There’s an app for that! Well, maybe not…

By Scott Armstrong

I use apps on my smartphone several hours a day.  You probably do, too.

Twitter? Fantasy Football? Tracking your steps every day? Yes, there are mobile phone apps for all of those.

But you already knew that.  Did you know there’s an app for virtually shaving yourself? What about milking a cow? Or that there’s even an app for nothing? That’s right.  It literally does nothing.  The screen goes gray…………and does nothing.

Make sure you download it today.

There seems to be an app for everything.  There are millions of apps for things I truly have never thought of in my life.

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But as far as ministry goes, there are still areas that apps have not touched.

Giving me 26 hours a day instead of 24? There’s not an app for that.

Helping me to fit in seamlessly in a new culture within 1 week? No app for that.

Getting my neighbor down the street to respond to the gospel and see his life changed? Nope.

Many apps help you save time.  But they don’t give you more time.  Time is the great equalizer.

Some apps help you to learn a language or discover more about a culture or country. But the hard work of spending time with real people and eating their food and beginning to love them for who they are with no selfish or ethnocentric motives? That can’t be microwaved.

I’ve explored lots of apps that provide ways to share the gospel, but no app exists that guarantees life transformation.

The idea of apps is usually to make life easier.  They might help us get work done, interact with others, or have fun. Apps are handy ways to directly assist us in some way and streamline sometimes complicated daily processes.

But ministry just isn’t like that.  Honestly, it drives me crazy.

Recently I was lamenting to my wife that the local church we planted in Dominican Republic just isn’t advancing like I want it to.  Supposedly we are equipped, capable ministers who have been effective in many different places and ministries.  We have not just gone to the training seminars on how to impact the city; we now GIVE the training seminars! What, then, is the problem?! Why aren’t all the neighbors we love and care for flocking to service every week? Why do new Christians take two steps forward and seemingly three steps back in their walk with Christ?!  On a less spiritual level, why are our accounts always so low and why does the stupid bathroom outside our sanctuary keep malfunctioning?!  Aaaargh!

Much of our lives are dominated by apps that help us do things quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently.  But almost always ministry – genuine, roll-up-your-sleeves, incarnational ministry – isn’t like that.

I would love for there to be shortcuts.  But no app exists for this stuff.  The Holy Spirit needs to do a deep work in people’s lives, finances, and even bathrooms.

Lord, quick or slow, app or no app, begin that work in us.

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Developing Relationships

By David W. Graves

The need to belong is perhaps the most powerful emotional need experienced in modern times. Society continues to fragment, families disintegrate, and technology isolates until the opportunities to truly belong become more and more limited.

But the need to belong has not diminished. Today, individuals are seeking those places where they can belong, and then giving themselves fully to the relationships they find. It is by targeting inclusion that our church can establish its ministry. By becoming a place of belonging, the local church opens itself up to ever-broadening opportunities to proclaim its message – a message of love and belonging in the family of God. However, the big question is: “How does the church establish this kind of ministry?”

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It begins by regularly initiating and developing relationships with unchurched people. We need to ask ourselves “How many unchurched people do we have a personal relationship with?”

I can already tell you that most of us who have been in the church for a long time would have to answer “none.” It seems that the longer we are Christ-followers the more disconnected we get with those who are not – and that is a real problem. The same is true for many pastors. 

We cannot possibly hope to reach people for Christ if we are not developing a friendship with them. If I don’t have any non-Christian friends, how can I tell anyone about Christ? 

This is the biggest detriment to fulfilling the Great Commission that we have today – we don’t know any non-Christians well enough to share the gospel with them. Jesus went out of His way – and we must go out of our way – to build real friendships with people outside of the church.

By building relationships with people, Jesus can use us to change their lives.

Why Jesus Never Commanded us to Plant Churches – Part 2 of 2

This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

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Do our actions match our words?

We say we want to see churches planted from out of the harvest, but our actions and our leadership practices do not often match our words. And the sad thing is that even when faced with such inconsistencies, we are likely to continue repeating our past behaviors–expecting different future results (Maybe the Ridley Assessment has something to say to those of us who oversee church planters?).

Whenever a biblical model for church planting is viewed as unusual, the path to change will come with pain.

In order for healthy change to occur, we have to change our ecclesiologies, missiologies, and what we celebrate, reward, and expect.

Poor definitions = poor practices

We have a poor understanding of our Commission.  We act as if Jesus has commanded us to plant churches.  We are commanded to make disciples.  It is out of disciple making that churches are to be birthed.  The weight of the biblical model rests here.  Not transfer growth. Not acrimonious splits. It is evangelism that results in disciples, who covenant together to be and function as the local expression of the Body of Christ.

We have a poor understanding of the local church.  If our definition is poor, then everything we say and do related to church planting will be poor.  We often expect newly planted churches to manifest structures and organizations like what is observed in churches of 20, 40, 50 years of age. Our definition of a local church is oftentimes so encased with our cultural desires that we do not know the difference between biblical prescriptions and American preferences.

We operate from a poor definition of church planter.  If we do not recognize the missionary nature (and thus apostolic functions) of church planters, then we end up equating them with pastors.  And take it from a pastor who has been involved in church-planting: missionaries and pastors have different callings, gift-mixes, passions, and functions to play in the Kingdom.  We end up sending pastors to do apostolic-type work, or sending missionaries and expect them to be pastors.  Such is a perfect storm for problems, frustrations, burn-out, and disasters.

Are there other ways to plant churches than what we read about in the ministry of Paul?

The problems with our current models

Yes, and I am in favor of some of those models. Are there times when a church should hive-off members to begin work in another area? Yes.  Is it okay for a congregation to send out a pastor with several church members to plant an “instant” church in a community? Yes, under certain circumstances.

However, such models tend to be difficult to reproduce (in view of four billion unbelievers), pose contextualization challenges, are costly, and often do not result in a great amount of disciples made.  The weight of the biblical definition for church planting is not found here.  Such models should be the exception when it comes to church planting.  Today, they are often the expectation.

I expect my “surprising” conversations will continue in the future.  Such is necessary as we move in a direction where a biblical model is not looked upon as the exception.  But until our church planting expectations change, we must ask ourselves a question and recognize the troubling answer:

What do we have whenever a biblical model is viewed as unusual?

We have a major problem.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.vergenetwork.org/2013/09/09/why-jesus-never-commanded-us-to-plant-churches/3/

Next-Generation Faith

By David A. Busic

There has been a great deal of research and discussion about the impact of millennials (those reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century) on the church and the impact of the church on millennials. Much of the data tends to focus on the negative aspects of their demographic. However, in my frequent interaction with young Nazarene leaders — both pastors and laity — I am greatly encouraged by their love for the church and their commitment to the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.
 
I have drawn several conclusions about ministry with and among millennials.
 
First, conducting church “business as usual” will not reach them. In 2016, 23 percent of organized Nazarene churches reported having no youth in their congregation. Let that sink in … 5,207 Nazarene churches did not have one single young person ages 12-29. Additionally, recent research reflecting all Protestant churches in the USA reports that 50 percent of the students in our youth ministries will walk away from the church after leaving high school. Of greater Kingdom concern, many of these young adults will also discard their faith in Christ.

It is important to ask: Why are these young people leaving?

Sobering trends demand that we prayerfully reconsider “business as usual.” This is not the time to play it safe. The stakes have never been higher and the opportunities have never been greater.
 
Second, and on the positive side, studies show that 94 percent of Christians came to faith in Christ between the ages of 4-30 (85 percent between the ages of 4-14). Furthermore, even though half of young adults are leaving the church after high school, half are also staying. Just as the church must ask why some are leaving, it is essential to discover why the other half is staying and find ways to replicate those reasons in our local contexts. How are young adults finding identity, belonging, and purpose in our congregations that makes them want to be a part of us?
 
Those who are willing to stay have hopes and dreams for the church. I discovered this in a series of focus groups with millennials conducted in the last 12 months. I learned they want to be part of a church that is authentic, honest, incarnational, difference-making, and most of all, Christ-centered. The questions they are asking of the church are simple, yet profound:

  1. Are you (the church) asking the right questions? Do you know the deepest problems facing the world right now, and are you willing to face these problems head-on?
  2. Are you being honest about the shortcomings of the church? Are you willing to do the hard work of changing to be relevant in the future for the glory of God?
  3. Do you want me?
  4. Do you need me?

Millennials will undoubtedly do things differently than their predecessors. They are not motivated by the same things as previous generations. They are not inspired by maintaining institutions. But they will give their lives for a movement of God that wants their help.