Why Event Driven Churches are not Effective Disciple Making Movements
First off, most event driven churches do not realize they are event driven, and those that do, either refuse to admit it or make up excuses as to why it must continue.
All of my ministry experience has revolved around planning an event, getting people to attend it, and then teaching them the planned lesson. Sometimes personal ministry took place. Sometimes. “Attend this activity, come to that meeting.” I can remember days early on while serving as a youth pastor where I was required to plan a certain amount of activities so that it appeared I was an aggressive and determined youth pastor. Success was determined by business and numerical attendance, salvations and baptisms recorded on paper. I was successful. Events/Activities typically only work well (to their end/purpose) when an established crowd of people exist. Much different in church planting. We were always busy and the ministry I served grew significantly in numbers. In fact every event driven ministry I have served since then has effectively grown numerically. Several good things happened. People built relationships, loved attending, fun was had, the bible was taught, and much much more! 😉 But one thing was missing…I couldn’t put my finger on it, and honestly I had spent so long justifying that kind of ministry in my mind and I continually rationalized because of the “success” I was having.
I loved getting pats on the back and having a big crowd show up to hear me speak. Truthfully though, pretty much any competent person who is motivated and diligent can get a crowd to show up. Give him a budget and a few helpers and he can get an even bigger crowd. And yes the Sunday morning gathering/large Wednesday gathering fits within the category of an event or an activity. A good speaker, cool band, and good size budget equals large crowd. Every time. And many, likely most churches, are built on this Sunday gathering. Without this event the majority if not all of their ministries would fizzle out quickly. Where would they take the offering? How would they teach the bible? How do people get saved without this alter call? How would we effectively disciple people without Sunday school classes? God forbid we have a church that doesn’t have a concert each week! How can we grow spiritually without the band? But still with all of this at my finger tips one thing was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. All I could think about each day was the massive amount of super large wealthy churches in the Bible Belt and yet things were still utterly broken in society. Most churches were content with their sunday gatherings and an occasional service project to check the “feel good, I served a poor person” off their list. We’ll gladly participate in “Operation Christmas Child”, but no chance will we get to know the shoeless hungry kid in the apartment complex down the road. That’s too messy and requires way too much work, right? And yet it was endless insanity of doing the same thing over and over again yet getting the same results. Lot’s of people but no power from God. No miraculous transformation, or society penetration.
Honestly no one on a grand scale would have cared if we were gone tomorrow. It was more of transfer growth, christian collecting, and feel good activity. But no real penetration into society, no real transformation. Collecting but no sending. Why do some churches plant hundreds of churches and others plant none? Or one, or a couple. Collecting but no sending. In scripture I feel like there was more reproducing and sending going on then collecting and gathering. Maybe I have a week hermeneutic but I could not reconcile modern church with what I was seeing in scripture. It felt more like I was helping institutions drive their programs instead of submitting to the power of God to fuel His movement. It felt like we had man centered agendas instead of God’s agenda. Who are we to think our programs, and events, and activities and gatherings are what works? Since when did God need us to manipulate His results? I read an article by Tony Morgan where he lists six reasons people do event driven ministry. I thought it was good so Im borrowing it from him to list in this blog post:
1.) Churches do events because churches have always done events. It doesn’t matter if the event actually helps people or not, we do the event because we’re suppose to do the event.
2.) We do events because they are easy to measure. If more people show up, we assume the event was successful and helpful. How many large Christian events cause little to no real change or transformation?
3.) We do events because we’re lazy. Its a lot easier to just throw events on the calendar than it is to think about how we might effectively help people take their next steps…especially if that involves engaging people in relationships…The following is my own commentary…”people do not become true disciples at events, they become true disciples in the dirty mix and grind of every day life…marriages are not fixed at events, they are fixed one choice at a time to love your spouse through the hell of life.” Also if one has to justify his position by adding events and activity to the calendar, then there is a toxic relationship between pastor and church.
4.) We do events to justify staff positions. Staff members feel obligated to do events to prove the need for their positions…the following is my own commentary…most churches are over staffed anyway. Staff often does what a lazy pastor does not want to do, or they serve as a added name on the website to pad the church ego.
5.) We do events because we have egos. It feels good to get up in front of a group of people and teach them. We feel fulfilled……….I love preaching to big crowds, not gonna lie…but what I crave more is God fueled power and transformation.
6.) We do events because we’re afraid to say no. Many times we don’t know when to say no because we haven’t established a clear vision and strategy.
**Ive added one of my own...
7.) We do events because it fools people into thinking we have something legitimate going on so they will give their money. If it were me I would more likely invest in a God movement than a monotonous event any day. But who knows? I can expound on number two with this one. People like to give to events because it makes them feel as if they are getting a visible return on their investment. Its harder to give to a movement because movements are often subversive and not easily visible. We live in a consumeristic culture. Unfortunately we cannot change the hearts of men. We can only manipulate them. Only God can change their hearts.
The decision we must make: A creative, exciting, man driven, set of events and activities, and random missions to check off of a “feel right with The Lord” list OR a God fueled disciple making movement emphasizing biblical sending and reproduction.
At the end of the day, I have done the former and have done it well. But to be honest I’d rather have the latter or quit and go get a job that’s less messy, less stressful, and pays more. I would never want to become a man who has to pad his insecure ego by gathering a crowd of people to listen to him at a weekly event. The idea of that fancy’s me not. That’s too much work for not enough result. I’d rather hop on a wave of God-powered movement all day long.
How did we end up moving from Deer Park to Barbers Hill to start a brand new church?
For over 5 years, Chris has felt a sense that he was being led to start a church and has patiently waited for the right timing. While serving as student pastors, Chris and Ashley completed their Master of Divinity degrees at Southwestern seminary in Fort Worth Texas. During their time in the metroplex Chris and Ashley received their training to start new churches through Northwood Church in Keller, Tx and Glocalnet. This network concentrates on planting transformational, gospel centered churches all over the world. Upon graduation, they moved to Deer Park Texas to serve on staff at the church where Chris grew up, and began ministering to young married couples. Chris grew up in Deer Park, played baseball at Deer Park High School, and was very involved in the community. Over time God began to make things clear for them. As friends and family began moving to the Mont Belvieu/Baytown area, Chris was made aware of the growing population and the need for more churches. Through research they learned that greater Houston closed the doors to over 250 churches in 2013, is on pace to close more in 2014, and yet continues to grow in population at close to 2500 people per week. With just over a decade of church staff experience, Chris knew it was time to take a leap of faith, follow God’s leadership, and put his entrepreneurial passion to use. The population allows for plenty of space and ample unchurched people.
Chris desires to start a church that will plant other churches and focuses on reproducing gospel centered, service based, and community transforming churches. Chris is beginning his doctorate studies at Southwestern seminary and looking forward to further education. They are excited at the positive receptivity from people, organizations, and leaders about a new church coming into the Mont Belvieu/Baytown area. Chris, Ashley, and Beau are a friendly, fun-loving family, with a genuine love for people. As a family their desire is primarily to see people experience an abundant life in Christ that is joy filled and satisfying. With all of the utter brokenness in our society Chris and his family are truly convinced there are plenty of people out there who are unchurched or de-churched, but still want to make a difference. We do not want to steal people from other churches, but rather to reach people who need the life and love of a church. Together, relentless, and resilient, one can make a change! There truly is a better Pathway!
***We currently gather for our launch meetings weekly on Sundays at the Eagle Point Rec Center in Mont Belvieu @ 10 a.m. (Free breakfast 9:45 a.m.) Everyone is welcome, please join us and see how you can make a difference! Fun/Safe childcare is always provided.
In a Cage Fight with Demons!
If you are like me there are days you feel defeated. Almost as if there is no hope. You feel inadequate and insecure. Women talk about it, dudes won’t admit to it. But the truth is we all feel it. I wonder what your battle is? I don’t think I am alone in this.
Some christian people call this spiritual warfare but I think those terms do not do it justice. I am talking about real demonic activity present all around us. Sometimes its so thick I can feel it. I have never stood on the front lines of a battle field and watched a bullet fly passed my face, but Im thinking battling the demonic might compare. I have however awakened in the middle of the night sweating due to what felt like a brute force physical attack from my spiritual enemy. Some may say Im weird, but I want to scream this loudly in response. “Satanic attack on the “christ follower” is real!” “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
Those who risk their life and stand on the front lines of ministry battle often experience it the most. Thus far in my experience church planting I have discovered that Satan will find your weakness and he will expose them. Its not a matter of if, but when. It WILL happen. I don’t care how smart or talented you think you are. It will happen. I am a fundraiser, an administrator, an accountant, a pastor, a preacher, a substitute teacher, a community leader, an event planner, a husband, a dad, and sometimes a block party chef! They didn’t teach us these things in seminary. Over time that will narrow, but you can imagine I am often vulnerable and exposed. People regularly see me in situations where I am weak. My 10 years in ministry I have taken some darts but lately I feel like a dart board. Funny thing is nobody else can see it. I can. Vividly. Its loud, it stinks, and causes a high level of anxiety. As a warning: if you follow Christ you will receive attack from your enemy. If you didn’t know this already you have an entire force of darkness and enemy attack pressing against you. If you don’t experience it, you are not following Christ. If your life is easy and/or comfortable you are not growing. Satan loves those people because they are easy.
I’d say this spiritual warfare thing is more like standing in an octagon, cage fighting with demons. In all of this I find myself realizing an ancient principle, that Im in a losing battle. IF IM THE ONE DOING THE FIGHTING. I’m a fighter though. My entire life I have taught myself to fight. My first response to life’s difficulties is to fight, and most often I refuse to give up. Im too stupid to quit. Everything in our culture teaches us to fight. Culture say’s to get what we want we must go and get it, and that our destiny depends on us. My God however tends to do things differently.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still (Exodus 14:14).”
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).’”
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).”
“Yield now and be at peace with Him; thereby good will come to you (Job 22:21).”
I am on a constant learning curve, and progress is slow. But Im coming around on a daily basis. May we join our hearts together in encouragement. May we find a community of believers who truly do life together and lift one another out of the dumps. We are in this together and must live like it.
A Mosaic of Broken Pieces – Part 1
The other day my dad celebrated 3 years of sobriety from an alcohol and drug addiction. If you knew my dad, this is no small thing. Because of this he is humble and understands grace on a level I may never know. Most of my life he struggled with the enslavement of addiction and could not overcome its power. He had a hard life growing up due to several divorces and step- dad after step-dad. Finally he dropped out of school at an early age and went on chasing after his lustful desires of this earth, which only led to a life of destructive patterns. After he met my mother I was born soon after and then 3 sisters following. Much of what I remember as a child was this repetitive cycle of drug abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse. There were more nights than I care to remember when we were not sure whether he would come home or if we would ever see him again. For some reason though, God kept him alive and continued to watch over him. God loved him through the entire process. Many had given up on him; myself included. In fact, until a few years ago I resented my dad more than anyone. I had a deeply ingrained bitterness in my heart toward him. Funny how I served a God with endless love and yet had so much hatred in my heart.
Dad knew Jesus on a personal level, but the flesh was bound with such a strong chemical addiction that he battled it for decades. He had a heavenly Father that continued to forgive him and lavish him with love. Others in my family would try and help him but I was not interested in wasting my time. I was a minister and too busy to help him. Ironic right? I’d say so, but that’s the way I felt. After all he was never there for me when I needed him most so why would I help him? Little did I know, God was slowly teaching me about relentless love. A kind of love that loves even when someone does not deserve it. A kind of love that never holds back and does not depend on ones actions. That’s how God loved me, I just didn’t quite get it at the time. Theologically I did but practically I didn’t. I didn’t know this then, but I used knowledge as an excuse to not deal with my heart. I think many people often have an intellectual knowledge of a truth but practically have no idea what it means. Experience always deepens knowledge, which has been a true principle in my life. I love to learn and continued getting more and more education, possibly as a sort of medicine for not dealing with the hatred in my heart. Achievement was my way of ensuring I would not become like my dad, but I knew in my heart something was wrong.
You see, one of the reason’s I hated my dad was because I didn’t think he loved me. I assumed that his addiction was more important to him than me (in some ways maybe it was), and that there was no way he could love me. How could he live in such deep sin and say he loved me? But now I understand and have been growing in that understanding since. I realize now that I still mess up and make mistakes. Over and over again. Like the Apostle Paul I do things I don’t want to do and certain things I want to do I don’t and yet I still love my wife and son more than anything in the world (Romans 7:15).
After I married Ashley and we finished grad school we moved to Houston and began ministering to young married families. To our excitement we found out we were going to have a baby. I had no idea how much my life was about to change. God was about to wreck me (for the good) on so many levels. It seems like only yesterday that Beau was born. I will never forget this day. I thought I understood love, but that was barely true. I remember standing with my wife as she labored to deliver my son. Crazy amazing! I began to love her more deeply and differently after that moment. Then I saw my son for the first time, and as I held him, something weird happened. I began thinking of my dad and my heavenly father. I don’t know why and I don’t know exactly how to put this into words, but an amazing peace came over me in that moment. By looking at my crying son, I forgave my dad. Literally, in that moment I began to understand a father’s love for his son. It was a new reality I had never experienced and it changed my heart in every way. There was no longer bitterness toward my dad. I began to realize what it means to be willing to die for someone. Jesus did that for me and after that moment I saw some broken pieces in my own life come together. It’s a chain of Father’s love trickling down from generation to generation. Addictions and mistakes cannot change that. Our Heavenly Father demonstrates this toward us on a perfect level. My heart rejoices with gratitude for the Love of God.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present not things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
COLLECT and SERVE
Summary of Blog Post:
-Last Nights Gathering
-Prayer walks and upcoming events (TPC Serve Tomorrow 10:15 am) (Next Collective Gathering Feb 9th)
-Thanks to Eagle Point Recreation Center in Mont Belvieu!!
Wow! After lasts nights collective event we thank the Lord for His unending love and provision. He truly is Good! Expectations were exceeded, new relationships are beginning to form, and dreams are becoming a reality. One step at a time God is growing HIS church, all glory to Him! It was a milestone collective gathering “on our way” as a missional family. Last night began a new “phrase” and “phase” in the life of the Pathway Church…”Gathering those who have, to serve those who have not.” Its becoming a motto. Not to mention the food was incredible, and homemade desserts were a home run!
Along the way there are two types of events you can be a part of:
The Pathway Church Collective (Gathering those who have,)
The Pathway Church Serve (To serve those who have not)
In all of that we will be living out out our vision “leading people to choose a biblical pathway for real life” and we promise to abide in Christ, connect with others in genuine community, and give of our resources so others can experience Christ.
Join us tomorrow (Feb 2nd) for our first official TPC “Serve” as we meet at the Mont Belvieu city park at 10:15 a.m. under the big pavilion. We will begin a series of prayer walks through key areas, in Mont Belvieu and Baytown. Afterward join us for lunch!
Join us next Sunday (February 9th) for our next “Collective” event 10:15 a.m. at the Eagle Point Recreation Center in Mont Belvieu.
Join us Wednesday Febraury 5th for a Bible Study (We will call these LTG’s or Life Transformation Groups) 7 p.m.
We want to thank all of the great people at the Eagle Point Recreation Center in Mont Belvieu for their gracious service and hosting!
From the bottom our hearts, we would like to thank you for joining us in our 40 Day Journey of Prayer! We have seen the power of prayer at work and God has moved mightily. The Pathway Church has been making some noise in the Mont Belvieu/Baytown Community.