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Is The Church Still Relevant Today?

My 12-year-old son was playing games online recently, and his 18-year-old sister remarked, “I’ve never seen that before!”

While avidly on the smartphone herself, within that 6-year gap between them, games and online services have changed significantly. Where online engagements are concerned, nearly a generation has evolved from the time my daughter was introduced to it to when my son similarly was!

The unprecedented rate of change in society is leaving the church behind in its wake.

I believe the social and entertainment platforms go through a generation of evolution almost once every 8-12 years. Revolutions that occur in a country are known within hours, spread through social media. An unpleasant incident on the roads is put on online platforms that very evening, garnering opinions in the hundreds within a few hours. This is a testament to the environment facilitating increased rates of change in all areas of society.

I knew a young pastor in his 20s who lamented that he already found the teens he is currently shepherding to be so different from his own upbringing. His generation was told to just follow and “go with the flow and you will learn along the way”, while the youths now are much more critical, wanting to know the “why and how” before they embarked on anything!

Differences in just 10 years result in a generation of completely different mindsets!

The unprecedented rate of change in society is leaving the church behind in its wake.

The church, invested in helping the needy, encouraging long-term life-change issues, working with busy volunteers, has not been positioned nor resourced well to respond to new people-needs and challenges that come with the rapid change.

Here are some of my reflections regarding social changes and their implications for the church, which still need to be addressed today:

Trends Implications for the church
Shift from,Church-Centric Ministry to Marketplace-Centric Ministry
  • A move to greater witness in the marketplace, “send and go for Christ” rather than “come to church and see Christ”
  • The need to find new marketplace strategies that integrate with church
  • Fewer people are committed to see church ministry as their primary arena of service, while more people see marketplace as their primary ministry
LGBTQ momentum
  • A clash of opinions of how to engage LGBTQ
  • Younger Christians want to see more acceptance, engagement, and even championing those marginalized, while older, more traditional Christians prefer to stand on principles of right and wrong
  • The church “freezing in action” as she works out these differences, leaving younger churches or more radical groups to have to find solutions for themselves
Millennial Generation
  • More “fight for cause” consciousness, leaping out at a young age for dreams and vision, yet less staying power when faced with obstacles
  • Tendency to take “gap-years” and experiment working with various organizations
  • Increase in the need to disciple people for perseverance, patience, wisdom before leaping, finding mentors for them. Yet, discovering the church may not have enough people and systems in place for such ministries
Facility and Church-Hubs (multiple churches in one place)
  • The government is opening places that locate multiple-churches, and setting rules for operating churches in industrial buildings
  • The church needs to take the call to add-value to society in terms of expressing it as a business or venture seriously to qualify for the dual-location use
  • Churches need to find their niche and excel in it so as not to compete with one another. They also need to work harmoniously together to support one another’s success within the same location
Youth / Young Adults attrition in churches
  • While this has occurred in every generation, it arguably seems starker presently due to shared stories between churches, and peer-influence and shared information over online communities
  • Churches need to take mentoring of youths and ministry to young working adults / young families more seriously or else suffer this “bleed”
This is just a partial list of social changes and implications which I wrote 5 years back, which I believe is already dated!

Furthermore, many of the changes are tied to the upbringing, education and opportunities of growing up in this new generation;

A 25-year-old who studies business and starts a café with money sponsored by parents…
An avid internet-gamer who joins an organization designing internet games…
A young person who works in an organization known for LGBTQ equality and rights…


Those above 40 today may not fully understand and identify with these examples of exposure. It simply was not their social nor educational norm. Consequently, most leaders above 40 may find it difficult to build church ministries that embody the above needs at its core.

They lack the upbringing and exposure to envisage cutting-edge ministries that can engage and reach a generation other than their own

This is also a natural thing as I believe God raises people with appropriate experience and wiring for their own generation, as He did for David. David was called to establish Israel as a nation, but not to build a Worship-Centre for God.

For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors… (Acts 13:36, NET)
I believe that the best person to lead a church into relevance for a generation is a leader from that very generation who is committed to make an impact for Christ for his/her generation!

What then can the church do to stay relevant and impactful for every generation?

There are no quick-fixes nor easy answers to this generation-spanning question, but rather it requires investments in certain directions.

1. For everyone: Hold to the belief that there are good things in every generation that must be embraced and embedded in a healthy church.

In meeting a group of young leaders, I heard a common mantra repeated: “the gospel must not change, but its forms must always change to be relevant. There are things that should be retained as a core principle, though expressions and new forms must be developed to be relevant.

As Jesus taught new and radical ideas of the Kingdom of Heaven, he said to his disciples,
“That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure chest.” (Matthew 13:52, GWT)

There are good “old things” and good “new things” and we must learn to embrace both whole-heartedly if the Kingdom of Heaven is our goal. If a familiar way of ministry is our sole goal, or the newest move of God is our sole goal, we will never build a house of God.

2. For the older leaders: recruit, invest in and disciple younger leaders who have passion to shape church to engage their generation. (This is more than a cliché…)

The top-most leaders of the church need to look for promising people with passion 15 to 20 years younger, begin to disciple them and invest in them. I know this is so commonly said that it’s almost a cliché, but it’s easier said than done. There are a few challenges that need to be surmounted in order to do this, but if it’s not done, the church may not have a future!

Some initiatives to embark upon, and challenges to navigate:

  • Identifying and mentor passionate AND healthy young leaders with a HOLISTIC view for God’s church

    I’ve seen young, passionate and gifted people invited to leadership who have made astounding differences in their service! However, as they go through challenges they have fallen along the way, get disillusioned and even distanced themselves or leave church.

    On the surface level, what they may have lacked from older leaders are proper guidance, mentoring and protection from hard knocks from older leaders. However, within themselves, they may lack a secure sense of self or a good spiritual parenting in their upbringing. These have left a gap in their hearts which they have not been able to fill, which becomes marked when going through difficult times.

    For raising young leaders for the long-term it is essential to mentor people who have a certain degree of emotional and spiritual health with a holistic view of spiritual community and God’s purposes!
  • Giving younger leaders the opportunities to make mistakes and face possible failure

    Young leaders who are serious about making a difference inevitably reach a point where they have to decide if they are able to transform their church to reach their generation. If they feel that this church “would never change sufficiently”, they would find either learn to live with it and moderate their passion, or they would go all out for their passion and may embark on a search for it elsewhere. It would be sad if young leaders remain in the church only because they moderated their passion rather than developed it fully!

    A young leader who grew up in the church and became a pastor there, once remarked that she would give her leadership in the church a few more years to discern if she can fulfil the vision of her ministry there before considering seeking a pastorate elsewhere.

    Older leaders need to give younger leaders opportunities to carve out a vision of the church for the next generation. While allowing space for them to carve out new forms of ministry, make mistakes and even fail, it is possible these new and experimental “arenas of ministry” may serve as parts of the present church to reach next generation people and could even grow to become the de-facto ministries in the future!

    Which leads me to the next thought of what older leaders can do…
  • Influencing the older members to support the younger leaders

    When new, never-seen-before ministries arise from the younger generation, changes in tradition and styles may cause consternation amongst older members. Leaders need to persuade older members to invest in the success of these new-leader-led ministries. They need to win the older members to giving new initiatives a chance, and to invest in these their “spiritual children”.

    I believe that the best person to lead a church into relevance for a generation is a leader from that very generation who is committed to make an impact for Christ for his/her generation!

    It is important for the church to reach a point where the older members genuinely love, support and want to see their younger leaders mature, succeed, and try new things for their younger generation. A mere “let’s see what they can do, we will tolerate it for a while” mindset will not give the younger generation a “home where old and new treasures are found” (Matthew 13:52). Inevitably young leaders may feel a sense of fatherlessness in their own church and seek to find a father and a home elsewhere.

    Older leaders need to disciple older members to have a genuine heart for the younger. Some may even have difficulty accepting generational changes from their own biological children, and in this regard, this could be a discipleship-growth for these older members. This may be a discipleship that have to reach into homes and families.

3. For the younger leaders: rise to fulfil God’s purpose and honour the spiritual fathers and mothers in the house

My word to younger and upcoming leaders is two-fold:

  • Courageously accept leadership within the church and make a difference.

    If God opens the door, rise and lead the church to reach your generation as best as you can! Though sometimes you may doubt if this church will evolve sufficiently to engage the current landscape, that’s when courage and faith is needed! The church needs to keep changing to engage the changing current generation, and you play a part in helping segments of the church grow in this. As they do, I believe they will have generous and open hearts for the next generation—that’s discipleship! All of us need to grow in discipleship, even our “uncles and aunties”. Appeal to them to grow with you and your generation!
  • Develop platforms that allow for the older leaders to guide you when you take-point.

    If God puts you into key leadership roles, eg. become the new Senior Pastor or key Board Leader, find ways to allow godly, older people to continually speak into your leadership even as you helm it. DON’T relegate older people to a peripheral or mere-advisory role. Allow their concerns and wisdom to guide policies in your leadership.

    The world needs a church that is this-generation-need-focused, yet time-tested-principle-founded. There will come a time when change happens so fast that core-principles will be the much-needed cry upon people’s hearts!

    A church I know has established councils of older people, selected for their godliness, their heart for younger leaders, yet of sound principles. While usually advisory, when the vote in that council is called upon and unanimous, it becomes binding on certain issues. These are carefully thought-out and creative ways to engage older, wiser and godly leaders to continue to speak into the new generation of leadership!

    There is no need to be locked in to old forms. We can evolve new structures and patterns for embodying core principles and new engagement that are important to us.

So, how can a church be relevant to our world today? The answer is already in our hands!

We need to steward the passion of the young, guiding with the wisdom of the old. More than just a cliché, we need to make investments of heart in these directions: drawing out those who are passionate and healthy, structure new governance, persuading the older generation—leaning consistently in these directions over time to raise an integrated and passionate new generation of leaders.

Spanning the generations, we can build a church focused on today, yet founded on the time-tested, a church that is relevant to the landscape, built by Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail against!
 

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan, Principal Consultant Churchlife Resources

ChurchLife Resources offers:

  • Training CG Core Teams in “Outreach & Hospitality”
  • Training All Members in “I am a Witness”
  • Equipping CG leaders to Recruit and Raise Core Teams

Contact admin@churchlife-resources to find out more.

Photo by Louis Moncouyoux on Unsplash

How Strong is the ‘Evangelism Muscle’ of your Church?

“Can it lift more than 80kg in a single feat?
Or is it well-toned and healthy enough to sustain daily lifting and carrying?”

With impending Celebration of Hope (COH) coming in May 2019, there comes a huge event that promises to transform spiritual atmosphere over our nation and win many to Christ! That excitingly huge, one – time event is one we should all leverage for reaching our unsaved loved ones! However, I submit to you that it would even be better to leverage COH to build up the “muscle of evangelistic strength” of your church/ ministry for the mid – long term so that your muscles are strong, well – toned and healthy to sustain witnessing and evangelism in daily life long even after COH.

How can you do this?

The key is consistently training for the event while progressively building up key-blocks of evangelism health.

Training for the Evangelism Event includes:

  • sending everyone for training
  • challenging everyone to look outward
  • encouraging everyone to prayer.

These are vitally important strategies to build up muscle for the event. I believe COH will provide a number of these much-needed opportunities for these in due course!

Complementing training for the event, building up key-blocks for Evangelism Health include:

  • training & identifying the gaps of evangelism life-style of your members
  • training Cell-Groups (CGs) to mobilize for outreach
  • building up the resilience for sustained outreach lifestyle
  • turning church-programs more newcomer-orientated.

Training for the event, as well as building up these health blocks will lend to a higher quotient of evangelism lifestyle for the long-term.

To benefit maximally, you should consider bringing these 2 approaches together in some way in the coming season as we prepare for COH in the coming year.

Helping with the “Gaps”

“If it is guaranteed that the first 3 persons you talk to will come to Christ, will you look for your loved ones to talk to immediately? I am sure the answer is a resounding YES!”

I submit to you that a low outreach-quotient today is not due to a lack of desire to share the gospel and win people, but rather due to a fear of rejection, a fear of not meeting the deep needs or speaking to the hearts of people they share with. If we want to help our people to sustain a natural, witnessing lifestyle, we need to identify their “gaps” and help fill it.

Some common gaps in our outreach lifestyles are:

1. HEART – our fear of rejection.

This needs to be addressed by understanding that the Holy Spirit is the initiator and our role is one of followership to God’s prompting. Our deep, heart-felt belief in this enables us to put our trust in following God’s leading.

2. SKILL – our lack of knowledge in leveraging our own God-given style.

Poor outreach quotient is sometimes exacerbated by being forced into styles of outreach which are unnatural to us.

I know someone who was petrified when asked to share the gospel on the street. He often panicked and felt so bad after such a session. Over time, he discovered what came more naturally to him: discussing questions about Christianity. He rejoiced in seeing salvations through his discussion-talks!

I believe God has given all of us an Outreach Style comprising of our: personal testimonies, the way we emphasize aspects of the gospel, the roles we prefer to play in an outreach event, the way we bring value-based conversations into our friendships.

When we discover and enhance them, we become a unique and Spirit-anointed witness, the way God meant for us to be!

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8, GWT

I like the God’s Word Translation that emphasizes how we are witnesses to testify about Jesus. Our testimony about how Jesus ministers to our life-situations is personal and unique to us!

3. DISCERNMENT – our compassion for the needs in the lives of our pre-believing loved ones.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38, NIV)

Compassion for needs was a powerful driving and sustaining force for evangelism in Jesus, and it is, too, for us. We need to teach our ministry members to discern how far / close to Christ their loved ones are on their journey, how to bring them along that journey, and what are the deep needs / blocks in their lives that our members can address. People don’t usually “jump” to Christ if they are a far-distance from salvation due to blocks in their hearts. We need to encourage our members to persevere in helping their loved ones move on the journey toward Christ and have compassion for their blocks / needs in their hearts. 

Helping with Community

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV)

Encouragement makes a significant difference in helping our ministry members sustain an outreach lifestyle. It can be discouraging when our loved ones don’t respond to or reject us when we reach out with the gospel.

We need the “spurring by others” not to give up, to keep hoping and praying for that breakthrough in our pre-believing loved ones!

For most churches and ministries, such a community is often found in the Cell-Group / Life-Group or equivalent. This is a precious community that is involved in each other’s lives. Such a community, when well mobilized, provides an accountability and encouragement for your ministry member to persevere in outreach.

Several things need to be in place to build the CG to be such a community:

  1. Reminding the group to pray with and for one another’s pre-believing loved ones.
  2. Equipping them to reach out to their CG networks by hosting CG-based events that engage the needs of the pre-believing loved ones.
  3. Positioning them to host and welcome member’s pre-believing loved ones when they visit the CG, the Weekend Service or special event.

Someone once said, “Revival is spelt W-O-R-K… work to reach out to win and disciple people!”

Sustaining the above can be a lot of work! This requires thought on how to mobilize a Core rather than just assume the CG leader can take all responsibility for it.

However, when the core and CG is mobilized, a significant core of the church is engaged in sustaining an outreaching lifestyle through encouragement and loving accountability!

It is frustrating to have shared the gospel or reached out to a friend, yet that pre-believing friend turns you down again and again. Ministering to that loved-one’s heart requires prayer as well as specialized giftedness that could speak into that need.

The pre-believing loved one may have blocks such as past bad experiences with religious people, family-marriage-parenting struggles, cognitive questions about God and suffering—a whole plethora of possible issues. The church needs to bring in specialized gifts to support the outreach efforts of our members.

About gifts nearer to home:

  • Ministering songs and testimonies in Weekend services could engage some needs
  • Relevant sermon topics or seeker sermons could engage some needs
  • Talks on parenting-marriage could engage some needs

However, this requires the church and ministry programs to be generally oriented to inviting newcomers and hosting seekers. This requires an outward-orientation of the present existing platforms of the church.

About gifts farther from home, specialized resources could include:

  • Inviting an apologetics expert to speak
  • Bringing a person with great life-change and testimony
  • Having great evangelists at the coming Celebration of Hope (May 2019)!

This requires planning for such events and helping members leverage them for reaching their pre-believing loved ones.

No matter how persevering our members are, the lack of experiencing a break-through in reaching their loved-one’s year on year will discourage them all the more as time goes by.

The church can help by bringing these specialized gifts in the hope of “changing the game” and giving a breakthrough in the outreach life of our members!

It gets discouraging and lonely when we face our pre-believing loved ones year after year with little result.

Yet, it is that same journey of believing, hoping and winning that truly captures God’s heart!

Your loved one may not be saved through today’s or this year’s outreach, but maybe next year… maybe the next outreach… maybe that next seasons is the one God would deem it the right time and prepare their hearts to receive Him.

We must not give up!
We need that support, to close the gap;
we need that community;
we need that specialized gift—that is the toned and trained muscle that sustains outreach through the ups and downs of a lifestyle of evangelism and witness.

So, how strong is your outreach-muscle?

 

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan, Principal Consultant Churchlife Resources

ChurchLife Resources offers:

  • Training CG Core Teams in “Outreach & Hospitality”
  • Training All Members in “I am a Witness”
  • Equipping CG leaders to Recruit and Raise Core Teams

Together in tandem, they will go a long way in building up the long-term muscle of the church!

Contact admin@churchlife-resources to find out more.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Chapter 5: Do Your Church Leaders Face-off?

How can we address leadership conflict within the church?

 

Jensen has been feeling disturbed for several months.  He entered with much enthusiasm to serve in the church board, but has met with a very unpleasant observation: there have been several occasions when 2 board members raised their voices strongly over disagreements! This has recurred several times over the last 7-9 months.

Repeated conflict affects the enthusiasm and morale of a church, and may impede positive change from taking place, ‘pulling back’ on church growth.  Such conflicts may erupt at the most inopportune time to distract or derail efforts for evangelism, teaching or discipleship…because at the root of this lack of unity is an element of spiritual warfare.

Factors contributing to Leadership Conflict

We all understand that leaders desire good for the church and do not set out to disagree with each other. However, intense disagreements are familiar to many churches.

  1. Insufficient time and space of heart to seek God on pressing issues
    There are often too many issues that require decisions, with too little time to make them. Lay-leaders with a full-time job may not have sufficient time to think through these issues. By the time it becomes a conflict, it is too late in the process…
  2. An unclear process of decision-making
    A desire for a more “plural” or “consensual” leadership may result in a lack of clarity over how to break deadlocks in light of opposing views and to who has the final say. By far, this is the most common problem leading to conflict in churches I have observed.
  3. A lack of understanding of spiritual authority
    There are various modes of church governance, each with their strengths and weaknesses. However, leaders in each church need to have a common understanding and whole-hearted acceptance of the authority structure in place. Without this, it is common that during stressful situations, different parties have different preferences regarding who should have more authority, which leads to confusion and conflict.
  4. Unhealthy ways of addressing conflict
    Different personalities, strong emotions and painful personal histories are elements that may result in unhealthy ways of conflict resolution. During conflict, these serve to deteriorate relationships while leaving core issues unresolved.

Helping Your Church To Navigate Through Leadership Conflict

To help our brothers & sisters–especially those in leadership roles—work through conflict, we need to understand the various values carried by different parties and educate our leadership to resolve conflict in a mature way that builds greater unity. Here are some thoughts that may aid you in your journey of navigating this ‘pull-back effect’:

  1. Highlight the impact of leadership behavior on church morale
    It is important to educate leaders regarding the profound impact their behaviour has on the morale of God’s church. Members take their cue on spiritual passion from how their leaders model and carry themselves. Many leaders forget the onus of this leadership dynamic during conflict. A poignant reminder of the impact of leadership behaviour will go a long way for the Holy Spirit to convict them to change.
  2. Teach/equip leaders on how to work with different personalities
    Our entire leadership team (staff and lay leaders) did a comprehensive personality profiling that revealed the team profile and how each person contributed to the ministry. It answered many questions on why certain team members behaved or acted in a certain manner. It showed how they made a dynamic difference to the team with their unique gifting. More importantly, uncovered areas for improvement and revealed what the team profile could be when all the different personalities worked well together.” (Rev. Keith Lai, Covenant Presbyterian Church Singapore)
  3. Champion acceptance of one another
    Conflicts may recur even after they are resolved and despite genuine forgiveness. However, if there are key-people who remind the leadership of the importance of unity and the new patterns of relationship, there is a hope that such conflicts will significantly reduce and a greater energy of serving God will flow through the board.

 

Hear what other Pastors and Leaders say

“It is important for people to deal with blind-spots, however, it begins with the leader. Leaders may not be aware of these underlying misconceptions and extreme views they carry, resulting in a habitual reaction. Humbling ourselves before others, admitting our unbalanced views and prejudices go a long way to bring a healing process.”

Rev. Keith Lai, Covenant Presbyterian Church Singapore

“I have been blessed the past nineteen years of pastoral ministry with a strong cohesion within our leadership team. This depth of relationship has allowed us to trust each other and have robust–albeit sometimes heated–discussions without deteriorating into face-offs, immature manoeuvring or posturing. There was a time when this was not so: where a mistrust and suspicion existed. This positive change has become a visible model for church members. We thank God for the deliberate time and effort invested in our relationships, and it has become the sweet-spot of our leadership team. In the long run, it is worth it!”

Pastor Beh Soo Yeong, The Bible Church

 

What Do You Think?

What other factors have contributed to the ‘walls’ built in your church? What has your church done to navigate this ‘pull -back’ effect? Share your thoughts with us, and let me know if this post has helped you!

We will be blessing 5 readers of the blog with Ps Philip’s upcoming book, so leave a comment below and we will be in touch with you!

[1] Please note that comments submitted, if helpful & edifying, may be integrated into a future book for the resourcing of churches

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!

 

Chapter 4: Are We Still Keeping People Out Of Church?

As a newcomer, John sat amongst the small group members listening to their Bible Study discussion. The conversation and friendly banter centered around the experiences they shared together in the past. While John was happy that the group had deep relationships, he felt a little left out as he could not identify with their shared, past memories.

In the many churches I’ve connected with, this is a common phenomenon: some groups are very familiar with one another and there is little effort made to genuinely connect and bond deeply with newcomers. As a result, newcomers may feel welcomed initially, but eventually still feel excluded from these well-established relationships. Unfortunately, this works against growth and such a church, while having deep relationships, may become a “church with walls” to newcomers.

What Erects these ‘Walls’ in Church?

  1. The comfort of familiar friendships
    Most of us would rather maintain a comfortable community of stable, mature and familiar friends who encourage one another. There is great inertia in welcoming new people into our friendship groups. It almost seems like “starting over” in relationships.
  2. Lifestyle patterns that lack space for newcomers
    People’s lives are already full, with church activities, family commitments and work expectations . There is very little emotional bandwidth to care for someone new. Caring is perceived as yet another task rather than a genuine desire to reach out.
  3. Lack of a conducive outreach-environment in church program
    Members receive a clarion call to reach out through 1-2 activities a year like Christmas and Easter. However, the rest of church-life is un-geared toward reaching pre-believers. For example, the church may hold on to certain traditions (e.g. liturgies, cell group structures etc.) that a newcomer find difficult to understand and appreciate naturally.

When a leader seeks to encourage the church to reach out to new people, these patterns tend to “pull-back” on such initiatives and require an entire culture-shift!

Helping Your Church To Navigate This Pull-Back Effect

How to break down the ‘walls’?
Breaking the walls require a significant change to lifestyle, family routines and stepping out of comfort zones. It requires time, patience and a move of the Holy Spirit to convict people!

Here are some practical tips:

  1. Appeal to both the heart and mind of our members
    Showcase to your members that outreach can work and is sustainable. Aim for a small, successful outreach effort (e.g. 1 Alpha group) and share the statistics and observable impact. Such efforts speak to the mind.
    To engage the heart, share testimonies of members who tried reaching out beyond their comfort zone and how it changed their lives.
  2. Identify & close the outreach skill-gap
    What are the main gaps that your congregation faces in outreach? For example, it could be not knowing how to share the gospel or how to transit conversations into spiritual things in a natural way. Whatever it is, training, encouraging and assuring people will empower them to take the steps of faith!
  3. Connecting various programs strategically to build momentum & outward-orientation
    Most people need a supportive community and resources to sustain an outreach lifestyle. Hence, linking multiple events (big and small) together to build momentum and outward-orientation is better for sustaining an outreach lifestyle than one-off outreach events.

“We took time to devote 4 months of pulpit time to teach on “loving the lost” and rebranded our Christian Education to have workshops that were targeted to move people toward outreach. We held our church anniversary by inviting a Media-Personality guest speaker for our first time…culminating in holding Christmas parties at the Cell Group level, followed by an outreach Christmas Service and Carnival! Though our people had been so comfortable with one another for a long time, we managed to help them look outward through a lifestyle of outreach through intentional programming!” (Ps. Tan Hock Cheng, Shekinah Assembly of God Church)

Conclusion

True outreach comes from a changed culture and social dynamic to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14, NLT)

Despite the differences in thinking, culture and social behavior between Jews and Gentiles, the purpose and power of Christ moved those rooted in Him to overcome the walls of culture. May his Purpose & Power move us to overcome the differences in culture, thinking, and social behavior to reach people in the community–to be a church without walls!

Hear what other Pastors and Leaders say

“When people have a truly inclusive culture and mindset, they will bring outreach into their families and marketplace, even partnering with other churches and organizations to reach people. “

Pastor Keith Lai

“The issue is no longer either fellowship (with believers) or evangelism (towards pre-believers). The real question is: Do you value those whom God value? If lost people matter to God, then they must also matter to us!”

Pastor Tan Hock Cheng

 

What Do You Think?

What other factors have contributed to the ‘walls’ built in your church? What has your church done to navigate this ‘pull -back’ effect? Share your thoughts with us, and let me know if this post has helped you!

We will be blessing 5 readers of the blog with Ps Philip’s upcoming book, so leave a comment below and we will be in touch with you!

[1] Please note that comments submitted, if helpful & edifying, may be integrated into a future book for the resourcing of churches

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!

 
 

How can a church “change it’s spots”?

What is necessary for successful cultural change in church?

 

In my 10 years of engaging with and consulting for churches, I have seen mixed results in bringing positive change to church culture. On one hand, there are difficult-to-change cultures:

  • Liturgical churches that have little relevance in connecting with youths and young adults. These communities are gradually losing this age-group because their ministries have not changed over the years.
  • Patterns of controlling leaders that bring in pastors for a season, and then step in to take over when things don’t go their way.

On the other hand, I have seen churches that have changed their culture over time:

  • Inward-looking churches that make a shift over years to engage the surrounding community, serving and reaching out to them. These churches truly become outward-looking and making the impact beyond the church walls!
  • Traditional churches that embrace the move, work and signs of the Holy Spirit, pressing on despite resistance until it becomes a norm for ministry life. Prayers of prophecy, healing and encouragement are practiced regularly for members and newcomers alike.

Reflecting upon these, I recognize that, there are 3 leadership qualities necessary for successful cultural change in churches. They are:

  1. A discerning leader
    There is a need to identify the deep issues in value-clash and navigate them. Discernment allows leaders to be sensitive and pastoral in navigation of direction. This can significantly reduce pain in the midst of confrontation.
  2. A strategic leader
    Culture is seldom shifted by any single element, but rather through the effect of several elements working in tandem. A strategic leader is like an architect building an echo-chamber that combines different elements, eg. the wall, padding, ceiling, to produce a reverberation through the hall. He discerns which ministry to build first and which to layer next so that different ministries within the church come together to create a “chamber” that sustains the voice of the new culture.
  3. A patient and persevering leader
    Most cultural changes take a long time! Similar to a rubber band being stretched, as changes are made, culture threatens to pull-back to its original shape. A leader who feels called by God must persevere for that period and “lean” consistently in the direction of change until the breakthrough comes.

So, can a church “change her spots”?

There is One who believes she can:

Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness (Isaiah 43:19)

If God believes His people can change, then I do too!

May you always hold in your heart the hope for positive change in God’s people — God’s church!

 

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!