Friday, October 31, 2008

Kingdom Growth

Over the past 30 years many churches have focused on building and developing programs as a means to grow the church. This approach has had a lot of success in bringing people into the church, and in many cases helping people enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The thinking has been, “The more effective programs you have the more people you will attract to your church.” There is nothing wrong with this approach and it has been blessed by God in thousands of churches across the country.

When I first came to Journey I said that it was not my primary intention to “grow the church.” I said that the reason I came to Journey was to extend the Kingdom of God in our community. In my mind there is a difference between the two.

In the New Testament, the "Kingdom of God" doesn't refer to a geographical boundary (John 18:36). When the New Testament speaks of the Kingdom of God it is referring to the reign of God in the hearts of people. Every time a person opens their heart to the Lordship of Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God expands to one more person. This is what God celebrates … when he reigns in the heart. Biblically speaking, this is Kingdom expansion.

So our question becomes, “How can a church facilitate this kind of Kingdom expansion?” There is a growing discussion among church leaders across the country about the shifting focus from developing programs to developing people. Personally, I believe we’ll be more effective at “extending the Kingdom” if we focus on people rather than church programs. When we focus on programs our focus is on …well, programs and not people. We can develop a great program but never really develop a person. The two aren't the same. Consider the difference in approach:

Program Development Vs. People Development*

Standardized approach ---------------------------Individually customized

Scripted pattern -------------------------------------- Shaped (life coaching)

Participation -------------------------------------------- Life transformation
(get more people in the programs)

Didactic ------------------------------------------Everyone discovers together
(someone stands up and lectures)

Delivery of information ----------------------- Debriefing life experiences

Curriculum guided ----------------------------------------- Life-centric

Plugged in (to existing church programs)------------------------- Pushed out
(to make a difference in the world)

Growing into service ----------------------------- Growing through service

Generationally "silo-ed" ---------------------------- Inter-generational

Compartmentalized (in life) ------------------------------ Integrated
(life and spirituality)

Artificial ----------------------------------------------------------- Organic

Build the organization ------------------------------------- Develop people

Do you see the difference? If you do, then you understand Journey Christian Church a little better. Although there is nothing wrong with it, our focus is not on having a lot of programs by which we try and attract people to our church. We try and simplify our approach in order to focus on people. We try to create and develop environments where people can grow. We focus on people serving people and we believe that our personal growth comes from serving, not from being served.

Ultimately we're less concerned about how many people show up and much more concerned about the state of a person's heart. Having lots of people in a room does not mean that Kingdom expansion is occurring. Kingdom expansion is a matter of the heart and since this is true we will focus on relationships. Our mission statement at Journey is to invite and lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we are at accomplishing our mission, the more the Kingdom will grow.

So, how's your relationship with Jesus Christ?

*Source: Greg Nettle

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