Who asks the questions?
Over the years, I have been greatly influenced in my thinking by Lyle E. Schaller, revered by many as the “dean” of church consultants. One of the things that has especially impres-sed me is his framing of questions. A basic philosophy of Schaller is that you have to ask the right questions to find out the right questions to ask.
This is all the more important when trying to help churches reverse decline, or break free from a plateau. Without asking the right questions to find the right questions to ask, it is easy to get caught-up in putting “band-aids” on symptoms, instead of tracing those symptoms back to their root cause and addressing that issue.
The flip side of the coin, as it were, is asking the appropriate question of the right person.
I am currently enjoying a book by Elmer Towns and Warren Bird, entitled Into The Future…Turning Today’s Church Trends Into Tomorrow’s Opportunities. It is a fascinating commentary tracking 14 emerging trends and exploring how effective churches of today are responding to those trends.
Do you ever find your train of thought interrupted when, in reading a book, one particular phrase or comment captures your attention and forces you to stop reading in order to investigate that thought further? This is happening to me, with almost every page I turn in this book. In this article, I want to explore one specific question that it suggests has, for years, been asked by the laity of their leader, “How can I help you with the ministry?”
That question is being turned around in growing congregations so that the leader is asking of his people, “How can I help you in your ministry?” It reflects the emphasis placed on releasing lay people to the ministry for which God has fitted them, and releasing the leader to do his primary job… training and releasing his people to their ministry.
It’s almost paradoxical that ministry is focused on winning people to the Kingdom, and the means of doing that is the people won. Booth recognized this and insisted on it in our early days. If we saw this today in actuality, surely the fruit of such endeavor would be an exponential increase in the number of people being won and discipled.
Most Christians, truly concerned about winning the lost, are already aware that the number one reason most people attend church for the first time is because a friend, relative or acquaintance invited them. In my working with corps, one-on-one, this is consistently affirmed.
Now, consider that most members of the congregation probably know 6-8 people who live locally but do not attend church. If they were to invite those friends, think of the potential for the kingdom. A congregation of fifty, for example, collectively knows 300-400 unchurched people in their community! And those 300-400, if won, collectively know 1500-2400 people!! Each person known or knowable by name and (whether they know it or not) already linked to the church through people they know. Exponential possibilities indeed.
Releasing the laity to ministry holds the potential for “kingdom fruit” way beyond our imagination. And each member is already gifted, by God, in special ways for a unique ministry.
That begs a question…
If we really want to get serious about winning the lost, don’t we need to put less emphasis on getting warm bodies for existing programs, and much more on empowering and releasing our people to ministry?