Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some Applications of Essential Church

Last month I reviewed an excellent book, "Essential Church: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts" by Thom and Sam Rainer. Today thanks to Ed Stetzer, I got to ask the Rainers a few questions on applying some of the principles in Essential Church. Ed is doing a series interviewing authors of books helpful to church leaders.

My first question was with respect to starting new ministries at a church. "How does this tie in with the need to simplify, focus, and keep alignment? If a person has a heart and SHAPE for a ministry that doesn't exist within your church, does the need to keep things essential suggest limiting the number of ministries, or just that they need to be tightly aligned with your overall discipleship structure/process?"
[Thom Rainer:] "When Frank Tillapaugh wrote Unleashing the Church in 1985, many churches began starting new ministries when almost anyone in the church had an idea for ministry, As a result, some churches had more ministries and activities than they could support. If someone in the church suggests a ministry direction that is currently not a part of the overall direction and mission of the church, I would suggest looking at one of three alternatives for them. First, the ministry idea might can best be utilized in some area outside the local church, such as a parachurch ministry. Second, it is possible that the ministry does align with the current mission of the church, but this idea would be a new expression of the mission. Third, if enough people in the church begin to express this specific missional desire, the church leadership may seriously need to consider if the direction of the church does need adjustment."
My second question was: "Do you have any suggestions for how to transition from an attractional mindset to one that is more incarnational? That is... for a church with a historically inward-focus but that is now understanding much better the need to be more involved in the community, what can we do in practical terms to become more of an influence for Christ outside the church?"
[Sam Rainer:] "The transition from a "come and see" mentality to a "go and tell" attitude is one of the biggest steps in becoming a healthy church. And the only way to understand the needs of the community is to ask. For example, our church recently called the Supervisor of Elections and asked how we could best serve his office since they are swamped with November 4th approaching quickly. They were thrilled that we even cared to ask! What he said would serve them best is for our church to provide meals for them the day after the election. So we're going to deliver 22 meals to their main office on November 5th. The point is that we never would have guessed their needs. We simply asked the question. One of the easiest ways to begin reaching outward into the community is to ask the leaders and organizations of the community what the needs are."
Excellent answers! Thank you Thom, Sam, Ed. I would never have guessed what those officials would have requested. The point is... you shouldn't guess!

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