• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

What do we want to see?

Imagine that you were starting once again in a new area among a new people group to ‘multiply disciples and communities of believers.’ What would you and your team want to see after three years of ministry together?Newton-cradle_0_80_600_320

One scenario might be (and one that I often hear) what we would call: the start up. In many of our minds, not much really happens in those initial years. It’s a building process. “Besides,” we say, “church plants take a long time to get off the ground.” True enough. However, might we be underestimating what God desires to do among this people group?

A second scenario might be what we would call: the leader dilemma. People are coming to Christ and disciples are being raised up. However, there is an apparent lack of leaders; an absence of people that we could call on to take the work further. Once again, this is often the case. However, might we be preventing local leaders from standing up to serve by our very presence and example? Perhaps they feel the task is too far above them as they watch us and don’t see the empowerment for the task coming from Christ alone?

A third scenario might be what we would call: empowerment. After three years, we as a team would be moving into the background; taking a more facilitative stance so as to allow the local believers to grow the community of believers further. This scenario is more difficult as it calls for much humility and the willingness to turn over ministry to others and ‘platform’ them into that work.


Three years is a very short time. However, our stance from the outset, the scenario we envision obviously will influence how we carry out that ministry. If one of our guiding principles is facilitation and empowering others, then we need to set our efforts toward that end. Not an easy task, but it’s another reason why we need a team alongside of us. So that we can keep that focus on moving others into ministry.


7 Responses

  1. I fully agree that our expectations shape our outcomes. Based on our expectations, we will strive in a certain direction, with certain mile-markers etc.

    One of my observations on the Avant “Short-Cycle” teams is that of pressured expectations. Like World Team, many of Avant’s workers come from the North American context, where results and goals are often the underlying “drive” towards any one project. As a result, team-mates can be summarily dismissed as not “getting it” and people can be reduced to “contacts” and “numbers” as the team works towards their goal.

    In my own experience, I once asked one of our Spanish friends – a young man I had the privilege of discipling, baptizing and developing – if he’d ever felt “used” by me. His reply was striking. “I would not say you’ve ever ‘used me’ to get to your goals Jacob. However, there were times when I noted that you loved the goal of planting a church above loving me.” When I reflect on my own heart at that stage of life, I think my friend was being generous and gracious towards me.

    I say all this to provide context. i agree that we need to hold higher expectations of what can happen in 3 years. I agree that “empowerment” is instrumental in making things happen. I also agree that working in a synergistic team context greatly enhances the potential of a church community’s development.

    I’m simply wary of my own heart, my own “goals” and “kingdom building” (small “k”). Focus is important. Expectations set the agenda. Yet, unrealistic expectations can lead to resentment, and a “mission” mindset that subtly (or not so subtly) ignores the mandate of love.

    • Good point Jacob! However, I think our hearts can also deceive us by valuing the ‘acceptance’ of another above challenging or empowering that believer. Let’s not get stuck on the three years, but one thing I learned from Avant short cycle was how important foundations were to later ministry. If you begin by turning things over sooner, new believers will take on the ministry sooner rather than overly relying on you.

  2. I have been thinking a lot about this very thing. How do we keep from stalling once we have a few disciples but no leaders seem to be emerging. I have observed this cycle of a quick start that plateaus, sometimes for years and then never really because a movement.

    One of the problems is that the launch team is not always talented at becoming an empowerment team. They may think they are but in reality they have trouble pushing leaders forward in such a way that they can let them go.

    I recently came back to our continuum and realized that the idea of directive/facilitative is strongly expressed there.

    I believe the possible solution is that our teams have a more robust outside assessment. This is not in line with our “start up” culture.

  3. Here here! Thanks David.

    Sent from my iPad

  4. This is critical thinking for our new and old teams to search their own hearts to discern what is driving them/motivating them in the church planting process. I am amazed at how limited our understanding of our motives that have such power in our lives in ministry.

    • Great thought! I think ‘searching our hearts’ might also reveal how little we really trust God and put more of our confidence in ourselves. Saying ministry takes a long time may be true, but it could also reveal how much we put the spotlight on ourselves and our work rather than on God.

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