Jim Putman, the senior pastor of Real Life Ministries, discusses what it takes to plant a church that develops leaders from day one.
That sounds like a great dashboard. How do you start to measure those areas?
For me, I see a process in the New Testament: Jesus shared who He was with people. Those that accepted the message, He connected with. In that connection, He trained them for ministry, and finally He released them to make disciples.
Look at the early church. They shared who Jesus was, and 3,000 were baptized in one day. They connected in the temple courts and from house to house. Needs started to rise up, so they set aside the seven who took care of the needs of others. They trained those who had accepted Jesus for ministry, and finally they released them to go out and make disciples on their own. So for me, it’s not just about how many people are coming, but how many of our people are helping others to know Jesus Christ. And it’s not whether or not we had 10 people praying a prayer; it’s whether we had 10 people pray the prayer with someone and baptize them. Not that I baptized them, but did they baptize them? So yes, I measure decisions to follow Christ because that tells you how many of your people are sharing their faith.
The second measurement is, how many people got connected into relationship with a more mature believer? How many people are in relationship with each other, disciples making disciple makers? Third, how many people are moving out of that connection group into ministry and service? How many have grown in relationship to the point that they now understand their gifting by God to do the good works He planned for us to do?
Fourth, we measure the number of small groups we’re starting. Our number of small groups measures the amount of leaders who are going out to make the disciples. The more disciple makers we are training and releasing, the deeper everything else goes.
When Real Life plants churches, do you immediately start talking about these kinds of metrics with their leaders?
We don’t start churches with worship services; we start with small groups. We want people to say, “This is my church and, oh yeah, we have a worship service,” not “This is my worship service, and I might go to a small group.” We do it the same way every time we plant. We have a small group leader that has an apprentice. And then you elevate that apprentice into leadership, and now you’ve got two groups, and its reproduction.
When you get to a certain point, maybe you’ve got five groups of six people each, and you start thinking, “Maybe we should start a service.” We don’t want to start building a crowd until we have alignment with leaders who understand what is going to be the DNA of this church. We don’t want to gather crowds that cannot be discipled because we don’t have any leaders ready to help them. This has worked well because in the last eight years, we have started seven other churches with more than 4,000 people in them as well. Each church started with a leader who came from within the system of small groups who went out to start another church.