Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ministry Engines (and the Starter Switch)

Tony Morgan highlights some insights from Jud Wilhite of Las Vegas' Central Christian Church.

Something that jumped out at me was this:
Jud indicated for their church it means simplifying their ministry programming to focus on weekends, groups and serving. That's it. They've tried to eliminate anything else that might compete with these primary ways that people take their next steps toward Christ.

It jumped out at me, because this was the original intention I proposed pursuing with Element, our church's ministry to college students and young professionals. We wanted to orient the ministry more in terms of community, not merely in terms of programming, and in fact, when I was asked about my interest in teaching for it, that was one thing I sort of made my involvement contingent upon -- that it not be just a service or just an event, but an attempt at building community, and thereby providing for our demographic an introduction to and bridge into the greater church community. Any other program, in my mind, would likely only forestall the exodus of young people out of the life of the church another four years or so. I didn't want to be a holding tank for people who'd still leave, but a growing tank for people to grow up into the life of multigenerational Christian community.

So what I proposed were three "tent pegs," so to speak:
- continuing and multiplying the small group structure we already had for the purpose of relationships and in-depth Bible study
- service projects
- a worship service that would serve as both a "front door" for people interested in checking Element out and a place for the entire community to gather to worship together

That structure was entirely based on my assumption of what might work. I am happy to see Wilhite basically promoting the same three tent pegs as the one focus of his ministry's approach to growth. Of course, other factors have to be considered also. The DNA of a ministry community is not just made up of what it attempts to do, but who is attempting to do it, how much available time they have, how engaged those entering in want to be or can be, the prevailing cultural climate of the city or community or church, etc.

Dan Edelen asks today how discipleship is done.

I don't think there's just one answer, but when I look at Scripture I see a few things standing out mostly. They boil down to "abiding in Christ," but practically they appear to involve loving and serving in community, studying and worshiping in community.
In that sense, "sermons don't disciple," as Dan states elsewhere, is true, but then, I don't really see anyone claiming sermons are all that is needed for anyone to be discipled. But in the context of a worshiping, serving, studying, and loving community, a proclamation of the Scriptures can be a motivating and edifying steering of the ship toward greater revelry in the glory of God. The community needs someone proclaiming the Gospel into it as regularly as possible, just as it needs everyone in it to be living the Gospel into it as regularly as possible.

The proclaimed gospel can be the starter that sparks the three engines of worship, service, and community.

But of course nothing works without the Spirit's empowering presence.