Tag Archives: prayer

Nahum: a study guide – sort of.

My bible study group was foolish kind enough to allow me to lead two sessions on the book of Nahum. Rather than focus on the detail, I chose to use the opportunity first to engage with the material as a whole, getting us to read through the whole of the book as a dramatic reading in four voices twice, with a chance to begin to react in general, but seeking to avoid looking too much at the precise detail.

For the second week I allowed the book to trigger a couple of questions:

1) The Old Testament clearly presents a God who actively punishes in the here and now. How many examples of this can you find in the New Testament? (I’m ignoring the depths of Revelation – after chapter 3 – to avoid that swamp on this occasion).

a) Immediate, direct, ‘in your face’.

Luke 1:5f Zechariah struck dumb for refusing to believe Gabriel’s promise of a son for him and his wife

Acts 5:1f Ananias and Sapphira fall dead for lying to the church

Acts 12:20f Herod struck by an angel and eaten by worms until he dies.

Acts 13:6f Elymas struck blind for opposing Paul’s teaching before the provincial governor.

b) Warnings about what may happen or has happened to individuals

1 Corinthians 11:30f People are ill or even have died because they failed to ‘discern the body’ in the Lord’s supper.

Hebrews 12:5 God disciplines us as a father does his children.

Revelation 2:20f A false prophet and her children are warned of impending illness and death because of their teachings.

c) ‘Area effects’ reminiscent of the Old Testament

Luke 10:13 ‘Woe to Chorazim’ and elsewhere. In Jesus’ time these were thriving towns; now they are small or all but lost to history

Mt 23:36f Reading across the chapter divide into 24, it’s clear that Jesus is warning Jerusalem of its fate (in AD 70) as a result of its failure to respond to him.

d) A contra indication that we need to hear

Luke 9:51f sees James and John propose the destruction by fire from heaven of a Samaritan town that had refused them hospitality. Jesus rebukes them: ‘“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (though it’s interesting to note that the words are not accepted as part of the text)

2) Nahum offers us a poetic description of a theophany – a revealing of God’s power, but it’s not literal. What examples does the Old Testament offer of God being revealed in power:

Job 37: It’s not quite clear when the speaker turns from a theoretical discussion of God’s power to a description of what he’s now seeing – a powerful storm – from which God then speaks to Job in the subsequent chapters.

Exodus 19 God descends on Mount Sinai with smoke, earthquakes and a loud trumpet.

Exodus 33 Moses only gets to see God from behind.

2 Chronicles 5:14 and 7:1f The glory of God descends and makes it impossible to enter the temple.

1 Kings 19:12 Elijah’s still small voice. This is the favourite of those who are uncomfortable with the blatant displays of power elsewhere, but we need to note the phrasing carefully:

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.’

Even in this encounter, the presence of God is overwhelmingly powerful, but for Elijah the conversation starts when he hears a ‘low whisper’. God is gracious to us and will address us in a way that suits us, but don’t assume that’s the only way he operates!

Some serious stuff here; on the whole we tend to prefer a more comfortable version of God! Please feel free to add to the examples I’ve given in the comments section.

 

The Reshaping of Britain

Clifford Hill The Reshaping of Britain (London: Wilberforce Publications 2018)

[This is my review, of the book I have summarised at length here]

Hill’s book is a personal reflection, containing much first hand reporting. Hill was well placed at the heart of the political and spiritual changed and was accepted by many because of a lack of denominational label he was a Congregationalist, and refused to join the URC when it formed in the 70s, leaving him largely unaligned in practice. Hill enjoyed personal friendships beyond his official status with many of the leading players.

After 10 years of ministry in a large eclectic suburban congregation, they moved, at the beginning of the 70s to the East End, looking to develop concepts of ‘community based evangelism’ and ‘community development’. The book starts here, with his challenges at that church. He then progresses via his abortive attempt to head up the Archbishop Donald Coggan’s National Initiative on Evangelism in the late 70s– which he shows was torpedoed by the liberal establishment – via being Evangelism Secretary for the Evangelical Alliance, which he resigned from when they insisted on old style stadium evangelism – with Luis Palau and Billy Graham in 1984 instead of his community centred – to being Editor of ‘Prophecy Today’.

Prophet?

Hill declines the label ‘prophet’, because he sees the Hebrew prophets as ministering to a nation in a covenant relationship with God, although Jonah’s ministry is to the Gentiles, the term is used in the New Testament for Christians, and there’s a sense in which there IS a covenant between God and the UK, reflected in the Coronation Service. But I accept his point, as it probably helps avoid fights that aren’t worth having. Instead Hill uses the term ‘exercising a prophetic ministry’ and ‘being a watchman’: seeking to identify significant issues and events. Hill is unclear how far this is all from his sociology training and how far from revelation. I suspect it’s probably a mistake to get too hung up on the issue!

He was instrumental in the Carmel gathering of 1986 (of 153 international leaders) which led to prophetic warnings about shaking of the nations and the prospect of no revival without radical repentance by the church. These prophecies were powerfully fulfilled in the fall of the Soviet Union, and the various subsequent economic upheavals around the world, but the degree of shaking experienced by the rich West has been fairly minimal so far. One of Hill’s challenges is to beware praying for protection for our nations from what God wants to do; it seems likely that only severe shaking seems likely to bring revival.

Holding ‘prophets’ accountable

Resistance to the persistent hopes of revival is a theme in the book. He was amongst those unimpressed by the promises of revival focused on October 1990, when many anticipated it starting at a meeting at the Excel centre led by John Wimber. He regards the failure to admit to the error was typical of the English unwillingness to confront difficult issues, with the result that lessons are not learnt, and flawed ministries are not ended. In this context he is largely sceptical of the Toronto blessing, pointing out that it has resulted in few conversions, and some of the manifestations were highly dubious. Then and subsequently his emphasis is on testing: we are told to test everything; the propensity of some of ‘Toronto’s’ leaders to reject such testing is therefore a substantial error.

Archbishops

He is highly critical of Runcie’s period as Archbishop, being especially disdainful of his attempt to dismiss the possibility of the York Minster thunderbolt being an act of God. Carey is similarly critiqued; his last minute withdrawal from preaching at the 150th anniversary celebrations at Christchurch, Jerusalem, the home of a substantial Messianic Jewish congregation which is a challenge for the Arab dominated diocese of Jerusalem, is especially commented on. By contrast he was very impressed by Rowan Williams, whom he met, and prophesied over before his appointment to Canterbury, announcing it to him. A strong but difficult friendship ensued; in retrospect Hill feels that he was seeking to get Williams to fulfil Hill’s vision for the job. Williams was not equipped to communicate with ordinary people, but in his material there is much that is orthodox; for example ”At the centre of things, the Scriptures provide the first test of unity and coherence, to which all else is brought to be judged’. Yet Hill slides over William’s earlier support for Christian gay relationships, though noting he did resist the appointment of Jeffrey John as a bishop. Hill’s positive attitude to Williams alienated him from many Evangelicals, and he was eased out of any involvement with Prophecy Today after his retirement as a result.

He interprets Welby’s call for an ‘inclusive church’ to be code for an acceptance of gay sexuality. I suspect this is premature; we shall see.

God judging today

He is willing to ascribe certain events to God’s judgement; the death of two of those most opposed to his involvement with Donald Coggan’s initiative, as well as David Cameron’s being forced from office, which he puts down to his support for gay marriage. I’m always sceptical of such claims; the role of the prophet is to warn beforehand, not claim correlations afterwards. By contrast I’m encouraged to hear someone else who is sceptical of the modern tendency of Christians to address the Holy Spirit directly, a practice that has no biblical basis, and fails to respect the Spirit’s role in pointing to Jesus rather than Himself.

Social trends

As a trained Sociologist – he lectured in the subject at the the LSE for some years – he writes much about the substantial changes in British society in four areas, cultural, sexual, spiritual and political. In the cultural the music and acceptability of overtly sexual themes, as well as overt pornography, has revolutionised the scene. In the sexual, the taboo on single parenthood has disappeared, and homosexuality is normalised. Spiritually, Christianity has been marginalised, whilst ‘New Age’ and other religions are mainstream, with some churches seemingly happier with anything but Christianity at times. Politically the traditional certainties of ‘left v right’ within a secure framework has been replaced by popularism of right and left.

He comments that no society has ever seen such radical shifting of its foundations in such a short period, and he argues that the present explosion of crime and mental illness is a function of this in general, and specifically the collapse of the traditional family, which is vital for ‘the socialisation of children, so that they can truly become members of the society into which they have been born [and] the stabilisation of the adult personalities of the society.’ Unfortunately the commitment to ‘equality’ means that this ‘inconvenient truth’ is one that most politicians are unwilling to accept. Therefore the church must speak the truth clearly, and model good practice, whilst recognising its historic role in, in practice, endorsing homophobia and domestic violence.

Homosexuality

He is legitimately critical of the confusion in the church on the subject. However his repeated use of the ambition of the Gay Liberation Front: ‘We must aim at the abolition of the family, so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there’ to assert that this is the aim of all gay activists is flawed. Similarly his claim that life expectancy among gay people is far less reflects inadequate reporting of older people dying without such a distinction being drawn. Yet his pointing to the campaign of ‘Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools’, which ‘uses heart warming stories to indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality and gender transition, makes a valid. We must ensure we get our facts solid.

Brexit

‘Brexit was an expression of people’s anger at the greed of the elite, as well as the collapse of traditional sources of prosperity. It was also because of Christians prayers to reveal the secular humanist forces of darkness driving the EU towards destruction.’ Perhaps; certainly the chaos engendered by the process since the book was published is part of the shaking of the nation! Perhaps separation from the EU would allow us to chart a Christian course more easily, and being outside would make its collapse less painful. As someone who has believed since the morning after the Referendum that Brexit would never actually happen, I struggle to be objective in the debate!

Conclusion

Remarkably he is now hopeful: Hill records that in summer 2018 he finally heard God talk about revival; ‘in the midst of the disruption of the church, social breakdown and Brexit chaos; the pieces fell into place: we’re getting desperate, we’re close to the brink, the conditions are there to fulfil the Carmel prediction: “In the midst of these judgements multitudes upon multitudes will be saved”, a prophecy that also predicted that Israel’s hardening will be melted.’ Eighteen months on it’s hard to see much that seems to offer comfortable hopes; perhaps we need to hear this as a warning that far worse things are ahead – but to see such events as being a prelude to substantial revival.

Certainly this is a challenging book that offers a far broader perspective than we usually have. ‘Remember then from what you have fallen, repent’ (Rev 2) is the primary take away. We must seek to ‘hold firm to what [we] have until I come’, being willing to be unpopular because we declare views that are unfashionable and ‘politically incorrect’. We need to be more willing to test and challenge false prophecies and teaching, resisting the temptation to be entertained by them or dismissing them as harmless. Most of all: ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches’. We must give time to listening, and respond with obedience.

Come Lord Jesus.

‘Sticking fruit onto trees’

When church leaders wants members of congregations to do something, there are a number of strategies that they can adopt; many of them are the same as those of parents – a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Paul’s comments about choosing elders on the basis of their ability to manage their households well. The first is to try to bully it into happening; a simple confrontation where the leader asserts that ‘This is God’s will, and anyone who opposes it is opposing God.’ The slightly lesser versions of this may leave out the precise logic, but still see an assertion of the way forward, without any actual consultation.

The second approach is emotional blackmail; we need this doing: how can you resist the need for it to be done given you have relevant gifts – or ones that could be put to this task. The willing workhorse succumbs to the pressure, the job gets done, but this isn’t healthy; there’s a bad taste in the mouth.

Note that both these techniques apply in both preaching and personal interactions. In preaching the issue is less obvious – and the rationale may be solid. And yet the danger is that the hearers are bounced into a decision that isn’t actually what God requires FOR THEM. So what is the ideal here?

We need to be discerning the will of God for ourselves, based on what is said to us and taking the input of our leaders very seriously, but ultimately shaped for our gifts by God’s wisdom. Note that we’re not talking about actually sinful behaviour here; that should be dealt with as such, and shouldn’t be controversial. It’s where the leader has an agenda – which may be a simple as the ‘need’ to keep the children’s work going as it is, or as complex as a desire to build something which will be their memorial – and it captures the commitment of their followers without its being right.

So how do we look at this biblically? Paul teaches two important lessons which we can miss. The first is that only the things of real value to the building of the body of Christ are of significance and will get rewarded in the end:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor 3)

A second point is that the definition of a Christian is being guided by the Spirit: ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ The ideal is that we learn to respond to His instructions, spend our time doing what He is specifically guiding us to do, and resist the temptation to do what is being imposed on us. The Christian world is replete with examples of organisations on their last legs dependent on declining numbers of volunteers and ageing congregations to carry on for a few more years. These are probably not serving any useful purpose, are absorbing much energy, and give the world the idea that all churches are like this. The alternative model is for institutions to be colonised by non-Christians to the point where their Christian origin is obscured – thus the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were Christian foundations, whilst Barnados was started by an Evangelical – a fact that has been airbrushed from its history – yet now ‘believes in children’.

Of course this can be an excuse for ignoring responsibilities that we do have, but it should encourage us to be more discerning about what responsibilities we accept. Are they really consistent with our call to obey God. Part of the challenge is a willingness to believe that God will provide the resources that we need to do what He wants; if they’re not turning up unless we indulge in emotional blackmail to get them, then that’s a strong hint that we’re in the wrong place. As Christians we are rightly open to a ‘sob story’; how else do we show God’s love unless we respond to misery around us. And we should be faithful in the sense of trustworthy and reliable to those who place their trust in us. Yet those traits make us subject to emotional blackmail to carry on with things whose time has past, thus wasting our time. We need to do better…

I’ve been told of a Methodist church in a town (I was told this by a minister in the town) where they realised they were going nowhere. So they prayed and planned and worked for one special push, saying to God: ‘if you want us to continue, give us some clear fruit from this, or else we’ll close’. Nothing developed, so they closed. I feel that is a wise response to such situations: is there really life, or are we maintaining a tradition? ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’ is a phrase we need to take seriously. Do it God’s way in God’s power in His time. Or else go down to Tescos, buy the apples and stick them on the tree…

Multiplanting – a review

[I write as a member of this church for several years, but not someone involved in visible ministry within it. This is a review of this book, I’ve also done a 8.5k word precis]

This book provides us with an understanding of how Colin has overseen the growth of a small house church of 15 members some 10 years ago in East Manchester into a church with an attendance of 300 on a Sunday in some 6 sites. At the core of his approach is a desire to take enjoy the advantages of small churches – some degree of relationship between all the members – with those of a large church – the resources to do training and bigger projects. To this end he has committed to planting on a regular basis rather than allowing any one site to grow into a large church. Certain things – most importantly vision and finance – remain centrally controlled, and the expectation is that the individual sites will remain a part of a wider church unit, rather than aspire to become independent churches in due course. This is in contrast to his first round of planting – some 25 years ago – which resulted in some eight churches in the general vicinity of Manchester – from Macclesfield to Bolton, which are still there, but not showing significant rates of growth. By contrast Christchurch Manchester is seeing a growth rate of some 20% a year.

The major elements of his approach are to delegate everything down to the local sites, empowering them to do what they want within certain approaches, whilst making clear that the expectation is that things will keep moving, specifically in seeking to plant to new sites at least every two years – and probably more rapidly in the future.

The small size of sites means that there is plenty of opportunity for people to fill roles; and there is a willingness to allow different preachers and anchors almost every week. This enables people to develop their skills, to accept the responsibility and ‘Go for it’. Colin has no sympathy for churches who claim to have no leaders available; he argues that this is as a result of an unwillingness to encourage and enable the skills that are there, expecting leaders to emerge pre-packaged – though ironically CCM has been blessed by the arrival of just such leaders – the other authors, Tim and Tom and others have become available because they felt called to Manchester. Certainly now however he is raising up vast numbers of people able to fulfil roles.

New planted are developed on a clear pattern: after a period of the idea for the new plant in a specific location being kicked about for a bit, the potential leader is identified and midweek meetings start. Once these have gathered some momentum, a Sunday service is begun, and the expectation is that this will grow to viability. There’s a strong emphasis on preaching – a solid 30 minute sermon is de rigeur – along with worship – a ‘full band’ is an early priority, as is the availability of children’s work if required. The new site is staffed on the cheap; usually starting with either volunteer leaders or someone only employed for one day a week; the annual budget for a new site is only £13,000, including a staffer one day a week. As the work develops, this may be increased, but of the 10 members of staff at CCM, only 2 are full time; instead some have other jobs, whilst others share the child care with a partner who is also working part time. The overall effect of this is that a new site is not a massive risk or massively expensive, but the returns are potentially enormous if it does fly.

There are a number of dangers in this approach. The most significant is that people join because it’s a good place to be, rather than because God has really worked in their heart. There have been some great testimonies at baptisms; though many are from people who grew up in a Christian family but never really ‘got it’ till CCM, there have been a few where people have come from nowhere. The church is committed to serious discipleship, encouraging meaningful pastoral relationships for everyone. The small scale of sites means there is less space for people to hide, but the reality of every church seems to be that the second and third generation too often is there because their parents were, rather than because they themselves really get it.

From a strict ‘systems’ perspective, there are two issues. First is that there is no provision for solving the problem of a site that keeps growing numerically. Although planting can absorb some people, if they won’t go to the new site, there’s no specific proposal. The student work resolved this by adding an evening service at the same site, and a similar solution may work elsewhere, but it’s not currently planned for. Similarly there is no provision for splitting CCM when it becomes too unwieldy as its scale grows. At present the eldership is a small enough number for solid relationships to be formed, and the overall scale is not too large for a single leader to oversee. At some point, if growth continues, this will no longer be the case. Of course these are both problems which any church would love to have…

Overall this book offers a paradigm that can work amazingly well, has a solid track record and could cause churches to radically rethink their approach to doing church. It comes with several health warnings: it will disturb the comfortable ‘, and it can only work if the whole culture of CCM is present, not just the planting bits. Yet it may enable churches to bring the gospel to many people who are outside their range: the danger is that becoming a church where what keeps their leader awake at night becomes dominated by maintenance.

Colin Baron Multiplanting

(Stafford: Malcolm Down 2019)

  • Part 1: Multiplanting and the big church dream
    • Chapter 2 The call to pioneer
    • Chapter 3 How Multiplanting works
      • Leadership – central authority, local empowerment
      • Culture – central identity, local contextualisation
      • Sundays
      • Finance
    • Chapter 4 – how we keep starting new sites
      • Stage 1 – Floating the idea
      • Stage 2 – Midweek meetings
      • Stage 3 – Sunday services
      • Stage 4 – ‘Established’
      • Start with vision
  • Part 2 Multiplanting Culture
    • Chapter 5 Second Chance Culture
      • Appraising ministry
      • Maturity
    • Chapter 6 Have A Go Culture
      • Certainty
      • Fun!
      • Risk
      • Momentum
    • Chapter 7 A ‘Think The Best’ Culture
      • Discipleship
    • Chapter 8 A Generous Culture
      • Generous Culture and Planting
      • Generous Culture and Hospitality
      • Giving
      • Faith
    • Chapter 9 A Forward Looking Culture
      • Growth
      • Change
      • Innovation
      • The Past
    • Chapter 10 A Whole Hearted Culture
      • Volunteers
      • Excellence
      • Honour
    • Chapter 11 A Good Food Culture
      • Contextualisation
    • Part 2 Summary
  • Part 3 Multiplanting systems
    • Chapter 12 Prayer and Presence
      • Leading through prayer
      • Prayer of faith
      • Listening to God
      • Corporate prayer
    • Chapter 13 Leadership
      • Embrace change
      • Pacing is crucial
      • Multiply leaders
        • Young people
        • People from a poorer background
        • The spiritually immature
    • Chapter 14 Discipleship
      • Proximity
      • Learning
      • Opportunity
    • Chapter 15 Creatives
      • Make winning easy
    • Chapter 16 Sundays
      • Preaching matters
        • Biblical faithfulness
        • Main point
        • Personal Application
        • Illustrations
        • Did the message point to Jesus
        • Delivery
        • Length
      • Worship
      • Communion matters
      • Offering
      • Welcome matters
      • Kid’s work
      • Anchoring matters
    • Chapter 17 Finance
      • Budgeting – knowing the ins and outs
      • Budgeting – full of faithfulness
      • Pioneering – starting small – dreaming big
      • Staffing – part time / bivocational
      • Giving – a discipleship issue
      • Generosity – a kingdom culture
    • Chapter 18 Communication
      • Communication is the leader’s responsibility
      • Communicate with vision
      • Developing your voice
      • How to communicate
  • Conclusion / Postscript
    • Putting it into practice
    • Possible first steps
    • Start with pioneers
    • James Hudson Taylor

Part 1: Multiplanting and the big church dream

[Comments in square brackets are mine; the rest is a precis of the book]

A parable from an apple orchard; small trees close together produce more fruit than large ones further apart in the same area, and the quality is better. Colin’s ideal is now many small, interconnected congregations rather than one large gathering. Each model is strong – but multiplanting gets the benefits of both; using all the positives of every church planting strategy.

Large churches offer the resource to put on comprehensive and varied ministry programmes. Small churches offer community, the chance for people to get involved quickly and be given ministry responsibility fast.

Colin’s two earlier plants had plateaued at 80 and so coming to Manchester, he didn’t have a stellar record; the Evangelical alliance shows that 80 is average for church size [This is iffy. If the EA’s figure is the mean, that hides a wide scatter, and doesn’t tell us there’s a plateau of growth]

‘City churches’ are large, city level (often in the city centre) that seek to gather people from all across the city to go back and influence their communities during the week.

[In reality given our society today, the influence is not likely to be geographically local but on a wider definition of community, maybe]

Community churches go deep locally and seek to build strong relationships with people, businesses and organisations locally, becoming a loved and respected part of community life

[If the message of God is on a collision course with local values, this may be risky. And do we really relate to where our site happens to be?]

Colin’s first round of church planting was influenced by a prophecy speaking of a series of stakes in the ground webbed together. Over the years some 8 churches were planted in and around Manchester, but their trajectory was to become independent, rather than remaining in relationship. Having had 2 years in the US, he returned to become pastor of one of the eight, in Tameside, which transitioned into ChristChurch Manchester – CCM. This time around terminology was different; the plants were to ‘sites’, not of ‘churches’, and the geographical gap was far smaller; Oldham, Bolton and Macclesfield are too separated to be able to easily share resources.

Site leaders are expected to relate to the whole as well as to their site; this gives strength to both the whole and the local. The long term expectation is that they will remain one institution. The result is a system that is lean and scaleable [though I suspect that at some point the creature will be too large and need to split]. After 10 years CCM has five sites (six Sunday services).

There is clarity about what remains central: Name, vision and culture, eldership, finances and celebration events e.g. baptisms. Otherwise things are delegated to the local site, though the centre may offer things such as a youth group, Alpha courses and explicit events such as weekends away, and training. The local focus enables planting and give opportunities for new leaders.

Chapter 2 The call to pioneer

The Dunbar Number about 150 – is a significant threshold, being the maximum number of people one can comfortably relate to at some level, and seems to be a significant barrier to church growth, as passing it requires reorganisation and a loss of community. Multiplanting largely avoids this problem, as a site remains less than that number. [This implies that sites will export their excess to new sites / meetings. If this doesn’t happen, individual sites may have a problem if they keep growing.]

Jesus modelled planting by refusing to settle at Capernaum but moving on when the crowds expected him to stay and build a ministry, there was plenty of demand and plenty of need. Yet

  1. God called him to move on. What is God saying NOW?

  2. It enabled the training of the disciples who would face new challenges elsewhere.

  3. It reflected His call to ALL of Israel.

Our modern churches have a Capernaum mindset, rather than planting out.

Jesus trained the 12 – and later 70 – and sent them out, having prayed for labourers for the harvest. After the Resurrection the scope was global and the power of the Holy Spirit was available. Persecution scattered the Jerusalem church [when it didn’t do it itself] Paul went to the dominant cities of each province round to Illyricum, enabling him to claim the whole area, but expected the local church to reach its villages. [The expansion in Manchester is thus second order work; others have the privelege of spreading the gospel to new cities across the world, though CCM has links with such planters.] This book is Colin’s lessons in getting the gospel to every area of Greater Manchester.

Chapter 3 How Multiplanting works

The big shift for CCM was being clearer about what needed to stay central and what was to be devolved.

Brad House and Greg Allison Multichurch offers 7 models of church, with ever increasing independence of the separate locations:

  • Pillar – all meet in a single location; the default
  • Gallery – multiple services, or possibly spread over different sites but one service accessed
  • Franchise – One church cloned to multiple sites (pastor’s sermons streamed to the sites).
  • Federation – one church contexualised to multiple locations
  • Cooperative – one church made up of independent churches
  • Collective – independent churches collaborating as one
  • Network – individual churches joining together for a common goal and support

Colin’s first attempt was a cooperative, which is House and Allison’s preferred choice. This model lacks the ability for the overall leader to maintain clarity of purpose and vision, and because he lacks the levers, the vision and identity become decentralised. The result was that his network’s growth stalled. At CCM there is the intention to stay centralised.

[In the wider political community, there is a tendency for power to drift to the centre, which may become an issue if it is not resisted. The theory is clear, but such a drift may well occur, especially when Colin leaves the scene.]

Jesus offers a ‘vision’ of ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. Therefore any church’s vision should be ‘a culturally relevant articulation of the Great Commission plus a concise way of expressing any promises God has specifically made to you.

All CCM are committed to this and Colin has resisted people working towards their own vision for individual sites.

Leadership – central authority, local empowerment

The church is headed by elders and includes people from all sites. Elders are appointed to the whole church. The elders are there to provide security and guarding the doctrine, teaching, mission and unity of the church.

Perhaps surprisingly the elders meet only 3 or 4 times a year formally, for curry, prayer, and a high level discussion of theology or ministry topics. But there is a lot of informal communication and if an ISSUE emerges they may meet, but it’s rare.

In practice most leadership is exercised by site leaders, who are appointed by the elders and are either elders or on the way to being elders. Site leaders then establish teams around themselves and do the actual ministry, with the eldership as a safety net. This lets young leaders be unleashed and has worked well. The centre focuses on the new sites. Colin does not lead a site, instead coaching leaders, pioneering at new sites and being available as a resource for other churches. In effect he is free to work on the multiplanting because others are doing the day to day.

Culture – central identity, local contextualisation

The culture of a chirch is hard to alter, so it’s crucial to decide what is important and to live it out from the start. CCM seeks to live by

  • A second chance culture
  • A have a go culture
  • Thinking the best
  • Forward looking
  • Generous
  • Wholehearted
  • Good Food[!]

Each site is encouraged to measure itself against these aims.

Sundays

The standard CCM format has worked well, so is seen as the format to adopt. At the moment there is no desire to be more experimental from the off. [A limitation of creativity that may need to be reconsidered in the medium term; cafe church, far more interactive sermons and services overall with more space for contributions may be worth considering IMNSHO]

Finance

Money is all given to the centre and each site has a target for giving and a budget to spend. In effect money is transferred from wealthier sites. Site leaders have control of how their budget is spent; there are guidelines, not rules. There are two ‘big give’ pushes each year, one focused on the poor, the other to fund church projects locally and more widely.

Overall there is flexibility, with mission critical decisions made centrally and local decisions as required.

Chapter 4 – how we keep starting new sites

Church planting is costly – both for the pioneers who leave the comfortable, established group, but also for the sending congregation who invest a lot in the new plant, lose friends. There is also a tendency for a plant to leave a sense of inertia in the sending site. These factors can discourage a repeat. CCM try hard to avoid this by making plants lean and scaleable. This is done by reducing the cost to any one location: new sites gather members from many of the sites, and also looking for [transfer growth] as people detached from institutional churches find this a good way forward.

The process of planting goes through 4 stages, forming a cycle

  • Stage 1 – Talking it up across the church; people become aware it’s possible
  • Stage 2 – Midweek meetings
  • Stage 3 – Sunday service
  • Stage 4 – Established church – new plant being talked up

Stage 1 – Floating the idea

Pretty much as soon as Sunday meetings have started the ‘next site’ is being talked about. The leadership floats an idea, and looks for 4-5 people to buy into it. Informal discussions start and prayer targetted to the new plant

How to choose the new site? It emerges! Perhaps there is a specific prophetic word, perhaps it’s just ‘the obvious next thing’ especially if people are living in the area already. It’s important that only one plant is at stage one at a time otherwise the message gets diluted.

Stage 2 – Midweek meetings

The midweek meetings are held in the area of the proposed plant. The meetings will ideally be held in a semi-public place: coffee shop, pub function room, rather than a private home as this is less intimidating, and offers the hope of a higher profile than just a community group. Temporary visitors from other sites are welcome to come by – to make for viability – without commitment long term. The task here is to identify the site leader to be – the interim leader at stage 2 may not be the final leader. The ideal is to get 15-20 together before the Sunday launch.

Stage 3 – Sunday service

Finding a good venue is important; reasonably cheap, the right size – not too small or too large, a location easy to find with appropriate kids space and storage. Temporary visitors to ‘bulk it up’ until it flies, which may include preachers, musicians or just warm bodies. Creating a sense of community early – with welcome and hospitality as well as sound teaching.

Stage 4 – ‘Established’

‘Established’. There’s no precise definition of when this has occurred. 50+ members end of need for borrowing people, multiple community groups and healthy giving are all solid hints; to be a net contributor shows you have arrived. [By contrast there’s no expectation of achieving real established status in the church of England]

The current target is a new site every two years, with stage one being a few months, stage 2 about a year and stage 3 perhaps 18 months to 2 years. Things may ramp up as capacity increases.

[The growth of sites past the desirable size of 70 may need a different approach, with splitting rather than pioneer planting. I’ve not seen any actual discussion of this in CCM, but it seems to be the one hole in the system as is]

Start with vision

Colin started with a vision of planting 20 churches. Many churches around the country get bogged down when their vision – what keeps their leader awake at night – becomes dominated by maintenance. Idea of planting are rebuffed out of fear of the impact that it will have on the existing rotas! Multiplanting offers the prospect of reaching into every community in Greater Manchester.

Part 2 Multiplanting Culture

Culture: the way we do things round here now. It’s distinct from vision and values which are aspirational; culture is the present experienced reality. Culture is built slowly and can be destroyed easily. It is caught not taught.

Chapter 5 Second Chance Culture

Colin messed up a lot in his early ministry, yet God was patient. We need to allow second chances, because Christianity’s unique selling point is grace! [We need to be demonstrating it as God does]

We need pathways of healing and restoration when things go wrong. The bible offers us many instances of recovery from mistakes; Abraham, David and Peter all crashed out, and were restored.

Note that the prodigal son is welcome back; be willing to apologise for your role regardless of the rights and wrongs.

Appraising ministry

Do we give training and feedback? Do we help people recognise their errors and learn from them, or do we just give up on them? When something goes wrong the correct question is: ‘What did I, as the leader, do wrong?’ not so much ‘What did they do wrong?’ Only if it stays bad should it be suggested than another area of service may be appropriate, but remember Paul’s rejection of John Mark, who subsequently became a mature and valued team member. We’re often short of workers because we’ve not given a second chance; after failing there’s no space to try again.

Maturity

Although when in easy circumstances people may look OK, when it’s hard they crash out. People need to be tested safely but painfully. Don’t try too hard to protect from the bump!

CCM has a high bar to aspire to in maturity, but a low bar to getting started, allowing people to do meaningful things even when still with messy lives, leading to their being stretched and growing in maturity. The alternative is a single bar in the middle, excluding new people but allowing those who have made it to settle into a superficial and dull middle of the road Christianity.

If an initiative fails, don’t give up and don’t reject the person trying it. They will be given a further chance. Disasters are thus springboards and there WILL be more opportunities.

Chapter 6 Have A Go Culture

Colin pushed Tim and Vicki Simmons into starting the first church plant 2009 after only a few months in Manchester, leading to the CCM student work which is now flourishing. It’s too easy for a church to become stuck in what it is doing; THE priority is to get unstuck. This doesn’t need to be a big thing – a 50 member plant, a new cafe. Find a small thing to achieve, and it can turn the situation around, as with Jonathan and his shield bearer’s attack on the Philistines did in 1 Sam 14.

Acts gives us examples of specifically prophetically inspired move, through strategically logical initiatives down to responding to opportunities that present themselves. We need to be to ALL.

The challenge is to decide early on whether the initiative IS of God – if so start adding resources – or whether it isn’t, in which case walk away and go somewhere else. Seeking specific signs is not helpful; but look for clarity from God overall.

Certainty

Although Hebrews 11 suggests that certainty is the ideal, yet if we don’t have that, why not go out in trust that God wants things to happen [hope?]. Jesus sent his disciples out with authority but the details were up to them, and there were instructions for acceptance and rejection.

Fun!

Comes from doing new things with others and enjoying the ride whatever the outcome. We mature by putting our head knowledge into practice and learn along the way as well.

Risk

The aim is ventures with a high potential upside and a small potential downside. A small group that fails is no great loss, and if it flies, it will be wonderful. By contrast appointing church leaders is a BIG risk!

Colin’s method of planting is based on this; at each stage the amount risked is relatively small; it’s never betting the farm. If we fail? Move on and try again. Those at the sharp end will need care and support when it is abandoned – and it’s not the end for them nor is it evidence God doesn’t love them!

Momentum

Once things are moving it will be easier and great and lives will be changed. The early steps are hard and unglamorous, but bring real benefits. Once the momentum is built up at a new site, others can join in less painfully.

Chapter 7 A ‘Think The Best’ Culture

Colin benefited from this attitude from Terry Virgo, enabling him to serve in New Frontiers leadership despite mistakes. Jesus saw Peter’s flaws and He spent time with outcasts. And Jesus chose Matthew despite his being ‘politically incorrect’ as a tax collector for the Romans.

We can always find reasons not to give responsibility, and we will then end up complaining at a lack of leaders. We are expecting pre-packaged leaders to land on our doorstep. [Of course CCM has had both Tim Saunders and Tom O’Toole do so, but that’s no excuse not to develop your own.]

Andrew Carnegie is credited with the comment that you have to refine lots of dirt to find gold – the challenge is to focus on the gold.

Jesus’ accepting of hospitality from Matthew and Zachaeus was a big deal; it is for host and guest to share their honour.

Taking time to talk is crucial as well. Treat others as you would hope to be treated [NB not as you want that other person to treat you]

Discipleship

Note that this is not to suggest that there aren’t issues – these do still need addressing. Jesus sent the disciples out on their own – high trust, low control! Potential leaders are choked by micromanagement.

Everyone should serve somehow.

CCM is always looking for potential new leaders. Leadership means looking for people’s potential and helping them grow towards it and believing that they will. We need to resist society’s cynicism, doubting that things will happen or that they will be worthwhile. Yet our trust must be in God.

Discipleship means giving feedback; every situation offers the chance for all involved to learn. The experience of CCM is that giving people further chances results in their coming out stronger.

Chapter 8 A Generous Culture

We all prefer to be out with generous people. Being generous to the poor is a biblical mandate. The Jerusalem church eradicated poverty in their midst.

CCM seeks to:

  1. Encourage low profile generosity

  2. Have a budget line for sites for helping members

  3. Partner with other organisations offering specialist services, especially in Gorton

One Big Give Sunday offering a year is to the poor.

The School of Theology is offered without charge; similarly other training. This is not an absolute; charging for overnight stays and travel etc is fine. But it’s the pattern. [Note the parallel to the Quakers who strongly rejected tradition of ministry being paid for]

Generous Culture and Planting

To operate planting is to be generous with the gifts that your church has; plants are costly in time, resources and cash that other sites must provide.

Generous Culture and Hospitality

New comers must be welcomed with attention and refreshments. They should be treated with the same concern as we would extend to a visitor to our homes.

Giving

Gorton funded the plant into studentland. People with not much give. Students give. CCM budgets on the expectation of increased giving every year, and this has happened every year!

Faith

To be generous comes from confidence in God’s provision because He has done everything on the cross and does provide financially now. So we don’t need to cling on to what we have got. Yes, Jesus does promise to give to us as we give, but that is to enable us to be more generous.

Chapter 9 A Forward Looking Culture

Let’s wait till we have more resources before we do ‘X’ will prove to be a cul-de-sac. Large churches become focused on sustaining themselvesand do less and less proportionately in serving the wider church.

To say ‘we’re not big enough’ when you have 100 people shows an inaccurate definition of church.

Growth

There is an expectation of growth as normal. Although we may not appear to be matching the growth of Acts, in fact the averages are not dissimilar. CCM has experienced 20% year on year growth for a decade or so; if your church is not experiencing growth, you need to ask ‘why?’

Change

Leaders need to spread a vision that continual change is right and we are going into the unknown. A response to a church plant proposal that focuses on what the senders will lose and the immaturity of existing leaders is not a good sign. We must present the status quo as more dangerous than the launch into the unknown. [Personally as a member of the most stable component of CCM, who’ve merely moved location in the past year, but otherwise continued largely unchanged, my perception is that the status quo is quite stable. Which perhaps goes to prove how good a job the leadership is doing in providing what we need and value.]

Jesus’ instructions to his pioneers was to travel light. CCM’s approach to planting is light, with limited expenditure, meeting in rented accomodation and unpaid or 1 day / week leaders. Only the move into Fallowfield was ‘betting the farm’, offering to employ Tim Simmons for a year from a very limited balance sheet; despite that, God kept the balance sheet stable.

Innovation

Paul took advantage of the Roman roads [actually he was probably equally dependent on ship transport]. CCM seeks to use the internet WELL – which has bought people in. Music has developed greatly. Skype calls are used for pastoral support of students in years abroad. A bespoke financial system serves CCM well. Always looking for good ideas.

In 1962 Everett Rogers identified 4 groups in the response to innovation:

  • 2.5% innovators – creatives who overflow with ideas
  • 13.5% early adopters – people who jump early
  • 34% early majority – people who go with the flow.
  • 34% late majority
  • 16% laggards

We need to take advantage of new ideas to be forward thinking. [how far does such a culture make those in the second half feel uncomfortable with us]

Where an idea meets a need, we meet the need earlier than other churches; thus providing collective support for remote church planters over the net in a structured way.

The Past

Past defeats can deter further risk taking, We need to face up to what went wrong and be honest about fears.

Past triumphs may blind us to where God is calling us now. Culture moves on – we need to adapt so we can reach the new culture with the unchanging gospel of Jesus.

Chapter 10 A Whole Hearted Culture

Worship that comes from the heart is Jesus’ ideal: the woman who gave her last pennies [and the women who annointed Jesus’ feet] are seen as the serious ones.

Christian Schwartz’s research in the 1990s showed that healthy, growing churches are passionate about living for Jesus – not style. We should expect to meet Jesus when we worship collectively particularly. And worship is NOT a spectator sport.

Openness to the gifts of the spirit should be a feature

Visible engagement is contagious

Draw people with God’s truths – not because you ought to.

Volunteers

Coerced volunteers to fill rotas gaps will not go well. Enthusiastic people will share the burden for the sake of others. Volunteers are partners in the gospel. All need to be engaged, including in decisions as far as possible.

Wholehearted should not mean intense – it should mean fun!

Excellence

This is a problematic area. Yes, badly done, sloppy services are a mistake. But demanding a certain standard equally chimes badly.

‘Good enough is good enough’. We need to get people’s best, not demand perfection. Whole hearted effort is more desirable than the better done with no real engagement, which will mean not engagement with God.

If the price of excellence is disempowering some, that’s too much to pay. Delegation ALWAYS results in an initial loss of quality as the inexperienced person learns to do it. But in the end you are likely to get as good – or even better!

Helping people who are developing their gifts to get wins – and so hunger for more. IF a person in the wrong role, move them to a new one; don’t just discard them.

Delegation means giving real authority – don’t jump back in. Low control but high accountability.

Honour

Contributions need to be appreciated; people are partners in Christ. We are people of destiny, world changers and God’s treasured people. Belief in this motivates us. Belief in this motivates us.

[I struggle with this, because I’m somewhat allergic to any hint of manipulation. The danger is that we use terms like this to get OUR way. Yet these ARE truths. As ever the real way out of this is that they need to be used with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; without that they are dangerous tools.]

The fact that the kingdom will prevail should give us hope and optimism. [This justifies much such language, but it’s still a concern.]

All need to be honoured – not just the obvious, public roles.

Encouragement is crucial, energising us to go on and do better. Celebrating people with parties is valuable, affirming them as friends and brothers in Christ, not just fellow ministers. [The language of the bible is almost always ‘family’ rather than ‘friends’. It’s perhaps a reflection of our society’s difficult experience of family that Colin uses the ‘friends’ language primarily.]

Chapter 11 A Good Food Culture

Food enables people to relax, make friends and gets conversations going, most visibly on the Alpha courses, but we need to learn from that; ‘icebreakers’ are a BAD substitute. Food is a major feature of Jesus’ ministry; ‘In Luke, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal or coming from a meal’. In Isaiah and Revelation it is a significant element in the imagery of eternity.

Adding a meal to a church plant – at the home of the planters after the service or as a part of the whole session – has been very helpful. Acts 2:46 shows them breaking bread together routinely [that really doesn’t mean the symbolic meal we offer these days!]

Food based hospitality is a feature of CCM, and we encourage spontaneous hospitality. There is a danger of it becoming competitive, and hosting a fine meal in a spotless house can create a challenge to others. True hospitality is treating people as family: messy house, ordinary meals and all.

Hospitality should be about outsiders as well; newcomers should get coffee invites or meal invites SOON. ‘[In] eating with sinners Jesus was… celebrating the Messianic banquet… with all the wrong people.’ as Tom Wright comments.

Hospitality should offer a space ‘where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings’ (Henri Nouwen). And Hebrews 13:2 offers the incentive that we may get to entertain angels unawares.

Examples in CCM include:

  • Elders’ meetings always start with a curry
  • Community groups often eat together
  • One site has a monthly bring and share lunch
  • Another eats Sunday lunch together at the site or in homes
  • Another starts with bacon or sausage butties.
  • Generous hospitality to visitors: good cakes, filter coffee, fresh fruit.

Contextualisation

Miscellaneous bits of advice:

  • In poorer areas invitations into strangers homes are not done and alienates. Be sensitive
  • Be aware of what people can offer given finances
  • Look for those gifted in hospitality to shine here
  • Seek what the individual / family is comfortable with – a packed house / party feel, an open house or just one or two at a time
  • Rejecting hospitality can be an insult, and remember Jesus’ command ‘eat what is put before you’!
  • Vegetarian and gluten free should be part of the deal
  • It’s not about gourmet cuisine but being open and welcoming. True ‘good food’ enables community. [Indeed too good could end up with it being about ONLY the food]
  • Everyone should be welcome and everyone should be fed.

Part 2 Summary

Beware a CCM type structure without the culture. If empowerment is low and control is centralised, prohibitive excellence is demanded and people’s ministry easily discounted, then Multiplanting will not work.

The need is to be generous with time, money, food and affirmation.

Part 3 Multiplanting systems

Moses’ delegation of specific responsibilities, as suggested by Jethro, and the Apostles’ delegation to the deacons are the implementation of systems to allow the work of God. This is what this section is about. But multiplanting works because of the the grace of God, NOT the system. But under God these features have been productive

Chapter 12 Prayer and Presence.

God is everywhere, but Heb 10:22 tells us to draw near, and we are to do so ‘with a true heart and a full assurance of faith’. Simiarly James 4:8 tells us to ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’. This makes it clear that there is something deliberate about about this.

The start must be in the quiet place of personal prayer and worship, but also in the church gathering; we NEED God.

Leading through prayer

We need prayer to win; Moses’ hands being held up in prayer on the mountain to achieve the victory is a reminder of this. Jesus prayed when others weren’t; in Mark 1 early, before dawn, John 7 – at the end of the day.

The Lord’s prayer includes requests for the big things ‘Your kingdom come’ and the small ‘Give us today our daily bread’. Thus ‘unlock this new area of Manchester’ and ‘give us the drummers we need’. We need workers for God’s harvest, and we need to pray them in.

Prayer of faith

We can expect God to answer our call for the church to grow because He promises to build His church. Sometimes Colin has a sense that a prayer has been answered: over concern for the poor this led to a new couple that with that existing ministry who were looking for a church.

Listening to God

We should expect to hear from God. Several members of the CCM team are in Manchester because of prophetic words. He may guide in surprising directions; Paul is Acts wanted to go into Bithynia, but God sent him to Macedonia. The call to Didsbury after Withington was a prophetic word ‘Didsbury’, which led to the forming of the Kingsway site. [Though I suspect we’ve not got this right; we’re NOT in Didsbury]

Corporate prayer

God can give the energy – as when Colin arrived in Germany on Friday afternoon and was expected and was energised for a half night of prayer. Prayer meetings must be as prepared for as a Sunday service – with worship leaders prepared for anything throughout the evening. The input from the leader must galvanise, but NOT be an extended talk. Prepare for different ways to pray.

Be sensitive to what your people can attend, but such gathering do create momentum and prayer will reap rewards.

Chapter 13 Leadership

Nelson sought to explain his thought processes to his captains and then left them to implement in detail. This created mutual trust, and no need for micromanagement.

Maxwell argues that others’ confidence in your ability creates an atmosphere where you are more likely to succeed.

Embrace change

It’s easy to want to settle and consolidate – multiplanting means accepting continual change. [When I noted this, Andy B had been at Ladybarn for five years, and and commented ‘How long?’ Since I’ve noted it, it’s been announced that he’s moving to Kingsway!]

The multiplanting leader must be pushing towards the next step and always encouraging new leaders. The status quo must make remaining with the status quo more dangerous than moving forward. [This is in contrast with my experience at a big church in the late 80s that became settled and went nowhere.]

When consulting with other churches, he asks whether people have sleepness nights about the present stuckedness. Without a sense of urgency for change it’s unlikely anything will happen. What are the visions for things being better?

There are two possible responses from a leader to change:

Lead through transition

v

Manage transition

Real leadership here is the ability to articulate the hopes for the future and how it relates to where you are. If the vision is long term, short term wins – the first small, the first 10 people gathered, first salvation, the first Sunday meeting – are all good points to celebrate.

Pacing is crucial

  • Too fast a pace initially may lead to nothing
  • left when the key moment comes

v

  • Too slow: momentum never builds, enthusiasm
  • wanes and the window of opportunity closes

The temptation is for a site leader to rush ahead; encouraging times of slowing things is wise.

Thus CCM closes several sites for the summer and Christmas – when a lot of people are away, although this does miss the possibility of reaching the locality when people aren’t otherwise distracted. [Ladybarn has moved to having a Christmas day service – but was the only site to do so]

Multiply leaders

Multiplanting is always about empowering: giving way responsibilities! Colin is often coach to other leaders, who can then emerge and thrive. The experienced lack of leaders is often because they are camouflaged in unexpected places – Peter and John were ‘unschooled, ordinary men’. Matthew was a ‘suspect’ tax collector. Too often church leaders expect a gift wrapped, established leader to be added to their church [though of course CCM has been blessed with a flow of such people over the years, but it’s working hard to provide ex-students able to serve in the new churches they wash up in after graduation] CCM’s vision is to raise up new ones.

Three overlooked sources for leadership are:

Young people

We need to learn to risk and adventure again, and young people are better at this. Adults having kids can lead to the spark fading unless the next generation.

People from a poorer background.

We don’t expect leadership from them – and so can fail to see it. They are often less open to attending ‘leadership development classes’ – are these always the best? We need ways to organically and flexibly develop [after all there were no Christian bible colleges in the 1st century, though probably some tradition of ‘book learning’ in engagement with the Hebrew bible]

The spiritually immature

We set the starting bar too high. We should look for potential not the ones who are ready to lead. c.f. Jesus and the disciples. We are too cautious. Jesus had two goals – growth in character and training to accept responsibility. Jesus did both AT THE SAME TIME. Being given responsibility helps people make growth steps in personal discipleship.

Yes, there is a risk, and this may need active involvement – yet the product is available leaders who can see CCM growing and moving forward far more than Colin would have achieved on his own.

Multisite church planting is hard and messy, but the needs it can meet and the opportunities it can address make it worthwhile.

Chapter 14 Discipleship

Discipleship can mean anything from the creation of dependency forming relationships to academic style bible study; Colin thinks the long term aims below are what should be happening.

When a new person walks into CCM Colin wants:

In the short term:

  • an enjoyable experience
  • feel like the church could become home

In the long term:

  • to see growth and change in lives
  • to know Jesus, be part of His kingdom and enjoy his presence
  • To thrive in home and work life
  • to make deep and lasting friendships
  • to fulfil their potential / to use their abilities
  • to find their role in God’s mission

This chapter is about achieving these objectives.

We need personal relationships AND solid study programmes to equip us. Bryn Hughes argues for these three elements needing to be present and being modelled by Jesus’ training of the disciples.

MP1

Proximity

Jesus discipled by having the 12 with him (Mk 3); theological education detached from a local church is a mistake. Leaders should have their disciples with them, sharing their life (1 Thess 2:8) with hospitality in the home and unhurried, agenda free formation. Five hours on a motorway can be very helpful!

Everyone should have some proximity to a leader in the church, be it the site leader or community group leader. We all need such input from one another. Our aim is to build communities characterised by deep friendships and shared lives – and sites sized at 50 – 70 enables this better.

Depth of contact enables issues to emerge; without it we will remain superficial with each other.

Learning

Continual exposeure to Jesus’ teaching gives time and space to process and ask hard questions and to learn how to pray etc. College based theological education is expensive and inaccessible; the CCM school of theology is provided (free) one morning a month, and other ‘schools’ are planned. And the library of weekly sermons from across the sites provides teaching for those who want to learn at that level. [The concern here is that CCM / New Frontiers is parasitical off the wider church’s theological facilities; it’s not intellectual per se – some of the leaders have decent academic theological educations, but the entry level step is being delegitimised.]

Specific issues in a person’s life may need explicit challenge. Such challenges must occur, but they need to be done with skill and compassion. And don’t be a hurry to do this; offer encouragement and listening.

Opportunity

Giving opportunity early is a CCM hallmark, as Jesus did. We need to delegate as much down the line as possible and use leadership to enable and equip others to use their skills and creativity to fulfil their role. CCM’s ‘Have a go’ culture allows the potentially overlooked to shine. Small groups allow grace to try new things, whilst the wider large church provides resourcing to equip and train.

A specific bonus is that students who are involved in projects are equipped to serve where their careers after graduation take them.

Chapter 15 Creatives

Creative people offer things that are ‘obvious’ to them but defeat others. If we are to reach the unreached, we need new approaches. Creatives will offer those [and tradition bound churches of all types will reject them]

Creatives are exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. They can be:

  • Hard to understand
  • Tricky to motivate
  • Resistant to instructions
  • Difficult to find

and you won’t know what you will get. Yet the bible pays a lot of attention to appearance and music, and we need to do likewise far more than we do.

The church community must ensure that creatives will feel they will be taken seriously. Getting started – for a church with nothing in the area – can be a challenge. With CCM this started to be solved when a worship leader approached to ‘learn about church planting’, (answered prayer) and a public commitment encourage creativity was important; yet it still was hard, mistakes were made but CCM got there in the end for music – with its own songs now being written and released, though the visual arts remain undeveloped. The student evening service has been a particular arena, and a punk rock version of Shine Jesus Shine was interesting.

The main lesson was to risk chaos to stretch understanding, and it took bold, intentional steps and PRAYER.

Creatives must be loved as people not just as a means to an end. Enforcing arbitrary rules will turn them OFF. Be gracious; things WILL go wrong, but learn and find the gems.

Make winning easy

Excellence is rare and demanding it will restrict and cramp growth. Be honest in your assessment and don’t pretend to the creative that it was than than it was and then dish it elsewhere.

Inviting newcomers to join the worship band as early as their second week coming along is acceptable; it means they’ve found their own people from the off.

Creatives need a voice in the leadership, and need a ‘leadership track’ to enable this.

Creatives will enable contact with the cutting edge of culture and they will need authority to make decisions and to be refreshed with new people to avoid getting stuck. Multiplanting reduces the risk of bottlenecks.

Creatives must be led by creatives or will be stifled.

A measure for choosing a leader: ‘She’s the one who, when she arranges a meeting, everyone turns up’.

In the context of Gorton choirs have been life changing, and provide a way into the community.

Chapter 16 Sundays

The target of 50-70 is there to enable meaningful engagement and sense of community. Yet the quality of worship is more what you’d expect from a 200 person gathering.

The high bar would be:

  • A warm welcome
  • Lots of food and coffee
  • A full band to engage our hearts in worship
  • A preacher who challenges and inspires.

The low bar means we accept what we can get and aim to learn from any gaps.

Preaching matters

Engaging preaching can change attitudes – it’s crucial. Yet CCM rejects the video link approach because we want to raise up many who can teach and apply the truth, not merely expand the range of a few gifted preachers.

Possible preachers must be open to instruction. There’s a starter course supplemented with regular training evenings and sessions where 4 or 5 share feedback on each others’ sermons. Additionally the site leader or other experienced preacher provides feedback on EVERY sermon preached.

Qualities sought for preaching:

Biblical faithfulness

Was the text addressed and did the message and its points come from the text. Proclaim the bible, not your own ideas!

Main point

Was the central thrust of the message clear – don’t just show what you know.

Personal Application

How does the message mean lives should change – not just as an add on.

Illustrations

Did they illuminate the message relevantly. Personal engagement – how it works for the preacher – is especially helpful. Evidence of struggle but growth in the struggle is good

Did the message point to Jesus

In a way that is not forced but natural! Preachers should preach the passage AND Jesus

Delivery

Did the way it was delivered add to or diminish its effectiveness. Were the vocabulary chosen, body languages, pace, all engage or distract?

Length

The target is 30 minutes – which is enough to go into depth whilst still being accessible to newcomers. To overrun is to disrespect people’s time.

Worship

Corporate singing has long been a feature of Christian worship. Where songs have theological content, this needs to be right. Longer worship comes AFTER the preach, as a response to the truth of God that’s been heard.

There is space for the exercise of the charismatic gifts and praying our own prayers. This is usually from where people are, not from the front. [A bonus of smaller gatherings is that contributions don’t need amplification]. Correction may be needed, but it’s rare.

Getting a full band in the early days of a plant is a priority.

[I do wonder whether the fixed format for the Sunday service the only one that should ever be used, or whether wider options – particularly cafe church – should be considered.]

Communion matters

Placing communion at the centre of the service – after the preach – reflects 1 Cor 10-11’s teaching of its being:

Remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice

Participation in the body of Christ – God’s grace made manifest and his presence enjoyed

Proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26)

Bread and non-alcoholic wine is the minimum.

[As an ex-Anglican, I find the ad hoc and cursory nature of the introduction to the communion uncomfortable. OTOH I get that the Catholic tradition has gone too far in creating a massive compulsory liturgy. We probably need to give this more thought]

Offering

A visible offering, with a brief comment on what it will be used for, is standard.

Welcome matters

A visible welcome team inviting into the community without being pushy. Newcomers have the option of filling in a card with their contact details – one on every chair every service. Good nibbles and good coffee are encouraged. New people who sit on their own should be approached.

Kid’s work

Needs to be enjoyed by the kids! Whilst sites may no children initially, being ready for their presence is important.

Anchoring matters

The service leader is key to monitoring momentum and shapes the experience. Anchors must know the details of what is being announced, be full of vision and SHORT.

Chapter 17 Finance

Colin is amazed at what has been achieved with highly limited resources. This has been possible due to members’ generosity and effective budgeting.

Budgeting – knowing the ins and outs

Clear budget lines – expected income, known expenditures. Be aware – not a ‘tight’ budget but conscious of where things are at. Annual budgets for a year ahead, basedon expected giving growth. Site leaders have control within their budget framework, receiving a monthly update. There’s an written annual report to all the congregation in a format that allows subsequent questioning if needed by individuals. The ideal is real transparency without overwhelming with information.

Budgeting – full of faithfulness

We assume growth in income year on year and spend to invest in new sites and initiatives for growth. Hearing God’s call for more expansion has led to expansionary budgets beyond anticipated giving, but the money has turned up!

Pioneering – starting small – dreaming big

Low cost new sites – plant with people employed one day a week or even volunteers. Have a smallish venue. A budget of £13k a year including 1 day / week employment is enough for a new plant; as it grows costs will increase, but so should income.

Staffing – part time / bivocational

New employees of CCM tend to be part time; of the present staff of ten only two are full time. This avoids the cost of full time staff. Allows initiatives to grow at their own pace; less pressure to GROW.

Increases in employment are usually in units of a day a week at a time. If the workload is proving too much for an individual, we will consider an increase – or employing someone else who will bring new skills. And having staff share child care with their partner is helpful.

Giving – a discipleship issue

We need to talk about money! It’s a major component of Jesus’ teaching. The teaching needs to be holistic – not just asking for money for the church. Mature Christian discipleship means generous giving to church and elsewhere. We should be generous in buying rounds of drinks as well.

Generosity – a kingdom culture

Generosity is about behaving towards others as God has behaved towards us. As a church we have two give big Sundays as a significant feature.

Chapter 18 Communication

Some people want to know everything, some just want a bit. So it needs work and structure. CCM uses emails, texts, flyers and notices in the service, responding to what does and does not work.

Communication is the leader’s responsibility

Don’t assume a person has heard if you especially want them at something!

It’s about ensuring understanding of the vision and that site leaders own the vision and catch the culture. Specific new initiatives or changes need to have deliberate conversations with those affected before bringing to a meeting. Reservations need to be sorted through early on.

If a decision appears to have been made, a further check to confirm and ensure we are bringing people along is wise.

Communicate with vision

A tick box that something has been said doesn’t ensure it’s been received: the ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘what format’ are crucial. Vision must be front and central in everything you communicate.

‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’.

Start with why you are doing X, then describe how you are accomplishing it, and only then what precise steps.

The most common question after a new plant is ‘Where’s next?’. There is an expectation of ever moving forward, which is the CCM vision. So for any given event, show how it fits into your vision.

Developing your voice

  • The way you say things
  • Where you place the emphasis
  • General tone you use

If another’s voice when speaking of your project is wrong, confusion and damage to cohesion will ensue. Our voice seeks to be:

Positive, projecting faith and hope, looking for a positive spin.

Outward focused: Newcomers and outsiders should be able to engage with the communication. Resist the in jokes and keep it simple

‘Smart casual’: enough structure to achieve full contact but not too formal

Accurate: both factually and grammatically, clear and easy to understand.

How to communicate

A piece of information has different audiences.

Involving – the people most directly affected who need to be on board having been consulted

Informing: more widely, starting with ‘why’. Use whatever means will ensure reception. Have people available for follow up questions.

Honouring: letting others who are directly affected to some extent know before the decision is public.

Promote: via whatever means necessary

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There’s a need to get the order right. ‘Involving’ is the first step, after which ‘informing’ those who are massively affected, then ‘honouring’ – personal contact with those who are marginally involved but are worthy of engaging with the change personally, before finally publicising the message publicly.

Some specific current experiences:

  1. Your website is your front door – aim it at those outside the church to tell your story

  2. Try and get your church visible early on Google search

  3. Google ads are not good value for money. Facebook may be, but be precise in your audience

  4. In social media video is better than images, and images better than text

  5. Timing is everything; use scheduling tools

  6. Person social media accounts reach more people. Use both those and the church ones

  7. Don’t brag about your church and avoid retweeting compliments

  8. Each platform has its own ‘rules’ of effectiveness; the same post on two different ones means that at least one is being used wrongly.

  9. Group chats can work – up to about 12 people. After that it becomes annoying

  10. Arguing on the internet is seldom effective or capable of solving anything

Conclusion / Postscript

Putting it into practice

Start with small steps. Too much too soon and people won’t cope. After Colin’s return from the States, his first move was to find people who DID get it and help them to start a new plant elsewhere – at a different time – so there was no issue of contact with leaders. Choices about what to share (in terms of resources) followed naturally. The third site revealed the need for greater institutionalisation of structures.

Each step felt achievable – looking back it’s amazing.

Possible first steps

Start a midweek meeting in an area where you’ve got people already and would like to plant.

Identify the pioneering leaders who you can invest in to be the new leaders

Hold prayer meeting focused on reaching the wider community

Connect with translocal ministries who may provide support / encouragement

Start with pioneers

If things are going well in the established site, don’t disrupt, but find the people to pioneer. Excite them with the multiplanting vision, decide on the next place and start a midweek meeting (phase 2!)

Don’t be surprised if the pioneers move on after the plant is flourishing. Their gifting isn’t relevant to a more established unit.

James Hudson Taylor

James Hudson Taylor, the 19th century missionary who founded the China Inland Mission (now OMF) triggered such a vision that Mao was unable to uproot the church, despite trying hard to do so, and now it grows on its own. We must seek similar vision, and that is Colin’s motivation.

The prosperity ‘gospel’; real magic

The prosperity teaching that have become so popular in recent years is, according to my definition, ‘magic’; it is based on a power given by God to humans unconditionally. Although dressed up in Christian language, it uses a feature of the universe that it mentioned in the bible to achieve the satisfaction of the ultimately ungodly desire of its practitioners for material comfort. As with so many other features of the universe, if used aright it enables us to live well. However as with all forms of excess, it can easily become a form of idolatry, with the achievement of prosperity becoming the focus of the spiritual life instead of service of the true God.

As with all magic, there are times when it doesn’t work out: specifically God will, no doubt, sometimes intervene to protect His children from being deceived. Yet the basic mechanism is always there: ‘Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing’ (Mal 3:10), and ‘give, and it will be given to you—good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into · your lap. For by what measure you measure, it will be measured in return to you’ (Luke 6:38). Add in a belief that the love of God for us means that He wants us to have an idyllic life, and you have the reason why the prosperity gospel is attractive and effective; it is based on a powerful spiritual truth abused, and not a lie. It therefore becomes necessary to address the idolatry in the heart of the prosperity gospel believer rather than making the mistake of criticising the teaching as such; given that our Western society is based on that idolatry, we should not be surprised by its attractiveness.

Of course the New Testament gives us a view of the early church that shows that they weren’t all prospering. Paul’s listing of his sufferings includes being hungry (2 Cor 11, Phil 4) whilst the instruction to Timothy about taking wine for his stomach (1 Tim 5) shows that he had persistent ailments, freedom from which our prosperity preachers claim shouldn’t be the case with believers. We need to learn to live seeking God’s will – which may or may not include being visibly wealthy – not expect it as a right. Our sufferings develop our character, (James 1) and we should focus on our final home, not our sufferings down here (Rom 8), indeed Peter opines ‘rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4).

Yet there is another danger here; that we accept as God’s will what He wants us to change by prayer. Paul’s thorn in the flesh is invoked as a pattern for patient suffering – yet Paul says: ‘Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ We need to hear from God if He appears to be calling us to suffer; let’s resist the temptation to assume we know the truth.