Tapping Ministry Resources from the Entire Church Body.

I became a member at Trinity Church shortly after they moved from a campus in East Lansing to a larger location on the city’s south side. The congregation had outgrown their prior facility, and with no available undeveloped land at their suburban setting, the congregation purchased land, built a new building, and relocated. Church growth and relocation is not in itself noteworthy. What makes Trinity’s move unique is that they successfully completed this major upheaval without the leadership of a head pastor.

As discussed prior, Trinity has a spiritually strong congregation, which is built on an equally strong foundation provided from two large governing bodies: elders and deacons respectively. Because the church is filled with spiritually, relationally, and emotionally maturing believers, the monumental tasks associated with this kind of change occurred smoothly, and with minimal disruption of the church’s ministry activity.

In my interview with Jeff Schneider, he related that a small staff of elders stepped forward to engage the process, and shepherd the rest of the leaders in this direction. Anyone associated with a church building project knows the importance of strong leadership. Yet, rather than relying on a single person, Trinity church’s strength comes from an Eph. 4 view of church life and leadership.

Eph 4.2-13 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

God’s model for ministry and church life is that each believer should be raised up to engage their own spiritual gifts. When each of us accepts this charge, and a church leaders empower and equip believers to live according to his model, the church grows strong, and we move, as described in Ephesians, toward unity in the faith, maturity, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

What makes Trinity’s church relocation noteworthy in my book is that the peaceful and successful outcome is evidence of the spiritually mature congregation, which itself grew from a biblical model of discipleship –  decentralized leadership,  and a community, or body ministry paradigm. Jeff was more humble when he described the events. “It was a God thing.”

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Beyond the Walls: Connecting to ALL who Contact your Church.

trinity-daig1

Trinity church has borrowed a ministry model from Rick Warren’s Church in Saddleback CA. The diagram below illustrates how Trinity leadership views their place in their community. The diagram also creates a model the church applies in order to create disciple building movement within the congregation. The five concentric circles represent the spiritual condition of every person whom Trinity church contacts.

1. The outer circle is the general community at large, and specifically those within driving distance of the church building. Trinity Church views itself as a change agent, responsible to reach into the community. They purposely build relationships and sponsor connection events which would attract members of the community to Trinity.

2. The crowd is a subset of the community, and is made up of any person who comes to an event or weekend service at Trinity. They have made a step toward becoming involved. They may or may not have made the decision to make Jesus Lord of their lives. Nonetheless, they are regularly coming, and depending on Trinity to move them forward in their spiritual journey.

3. The congregation is made up of those who not only attend Trinity on a regular basis, but also have made Trinity their church home. This group may, or may not be involved in ministry events, yet they have completed steps for formal membership.

4. The committed are those who are connected, and involved in the ministry of Trinity Church. These Trinity members seek to learn about and become equipped to use their spiritual gifts in ministry.

5. At the church’s core are those who have completed the church’s spiritual formation classes, and are actively using their own spiritual gifts in ministry. They are serving in some aspect of church ministry and are committed to their own spiritual growth, and that of those within their own sphere of influence.

This model has helped Trinity shape the programs within the organization to address the complete range of spiritual needs of those the ministry contacts. The fruit of this model is that Trinity is a growing, spiritually healthy church, aware and seeking to meet the spiritual needs all those they encounter.

How often have you encountered a church focused on growth of the congregation and committed? How many months can go by without any new commitments to Jesus Christ occurring? How many opportunities will they miss to connect with those who are investigating Christ’s claims?

The same question can be asked about a church that focuses too narrowly on the community and the crowd. A church can be tunnel visioned on meeting the seeker – skeptic in their midst that the gospel become weakened, and those committed or at the core are not challenged to take up Jesus’ call to holiness, or personal obedience to the Gospel.

Trinity Church intentionally allocates resources on developing programs, events and tools which are designed to meet individuals’ needs across the entire spectrum. As spiritual needs are met, individuals find the encouragement, instruction, support and loving, quiet expectation that they can move from one circle to the next. The ministry paradigm, from the pulpit to the children’s church, is focused on this same goal.

A Personal Mega-Church

By the numbers, Trinity Church in Lansing, Mi would be considered a ‘Mega-church.’ With 3 services each weekend, an average 2700 adults attend pulling behind them 500 to 700 children.  However, if you were standing on the balcony between services, you would experience a unique culture within the congregation.  A large atrium stretches across the back of the auditorium, with light flooding in from a three story window wall. Before, after and between services, Trinity member and guests pause over coffee to genuinely partake of each other’s lives.  The attendance numbers haven’t pushed aside real relationships, genuine caring, and time taken to build lasting friendships.

Trinity started in 1952 as a home fellowship.  Students and adults associated with Michigan State University wanted a personal, relationally connected church fellowship. The congregation is still strongly composed of professionals from the East Lansing university and business community. However, since moving to Lansing’s south side, the congregation has grown in numbers, and diversity.

For the next couple weeks I will be highlighting Lansing Trinity for this reason: although the numbers are large, the relationships are intimate and those at the church’s core continually reach outward.  While a member there, I couldn’t walk through the atrium without a number of genuine friends finding me, and asking meaningful questions.  So often I hear/read complaints about how larger churches loose the personal touch.  Trinity is an exception.  As such, those of us in ministry can learn from their spiritual, relational, and community successes.

I spoke with the Director of Connection ministries, Jeff Schneider, and asked about this personal and genuine organizational culture that is at Trinity’s core.  As we discussed what the church practiced in the way of supporting practices, Jeff told me that 70% – 75% of the congregation is regularly involved in small group communities.  Most meet in homes during the week, and gather multiple times a month, with a few meeting in the church building

I asked Jeff to what he attributed this high percentage of small groups.  He replied these three points:

1.    The church leadership models small groups.  The church leadership, from the head pastor to children’s church teachers are committed to “doing life together.”
2.    Small group ministry as a model for Christian growth is supported from the pulpit.  Christian growth and disciple building is understood and taught as necessary fruit in a Christian’s life. Small groups are a consistent vehicle to bring about that deep, abiding growth.
3.   Each year, the church holds 2 connection events. In the worship program each week is an opportunity to indicate interest in small groups for the outgoing. What Trinity has found more effective is biannual connection events. Jeff related that face to face events, where those who are not involved in small groups can meet leaders and build relational bridges, are the most effective means to get a new person to take the risk of engaging deliberate Christian community.

Read more about Trinity Church, Lansing Michigan here.

Business Management, Organizational Culture and the Christian Church Connection

Allow me to back up a few steps before launching the next series of articles and reinforce the foundation for this blog.  Paul said “Let no man lay another foundation other than that which has been laid, which is Christ.” (1 Cor 3.11)  So I want to ensure readers that as I venture into discussions of organizational culture and business management theory, I haven’t departed from the foundation, which is Christ in you, and our responsibility to bring and live Christ to the world.

Our only foundation is Christ. He is the Word of God and the Truth, attributes which never change.  I believe that as we apply God’s word to life, we not only find the truth in spiritual reality, but also in cultural reality, relational reality, personality reality.  I believe that God wrote the instruction manual on how to get to heaven and also how to live an abundant, fulfilling life in every arena.

So, when I read Tom Peters discussion about thinking outside the box, I relate recall Jesus use of parables (approaching spiritual issues from a different point of view) in order to make an impact on his listeners.  When I listen to Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale and my favorite motivational speaker Brian Tracy, discuss changing your life by changing your thoughts, I remember Paul’s principle from scripture. In 1 Thessalonians the church is encouraged to “think on these things, whatsoever is lovely, praiseworthy, of good report” and the peace of God will keep your hearts and mind in Christ.

I could continue, and quote Covey, Canfield, Dyer, and more.  Instead I will get to the point.  Principles that have transforming power, and positively affect individuals and organizations in the world often (most often) have roots in the Truth of God’s Word.  Truth that affects individuals in the work place through positive relationships is often truth proceeds from God’s Word.  Inversely, when we find principles that are genuinely transforming businesses, relationships and organizations in the marketplace, they are often based on God’s word and can successfully be applied to the community which is the Church, and the organization which is the local church in order to bring positive Christ-centered transformation.

I realize that what I just wrote may be considered as heresy by some Christian purists.  Let me assure you, I am a fundamentalist as I read God’s word.  I believe all of God’s Word applies to us. As believers we must accept the authority of scripture in personal application if we are to live up to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  At the same time, I have learned to find God’s Truth, living examples of the truth of his Word, in the world around us, and sometimes unknowingly taught in the odd places.

In conclusion, as you read the next weeks’ posts, the focus is Christ.  When I highlight a church, and what they are doing to become a prevailing, transformational presence in their community, the purpose of the article is not to duplicate that church. Rather, the focus is how this church applies God’s Truth, and what of their living example of God’s word can apply to your church, ministry, or organization.

Paul chided the Corinthian’s regarding their desire to affiliate themselves with a local pastor, or apostle.  “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos.” (1 Cor 3.1-16) So as I highlight the Reveal study from Willow Resources or any of 4 churches over the next month, the purpose is Christ.  The Focus is Christ.

The thesis question is “How can you and I be more like Christ, and create the Church for which He calls us?  Others are doing ‘XYZ’ and seeing God move in their midst. What can I learn from God and from those who are succeeding at that which I seek to accomplish?”