Monday, March 3, 2008

Session 1- Intro, Chapters 1-2

Okay folks, what did you think about all of that? 11 to 20,000 growth in a relatively small town? Seven years from 4 to 4000? Bil and Bill asking if we are ready for a ride? If we buy into God's plan and God's vision for our church, it's like getting on a rollercoaster that never ends. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, but we are on the right path to fulfill God's vision. Wow. In the first two chapters they talk about two big things.
1. The difference between big and small is in the zeroes.
Here we see them begin to explain and discuss the growth that Bay Area has experienced these past few years. If you look closely, you notice they are not tied to particular worship times. They adjust to meet the needs of their community. Also, their church started as a dream. They wanted to reach thousands of people for Christ. They did not allow their lack of finances prevent them from reaching their community.

2. A Wild and Crazy God.
Fast growth in the church is Biblical...did you know that? Wow. Reaching hundreds and thousands of people for Christ in just a few short months. Big, huge and amazing growth is at the heart of Christianity. But for some reason, 80% of UM churches in Missouri did not grow last year. What is preventing many of our churches from growing? Things start happening when you PRAY BIG. What does it mean to pray big for your church? God has huge plans for His churches. Grace is one of those churches. Here are a few quesitons to start the discussion.

What was your first impression after ready Bay Area Fellowship's story?
What is keeping you from asking God to multiply Grace?
And the big one...are you allowing a lack of money to stand in the way of your BIG dream?

Alright, start posting your thoughts, ideas and dreams!


Mike G. said...

Our family knew we found the right church when we came to Grace. The strength of the programs from Sunday school, youth ministry, missions, small groups, support of the local community as well as real life messages we hear every week are among a few of the reasons we became members. We have been members of much larger churches and believe there is a very healthy base of people in this congregation and feel we are poised for some great growth. I also see where having a common vision for growth at Grace will be key to our success.

After reading the BAF story my first thought is they had to have a huge vision and a solid plan to envision growing their church. The authors talk about a small seed inside your heart and we need to allow it to grow by giving it the right environment. I've always believed that what you focus on grows. They talk about not falling victim to the small-church syndrom and I think what happens to a lot of churches and quite frankly a lot of people in their careers is they get into their comfort zone and don't want to work to get the continued growth that is really more satisfying than living by the status quo. With a solid growth plan I think that is how BAF went from needing 3 people to help with their services to 30 then onto 130 people per week. I think there is a great overall program in place at Grace and letting prospective and new members know how they can fit into that growth vision will be a key factor in continuing to grow a healthy church. If they get involved in one small group or their kids get involved in any of the youth programs and they can see how Grace can satisfy their spiritual needs our healthy core will continue to grow.

As far as current members I think we have to sell out to the fact that we do have an incredibly strong program in place and we can reach the tipping point of growth they talk about in the second chapter. The authors say we need to be willing to learn what we need to learn then quote Ephesians 5:17 saying, "Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do." Then I think Mark 9:23 "Anything is possible if a person believes" is probably one of the most powerful statements in the book so far. We tell our kids they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up the only thing that can limit them is themselves. I know a lot of kids in the church and have coached quite a few of them in different sports. Every team I've ever coached or our kids have been involved in I always tell them to learn the basics and if they give 100% of their effort they are winners in my mind regardless of the score. If we relate that to our healthy church growth and focus on inviting new people and having a solid follow up plan with them, get them involved in small groups and then bring them into the vision of growth we will build a happy, healthy church that is able to serve a lot more people in our community as well as other programs we support. I think with those kinds of attitudes we can change the fact that 80% of the churches in Missouri didn't grow. We can take small steps to build strong members and with the support and vision of our core group we can realize that we don't have to give into the fear of failure and we can expand our church family.

My final thought is in a lot of situations many people think someone else is going to be the one to start something big, but really it comes down to each one of us looking inside our own hearts and deciding I can do my part to help grow Grace. If someone doesn't know what to do just ask our strong leadership core and they can help teach us what we need to learn to be part of the catalyst for growth at Grace.

Ron O said...

I have trouble with references to the 3000 who joined in one day as an example of church growth. Aside from the historical problems you have to ask, what were they joining? The followers of "the way" didn't have a name yet, were still closely attached to the temple, and were living a communal life style.
It seems whenever anyone is pushing church growth they quote Acts 2. Why not use the church in Cornith as an example? Or Antioch where they were first called Christians?

Jeremy V. said...

To Mike's point
I completely agree, it takes small steps to start going in the right direction, but before you start walking, we need direction, which I think we are finding again at Grace.

To Ron's point, So then, what would church growth look like at Grace if we followed the Antioch or Corinth example?

Ron O said...

Answer to Jeremy’s question:
What were they being asked to join? There were no Gospels, they wouldn’t be published until after Paul has left the scene. There were no eye witness stories to tell of miracles and parables. To my knowledge almost all the pastors were Greek (Apollos, Timothy, Stephanos, etc. Okay, Peter is mentioned but almost all translations call him Cephas and just say some were his followers.)
They weren’t joining a "popular movement." they had too many "worship" options; temples to Roman deities. Or they could keep their connection to the local synagogue.
Paul was a charismatic leader who founded the churches, but he’d turned them over to others as he was off starting new ones.
I think it was the message "your sins are forgiven" and the promise of "the resurrection" that attracted members and caused the churches to grow. Their list of things to believe was pretty short.
And, there was the promise of the Holy Spirit in their lives and the opportunity for fellowship.
It’s the same question of why are we hovering around 500 members (closer to 350) and The Church of the Resurrection is over 14,000? We started at the same time.
One could argue location but I think that’s superficial. Look at some of the faster growing churches in the area.
We lost our message and they didn’t.

Steve Mulford said...

Hey gang nice to join you all in this discussion.

My first impression after reading the BAF story was one of personal wonder. I wonder if I can handle another success story without getting discouraged. Then my friend reality reminds me of its' presence. My God is a Big God... always has been... always will be. He began giving me visions for His church some 30 or so years ago. At first I didn't understand them but over the years they have become more and more clear as I try harder and harder to yield my heart and thoughts to Him. The BAF story is similar to others that focus on God's story rather than their own. Looking back on the history of Grace... our best years have always been when we were focused on God rather than ourselves.

Since shortly after helping to start Grace a little over 17 years ago I've been a fan of Bill Easum. I've read several of his books and keep an eye on the Easum/Bandy organization never ceasing to be amazed at how God work's through their ministry.

I've been asking God to multiply Grace since its' inception. I'm not giving up anytime soon. I've also been praising God for answering my prayers in just the last 6 months or so as I observe the growth we are experiencing. I can't wait to see where He will take us.

I am not allowing money to stand in the way. After all it is God's money... I just get to hold it for a while.

Anonymous said...

Phil and Debbie.
We do everything together so might as well blog together. What hit home for both of us was the comment that the only difference between a big church and a small church is the zeros. The both have the same kinds of problems. In our opinion, it all comes back to a leader and a vision. When Grace started 17 or so years ago there was a very strong leader and several people who were willing to join in the vision and make it happen. As Grace grew that leader continued to drive the ship. His downfall was a few people who decided that they didn't like his driving any longer. Once that started Grace went into a nose-dive until Jeremy came on board. Once again we had a leader. The methodist church really isn't set up to have a leader. (This coming from a converted Catholic so I may be blowing smoke.) The church was set up to be committee driven and the pastor to preach on Sundays. I think this is what was killing grace for 5 years. Jeremy is a leader and he must be surrounded by people who are willing to protect/support/follow his lead and help guide this church. My biggest fear is that we will have people who again feel that the pastor is "too powerful" and begin to rebel against his lead. I've already heard rumblings of that. It is an exciting time, it is a scary time. Admittedly I let money questions get in the way. I'm a finance guy and church finances go against every common sense finance rule in the book. So it is obvious that I need to throw away that book and focus on another (any guesses on what that other book is?)

Anonymous said...

I liked the chapter that talked about the only difference between a big church and a small church is the zeros. It's interesting to note that the problems we tend to think will go away when we get big really don't. The only thing that changes is the magnitude. Somehow that's comforting to me. I guess we're all supposed to be going out on faith and there never is supposed to be enough money, people, interest...but it always works out for the best.

The next chapter is trying to get us excited about getting big telling us how biblical it is and how God wants us to be big and how we should visualize it, etc. I'm concerned about our focus with this.

Is this chapter saying that we should become a big church and then good things will happen? I always thought if we do the good things, people will want to be a part of our church and we'll get bigger regardless. Are we changing our focus from being "about them" to being about getting big? In the first chapter if we're told all being bigger is about is magnitude, what's the big deal? How does this change anything?

I see red flags when I read "pray this prayer". I have a problem with incantation prayers. If it's in God's will, we'll be a big church. God will put the right people in the right places and it'll happen. We'll accept that and deal with it accordingly. Conversely if God doesn't have that in mind for us, it doesn't matter what we pray we'll be what we'll be. We need to accept that too.


Diane said...

As a new member of Grace, I have the opportunity to see Grace through new eyes.

One thing to remember about church growth is that it's not just the numbers- there is no magic number that makes a church a success. It's more that as we welcome and grow people in their faith the church is blessed and stregthened by the unique strengths, talents and faith journey of these new members. We are truly stronger together.

Churches in colonial America were lit each week by the laterns of individual members. If they missed a week, well, the church was a little darker. And the church would be brighter with each new family and their lantern.

We are not called to be another Church of the Resurrection we are called to be God's presence and people at Grace UMC. We can learn a lot from COR and their experience. But they don't hold the patent on church excellence.

Diane Young Myers

Jeremy V. said...

I could not agree more with Toni and Diane. We should be focusing on trying to follow God's vision, where ever that might take us. When you focus on getting big, you end up with a big church with the same problems you had as a small church. Churches need to focus on healthy growth. Healthy growth is the natural growth that happens when you seek to be faithful to God's purposes, help those in need, and share the faith with those far from God. What I really take away from this book for us is that we should not limit ourselves because many times we aim too low. God has a big plan for our church, I personally have no idea how many zeroes will follow our attendance, giving and squarefootage, and I don't think that I worry about those things. What I do think and pray about is how we can help more people connect to God and neighbor through worship, fellowship, discipleship, mission and evangelism. If we focus on building a healthy church instead of growing a big church, I think that God will help us fulfill HIS vision.