When leaders fall

David, Nathan, you are the man.jpg

More resignations, more shocking details of a leader in disgrace. Bill Hybels joins John Howard Yoder and Karl Barth in the hall of shame. Few leaders finish well.

The Bible is strong on grace without ever losing sight of the reality and seriousness of sin. Forget the debates on once saved always saved. We can all agree that saving faith perseveres to the end. It is perilous to confess Christ with your lips and set our hearts to deny him in deeds.

We are at war. Jesus laid out the terrain in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Between his first and second coming the world will be characterized by conflict, natural disasters, wars, false prophets and the ever-present temptation to fall away. The danger is real.

So who makes it through? The ones who in their weakness, cast themselves on him. This world is passing away. Jesus has overcome the world. He led the way as the obedient Son who entrusted himself to his Father and triumphed over sin, death and Satan. His victory is ours.

There was a time in my life when I had no hope left. I wasn’t convinced my life was worth living. I had no strength left. The enemy was using my weakness to bring death and destruction. God had another plan. In my brokenness, I called out to God. I claimed my identity as one hidden in Christ’s death and resurrection. I rebelled against the reality I was experiencing. God is faithful and in his time and in his way he restored me.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 

We do not want you to be uninformed … about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8-9).

Leaders don’t fall because they are not strong enough, they fall because in their weakness they rely on themselves, not the God who raises the dead.

How to make sure you never see a multiplying movement

Researcher Jim Haney identifies 10 things prevent multiplication of disciples and churches:

  1. Living the myth that as a researcher, mobilizer, organizer, administrator, dynamic leader or resource provider, that you are exempt from making disciples of lost people.
  2. Spending too much time on things that do not make disciples of lost people.  (Family, organizing your video library, spending time on the computer, etc).
  3. Overemphasizing that you must gain cultural awareness before making disciples of lost people. Paul learned a lot about culture as he walked around Athens, but he never got very far until he quit debating and started sharing the Gospel.
  4. Sending missionaries to make disciples of lost people and planting churches who have not done this prior to appointment.
  5. That missionary teams that are stuck on seeing little fruit will see fruit one day if they remain on the field.  Leadership needs to diagnose where teams are stuck in their prayer life, witnessing, inviting to receive Christ, immediately gathering new believers into churches, empowering local leadership, using models that multiply and provide structure, accountability and presence to help teams get unstuck.
  6. Not knowing any lost people, witnessing to them or praying for them in the last 24 hours.
  7. Aiming too low.  I often see churches where its four old women, one old man (who is usually blind), and children.  Ask God for a man of peace who will believe and bring you to community leaders.  However, like Barnabas, we not only don't go after Saul, we are afraid of him even when we hear he has become a believer.
  8. A fuzzy vision of what you are on the field to do-engage, multiply churches, and see them join in the Great Commission.  
  9. That I have to know the worldview, language, and sell my father's cow before I can begin to witness to lost people.  (I already said this, but it bears repeating).
  10. Anything short of preparing your people group as if the King is coming.

170-Tracking Movements - Jim Haney

Testing the health of a multiplying movement

Don Dent and a team took a trip to Asia to test the health of a multiplying movement which has planted 20,000 churches in eight years.

Here's a summary of what they found.

  1. These churches multiply, i.e. churches plant churches that plant churches.
  2. Evangelism is normative among these churches and a large portion of the believers are actively sharing their faith.
  3. There is accountability to share the gospel.
  4. Almost all additions to local churches are through baptism following conversion from another religion. 
  5. New churches result primarily from evangelism and baptisms instead of planning, money raising, and grand openings. 
  6. I met several teenagers who have already started one or more churches. 
  7. Local church leadership is almost always chosen from within the group on the basis of who is faithful in sharing their faith and training the new believers in discipleship.
  8. Intensive mentoring is a primary means of raising up quality leaders. 
  9. These churches show deep commitment to mission partnership. One network of churches gives 30% of their offerings to mission work outside their local church. 
  10. Although gospel proclamation is the priority in ministry, the believers also pray for the sick and demonized.
  11. A commitment to on-the-job practical training is essential to growth. 
  12. Several networks that are approximately five years old have planted churches in several other countries. 
  13. A majority of the leadership is between the ages of 22-40.
  14. False teachers are trying to infiltrate the church, but leaders are equipped to counter them. 
  15. This growth is taking place in a climate of persecution, where it is illegal to become a Christian. Believers can be beaten, thrown out of the village, and jailed.

keep reading. . . 

169-Tracking Progress Downunder - Dave Milne

Dave Milne has been tracking progress towards multiplying movements in Australia. He talks to Steve Addison about the lessons.

For a copy of Dave's research when it's released, send me an email.

Answering Why?

 Sam Metcalf

Sam Metcalf

In August, Michelle and I travel to the US to be with our friends from Church Resource Ministries.

Ahead of the CRM worldwide conference, Sam Metcalf set the tone for the gathering in a letter. Here's part of what he wrote,

In the last year, along with our various leaders, I’ve sensed a shift from a focus on the “what and the “how” to a more profound question: “Why we do it.” I believe God has been gently, but firmly, drawing us together toward the grand scope and magnitude of that calling. He is graciously wooing us with his cosmic vision that stretches beyond time and space. This captivating “why” is succinctly captured in the following phrase:

...I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb (Rev 7:9:).

The ultimate expression and realization of the Kingdom of God is when the redemptive reign and rule of Jesus happens in the lives of people …when the Kingdom breaks in and the highest and most excellent of the created order—human beings—become committed followers of the King of the Kingdom. While there are certainly other essential manifestations of the Kingdom, this remains the ultimate biblical centerpiece of the mission of God. A phrase that I like to use to describe this priority is that "the Kingdom of God is never fully present unless people are becoming followers of the King."

This is what movement leaders do, they remind us of the why. Get that wrong and you drift into the missional fog.