Posts tagged Church Growth
5 Beliefs That Kill Local Church Mission
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Last week, pastor Mike and I sat down for an interview titled, “How to Free Your Local Church from Last Generation Theology.”

The episode has quickly become one of the most popular for The Story Church Podcast which prompted Mike and I to agree to a follow up! That followup will be published next week (I hope), and for this week I do a follow up of my own by addressing 5 beliefs that kill local church mission in the Seventh-day Adventist movement.

Those 5 beliefs are:

  1. The belief that the law of God is an imposed legal construct.

  2. The belief that sin is a choice and not much more.

  3. The belief that we must become perfect to be saved (or for the Great Controversy to end).

  4. The belief that we alone have the truth (no one else!).

  5. The belief that our job is to warn the world about all the bad stuff.

Of course, there are other unhealthy beliefs that damage our capacity to do mission as local Adventist churches, but these 5 are the ones I highlight this week.

Check out the episode below! Don’t forget to subscribe, comment and share!

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My Top 3 Frustrations as an Adventist Pastor
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I have been in full-time ministry now for four years. However, I have been involved in volunteer ministry for well over a decade. I started preaching when I was 17, and since then I have also done youth ministry, worship ministry, health ministry, evangelism and outreach. So while I have titled this post, "My Top 3 Frustrations as an Adventist Pastor" what I share has been on my mind long before I became one.

At the moment, our church is hashing it out with various issues that impact us worldwide. There is lots of heated debate on the union and conference levels over things like authority, ordination and hermeneutics. And while these massive debates can be frustrating, the truth is they are not anywhere near my top 3. Rather, those spots are reserved for issues that are much smaller, and yet arguably more important. So here are my top 3 frustrations as an Adventist pastor:

1. Our desperate need for a giant caffeine overdose.

No, I don't promote the use of coffee but don't miss the point. While coffee isn't exactly good for you, sometimes I wish I could spike everyone's potluck juice with two or three Allmax caffeine tablets. Maybe then we will find the energy to actually get up and do something?

OK, so maybe that's a bit polemic, but hear me out. At nearly every church I have ever been to, the pattern is identical. Eighty percent of people are mere spectators while twenty percent invest themselves year after year in service and mission (this is why no one gets excited about being in the Nominating Committee). And I'm not the only one. Most of the pastors I talk to have the same drama. And no one seems to know what the solution is. It's like many of us are super content to just show up, watch the church leaders do their thing and then go home. With that kind of culture, there is just no way the church can ever grow.

However, I have concluded that the current state of member involvement has less to do with the members themselves and more to do with a church structure that doesn't encourage involvement on any level. So it's not simply our members who need an Almax, our leaders need a double dose themselves. Maybe then we will find the energy to finally recreate our church structure into something more empowering? 

Solution:

Adventist leaders need to stop pretending that the 80/20 principle is normal. As already mentioned, I personally believe it is the result, not of lazy Christians (though that's there too) but also of a system that is designed to encourage passivity. We need to restructure the way our churches operate to encourage and reward involvement. 

For a simple approach to restructuring your church for missional success, check out the 7-day video course "The Church Optimizers Online Course." To gain access, subscribe here.

2. Our Forgotten narrative.

Adventism has the most beautiful theological system I have ever encountered. And believe me, I have studied many of them. Calvinism, the Westminster Confession, the Second London Baptist Confession, Dispensationalism, New Covenant Theology, Arminian-Wesleyanism, Catholicism and on and on. And in my estimation, none of those theological narratives are as compelling and beautiful as Adventism. But most of our members seem to be totally unaware of this. It's like they have forgotten, or perhaps never really known, what our story is.

On the other hand you have those who haven't forgotten what makes us unique, but have taken that narrative and divorced it of Jesus. This results in the imbalanced and repulsive theology so prevalent in many Adventist circles. And what do you get when you have a group of people who have forgotten Jesus in their story? You get a bunch of bored folk who argue and bicker about all kinds of dumb stuff. When we lack vision, we perish.

Solution:

I wrote a book on this titled "Why is Adventism So Weird?". You can download it here, read it and share it's challenge with your church family.

3. Our Severe lack of excellence.

I don't know if this is just a Sevvy thing, but boy do I see it a lot. Somehow, there is this cultural pattern among us that settles for mediocrity. Our churches look atrocious. Our services are boring. Our ministries are vague and uninteresting. Our Sabbath Schools are irrelevant. Our corporate worship vibes are substandard. Our websites, if we even have one, look like they were designed in the 90's. And if you ask me how many churches I have been to with a carpet that was laid in the 70's I honestly can't remember. I have lost count.

Sometimes we try and baptize our lack of  excellence with religious platitudes. "It's all about the Holy Spirit" or "All we need is the truth, not these other things" etc. etc. And I agree that those things are most important. But since when did they become excuses for mediocrity? If anything, they should be motivations for a greater commitment to excellence. After all, it was the Holy Spirit who enabled artists to design one of the most compelling ancient works of art - the Hebrew sanctuary.

Solution:

If you iron out the first two points made above, a commitment to excellence will follow naturally. Church members need to come to the realization that we are not there for ourselves. This can only happen if we restructure our local church to promote a missional culture and begin celebrating our narrative in that process.

So there you have it guys! Top 3 frustrations as an Adventist pastor. Do you have any (with solutions)? Share them below!

Top 3 Adventist Church Growth Myths
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Do you want your church to grow?

I hope your answer to this question is a resounding "yes". Because if it isn't, seriously - what gives?

Of course, you may be skeptical about the church-growth movement with its "seeker-sensitive" approach and that's OK. You don't have to like that model. But you should still want your church to grow - not for the sake of measuring numbers like some corporate entity, but because God himself wants this. The apostle Peter makes this clear when he said, 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
— 2Peter 3:9

God wants to save everyone! So should we.

But here is where things get weird. Regardless of how Adventists relate to "church growth" there seems to be a set of myths that accompany us when it comes to this topic. So in today's post, I want to talk about the top 3 I encounter in the many conversations I have on this topic.

Myth #1: God doesn't care about quantity, he cares about quality. 

The idea behind this myth is that God isn't interested in numbers joining the church but in true disciples who are walking with him. While this is true, the main problem with this statement is that it posits an "either-or" mentality. The truth is, God is interested in numbers as well! In fact, as we saw above he wants to save everyone. And the Bible uses growth language repeatedly to reflect this:

  • Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)
  • The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
  • But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
  • After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

Of course, God doesn't care about numbers in the sense that a corporate marketing department does. He cares for each of us personally. We are not metrics to him, but family. However, there is a sense in which he cares about the growth of the church and celebrates it. So here is the truth: God cares about both quantity and quality. So should we.

Myth #2: My church can't grow because its too traditional.

This myth is often accompanied by a series of other myths such as:

  • We need a contemporary church service or we wont grow
  • The people in this church are too conservative. Until they change the church will stay stuck.
  • If only we could modernize our music and service style, the church would grow.
  • Our youth are leaving because they find the service boring. We need to make it more hip.

You get the point. And here is the problem with this myth. First of all, after reviewing lots of different surveys conducted by Barna Research and Natural Church Development I have found zero correlation between contemporary music and church growth. Youth retention studies have also found that the issue of music doesn't even make it to the top ten reasons why youth leave or stay. Seriously, you don't need a contemporary church service to grow. There is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that (and this is coming from a guy who loves contemporary worship).

The other problem with this myth is that it creates a practically unsolvable problem. Unless we can somehow convince every single Adventist on the planet that they need to be contemporary then we simply wont grow. If we tried that approach, the church would be locked in ideological warfare for the next 100 years. Seriously, the worship wars of the 90's are so over. Contemporary worship is nice, but it's not a hill worth dying on. You can grow your church without it.

I am currently pastoring two traditional churches. While the work there has only just begun both churches are showing signs of revival and growth. And we haven't changed a thing about their traditional culture. Instead, we have focused on what really matters: peoples lives. So here is the truth: When you focus on developing a positive and inspiring culture that impacts the lives of people, your church will awaken and grow.

Myth #3: All we have to do is be faithful to the truth and God will take care of the growth.

Yes and no. Yes. We have to be faithful to the truth. But no, God will not magically grow the church just because we are being faithful to the truth. I don't know how many Adventist churches I have been to with this mentality and rather than growing they are dwindling. 

The fact is, God gave the administration of the church over to human-kind. He blesses it, leads it, guides it and empowers it. Without him at the helm, we can do nothing. But when it comes to administering our resources and reaching the lost - he gave that task to us. We are the ones that have to plan, devise methods, develop strategies and put in the hard yard to get the work done. Yes, be faithful to the truth. But do more than that. Develop a simple and effective plan for how you are going to reach your community and get to work. Here is the truth: God is not going to administrate the church for you, that's your job. Your church clerk is not going to receive an email from heaven with a detailed community outreach plan for your church. You have to do it. And if you don't, get ready to age and die.

These are the top 3 Adventist church growth myths I have encountered. What myths have you encountered? Share them in the comments below.

The One 'Success-Packed' Truth Every Adventist Church Needs

Did you know that there is one secret to building the kingdom of God? This one secret is the only thing that Christian's need to know to build God's kingdom. What is this one secret? First I want to give you an illustration.

One of the military's best land weapons was the infamous tank. Everyone is afraid of the tank. The combination of powerful weapons and thick armor makes it impossible to stop with traditional weapons. So when a tank shows up on the battlefield you run. And you run really, really fast.

The only way that you can effectively stop a tank and make it semi-useless in combat is if you somehow destroy the tracks/road wheels underneath. If you destroy those the tank will still be functional up top, but it will be unable to move and that in many ways renders the tank useless.



Now let's get back to the one's secret to building the kingdom of God. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a really effective worldwide ministry. We have a General Conference that's made up of divisions all around the world. Divisions are made up of regional conferences which are in turn made up of local churches. This system has enabled Adventism to move into the world with a worldwide mission and narrative that many other denominations can't even dream of. So in a sense, its an amazing and powerful system designed to be a universal voice and it has worked really well. (see video below)



However, when you think about this system it's kind of like a tank. The conferences and divisions are like the big bulky weapons and armor at the top. This is where most of the administrations takes place. This is where most of the legal issues are resolved. This is where a large percentage of our resources are financed and developed. And this is where personnel, finances, real estate and ministry departments are managed. The big bulky conferences and divisions are extremely useful and have served the church well. However, (and here is the clincher) everything the divisions and the conferences do is missionally useless if the local church is not functioning properly.

In other words if Satan wants to put a stop to the Seventh-day Adventist tank the only thing he needs to do is destroy the tracks/road wheels (local churches). If he can get the local churches to stop functioning, if he can prevent them from being successful and from optimizing their ministry to their local setting he succeeds in making the entire tank practically useless in the battle between good and evil.

Sure we can still produce resources like Sabbath school lessons and media of all kinds. We can still hire pastors and administrators, have a very strong legal support system and fantastic human resources running the background business of the church, but if the tracks are not spinning - if the local church is not moving -  then the mission of the church comes to a stand still.

In Ephesians 1:9-12 Paul reveals this: From the beginning of time God has had a secret weapon he would use to defeat evil. That secret weapon is the church. Not the institution we call church (top heavy stuff), but the gathering of broken God-lovers. This secret weapon is made up of messed up people who have tasted the grace of God and are in a transformation journey of love. And it is through them that God seeks to build his kingdom. An institution could never replicate such a thing. The beauty of this secret weapon can only be experienced in the local church. This is why the local church is the most important part of any denomination, especially the Adventist Church. As a worldwide movement we have the temptation to underplay the importance of the local church. Some may depend on the conferences, unions, and divisions to do the work of evangelism. Others sit back and expect the conference evangelist or some other "bulky initiative" to do the work of Kingdom building. Many more depend entirely on the local pastor. And while local churches are certainly expected to take advantage of all of these resources at their disposal, if we are not optimizing our ministries and aiming to be successful then we become stagnant and irrelevant. And its not just our local church that suffers. Once Satan has succeeded in neutralizing the local church then the whole Adventist tank becomes less effective. And the research-data that is coming to us shows that Satan has so far done a very good job.
The one "success-packed" truth every Adventist church needs to know is this: Your church matters infinitely both in its local work and in our global work. It's time we lived like it. The main avenue to build his kingdom is not through the avenue of the top heavy stuff. When it comes to movement and growth it's all about the local church. And while there is some bad news, the good news is this: If we revive our local Adventist churches, it's not just us who will benefit. The entire, worldwide Adventist tank will become more effective at demolishing the empire of Satan and building the kingdom of God.

How cool is that?

___

Quote: As quoted in: Zahid, Adrian. "Beyond the One project: The War Over the Local Church (5a)":https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/beyond-the-one-project-the-war-over-the-local-church-5a
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Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He also blogs weekly at pomopastor.com