CONNECTIONS AND COMMITTMENT

by Stephen L. Dunn

Churches who are vision-focused and mission-disciplined are the most likely to be churches whose ministry is fruitful in dynamic and irresistible ways.  There is a spiritual energy to such churches  that serves as a conduit of God’s grace from a deep well of God’s transforming love.  There is a supernatural reality at work that draws the church forward in life-changing ministry.  It is exciting to be a part of such a church and exhilarating to be one its or pastors or leaders.

The Holy Spirit could and would sustain such a movement except for two factors that emerge from our human nature.  We tend to go it alone in too many things and give little time or attention to our relationships as Christians.  The excuse is often in such a church, “We are busy in the work of the Lord.’ The reality is that as we grow busier we become disconnected from the Body itself robbing one another of the daily support, encouragement, and accountability necessary for human beings to participate in a supernatural work.  And as new people are “added” we often do not take the relational time to assimilate them into the Body, i.e., to connect them. New people who do not become connected early often find the back door.  Long-termers who have grown disconnected drift away.

The other is commitment.  We are not seeking members in this supernatural ministry but fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.  Busy churches, caught up in the energy of a dynamic work, often equate numbers and activity as a measure of success instead of making authentic disciples. Disciples who pray, who serve, who learn from God’s Word, who give, who sacrifice.

Churches that seek to ride the wave of the Spirit over the long haul need to make a commitment to the systems or structures that help embed the DNA on connection and commitment into its people.  Otherwise, God will be leading but we will follow only to a point …

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

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10 REASONS TO UNDER-PROGRAM YOUR CHURCH

An excellent post from Jared Wilson THE GOSPEL CENTERED CHURCH

10 Reasons to Under-program Your Church

I’m a big fan of the “simple church” concept, but I have experienced just how daunting a task it can be to under-program my church. We are inundated constantly with opportunities for activity from other churches (which we don’t want to turn down lest we appear uncooperative and standoffish), advertised “movements” local and national (which are good at getting people excited), and “good ideas” from our own community (which we are reluctant to deny lest we break someone’s heart). But what all this so often amounts to is a church that is merely busy, and busy does not always equal diligent or successful.Here, then, are 10 reasons to under-program a church:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. Craig Groeschel has some great things to say about this subject. Also check out Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church.

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. A bustling crowd may not be spiritually changed or engaged in mission at all. And as our flesh cries out for works, many times filling our programs with eager, even servant-minded people is a way to appeal to self-righteousness.

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. If we’re all busy engaging our interests in and pursuits of different things, we will have a harder time enjoying the “one accord” prescribed by the New Testament.

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers. The church can become a grocery store or more spiritual YMCA, then, perfect for people who want religious activities on their calendar.

5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Because it can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.

6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Certainly there are legitimate reasons for gathering according to “likenesses,” but many times increasing the number of programs means increasing the ways and frequencies of these separations. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.

7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. When really it may just be providing lots of religious goods and services. This is an unacceptable substitute for a community on mission, but it’s one we accept all the time. And the more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.

8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It’s a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees, and it implicitly stifles sabbath.

9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here’s a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church’s calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.

10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask “Should we?” before you ask “Can we?” Always ask “Will this please God?” before you ask “Will this please our people?” Always ask “Will this meet a need?” before you ask “Will this meet a demand?”