If you read this blog often, you know that my husband and I have recently accepted a call to plant a church for our denomination (Brethren in Christ) in the Lexington, KY area. We have just begun the journey and my husband has been documenting this experience over at his own blog 365ChurchPlanter covering the first year of our journey. He is actually going to be in Singapore with Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism, for a week of teaching, preaching and planting this week, and he sent me a blog to post on his site for him.
Now, normally, my blog focuses specifically on children, youth and family ministry with a heart for connecting the church and home and helping parents and churches transition into more intergenerational communities BUT as I read this article from my husband, I realized just how very much we need to hear this too.
Because, when it comes down to it, children’s ministry is the single greatest contributor to bringing new disciples into the fold than any other ministry in the church.
The vast majority of people who choose to make a commitment to follow Christ, do so before the age of 14 (source). That’s children’s ministry. The vast majority of young adults who remain in the faith do so because 1. their parents talked about Christ in the home and engaged with them in service and 2. they had other involved adults in their life who encouraged their walk with Christ (source). That’s family ministry and generational discipleship. And all of that is evangelism.
So with that lens, read these words, a conversation between Dr. Coleman and my church planter husband and ask yourself, “How does this effect how I do Kidmin, Fammin, and Next Gen ministries?”
“What would it look like if “The Master Plan of Evangelism” was translated into a book about Church Planting?”
That’s the question that I asked Dr. Robert (Clem) Coleman this afternoon as we sat across from each other awaiting our connecting flight to San Fransisco.
The answer to that question is, no doubt, much longer than could fit into our time between flights. But Dr. Coleman did offer three pieces of advice on church planting. And as I hurriedly scrawled them across a discarded napkin I knew I had to share them with you.
Don’t Count the Sheep; Count the Shepherds
Everybody wants measurable results. This is especially true when it comes to church planting. Church planting, if nothing more, is a delving into the world of entrepreneurship. We set goals, we measure progress.
And the old saying remains true: “You measure what you value”. Thankfully, church plants are moving away from the over-simple metrics of money in the bank and attendance in the pews. We’re beginning to find ways of measuring actual, personal growth. At the end of the day, we want to impact people and people are so much more than a number for attendance reporting or a “financial giving unit”.
But Dr. Coleman encouraged me to count more than just the people that our church is reaching. He said we have to measure the number of people who are dedicating their lives to helping others fall in love with Jesus.
We need to “count the Shepherds and not just the Sheep.”
If we’re only focused on our own personal ministries our impact will never extend beyond our personal circle of influence. But, if we’re focused on equipping and training leaders to impact their own circles of influence, our reach extends far beyond our limited spheres. It becomes exponential.
Follow the Gold Veins
Having dropped that little nugget of wisdom Dr Coleman moved to another analogy. This one had to do with mining. He said, “When you share the Gospel you need to find that one person, that one home that is receptive to the Gospel in a big way. Finding that home is like striking gold.”
The thing about striking gold, though, is that you don’t normally just find a single nugget. You find a vein that runs right down and into the earth. You, then, mine the vein.
People that receive Christ know other people who are receptive to the Gospel. These people, in turn, know others. You never know who you may reach through your ministry to just one receptive soul. By all means, build relationships that include (rather than exclude) their unsaved circles of friends, family, and neighbors.
Don’t just reap a nugget, mine the vein.
Get to Know the Missionaries
This idea is certainly nothing new to those who have dedicated their lives to sharing Christ on the mission fields. And that is Dr. Coleman’s third piece of advice.
Learn from the missionaries.
The reality is that, in the 21st century, America is a mission field.
There are entire communities, cultures, and subcultures (including a growing generation) that have little to no knowledge of God as we know him in the Christian faith. It’s time that we began approaching evangelism in our own nation the way our missionary sisters and brothers have been approaching it for the last 200 years.
We need to ask the types of questions in Kentucky that a missionary would ask if she were headed to Calcutta. How can effectively communicate the Gospel? How might culture and context be used to demonstrate the love of Christ? What barriers exist? How can we minister to people where they are rather than expect them to come to us?
These are only a few of the questions missionaries have been asking for decades. It’s time we take a page from their playbook.
As I write this I’m cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet on my way to San Fransisco. I’m still only about half-way to our destination in Singapore. Likewise, the advice that Dr. Coleman has offered is from a 10,000 foot vantage. It needs to be brought home, digested, explored.
If there’s anything that he’s learned over his 60+ years in ministry it’s that God reveals himself in remarkable ways when we simply step out in faith. I’m already beginning to see a much bigger picture than I could have ever conceived on my own. I can’t wait to discover all that God has planned for us on this trip.
Guest Blogger:Hi, my name is Luke and I’m a church planter. I’m also a husband to an amazing woman (check out her blog on family and intergen ministry here), a dad to three incredible kids, and an avid collector of books.If I were to describe myself and my passions I’d have to say, I love God, love people and love bringing them together. I’m a licensed minister with a B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Penn State University and an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary. I’ve been blessed by some remarkable mentors, teachers, and friends. I’ve also had the opportunity to organize outreaches targeting unbelievers, serve in pastoral and parachurch positions, lead mission trips, and much more. But the single greatest thing I bring to church planting is a heart devoted to God’s Kingdom and a posture of absolute reliance upon His Spirit. God will do this work. We all have the privilege of joining Him on the journey. Check out our church plant on Facebook at Plowshares BIC; we’d love to have you join the journey too!
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed