Transitioning from a 'come and see' to a 'go and be' church - 2
From a talk on Exponential
Part 1 of this blog is here.
For leaders of existing churches, especially a traditional model, transitioning to or incorporating new models can be difficult and daunting.
Jeff Clark is a church leader in Mississippi, USA. His first transition was to changing a large Southern Baptist Church - First Baptist, Hattiesburg to Venture Church.
Now a second transition is underway. In the autumn of 2020, Jeff Clark laid out a vision for the next ten years at Venture Church. Whereas the previous decade was marked by a “come and see” model of church, the future would be led by a “go and be” model.
Venture Church is transitioning to a church of House Churches (think Acts 2 house churches as opposed to house or small groups).
Jeff and the interviewer continue:
Covid really purified and shone a light on our discipleship mechanism. We just weren't discipling people. We were great at reaching people. We were great at them coming in the doors. We had a lot of people who started to go to groups and then it would kind of fall off. Now with house churches, that number grows. You got people coming in, and they have a sense of community. It's changed everything.
We are a church of house churches but we are one church. We have common elders that oversee all of our house churches. We have a central team that helps support. I meet with our house church leadership. Our central team supports them. Everything we do now really supports them. Even our worship gathering on Sunday, for me, is a support now for house churches.
We have been in transition a year-and-a-half. We now have 49 house churches over a span of 120 miles of Interstate that represents five different campuses. Over 1100 adults that represent 700 children. Most church planners would tell you, you start with a house church. Everything we're doing with regard to house churches is causing the church to grow. It's the opposite way of looking at church growth from a 'let them come and see', 'let them get them in there'. It's a paradigm shift.
To reach your city, there has to be multiplication. And for multiplication to happen, there's got to be some connectivity, some oversight. In Titus 1, Paul told Titus, the reason I left you in Crete, straighten out what was unfinished, like the widows aren't being fed, these kind of things. We're not developing pastors well. Straighten out what was unfinished, appoint elders in every city as I directed you. Paul didn't want Titus to be travelling as a circuit pastor to all these places and try to pastor all the people. He wanted people to have a pastor where they are. We have given people a pastor. Whereas before, they had to go to Titus or Titus had to go to them.
Some of the people that are house church pastors have never led a group. One called me when a neighbour died suddenly of a heart attack in his shared driveway, "Hey, our neighbour has passed away and you didn't tell me what to do in this situation." And I'm like, "I'm on my way." But just to watch him begin to care for that family and now the wife of the man that died comes to that house church.
Another house church pastor led a lady to the Lord, he's like, "Hey, we're going to baptise her." And we're like, "Hey, good." It's an exponential growth of leaders in the neighbourhoods. And we're fortunate and we're thankful that it's working so quickly. Most of the changes I've made didn't happen this quick.
A pastor of a very large church told me, "I completely believe in what you're doing. I believe it's biblical. I want to do it but I can't do it because I think it would destroy our church and we're on a hamster wheel. And if I stop, everything's going to fall off." And now, he's no longer a pastor. He's just done, burned out. There's a consequence to not doing this. People really think about the cost, what's it going to cost our church? It's going to cost you to not do this as well.
I was grappling with this but I felt convicted by the fact that we were not being effective and discipling people. And so, I think, for me to not make this change would have been disobedience. I had one of our young staff member's say, "Hey, why are you doing this?" I'm like, "What do you mean?" He goes, "You don't have to do this. You don't have anything to prove. You were so far ahead. You could just do what you're doing and coast?" The reality is you can either do this and have a chance of losing your job or not do this and lose your job. We're moving into a season of discipleship making that is going to be decentralised. And I want to be a part of that. And I'll be honest with you, I don't want to just go to a building anymore. I want to see people in my neighbourhood leading their friends to the Lord and inviting their friends to their house church and caring about their people that I could never get to.
In fairness to pastors, they've been trained to do certain things. And the mechanism by which they are reviewed, the numbers that they're reviewed by, whether or not they're doing well, aren't what we're talking about. It's not the big number on the weekend, how many people are in your different programmes, how much money given. We're talking about a totally different model. We simplified everything we were doing. We're looking at success being having this many people lead our house churches, this many people who are meeting in house churches.
We still encourage them to come together on the weekend services and we want other people to come. We're going to still invite them to come. Success is going to look smaller, It's going to feel different.
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