Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why "One Church, Multiple Communities?"

Although we launched Southlands Fullerton visibly about a year ago, we are essentially 2 years into our multiple community journey. God has established the work of our hands relatively quickly. It has been hard work all around, but the Lord has been very kind to us. We find ourselves asking "Where and when next, Lord?"  These are valid and exciting questions to explore. However, it is also vital that we remind ourselves of the 'why' of "one church, multiple communities." Why did we do it in the first place and why should we carry on? I want to remind us of 5 reason why.

1) An inheritance in the Southland.

God spoke prophetically to the church through Jesse Mason in the 80's about having an inheritance in the whole region of the Southland, not just Walnut Valley. The Southland is a broad geographical term for the Greater Los Angeles Area. It is the second-largest urban region in the United States, encompassing five counties in the southern part of the California, extending from Ventura County in the west to San Bernardino County and Riverside County on the east, with Los Angeles County and Orange County in the center. This resonated so deeply with Chris Wienand when he took the leadership of the church in 1996, that he changed the name of the church from Christian Chapel to Southlands Church International - a church with an inheritance both in the Southland and in the Nations. The bottom line is, there are millions of people in the Southland who desperately need Jesus.

2) Dwelling in Diversity

As Nick Saltas has often said, the Southland is not a melting-pot, it's a TV-dinner. With over 50 cities, each one proud of its own distinct history and identity, we sensed that we would need to be willing to dwell among a diverse people in order to reach them, rather than expect them all to come to us. When John 1 tells us that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, we understand that He left the comfort of his home in heaven,  landing firmly in a particular town, with a particular culture, learning a particular language and trade. He calls us as His body to do the same. Multiple communities enable us to flesh out the timeless message of Jesus in timely ways that suit a distinct context.

3) Together we can do more

While we remain committed to planting autonomous churches, "one church,multiple communities" enable us to share resources more economically. These shared resources include a common leadership team, creative resources, staff, ministry team, administrative system, sermon series and website.  We have seen that while the sending community initially does the resourcing, the new community begins to become it's own resource as it grows in strength and new lessons about mission. It is a renewing resource to the sending community. Above and beyond this, we believe that God brings his commanded blessing on brothers who dwell in unity in a way that is greater than the sum of its parts.'

4) A Common DNA 

We are invested in building unity between different local churches in our region, honoring the diverse expressions of the Body of Christ, while at the same time carrying a conviction that there is a great need for more Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowerd communities on mission in the cities of the Southland.

5) Engaging the Priesthood.

God has entrusted us with a wealth of gifted ministers and leaders at Southlands. Multiple communities present opportunities for new people to serve and lead in new ways. In short,
we see multiplication as a most effective way of engaging the priesthood of all believers and of countering a consumer-culture - galvanizing all of God's people to live in community  on mission together, whether they go or stay. Multiple communities also afford us an opportunity to risk with less experienced leaders than would an autonomous church plant.

Let's remember the 'why' as we ask God for the when and the where!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pastor's Toolbox: Why and how we do church staff reviews.

Unless you lead a staff or are on staff at a church, I would't think this blog would interest you very much. However, if you do either of the above, this may well be a helpful resource to you. It's been almost 20 years that I've been in vocational ministry with a church. During that time, I've never had, or conducted, a formal annual review. Until this year, that is.

Why is that? Well, the 4 churches I've served have been quite diverse. They've been in 4 different cities, on 2 different continents, and have ranged in staff size from 4 to around 30. The size of the churches has ranged from 100 to around 1500 people. One common denominator  between  all 4 churches has been a commitment to what I'd call it  an organic family culture. The Bible describes the church as a family, not a corporation. This culture is severely tested as a church grows in size and complexity but I've found it worth fighting for. Although every church has to do it's due diligence when it comes to financial administration, I'm convinced that God wants a Biblical culture of family to take precedence over a pragmatic corporate culture. The Bible essentially describes leaders in the church as qualified Moms and Dads who are raising spiritual children.

The problem is though, that within an organic family culture, other Biblical cultures like stewardship tend to suffer.  Stewardship has to do with increased accountability, progress and reward. These are Jesus ideas. In a purely organic family atmosphere we can tend to be too easily satisfied; maybe even a little self-congratulatory!

It's with this in mind that I began to think of a way to do an annual review for our staff to ensure a culture of stewardship within a culture of family.  Even if we are doing well, which I think we are, we should never stop growing and learning. The Apostle Paul said to Timothy, "Let everyone see your progress." That is the why of a review.

You may call me pedantic, but for me, the how is as important as the why. So we tried to adapt a review from a few we found to fit our culture, rather than adopt one review.

We begin the review by praying, thanking God for the person being reviewed and asking for His presence in the process. Each staff member has 3 reviewers in the room; one peer, one leader, and one follower. It avoids the 'boss/employee' scenario. It is more of a family of Gospel partners.
They all have 3 questions to  answer for the person being reviewed.
1.What did the person do during the past year that was great?
2.What did they do that could go from good to great?
3. What needs real improvement?
After this, the person being reviewed has 6 simple questions to answer. (They are given in advance.)
1. What did you most enjoy about your job this past year?
2. What did you least enjoy?
3. What would you like to do more of this year?
4. What would you like to do less of?
5. What did you learn abut yourself?
6. What did you learn about the church?

Finally, everyone else leaves the room, and I am alone with the person trying to clarify any common themes for their  encouragement and improvement.  I would then add my perspective, and  also speak to the person about their annual raise. Every staff member I have spoken to has said they found it extremely helpful.
What value did it have?
1. It helps people to articulate their feelings in a prepared manner.
2. It gives people clarity on how others experience them.
3. It shows common themes for encouragement and improvement
4. It highlights any relational tensions that need to be resolved.

One last thing. I took my own medicine. I didn't only conduct the reviews. I also submitted to the review process myself, except that my reviewers included the whole elder team comprising 8 men.
It was long and hard, but on the whole clarifying and encouraging.
I will lead better because of it.
And we will serve and lead our congregation better because of it.
We only have a staff of 11 people. You don't have to be a massive church to have a review process, and you can include non-staff people as reviewers. I'm sure we will make some adjustments as we go, but I've already started to see fruit from the process.
I'd encourage you to consider doing it too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fast Day 3: "Cry out all the more!"

I got a Voxer* message last night from  our friend PJ Smythe,*  in South Africa. He had been praying for our church, knowing that we were fasting this week, and wanted to encourage us to ask great things of God. What an encouragement to know that we have partners in the Gospel around the world who are routing for us, and seeking God on our behalf, even as we seek Him. PJ read from Luke 18: 35-43.

Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 

He gave us two powerful encouragements from this passage. Firstly, he felt God wanted to encourage us to cry out all the more to Him for our cities, for our nation and the nations of the world. We are not to allow people or circumstances to rebuke us from asking in simple faith. Also, He reminded us that Jesus asks the blind man, What do you want me to do for you?" He reminded us that Jesus is inviting us to let Him know what we want Him to do for us. He is willing, He is attentive, and He is able.

Let's cry out all the more to Him for people who are in desperate need of healing, like the blind man. This may include children who are far from God, broken marriages and families, people caught in cycles of addiction, and people suffering from illness.

Let's cry out all the more to Him  for our Mercy and Justice initiatives; our partner orphanages in Mexico, our work against sex trafficking, our Safe Families and Adoption initiatives, and work with the poor and the homeless. Let's ask for Jesus' powerful intervention and provision.

Let's cry out all the more to Him for our 3 in 3 vision. We are trusting God to be able to plant one more multisite in OC, one church plant in North America, and one plant into world A* in 3 years.
We are gaining clarity on the next city into which to plant, but we are needing God's confirmation and timing.

Finally, let's cry out all the more for some partner churches who stand in need of a miracle at this time. Thu Thiem Community in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam for a leader, Cornerstone Church in Newcastle, UK for a visa, and Sheshi and Trudy Kiniki who lead God's Tribe Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for Gospel traction!

I know it's the last day, but let's continue to ask great things of a great God.
"Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with you bring."
 See you at 6:30 tonight for the feast!

*Voxer - a cool walkie-talkie app
*PJ Smythe leads Advance, the movement of churches with which Southlands partners.
*World A refers to nations that are either unreached by or resistant to the Gospel.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fast Day 2: The Fuel for Mission's Flame

The first night of our fast was a sacred mix of worship, prayer, confession and a fire pit! There was an amazing sense of closure  with hundreds repenting and trusting Jesus for freedom as they threw their written confessions into the fire. Many stayed long  after the gathering had officially closed, enjoying  God's presence and pouring out their praise.  I enjoyed talking to numerous people who were fasting for the first time in their lives. We've never had so many people come out for the first night of a fast. God is stirring His people to worship and pray. Many are encountering Him in wonderful ways.

Scripture often places worship and commission side-by-side. God encounters  His people as they worship. He changes them, and commissions them with fresh vigor. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he had a coal touch his lips, and he heard the Lord ask, "Whom shall I send, who will go for us?" His response was, "Here I am send me."

Worship is the fuel for mission's flame. It is also the motive for our mission.We do mission because our desire is for God to be worshipped by every nation, tribe and tongue. Today as we continue to seek God, let's turn our hearts towards mission. Our mission as a church is to glorify the Father in the power of the Spirit by proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus. 

We are all on mission together. Every believer is a disciplemaker! We all acknowledge that we are unable to fulfill this mission without the power of the Spirit. This is the primary reason we come together to pray. We love the way God meets with us, heals us and sets us free, but we are mindful that a great prayer meeting is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The desired end of the prayer meeting is for us to be made bold for mission. (Acts 1:8)

We acknowledge that there are 2 halves to the Great Commission to make disciples of Jesus. The 1st half is discipling people towards faith in Christ. "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them..." I encourage you to write down one or two names of people who fall into this category. They may be in your work place, friendship circle or family.  They are like Zaccheus in the Gospels. They may be interested in Jesus, but they need to be intentionally drawn into your life, engaged relationally and challenged lovingly towards faith in Jesus. Who is your Zaccheus? Name them and pray for boldness and opportunity with them. Lets pray that God would remove timidity and apathy from us when it comes to Gospel witness.

The 2nd half  are those people who are already believers, who need to be discipled in obedience to Jesus. "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey all I have commanded." They may include your children, someone you are mentoring, someone you are training up as a ministry apprentice, or people under your leadership care. Who is your Peter? That promising apprentice that you are walking closely with? Pray for them, for growth in their  maturity and ministry.  Who is your Mary, Martha and Lazarus? That small circle of friends that you most enjoy spending time with. Pray that you would spur each other on to follow Jesus, and that your friendships would be honest, God-honoring, disciple-making friendships. Parents, pray especially for the Spirit's help in discipling your children.

Making disciples is not rocket science. It's a simple mission, doing life with a few people intentionally, like Jesus did during His life on earth. But it's not easy. We need the Spirit's power to do the Lord's work, the Lord's way. Which is why we fast and pray. See you at 6:30 tonight.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fast Day 1: If My People.

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:12-14

In 1990 I was part of a Youth for Christ team sent to preach the Gospel in Kenya. The problem was that South Africans weren't allowed entry into that country at the time because of Apartheid, which had not yet ended. We had written to the Kenyan government for special permission to travel, and had bought our plane tickets in faith that we would receive permission. Three days before departure we had still heard nothing, so we got desperate and began fasting.  I remember our team leader gathering us on the day we were to depart and said, "We still don't have permission, but go home and pack your bags and let's meet at the airport this afternoon." I thought he was crazy but went home and packed anyway. Some time between going home to pack and arriving at the airport our team leader received a facsimile letter signed by Jomo Kenyata, the president of Kenya, giving us special permission to enter his country. It was an 11th hour miracle, and I remember staring at that letter and thinking, "Prayer and fasting really works."

This passage is such a common prayer and fasting one that I have tended to avoid it from fear that it may have been overworked. The last few days though, I haven't been able to get it out of my head and heart. In it, God is speaking to a king, and I want us to be reminded that though prayer and fasting begins with us personally, the God we seek is the God who can turn the hearts of kings.

After the temple was completed under King Solomon's watch, the Lord appeared to Solomon and gave him an unconditional promise and a conditional promise.  The unconditional promise was that the He had chosen to dwell amongst His people in the temple. The conditional  promise was that He would hear them, forgive them and heal their land if they humbled themselves, prayed, sought his face and turned from their sin.

Let's allow this passage to shape our prayer today.

a.The Bible tells us that through Jesus' finished work on the cross, we ourselves are a temple of the Holy Spirit. In Him you also are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Eph 2:20
God has chosen to take up residence in us by His Spirit. He has called us by His name. We cannot earn His presence. He has been given as a gift by Jesus. It is an unconditional promise. As we begin our fast today, spend time thanking God for the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Ask Him for a clear sense of his presence and leading as you seek God these next few days.

b. However, there is also a conditional promise. "If my people....then I will."Today let's take the posture of this passage. Let's humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways rather than pointing out everyone else wicked ways.  Lets take some time to repent of our sin. Lets repent of the things that we have come to rely upon more than God, the things that have become our crutch, and lean afresh on GodI especially encourage us to put aside media that interrupts our connection with God. It may be Facebook, Instagram, ps3 or ESPN. Let's put aside our media crutches as we seek GodGod's promise is that as we do this, He will hear us, forgive us and heal us.

c. Not only will He heal us, but he promises to heal our land. Take some time to pray for our county, our state and our nation today. Pray that God would heal our land.

See you tonight at 630pm.