For our From the Front Lines series, we asked several pastors to share the stories of their church plants. These pastors will be checking in online with regular updates on their churches and experiences, allowing readers a front-row seat to the ins and outs of church planting.
New City Church: Update No. 1
Since we planted New City Church five years ago, our staff has designated two days at the beginning of June to do the following: 1) Celebrate what God has done in our prior year of ministry; 2) assess the challenges we are facing; 3) based upon the first two, ask ourselves what we need to focus our time and resources on for the next year; and 4) ask God to stop us if we get off track in our planning. This has been one of most beneficial exercises for our team because—if done with the right heart—it keeps our ministry fresh and relevant to the people in our church and in our community.
This year, true to form, we locked ourselves in a room for a couple of days and got after it. At the end of day two, with everyone was exhausted and with our ministry calendar full until December, I dropped a grenade on the table when I asked this: “Why are we doing all of this? How is this helping us make disciples?” These may sound like obvious questions, but in my experience, while we start off with these questions on our minds, we tend to allow process, pressure and inertia take us down paths that we don’t want to be traveling down.
If our mission is to create disciples of Jesus (and if you are a church, this is your mission), how are the groups, events, classes, sermons, etc. helping us make disciples? Discipleship happens everywhere, all the time, whether by Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, CNN or the church. The key is knowing how discipleship happens and to what end it happens. If we are not asking and answering the discipleship question to the best of our ability, we are not a church. If I’ve learned anything as a pastor of the church I planted five years ago, it is this.
With this in mind, I’ve asked the staff to go back over everything we’ve planned and ask questions like these:
How is this event/program/class making disciples?
What need is it addressing in our church or community?
Is this need one that is of importance for New City’s vision?
How do we know this is a need?
Is the cost worth it?
Is there a more efficient and effective way to do this?
How will this meet this need?
When would this be the ideal time for this to happen?
Who is this for? Have they been told? How? How many times?
How will we measure the impact and success of this event or class?
After the class/program/ministry has happened, we must follow up with questions like:
Did the need get met? How do we know? How did we measure it?
Will we do it again? If not, why not?
If done again, what changes do we need to implement?
There’s not one right way to disciple people, and churches at different stages will need different types of ministry, but discipleship—which is the process of forming others into the likeness of Jesus—is the mission of the church. It is worth noting the obvious here: Not just any path can be taken to make disciples of Jesus. Making disciples presupposes that the Bible is the compass and the Holy Spirit the guide as we are on mission with Jesus.
Regardless of whether we are a month old or celebrating our 100th anniversary, our mission will not change. The mode, medium and even methodology will change, because those things are not sacred. However, the mission is sacred and therefore it remains the same.
Being grounded in God’s truth and with a timeless mission in hand, we are free to be creative in how we make disciples. This is invigorating and clarifying because it gives us the focus and boundaries we need and the freedom we crave. Just five years into the life of New City Church, I believe we are more Jesus-centered and discipleship focused than we have ever been, and that’s a great place from which to do ministry. I can’t imagine what will be revealed in June 2017.