Stephen Matthew has become a friend whose wisdom I appreciate greatly, he has been very generous with his time and encouragement, mentoring me individually through numerous conversations over in Bradford and also coming across to meet with some of our leaders at Ivy recently as we prayed and planned into our future. He is a surveyor by background and combines theological acumen, practical skills and a pastoral heart through 25 years of ministry to be a man with a brain worth picking for anyone who wants to build a prevailing church. Here’s my notes on his talk at the ALC Network day this week:
There are only two kinds of churches:
- The church everybody wants to build (It’s there in Acts 2, and the ideal church, it inspires us).
- The church God wants you to build.
If you try and copy the church ‘out there’ you’ll always fail.
God wants to speak to YOU about YOUR people and place. It’s always bespoke.
You work the process and start to build from scratch or reinvent what’s been built so far.
What comes next carries challenges. When people get involved. People present challenges! You hit the barriers, you get frustrated by money etc. How to sustain momentum?
One Pastor he knew, got a very excited small team around him and for two years planned to change everything. Expected eager embracing of the whole thing. It didn’t happen. Why? Well it had taken two years for him to get excited about it. It would take a while for the people to get there too!
Church building is not linear – it’s CYCLICAL.
You don’t do one bit then it’s done, then do the next bit. One thing leads to the next. There is nothing in the church building process that you change which stays the same. You have to keep spinning these plates. Every church has a building CYCLE. 8 things:
1. Communicate Clear Vision – Consistently
Tell them again and again and in various ways what kind of church you’re going to be. Through music, posters, message. Proverbs 29:18.
2. Change – in line with the Vision
This tests their trust in you. Will you DO IT? If you’ve talked about it, you have to do some things about it. It shows you’re serious about it. Appoint new ministries etc. Start something.
3. Use the Power of a Good Report
Because some will love the change and some will hate it, and if you don’t take hold of it, the negative report will always win out. Use testimony and good report – of lives being changed. Eventually the good will overwhelm the bad.
4. Model the Culture
People have to see it in me as the leader. I have to be devoted, if we’re going to ‘devote ourselves.’ If we’re going to reach the new culture I have to look like the church we’re going to build. ‘Set and example as a leader
5. Regularly call for the spirit of Agreement
This usually looks like turning up. I agree – because I’m going to sign up for that and be there to help. What triggered Nehemiah to build? What he felt. He felt what God felt for the ruins of his city. We have to call people to feel it too, then pull together. Invite this agreement.
6. Call for SPECIFIC Involvement.
Because some people will lavish words of agreement on you – but it’s all words. They need eyeballing and saying, ‘We need you – HERE. Have you ever considered being involved here?’ You have to call for involvement. Get proactive in speaking to them, calling forth that involvement. Let them know how to get involved. They should increasingly feel involved, the model is that it’s all hands on deck – ‘So how do I get involved?’ Nehemiah ended up with shopkeepers and goldsmiths and priests building with him. But they all FELT IT and made the decision to build right where they are. Put a ministry fair on, with desks and stalls – and get the healthy competition going to get more people involved in something they will love that will benefit the Kingdom.
7. Celebrate their Contribution
We only survive because of our volunteer army. Honour and celebrate the volunteers. Hybels says this positive volunteer cameraderie never happens by accident. How do you foster it? FEED them. Get them a drink. Volunteers get a sandwich. Have a volunteer party and thank and celebrate them. Depts put forward their ‘volunteer of the year.’ Usually someone hardly anyone has ever heard of.
8. Keep the Prize before their Eyes
Why are you doing this? Because it affects this... When they were building, Nehemiah had the trumpet blower at his side so if they were getting spread out they could be rallied together. Which gets you back to the top of the circle again.
When you don’t do any of this – things slow down.
What do you need to do more of in your church to keep the wheel turning?
Final observation – this needs to happen in every department of the church. For it to happen anywhere in the church it has to happen everywhere in the church. Every leader, every department. It’s not just about what comes from the platform on a Sunday.