We are presently witnessing a transition in ministry across this country. There are many senior pastors who are about to leave the scene and many, if not most, are not ready to pass the baton to someone else! Some of the larger megachurches have an even bigger issue on their hands when their senior leader steps down or retires because they have to find a leader with the gifts and charisma to fill huge auditoriums. (If their successors cannot fill them, it will be interesting to see how they will be able to pay their utility bills with half-empty sanctuaries!)
My wife Joyce and I planted our local church over thirty years ago (on January 29, 1984) in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, New York. We were not sent out with any money and with only a handful of people who volunteered to serve with us. The following is based on all the mistakes I have made as a church planter and the lessons I wish someone had coached me through.
I. Be sent from your local church
The word of God teaches us that there are times God’s presence can leave the corporate expression of His people. We see this in 1 Samuel 4:21-22 when the name Ichabod was given to the grandson of Eli, the high priest, after the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. Also, in the book of Revelation 3:1 Jesus told the church of Sardis that they had a reputation of being alive but was dead. Hence, it is possible for communities of faith to be dead or dying.
From the outset of this article I do not want to convey the thought that just because leaders have name recognition or become popular that they are not people of God. Many of my close friends in the ministry are also celebrities in their own right but do not exhibit the below traits. However, it would be less than honest for those of us in the church not to admit the aberrant behavior of some of our own.
1. Effective Ministries Value the Whole Church
To be effective in the current culture wars, Evangelicals can no longer afford to shun their Catholic and Orthodox brethren. It is going to take the whole church standing together on social issues to see societal transformation. We may not be in the same denomination or local church, but we share the same overarching values regarding the Trinity, the need for the cross of Christ for salvation, the deity of Christ, and the Ten Commandments as a blueprint for the laws of a nation.
A prophetic culture is an exciting and much needed element for a cutting edge local church. By “prophetic culture” I am referring to having a sense of anticipation among the attendees that God is going to manifest His presence and speak directly to His people, either through the preached Word of God and/or through the worship experience. By prophetic culture I am not merely referring to a plethora of prophetic words being released during church services.
When a church has a true prophetic culture, there is a deep connection to God during congregational gatherings that result in believers getting transformed and consecrating themselves to the call of God. When there are many prophetic words but no personal transformation, folks are mainly prophesying out of their own souls and not representing God’s heart. There are several things needed to bring this kind of atmosphere into a local church.
The greatest sin in the Bible by far is the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is when we violate the first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), which is “You shall have no other gods before me.” It is when we put something or someone first in our lives before the living and true God. Idolatry is the root cause of all other sins, which is why the first two commandments deal with this.
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