My wife’s people are Mennonites from the Kiev. They immigrated to Canada to escape the Bolsheviks during Russia’s great revolution, and settled mostly in Manitoba (which is as close to Siberia’s weather as Canada could offer). They have their own unique language (Low German), and a wealth of slang sayings and folk wisdom.
One of my favorites is the expression: “fresh from the front”. It simply means, “start from the beginning”. My familiarity with the term comes from many hours rehearsing in a recording studio with a band where I was the only non-Mennonite. Each and every time we didn’t nail the song as we’d hoped, somebody would sigh and say, “Okay, again. Fresh from the front!”
When it comes to beginning a church plant — whether a house/cell model or ‘traditional’ church — I would like to suggest that we all put our pen and pencils down, and close our laptops for a moment. Yes, I mean all of you. No, no exceptions — you won’t listen if you don’t close it down and look at me.
Okay, let’s stop brain-storming our vision statements, values, and philosophies of ministry. Let’s even stop talking about creating a discipling ministry that is intentional and reproducible. (If you haven’t read Kenny’s Church Planting 180 and Luke’s Discipleship Gone Wrong, you should. They’re excellent, and this post is meant as a companion piece.)
Let’s take a step even further back, and start fresh from the front.
Once upon a time, I was very involved with Sonlife Youth Strategies, and during one of the Advanced Seminars, one of the questions they hammered into us was: “what does a properly discipled high school student look like”? Their contention was that we couldn’t possibly build a discipling ministry if we had no grid for evaluating whether or not our methods (always changeable) were helping us meet our goal of discipling.
And it’s still an extremely important question. What does a disciple look like? What does a disciple need to know, and have to know how to do? How can you tell when a disciple is being properly discipled? What fruit is evidence that we are successfully discipling others?
And to extrapolate, what does a discipled and disciple-making church look like? Before we can create a vision statement, or values, or priorities in ministry, we must first wrestle with this question.
“Aim at nothing, and that’s all you’ll hit,” as the saying goes. Part of our intentionality in church-planting and disciple-making demands that we first wrestle with what we’re aiming for, and how we’ll know whether or not we’re hitting the target.
We need to start fresh from the front.
Okay, now you can open your laptops and start talking amongst yourselves.
So yeah, along these same lines, there’s got to be a better way to measure the success of our churches other than “butts in seats.” What metric do I use to measure that a given person has moved from A to B on the discipleship/sanctification line/scale? Baptisms, sins overcome, marriage/relationships restored/healed, spiritual disciplines regularly practiced, serving, discipling others, made small groups a priority? All possibilities, I guess? Some of which require a window into the human heart. I’m hoping that perhaps Ed Stetzer or Reggie McNeal can help me out here, but I haven’t read those book yet!