“What are you going to change at Connection Point?” This was a common question we heard as we became the lead pastors of this great church in West Lafayette, Indiana. The initial response we gave was, “We’re not sure anything needs changed, but we like the instructions Jesus gave Paul during his Damascus road experience, ‘go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” (Acts 9:6) We were confident God would show us what to do as we began to lead.
Before arriving at Connection Point, one of the things God spoke to my heart was to start with a message series on “Living Like it Matters,” meaning to live like Jesus matters. Out of this series, we developed the core values we desire to see exhibited in every follower of Jesus; a person who abides daily, serves others, gives selflessly, loves Jesus and others, and shares the Good News. We then went through a series on “Life Together,” knowing we must figure out how to live together in Jesus to see Him work among and through us for the glory of God in our area and the world.
While working through these series on Sundays, I also found it would be helpful to start putting some good organizational structures in place in the areas of staff, volunteers, and overall church function. We then took different staff and key leaders to visit with an out-of-state church, trying to glean from their effective practices, procedures, and methods.
Soon after, we began hosting men’s and women’s conferences alongside the long-standing Eggstravaganza and Pumpkin Palooza events. But we weren’t convinced this model of ministry was fulfilling the mission of the church. We knew what kind of fruit a church is supposed to exhibit; world changers who turn the world upside down in the way they follow Jesus (Acts 17:6). We were quickly finding that event-based ministry did not lead to this kind of result.
“Something was missing.”
As leaders, we felt responsible. As the saying goes, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”¹ If church leaders desire different results, it’s probably worth examining the current system in place.
One of the things we knew would be essential was providing an environment where people could seek the empowered life they are offered from Jesus. Shortly before going to the cross, Jesus told his followers,
“I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7-8)
After the resurrection, Jesus told His followers what the Holy Spirit (the Helper) would do. He told them,
“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a helper for us to fulfill His plans for our lives. He sent the Holy Spirit for the church to fulfill its purpose, to advance the kingdom of God.
You see, the church was made for movement.
As pastors, we desperately want people to have the Holy Spirit’s help, so we decided to put together a church-wide Connect Group, Naturally Supernatural, to walk through content related to who the Holy Spirit is, what spiritual gifts are, and how we can live empowered lives as followers of Jesus.
However, while going through this material, we found many people had difficulty praying with others and most were uncomfortable with the idea of being sent by the Holy Spirit into our community to share His Good News. Shellie and I quickly realized there was much more work to be done to help people step into the extraordinary lives they are offered in Jesus. We needed to find a better way to equip people (Ephesians 4:11) as everyday disciple makers. It was going to take longer than twelve weeks to see this happen. If it took Jesus three years to equip and send the disciples, I guess I should have known twelve weeks would not be sufficient :-).
So we continued praying and planning with staff and having conversations around the way of Jesus. I reread Robert Coleman’s, The Master Plan of Evangelism, and grappled with some of the questions the author asks:
- “Are our efforts to keep things going fulfilling the great commission of Christ?”² (p.15)
- “Do we see an ever-expanding company of dedicated people reaching the world with the gospel as a result of our ministry?” (p. 15)
Coleman challenged me, and others on staff, with thoughts such as:
- “Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a kingdom.” (p. 32)
- “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.” (p. 23)
- “Until we have such people imbued with his Spirit and committed to his plan, none of our methods will work.” (p. 114)
As we continued working through Coleman’s thoughts and others, we realized we needed to move away from an attractional model of church ministry toward a multiplying and reproducing one. We were confident Connection Point could make this shift because it is a church filled with great people who have a heart to follow Jesus and make an eternal difference with their lives.
But how do we do that? How do we invest in people and help them become like Jesus? How do we equip believers as everyday disciple makers? Why is it even important for us to help people become disciple makers?
We continued praying and planning and pretty soon God showed us the next right step we should follow toward the goal of fulfilling His big dream.
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How has Jesus led you as you have followed Him? Share your comments below.
1 W. Edwards Deming
2 Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, Baker, 1993.