Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You need a plan if you're going to transform your church

I constantly run into pastors who are frustrated that nothing ever changes in their church.  They explain they want to see their church transform and become more than it is, but when I press them about what they are doing to intentionally bring about that transformation they can't give an answer.  I sometimes think they pray, "Lord, change our church," and then sit back to see what He will do.  When nothing changes they get frustrated, and I wonder if they don't get a little angry at God for not doing anything.  Prayer is certainly part of the transformation process, but a pastor can't depend on prayer alone to transform his or her church.  A pastor must have hope that things can change, but hope alone is not a strategy.  Transformational pastors have a plan that will begin to change the conversations in the church, and as the conversations change there is the opportunity that action will soon follow, and that is when transformation begins.

In smaller churches the Sunday morning sermon is the one opportunity the pastor has to speak to the most members of the congregation.  The planning must begin here.  I would recommend that a pastor who is serious about wanting to bring transformation to his or her church develop a preaching plan for at least six months, if not a year, that will focus on the missional nature of the first century church.  Within this series should be sermons that address the importance of every believer being involved in ministry.  One of the things I did as pastor was to give our members a spiritual gift assessment during the morning worship service one Sunday.  This was the one way I had of ensuring that the most people took the assessment.  Later, I took the results of that assessment to each member and we discussed the findings and how they might translate into personal ministry for them.  Too often a pastor will address this one week, and then the next week preach on a topic completely different.  If you want transformation to occur you need to focus on that for an extended time to get people using the language of transformation and to help them realize that God is calling them to do so much more than what most of our churches now do.

Training is a second component of transformation.  Pastors should not expect their congregations to be involved in ministry if they've never been taught how to minister to one another.  The Ephesians 4 model for ministry has become increasingly important to me in recent years.  The saints are to do the work of ministry, but the leadership has the responsibility to equip them to do that.  Do not criticize your congregation for not being more involved in ministry if you've not equipped them to do so.  We in leadership need to be very intentional about the training we provide our lay leadership and our congregation.

A third thing we need to plan for is how we will get our folks involved in actual ministry.  Again, we need to be very intentional about this.  It is not enough to post a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board asking for volunteers for some project.  We need to find appropriate ministry opportunities in our communities that will be a good match for the gifts and interests of our people and then approach them directly and ask that they become engaged.  It is important that we do this making it clear that they are expected to be involved.  Obviously, we cannot force them to do something they do not want to do, but we can make it known that there is a certain expectation that they will be involved in ministry as a part of being a member of our church.  Sometimes we find that people will act their way into new ways of thinking.  It is only after they get their hands dirty in ministry that they realize this is what the church is supposed to be about.

I recently preached a revival for a church.  Following the final service an elderly lady who had been a member of the church for many years said to me, "Now, we've got to do what you've challenged us to do.  We've talked and talked about these things, and it's time we do them."  I smiled at her and responded, "And when you do is when your church will experience revival."  This is true for your church as well.

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