Monday, July 22, 2013

The God-Sized Vision for Lawrence Faith

These are extraordinary days at Lawrence Faith Church of the Nazarene! God has given us a vision that is almost too big to believe. As I am developing as a pastor, I am learning the importance of sharing God's vision for our church with others.

God is reorienting our church from a becoming a healthy church focus to a reaching people who don't know Jesus focus. This means that every aspect of our church, from our sermons to our facilities, are thought of in terms on how we can reach people with the good story of new life in Christ. We are being called to become a Great Commission Church - a church of disciples who make disciples, who make disciples. A Great Commission Church is a multiplying church.

This new way of thinking about church is changing everything we do at Faith Church. We're already making changes to how we plan our worship services, what we do in Sunday School, and how we spend our money. Specifically, there are three points to our vision:

1) In order to reach people who are skeptical, timid, or just plain uninterested in attending a church, we are launching a multiplying small group ministry this fall called Adsideo Groups. Adsideo is a Latin word that means "to camp beside; sit at one's side."

2) Our vision is to see at least 25 people begin (or begin again) a trusting relationship with Jesus.

3) As we continue to reach people with the Good News about Jesus, we want to start new congregations that will reach more people with this message. Within 3-4 years, we seek to plant at least one, if not two, new congregations. We want to be a multiplying church that starts churches that also multiply!

The details of this vision fit into a journey of discipleship - how a person gets from not knowing Jesus at all to being a leader in the church who disciples others.

Explore - A person may begin exploring the Christian story by attending one of our Adsideo Groups. These groups, which will start on September 1, 2013, outreach-focused groups that are built to multiply. They are conversational in nature, allowing room for a person to talk through, discuss, and ask questions about Christian Spirituality. They're not Bible Studies like you might invite your other Christian friends to, though. They're bridge groups, providing middle ground for those interested in talking about faith or spending time with friends, but not yet interested in attending church. 

These groups will last three months at a time, meeting the first and third Sunday evenings of the month. Each group will start with a study leader, prayer leader, and another 4-6 Christians. Once a group grows to about 16 people, the prayer leader of the group will take 1/2 the group and become the study leader of the new group. Then both of these groups will identify a new prayer leader, who will become the study leader when the group grows to 16 regulars again. People will be invited to these groups through personal relationships and community events.

Serve - Built into these Adsideo Groups are community service projects - taking place every fifth Sunday of a month. This is an opportunity for all the groups to come together for a collective service project in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the church. When a person decides to serve, that person is taking the opportunity to give to others, connect with other members of the church, and (whether the person knows it or not) begin sharing the love of Jesus with people from the community.

Participate - After exploring the Christian faith and serving others, a person may decide it is time to start attending other ministries of the church, such as Sunday School or morning worship. They would begin participating in the life of the church, especially discipleship and worship. The level of participation will increase as the person is discipled more and more.

It's our prayer that a person would decide to trust in the good news of Jesus in these first three steps along the journey.

Commit - After exploring the Christian faith, serving others, and participating in worship and discipleship ministries, one may decide that the vision of this church to reach lost people is something that he or she wants to give his or her life to. It is in this place that the person will make a commitment to continued discipleship and to the vision of the church. This might be demonstrated in regularly participating in various ministries of the church, such as Sunday School. It may also be demonstrated by becoming a member of the church.

Lead - After making a commitment to the church and, in doing so, a commitment to becoming a disciple who makes disciples, this person will become a leader in our church. Some leaders are up-front leaders while others are "behind the scenes" leaders. This person might start teaching Sunday School, serving as a member of the church board, leading events or ministries, or doing administrative tasks in the church.

Discipleship is a journey. It starts long before a person makes a decision to trust Jesus, and lasts a person's entire life. If our church is a church of disciples who are discipling others, who disciple others it means our church is continuing to move people closer to Christ at every point throughout the spiritual journey.

We have a vision to see at least 25 people start trusting in Jesus in the first year. We pray that these 25 will be disciples who disciple others. When the good news of Jesus is multiplying throughout a community, it doesn't take a long time for that community to explode with a movement of God!

It took a long time for this vision to be shaped within me before I shared it with the church. It was so big and so terrifying, that I almost didn't say it at all. Finally I realized that I could not preach another sermon until I shared this vision from God.

The day after sharing the vision of becoming a church that is centered on helping people learn to trust in Jesus, God already began to work. During lunch my next day at work I went to a restaurant in Lenexa that I had never gone to on a lunch break before. Two people behind me in line was a woman who had visited our church in Lawrence just months before, but I hadn't seen her since. I remembered her name and said "hi," and she invited me to eat lunch with her. The day after I talked about being a church that [re]introduces people to Jesus, I ran into a woman from Lawrence in a fast food restaurant in Lenexa!

Later that week we had our first board meeting of the new year. It was the most exciting and uplifting board meeting we've had at Faith Church - excitedly planning our Back to School Bash on August 10. We're hoping to build relationships in the community and create widespread community knowledge of our Adsideo Groups. KC Wolf from the Kansas City Chiefs will be there and we're hoping for at least 100 people from the community (which would be our biggest event ever!). We've already had people who don't attend church anywhere volunteer to help staff our event! Lawrence First Church is also helping us make this event a success!

We trust that the God who gave us this vision will also provide the people and means to accomplish it. For a church that averaged 18 in attendance last year to plant two new congregations in less than 4 years means that God is going to have to move in ways that we cannot even imagine - especially because the people needed to plant these new churches are mostly not even Christians yet!

This is where YOU come in! I want to invite you join us in this incredible journey. To start with, please PRAY. If our vision is to come to fruition, it will take the movement of God. We need to ask God to continue to make miracles happen. Perhaps as you are praying, or maybe even as you ready this, the Holy Spirit began tugging at your heart.

We need people who are called to minister to the people of Lawrence and the surrounding area to join us in our mission. We need Adsideo Group leaders, core group members, children's workers, Christians who can disciple young Christians. Eventually we will even need planting pastors and launch team members as we begin to start new congregations (this will be a continued need throughout the life of our multiplying church).  Our goal here isn't to grow in size by adding a bunch of Christians from other churches. We just want to effectively reach those that we're not currently reaching!

If you feel like God might be calling you to join us in this journey, there are some things you can do along the way. First, wait. Don't act on your feelings right now. Please continue to pray about it and talk to family members or close friends about your sense of the situation. While we appreciate anyone's enthusiasm, we want God's hand in this. Having people join us who are excited, but not called by God, may actually hinder the mission. Second, contact me. You can find contact information on our church facebook page: I want to hear what you're sensing so I can be praying alongside of you. Third, talk to your pastor. We're all a part of the same mission. It's important that you get the blessing of your local church and pastor before coming.  Fourth, contact me again. We'll talk about what needs to happen next and how we think God is bringing us together. Even if you don't feel called to come, please join us in prayer! We cannot do this without God and there are people who need the good news realized in their life!

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