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community of KINDNESS
By Steve Sjogren & Rob Lewin
RegalCopyright © 2003 Steve Sjogren and Rob Lewin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLevel One
1 What do you dream about? Is it a big church-or changed people?
It's not a large enough dream simply to focus your hope on a big church. There are plenty of big churches that are ineffective. Statistically, larger churches are less effective at discipling and evangelizing than medium-sized churches.
One of my (Steve's) favorite passages in literature is from Annie Dillard. She captures well the ideas of meaning, risk management and living life in balance.
There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self-conscious, so apparently moral.... I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous ... more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
This is where your view of discipleship makes an enormous difference. The question is how can we build disciples who will be world changers? Assuming that a classroom-only church will make action-based disciples or hoping that some politician will fix the problems the world faces is lunacy. Neither of these has ever helped. Only individuals empowered by the HolySpirit will meet the needs of suffering people.
When you discipline yourself to count only changed lives and new believers launched into the world to be with people in real ways and enabled to live big lives that count for eternity, then you won't be misled by money growth, attendance growth, important people in attendance or media coverage.
2 Decide where you want to fit on the missional continuum-become either a come-and-see or a go-and-do church.
A come-and-see church prioritizes its resources (time, energy, money, etc.) toward the building, attendance and membership. Often people in come-and-see churches vie for named positions of esteem. To acquire the positions, they may even lobby others, similar to what happens in a political campaign. When this happens, leaders spend time on issues relating to members, not outsiders.
Surprisingly most of these churches espouse believing in outreach, releasing the laity, caring for the poor and giving generously. Deep down somewhere, doesn't everybody? After all, you can't be much of a Bible reader and not know how important these issues were to Jesus Himself. But there is a serious difference between knowing that these are important issues and making them primary in how you communicate with a disciple. The come-and-see church says these things are important but then doesn't make them priorities.
How can you know which kind of church you are? A good test is to ask what percentage of your annual budget is spent on serving the poor. What percentage is spent on making sure disciples are with people "in the world," loving and serving them in their current lost condition with no strings attached? That's right, no strings. What percentage of the volunteer hours at your church are spent on lost, needy, unconverted folks who can't add to the church in any way? Do volunteers stuff bulletins, teach classes, ask others in the church for money or serve on committees? These are still important matters, after all.
The go-and-do church turns that view of church life upside-down-actually inverting those ideas; that is, empowering volunteers to serve not-yet-converted people. The objective of the go-and-do church mentality is to make sure that lots of money is spent on those who cannot pay you back. And it says to be vigilant in leadership against the natural gravity of letting the church serve itself.
1. The go-and-do church allocates 10 to 20 percent of its annual income to serve the poor! What? Are you nuts? Yes, perhaps we are!
2. The go-and-do church makes sure that 50 percent of all the volunteer hours at the church are invested in folks who don't even care about the church, aren't Christians and need to be shown love in practical ways.
OK, guys. Really? How?
We recommend that you take time with your leaders and explain this to them. They need to get this. One idea: Start giving 5 percent to the poor. Now. It will change your life, all your people and especially your leaders. Then add an additional .5 percent each quarter till you get to 10 percent. That process will take almost three years.
Wow! Well, guys, that's great, but we already give 10 percent of our income to the denomination, and now we're supposed to give away another 10 percent? How? Where do we get it?
We understand. This change of the financial policy of a congregation is pure lightning. It also becomes intentionally missional. It's worth every discussion it provokes and every person who instantly becomes your enemy for no good reason except, "I don't want my money spent on them!" It's a marker, a separator and a change agent. It serves as a great barometer of current attitudes. The feedback you get will be a valuable insight into your people's hearts.
Value "do" over "know." Analyze your conversations each week based on this criterion: Which of the people I spoke to were exited about going and doing? Maybe they had an idea. Maybe they already tried something. Maybe they were coming back after trying some ministry in some way and had news they wanted to share with you. Note: All of these people are doers. Spend your time with them! Focus your energy on the people who are already doing something, not the people who are waiting for you to do something.
Know the location where spiritual experience happens, or recognize the church as a force, where believers are sent to do spiritual things outside of church.
Old Testament worshipers of God had a come-and-see arrangement. God was confined to being in one place at a time in His dealings with people. He was in the holy of holies in the Temple, or He manifested Himself in the burning bush before Moses. As the story of the Bible unfolds, it becomes increasingly a go-and-do book. When we get to the second chapter of Acts, the presence of God is no longer confined to one person (Jesus) or one place, but He is released upon the Church. From that point forward He becomes a God who is invading the world through His released people who are moving forward as a force upon the face of Earth.
Right from the beginning determine to be a go-and-do church rather than a come-and-see one. The go-and-do church powerfully expresses the missional heart of God for the world. Both God and people are looking for go-and-do churches to join themselves to. These are exciting churches where the Spirit of God is continually on the move. These are the churches worth joining.
One of the major obstacles in Christendom today is the existence of come-and-see churches. There are too many observers and too few activists.
Once an inward-focused perspective has developed, it's difficult to turn a church from come-and-see to go-and-do later in its existence. Steer your new church in an outward direction right from the start, when it is small and pliable. No matter what price you pay to build this sort of church, it will yield tremendous results.
Servant evangelism builds a go-and-do community of believers.
3 Find your own way.
You must respect and honor everyone's tradition. God has brought the gospel to you through the hands of others and by their hard work. But if honoring them requires you to ignore the current calling of Christ in your life, you must choose the way of Christ. For some this may come at great cost.
If you wait for permission from your sponsoring group, you will never get far very quickly or efficiently. Don't spend time worrying about your actions too much. Is what I'm doing really the denomination's style? That sort of concern will handcuff you and keep you from church-planting effectiveness.
Some churches can be described as high Episcopal while others could be called high Vineyard, according to their tradition-that is, they are conforming to the most rigorous traditions of the group with which they are affiliated. They are more concerned with those traditions than they are with their total effectiveness in the community. We believe that "high" anything equals a nongrowing church virtually all of the time. No offense is intended toward any group. But those who put the primacy of paying homage to their group will not have adequate energy to pour themselves into the task of properly planting a thriving church.
On Fridays we (Steve's church) conduct what we call Community Blitzes where we go into the city with 6 to 10 different simultaneous outreaches, We do a little bit of every sort of servant evangelism, from a soft drink giveaway at a busy intersection to a free car wash to dorm-room cleaning at the local university. Our goal is to touch as many people as possible with God's love in the course of two to three hours. With soft drinks alone, we have extended ourselves to as many as 6,000 people in half an hour.
It's all a matter of organization and expectation. When several dozen people are involved in pulling off an outreach such as this-a blitz around the community-there is a tremendous amount of excitement. It's downright contagious. The greatest value to doing servant evangelism in various contexts is that church planters look much bigger than they are with just a few people. In some blitzes, we've gotten other churches involved as well. Our numbers have swollen greatly. We have expanded the number of outreaches to over a dozen options at many locations around town. We have touched as many as 15,000 people in just a few hours. More important than the number of people being touched by the outreaches is the expansion of the perspective at those doing the outreaches. We are seeing many Christians doing outreach who had previously been stuck in a come-and-see church lifestyle. That's worth getting excited about.
4 Make belonging synonymous with doing.
This is not about works, but identification. Too often being part of a group has to do with affirming a set of doctrines or values. It's only natural-it's the way the system of church in America has been established. Usually membership in a group is connected with belief, not with actions.
You must communicate that the aim of your church is to produce disciples who do stuff, not disciples who only know stuff.
Servant evangelism is all about activating people into ministry. There are no observers. Everyone is a participant in the spiritual army, and serving others shows that they are part of the whole.
The atmosphere you create is what leaks out of your life when you aren't looking. If you are going to have "belonging" and "doing" as one and the same, you must communicate that all the time. That communication is a 24/7 matter that comes across in all that you as a leader do and everything for which you stand. It is something that you live out passionately so that your people see it firsthand at work in and through your life. There are lots of leaders who say they want people to serve the poor and do outreach, but to be effective you must carry out those activities as a matter of course week in and week out. These are very attractive ingredients that will be a primary attractor to your fellowship as the city comes to check you out. This flavor will affect all that goes on in your fellowship from the initial entry point of newcomers. We have noticed that people decide within the first two minutes whether or not they like a church.
We are also including integrity. At some point we have to do what we believe in. At the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, you're not really "us" if you haven't raked a yard full of leaves or delivered a bag of groceries. When it came time to go out to care for the needy, I (Steve) didn't ask if others wanted to do it or not; I simply said, "Here we go! Would you like to drive or be a passenger?" When we went to clean toilets I would ask, "Would you rather wash the porcelain or the windows?" It's not a matter of if but how and when.
What are the actions that you and your team believe make up a true disciple? What transforming actions do you want them to do? Lives need to be transformed, not just information passed along. We need to go beyond transformation into building people who do something that fundamentally changes the way the world operates.
Excerpted from community of KINDNESS by Steve Sjogren & Rob Lewin Copyright © 2003 by Steve Sjogren and Rob Lewin
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.