By the time your church is 12 months old, you should know these 12 things:
1) Don’t take yourselves too seriously
You are important to God. Isn’t it enough to know that without the need to prove it all the time? Walk in humility. Obey. Keep in step with the Spirit.
2) Outreach is your lifeblood
It’s tempting to settle in on the point of problem-centeredness, especially if you’ve had a modicum of success. People will ask that you “pastor” them instead of persevering instead of living out your roles as Evangelists. Pastoring at that point is a trap! Don’t fall for it. Tell people to go to counseling who need help. Pray for them while you stand up after a gathering. Don’t you dare see them more than once in the name of ministering to them.
3) There’s always a process to what you’re doing
God is at work with your people and those you seek to reach. God is continually doing something though we are sometimes frustrated with his timetable. Our desire is for details to work out quickly. None of us are naturally patient, but then again, God’s work is more stable than ours.
4) As you serve, a powerful spiritual atmosphere is created inside and outside your church
As you consistently love, serve, and show generosity to outsiders, you build an almost tactile reality around your church that impacts others. This has a profound spiritual effect on others at dimensions that are difficult to see or measure on the surface of things but are real just the same.
As people nearby experience this, they will change their perceptions about God and recognize that he is positive – not negative, loving – not necessarily judgmental.
As you serve, you are also going to shape the spiritual atmosphere inside your church community as you walk out the heart of God. Your people will see that serving is part and parcel of a healthy Christian life.
5) Others are more important than your venture
Don’t worry about your success. As you serve, God will show up in your midst. His presence is the greatest guarantee of success.
6) It’s vital to teach on living generously if the vision is to succeed
People will tell you they like your church because you don’t talk about money “all the time like other churches.” It’s tempting to fall into the trap of underemphasizing this important topic. Of course, your people need to be challenged. Deep down, they crave this instruction for their growth’s sake.
7) A vision for church planting
Set a goal from the beginning of your launch as to how many and how fast you will produce your first of several plants. Talk about that frequently from the front…with a smile of faith!
8) See the city as your mission field
World missions are great, but God is first interested in capturing the hearts of your church with the immediate. The “ends of the earth” is safe because all it requires is a check and an occasional prayer. God has in mind that your “Jerusalem” will come before the ends of the earth. Serve them. Care for the poor down the street in practical ways. Pray for them door to door in ten-second segments.
9) Worship stirs the presence of the Spirit
One of the necessities for success is Spirit-inspired worship. If your worship doesn’t bring the presence of the Spirit, then change it until it does. You won’t succeed in much else till you do.
10) Ministry to the poor is fundamental to discipleship
We are all – 100% of us – called to care for the Poor in some way. Ministry to the Poor is part of any outreach emphasis. I highly recommend you make this a vital part of your initial foray into the community. No matter where you live in the world, there are people in need within a 15-minute drive, if not next door.
11) If you don’t make outreach the focus, there won’t be any focus
That’s just the way it works. Outreach will be relegated to a program side by side with ushering, working in the parking lot, and making coffee with about as much passion as the other ones mentioned above. It will be an utterly ineffective token effort that is in place for members to point out something that says their church cares about the Lost, even though everyone knows there’s nothing effective being accomplished.
12) The way your senior leader(s) live and model ministry (and life!) is the greatest determiner as to how the local church will approach discipleship
Your church is like a flock of geese flying in formation on a journey. At the tip of the flock is a lead goose directing the rest in a specific direction. Where that leader goes, the rest of the formation follows. It’s a simple principle. Like it or not, the leader is carefully followed whether the rest of the flock understands the principle or not. It’s intuitive.
Regardless of that leader’s natural inclination, it’s vital that they become the person the flock needs to grow. Any person – any leader – can change by merely determining to change. It’s a matter of making a decision then leaning into the empowering of the Spirit for change to happen. God will show up and empower that decision. It is easy for a leader to cop out by thinking they don’t possess the needed gifts in the area where help is needed. As that leader merely shows up with an available attitude, God will provide the needed gifts, energy, and physical resources. As St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, bring love, and there will be love.”