The weekend included visitation to a nursing home and an orphanage, creative evangelism, children’s vacation bible school, food delivery to families in need, house cleaning, crafting classes, beauty clinics (cutting hair, doing nails, etc.), among other activities.

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The participants were able to experience cross-cultural ministry through sharing with their Nazarene brothers and sisters from different countries, and they also had the opportunity to impact other people with God’s love and the gospel.

During this time many people reconciled with God and others accepted Christ in their hearts. Glory to God because He keeps using his Church to change the world!

Click below to watch a video showing some of the activities that made up this Maximum Mission:

–Luz Jimenez and Karen Pop, North Central Field Global Missions

5 Steps That Help Church Leaders Stay out of Trouble

By Dan Reiland

No one ever starts out in ministry expecting to mess up, fail or quit.

We all begin with great vision, enthusiasm, and dreams of changing the world for good.

So what goes wrong?

Why do good and godly leaders (church staff and volunteer) end up crashing in ministry, and end up out of ministry?

The answer to that question is obviously complicated, but essentially, we fail to anticipate and prepare for tough times and rough seasons in ministry.

This is not intended to create paranoia. There is no need to live in fear or burn energy with needless worry. Leadership is never risk-free. But we can know that pressure, temptation and mistakes will come. We can be smart and anticipate. We can stay close to God and remain strong.

There’s an old boxing adage that says: It’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out. That is so true.

My friend Carey Nieuwhof wrote a fantastic new book titled: “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” It’s such a great book. The title says it all.

Intentionality is the key.

I remember my ordination service well. It truly was a sacred moment. The message, the commitment, and the prayer over me at the end, all marked me. One memory after the ceremony still makes me smile.

The District Superintendent, who I love and respect, came up to me at the reception to pass on a few words of wisdom and encouragement. He said, “Dan, God has given you ability and opportunity, I want you to promise me that you’ll try really hard not to mess up.” That was it! I wasn’t sure how to respond at the moment. I wondered if he said that to everyone, or just me. But all these years later, I see the wisdom. We have to be intentional, or we will mess up.

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I want to offer some safeguards here that will be helpful to you as they have been to me over many years in ministry. These five steps will help you be intentional.

5 steps that will help keep you and your team out of trouble:

1) Recognize that it could happen to you.

Leaders in the highest risk category are those who believe it can’t happen to them. They operate with a huge and dangerous blind spot.

The truth is that any of us can crash out of ministry. Again, no paranoia intended – just reality. None of us are above messing up big time. And rarely is it the case of jumping straight into a moral breakdown or ethical breach of character. It starts slowly and innocently. Catch it early.

The enemy works overtime to tempt you. Don’t take that lightly.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

This is great wisdom and advice.

2) Don’t flirt.

We all know better than to play with fire. When we’re careless fire wins, and we get burned. Flirting is like playing with fire, the flames mesmerize and draw you in. Then before you know it, the situation gets too hot, and you become toast.

Flirting is not just about inappropriate behavior with the opposite sex. In fact, for some leaders flirting with power, fame, and fortune is a much greater temptation.

The option to not flirt is yours. It’s a choice. Don’t see how close you can dance to the edge. Flirting is never worth it. At best it’s a hollow experience, at worst, well, we all know the stories.

3) Know your weakness.

We all have a weak spot where we are most vulnerable. When it comes to desserts, my weakness is chocolate chip cookies. They are so good; it’s hard to eat just one!

The sugar in too many cookies can do damage, but nothing like what happens in leadership when our vulnerability remains unknown or left unguarded.

When pressure is high, and resistance is low, trouble is near. Here’s a common situation, you work long hours in ministry and get tired. Over-tired leads to exhaustion. That leaves the door wide open to your weakest spot.

When you know your vulnerability, you can be smart, guard your heart and stay strong. You’ll be much more prepared because you’ll see it coming.

4) Work in an environment that’s healthy enough to share truth.

Nothing beats a healthy and productive environment where you can tell the truth without repercussion. No leader can successfully carry their responsibilities, handle the pressure, and solve problems alone.

Churches and especially leadership teams are designed to operate in community, not independently. Simply put, we need each other. When faced with temptation, insecurities, fears, and doubt we need to have a safe place to talk. An open and honest conversation can help prevent most dangerous situations before they go too far.

Who can you talk with that is smart, strong and cares about you?

5) Stay honest before God.

It’s not like we can hide what’s going on from God. But we miss out on so much of God’s help when we pretend like we can handle it ourselves.

Talk to God. Stay close to Him. Be honest about your struggles. The Holy Spirit brings wisdom and power, take advantage of it. We all make mistakes, but there is no need to allow a temptation to turn into a pattern that can cost your ministry.

When you name the problem, sin or temptation, you remove much of its power. When you also resist it, with God’s help, you can overcome it.

This article was originally published at: Danreiland.com.

Wisdom in Contextualization: How Far is too Far?

By Ed Stetzer

How does the word “contextualization” make you feel? Free or fearful?

The $64-million dollar question about innovation and change is this: How far is too far? I can’t think of any question in the church much more controversial than this one. We’ve been asking it for two thousand years and rarely ever seem to agree.

Most of our discussions on these issues center around contextualization. We should change our methodology to better proclaim the unchanging message to a consistently changing world. But not all change is good, even when it is promoted under the guise of contextualization.

I am all for innovation. But it should be used as means to better contextualize the gospel, not simply for its own sake. We need to evaluate where that line is, so that we do not cross it and lose the very reason God has placed us here.

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Measuring contextualization

Contextualization is, obviously enough, all about the context. Walking with my nose in the air could mean I think I’m better than you. Or it might mean I’m trying to protect you from my nosebleed. Context provides meaning to your interpretation.

Gospel contextualization began the moment Christ came teaching in synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23). Christ presented words and deeds to His audiences in ways that were meaningful in their language and culture.

The language was Aramaic. The culture was Jewish (with a bit of Roman and Greek tossed in). The reaction of the crowds, especially the religious leaders, makes it clear that Christ’s words and actions were meaningful in His cultural context.

Changing in order to contextualize is not watering down the message of the good news of Jesus. The opposite is true. To contextualize the gospel means removing cultural and linguistic impediments to the gospel presentation so that only the offense of the cross remains.

But when we think about changes and contextualization today, it is easy to think you are the only one who has it right. Everyone to the left of has changed too much and lost the gospel. Everyone to the right is a bunch of legalists who haven’t changed enough and can no longer have a conversation with culture. To overcome this temptation, we need to establish what is unchanging and look for signals that our changes have gone too far.

More art than science

God designed it so the unchanging message of Jesus can fit into changing “cultural containers” in order to reach people where they are, and to take them where they need to go. Contextualization is a skill the missional church in the U.S., like international missionaries, must learn and use.

Contextualization, however, is more of an art form than a science. Clear lines that provide hard and fast boundaries for every language and culture don’t exist, especially as it relates to our orthopraxy (the way we live out the gospel). But there are certain gospel lines that we cannot cross.

What are the signs we’ve crossed un-crossable lines? If we have lost the clear proclamation of the gospel—Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin and in our place—or we downplay repentance and forgiveness, I think we’ve removed the intentional stumbling block of the cross. That would be a first warning sign.

If we teach the message in such a way that excludes or de-emphasizes the Bible, I think that’s a difficulty as well. If I find myself underplaying the role of Jesus in salvation or the necessity to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, that’s another red flag.

What works today

Some segments of our evangelical churches have adopted some changes and are doing anything they can through advertising, media, social media, coffee houses, movie theaters, music, the arts, and other venues to have a meaningful conversation with the world. Some Christians feel that giving any ground toward what they perceive (often rightly) as compromise with the culture will eventually cross the line into a heresy and pluralism slide.

Obviously, we don’t want to be syncretists with the gospel message. But contextualization means change will occur. We will be looking for new ways to translate the gospel that help others grasp its message. This is not accommodating the culture; it’s building meaningful relationships with people and speaking with them about the gospel (on the gospel’s own terms) in ways that make sense to them.

So when has change gone too far? When the gospel no longer looks or sounds like good news and Jesus no longer looks or sounds like the Jesus found in the pages of Scripture. But if the feet of those who bring the gospel are beautiful upon the hills, it is at least partly because those who hear the gospel are able to understand meaningfully the wonderful person and work of Jesus. The feet can still be beautiful even after you change shoes.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today.

The Best way to Avoid Pastor Burnout? Equip the Saints

By Karl Vaters

The New Testament doesn’t emphasize the role of pastor nearly as much as our current church structure does.

In fact, there’s just one passage – one! – in which the role of the pastor (along with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers) is mentioned.

To be sure, there are plenty of passages about bishops, overseers and more that apply to pastors, but Ephesians 4:11-12 could easily be called the pastor’s prime mandate. In that passage, the Apostle Paul clearly tells us we have been called “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

The longer I pastor, the more convinced I am that one of the prime reasons for pastoral burnout is that too many pastors – especially small church pastors, like me – are ignoring that simple command.

Ministering in a small church does not exempt us from the pastoral mandate to equip the saints.

Many small church pastors have to do many of the tasks that large churches can hire someone else to do. But, no matter how small the congregation is, pastors must never forget that ministering in a small church does not exempt us from the pastoral mandate to equip the saints.

From preaching and teaching to equipping

For too many years, I took almost all of the burden for the ministry of the church on my shoulders. And it nearly killed me – and the church.

So I went back to the pastor’s prime mandate. I redoubled my efforts to equip the church to do ministry instead of doing it for them.

No, the turnaround wasn’t easy. Old habits – both mine and theirs – were deeply entrenched. But it did happen. Or, more accurately, it is happening.

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Here are a few of the steps we’ve taken to bring about that change.

  1. Preach to equip, not just to inform or inspire

I’m more of a teacher than a preacher, so it’s easy to fill people’s heads with Bible knowledge, but shortchange them on how to put it into practice.

If you’re more of a preacher than a teacher, you might be inspiring and energizing them without giving them practical ways to channel that energy.

There are few things more frustrating than a church full of people who are informed and/or inspired without being equipped to do something about it.

Neither information or inspiration is enough. We need to help them turn it into perspiration.

It’s not enough to tack a ‘what to do now’ idea on the end of our sermons. Equipping people to do the work of ministry must always be a central element in everything a pastor does.

  1. Do ministry with people, not just for them

The smaller the church, the more we’ll do ministry with them, among them and beside them. But we can never let ourselves get caught in the endless black-hole vortex of doing all or most of the ministry for them.

In a big church, most people are taught, trained and sent off into ministry without having spent any time with the pastor, other than hearing the Sunday sermon.

In a small church, the pastor has to (gets to) be more hands-on. But we should always emphasize doing ministry with congregation members, not just for them.

Doing ministry for them isn’t healthy – not for the pastor or the church. But doing ministry with the congregation equips the saints, builds relationships and so much more.

  1. Equip teams, don’t appoint committees

Teams do things. Committees tell other people to do things.

A church that is light on teams and heavy on committees will spend more time assigning blame than volunteering for ministry.

  1. Involve the team in the decision-making process

People won’t step up nearly as much for someone else’s ministry as they will for a ministry they had a hand in creating.

Pastor, don’t just tell people what to do, ask them what they’re called to do and how you can come alongside to equip them for it. Including ministry that has nothing to do with your church and its programs.

Become an equipping pastor

Healthy churches are led by equipping pastors.

Equipping pastors work alongside the congregation as we do the work of ministry together.

It’s our calling. It’s our mandate.

And, when we see it working in the lives of the congregation we serve, it’s our joy.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today.