With Redemption beginning a new chapter this Sunday, I've been doing a lot of looking back and a lot of looking ahead. One of the primary things I've been reflecting on are the means God has used to grow Redemption both spiritually and numerically. Notice I said the "means God used" to grow Redemption. I don't live under any delusions of the means being the cause of growth. The Apostle Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7...
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
Only God can cause growth and I believe God is sovereign over both the means (particular strategies) and the end (growth). I don't believe that any strategy is a magic formula for numeric growth, and if that's what you're looking for you should revisit your motives and reconsider your readiness to plant a church. We plant the gospel, not a strategy. A strategy is merely the means by which we plant the gospel in our various neighborhoods, communities, and cities.
As we labor to this end, I believe these three essentials are necessary for all church plants regardless of context (hence the term, essential). The way you work them out and what they look like may be dictated by your context, but the necessity of them remains. Here are the three essential means God has used to grow Redemption these past 3 years...
1. Communicate Clear Vision When you plant a church it only exists in two places - your heart and your head. You can't point to it and you can't show it to people, so the only thing you can do is verbalize it. Communicating a clear vision requires not just telling people WHAT God's called you to do, but also HOW He's called you to do it.
The difference between vision and an idea is a strategy. At Redemption we exist to know Jesus and make Him known by worshipping as a community on mission. That's WHAT God has called us to do (know Jesus and make Him known) and HOW He's called us to do it (by worshipping as a community on mission). It's our purpose and our process. We need to get clear, concise, and capacious. If you're wrestling with this right now I highly recommend you read "Simple Church" which brought much of this together for us.
2. Culture of Invitation Regardless of your particular strategy, whether it be incarnational, attractional, or a hybrid of the two (which is what we have at Redemption) we have to invite people in. This starts with the senior leadership in the church. If you're a pastor, or church leader and frustrated with the lack of personal evangelism and invitation happening in your church, the first look needs to be in a mirror. Is it happening in your life? Are there lost people you're engaging? When was the last time you personally invited someone into your church?
Cultivating a culture of invitation requires giving people the necessary tools. People have to be taught to share their faith. People need to be confident that their church cares about their friends who don't know Jesus. People need to know consistent connection is taking place and that once they have the courage to invite a friend, someone will take the time to help that friend get connected.
3. Consistent Connection When you get clear with a vision to see Jesus save and a culture of invitation begins to develop, people are going to want to get on board. The question is, will you help them get connected? People want to get connected, but often times don't know how. So how do you get people through whatever the front door of your church is (website, missional community, worship gathering, etc) and connected to your community? This requires a means of gathering people's information and actually following up with them.
I hope to write in much greater detail about our strategy for getting people connected in the future, but for now I'd simply say, "You have to do SOMETHING!" If you're only going to do one thing, than find a way to sit down face to face with every new person (either one-on-one or in a group) to communicate clear vision, answer questions, and invite people into the mission. If you put all the responsibility on people to connect themselves, few people will find a way. We have to provide a consistent means of getting people connected.
I want to see every church that is passionate about Jesus and proclaiming His Word to experience growth, both spiritually and numerically. Only God can provide this growth and He's sovereign over both the means (strategy) and the end (growth). Let's trust God for growth and seek Him for more effective strategies to love and lead the people He's drawing to Himself.