Saturday, April 28, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 3

Today’s post is designed for those who are not familiar with the Purpose Driven ministry concept.

Purpose Driven ministry is based on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. The five main areas in Purpose Driven ministry are: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Mission/Evangelism. The order in which these are experienced in most people are:

  1. Worship: This is where most people first experience a congregation. Typically, most people decide whether to return to a church for a second visit before worship begins. What happens during worship will help determine if they come back more than one more time.
  2. Fellowship: This is where people make relationships that connect with people. Fellowship does not happen after church during the coffee time. Fellowship happens in small groups (often called Life Groups). Developing close friendships is vitally important in assimilating a new person into the life of the congregation. Studies have shown that a person will leave a new church if they have not developed close friendships in their new church.
  3. Discipleship: Discipleship is where our lives are transformed as we become more like Christ. This process takes commitment, hard work and the moving of the Holy Spirit. There are four seminars in the Purpose Driven model that provide the backbone of the discipleship process and numerous classes that put the meat on the bones of discipleship. In my mind, this is the strength of the Purpose Driven model.
  4. Ministry: This is where people move into the ministry of the local church. Too often our churches fill ministry positions with anyone with a pulse. The eventual goal of the Purpose Driven model is to have people make significant strides toward discipleship before moving them into ministry.
  5. Mission/Evangelism: This is where people are trained to reach the lost and minister to the poor and needy. All groups are encouraged to be involved in mission projects.

The bones of the Purpose Driven ministry model are the Christian Life and Leadership Seminars (C.L.A.S.S. - for short). The seminars are:

    • C.L.A.S.S. 101 – Discovering Church Membership: This three hour seminar is designed to introduce a person to the local church (history, core values and biblical beliefs, expectations of what the person can expect of the church and that the church has of its members), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Purpose Driven ministry. Everyone desiring to become a member of the church must go through 101.
    • C.L.A.S.S. 201 – Discover Spiritual Maturity: This six hour seminar (two sessions that are a week apart) introduces a person to Bible Study, prayer, daily devotions and the spiritual disciplines necessary for spiritual growth.
    • C.L.A.S.S. 301 – Discovering My Ministry: This three hour seminar helps a person discern their natural talents, spiritual gifts and passions for ministry. Persons work with a leader to find a ministry area with in the church.
    • C.L.A.S.S. 401 – Discovering Mission and Evangelism: This seminar helps a person learn to share their faith. Most Presbyterians have a difficult time sharing their faith and leading a person to Christ. This seminar will give them the tools for evangelism. The seminar also focuses on mission to the poor and needy (locally and globally).

There are many individual classes to help a person in their discipleship process. These classes are open to everyone (you do not have to have completed any of the seminars). Evergreen Presbyterian Church will end up having around 15 classes –ranging from Interpreting the Bible Faithfully to Contemporary Issues to Spiritual Disciplines to Church History to Becoming a Contagious Christian.

The Purpose Driven model provides an excellent framework for creating disciples of Jesus Christ.

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 2

The churches at the Purpose Driven conference are fairly representative of the PCUSA in general. It causes my heart to skip a beat when I hear the “ages” of the people at the churches—OLD! It sounds just like the church I serve. “Age enhanced” was one person’s way of describing their church members. The PCUSA is in an “age” crisis, whether it wants to admit it or not. Failure to act will have catastrophic results in the next ten to fifteen years.

Some are holding out hope that as the baby boomers hit retirement they will return to the church. I have yet to see a serious study that gives any kind of hope that this will happen. I see the boomers looking for better ways to “play” and enjoy their retirement. If I had $25,000 I would run out and purchase stock in Harley Davidson. More aging boomers are going out and buying a hog. Why would a boomer return to a church that appears to be irrelevant and plays music that they dislike?

The Purpose Driven model is not a quick fix to any of the challenges facing our churches. No one thing will cure the many things that trouble the PCUSA. Any course of action will take prayer, time and patience.

Thursday my dad had his heart “zapped.” Dad has many health problem—many of them interrelated. The doctors would not work on those many problem areas until his heart rate could be “fixed.” A gentleman from his church volunteered to hook his jumper cables up to his car and give dad a good shock (I volunteered as well). Both of our offers were declined! The procedure was successful. Before long the doctors will begin to work on the other health difficulties dad has.

It would be great if the Purpose Driven model was a way to “zap” the denomination back to health.

The Purpose Driven model is a long-term approach to ministry that will have a profound impact on congregations. The strength of the Purpose Driven model is discipleship. Sadly, most long-time Presbyterians do not have a well rounded faith. The discipleship component under girds every facet of the Purpose Driven model. Churches become “high expectation” churches. People rise, or fall, to the level of the church’s expectations on them. With the Purpose Drive model a congregation does not have to “re-invent” the discipleship wheel.

It is sad that the Purpose Driven Presbyterians Network flies under the denomination’s radar. Many congregations could experience revitalization by adopting a Purpose Driven mindset. It is not an easy road to walk—it takes a lot of pray, hard work, conversations, tears, faith, patience and commitment.

While I do believe that the Purpose Driven model can transform congregations, I do not think that it will have a significant impact on the PCUSA. There is too much inertia in the PCUSA. Too many people and churches are vested in the status quo. Any denominational revitalization effort will require significant change. Our leadership in Louisville will not lead that change—they don’t have the vision, gifts or talents to lead in that area. The people in Louisville are very skilled at maintenance ministry and that is what they will do—maintain the status quo until the PCUSA shrinks to irrelevancy.

More on the Purpose Driven model in my next post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 1

There is hope for the PCUSA! Presbyterians from across the country have converged on Satellite Beach, Florida, and Trinity Presbyterian Church. Some of the churches have been involved in “Purpose Driven” ministry for many years, some for a year or two and some are just beginning to explore the Purpose Driven model.

Two years ago I attended this conference. Evergreen Presbyterian Church had just completed a very successful 40 Days of Purpose campaign. I had read The Purpose Driven Church. The leadership of Evergreen had already been looking at new way of being the church and doing its ministry. To put it bluntly, the Purpose Driven model has had a powerful impact on Evergreen.

The conference has plenary gatherings for worship and some speakers. The bulk of the time we are divided into three groups, based on our church’s involvement in Purpose Driven ministry (looking at Purpose Driven, those that are in the midst of beginning it and those who have been doing it for a while—different groups for different needs).

Most of the churches represented at this conference have less than 300 in worship attendance—many have considerably less (like Evergreen). Most churches are faced with aging members and decreasing numbers. These churches have a passion for the gospel—the great commandment and the great commission. Most have realized that they cannot keep doing things the same way and have a bright future. Basically, these are “typical” Presbyterian churches.

So, what did I learn on Wednesday?

“We’ve got to change the values before we try to change the structures”

There is always a resistance to change—especially churches! There are a lot of things that a church can value: the building, a particular ministry, a “style” of doing things, etc. It is only when a church and its people grasp the great commandment and the great commission that change can occur.

It is easy to seek the Purpose Driven model as a passing fad until we realize that the five purposes are biblical (and to be a good Presbyterian—they are reformed). The five purposes of a church are: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. The Purpose Driven model provides a good blueprint for keeping these five things in balance.

Have got to run… more later!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Planting New Churches – The PCUSA Road to Survival

It has been said that it takes more time, money and effort to redevelop an existing congregation than it does to start a new church. Year after year our Presbyteries try to renew our struggling, smaller congregations—it is a noble effort. Faithful sisters and brothers in Christ started those churches and have funded those ministries through out the life of those churches. We must not abandon our existing churches. However, if the Presbyterian Church is ever going to stop our membership freefall and lower our average age then we must look at new ways of doing ministry.

Let’s take a closer look at why church planting (new church development, in Presbyterian lingo) MUST be a strategy for the PCUSA’s future.

A new church generates excitement! Let’s be honest—it is difficult for a new person to “break into” an existing church. The people of the church have friendships and a way of doing things. The new person that is outgoing may be able to make some traction in the church. An introvert may never feel apart of the church. Things are different with a new church—EVERYONE IS NEW! No one is going to say, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Everyone feels needed. People are excited about their new church and its future. Excitement is in the air.

A new church can target particular populations. Our Presbytery is starting a new ministry to Cambodians in East Tacoma. This is a “targeted” ministry. Anyone can attend the ministry but the target population is Cambodian. There are thousands of people moving into the South Hill area of Puyallup (new subdivision are being built on top of new subdivision.), Orting (new houses and subdivisions are being built everywhere), Lacey (the expansion out toward the Yelm Highway is unbelievable), Spanaway and Bonney Lake (a 20,000 person planned community is starting to be built in addition to all of the other new subdivisions going in). Our current churches will have a difficult time in reaching these new folks. There is no Presbyterian Church in Orting, Bonney Lake or Spanaway! To my knowledge, our Presbytery is not planning to start churches in these areas. The traffic on the north end of South Hill makes it highly unlikely that the people in the new subdivisions will drive to the two existing churches in Puyallup. Most of the newer subdivisions are being filled with young families. We need to plant new churches that target these families!

A new church can quickly adapt to changing ministry conditions. It is difficult for a church to discontinue one of its ministries. Every ministry takes time and effort. The people involved in the particular ministry love the ministry and are committed to it. Yet, is the ministry the BEST use of those resources. Evergreen has a Men’s Breakfast that meets every Tuesday morning at 6:30 am at a local restaurant. The ministry was started by the founding pastor of the church. Most Tuesdays there are three people there (and I am one of them). Both of the other people (Tony who reads this blog is one of them) are VERY active in other ministries of the church. The format has remained the same since the group began—gather at the restaurant, say grace, talk, eat and leave. Two other people periodically join us for breakfast. Should the group “change” or, heaven forbid, disband? This just goes to show how difficult it is for existing ministries to adapt to changing conditions. New churches can quickly adapt.

Check back tomorrow for some additional thoughts on this topic.