We all realise that western churches need to mature and change, but what are some of the most important areas we need to address? The following list is a collection of biblical principles that must be addressed in order for the western church to move forward. Some of the themes are repeated in slightly different contexts.
1. Acknowledging the calling of every believer (1 Cor 12:14)
The most dominant theme in the western church is that people no longer wish to be spectators and see the drawbacks. Many churches have dysfunctional leadership models that fail to recognise the calling of every believer.
2. Addressing issues and taking risks (Acts 6:1-7; 2 Tim 1:7; Eph 4:15)
Often leadership teams know what they need to change, but are afraid to try anything different, or upset anyone. Examples include: moving location, starting a second service, removing people from leadership, changing the service format or planting a new church.
3. Increased understanding of pastoral and leadership roles (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:12; 1 Pet 5:2)
The senior pastor doesn’t have to be the most gifted leader and he certainly isn’t the only one with a pastoral gift in a congregation. The entire congregation are responsible for the outcomes of the church. Leaders are “facilitators” not owners or the most knowledgeable.
4. Ministry based upon gifting rather than proving ones faithfulness (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Pet 4:10)
In traditional leadership models, the pastor receives the vision, and the congregation faithfully serves. As a result, we have thousands of Christians serving outside of their gifting. Equip people in the use of their gifts, doing what they love, and you will notice a big difference.
5. Sending capacity rather than seating capacity (Mk 3:14; 6:7; Acts 15:22; 1 Cor 4:17)
Traditional models measure the success of a congregation or a leader by how big the building is, or how many members there are. Discipleship models measure the maturity of congregations by the capacity to send. Students become teachers who train others.
6. Valuing the input of every person (Eph 4:16; 1 Cor 14:26; 1 Pet 4:10)
We are all Priests ,Sons and Kings. It is Gods church and the people are the church . It is not the pastors church so providing mechanisms to allow people input and influence is crucial in leading a church. One business in Latin America provides a monthly forum for employees to share and discuss ideas for future products. The company has a turnover of more than 100 million dollars, all generated through ideas provided by their employees in open forums.
7. Allowing God to work supernaturally (Acts 2:43)
If we look at the parts of the world where the church is growing; healings, miracles and supernatural signs are very common. Western churches often have very predictable service structures with no expectation for the Holy Spirit to work supernaturally.
8. Daily contact instead of just weekly (Heb 3:13; Acts 2:46; 5:42)
The biggest impact of small groups is the opportunity for daily contact with other believers. In the early church, relationships were established on a daily basis. Prayer, fellowship, and eating together kept the disciples encouraged in the midst of persecution.
9. Personal transformation rather than membership (Rom 12:2; Gal 5:22-24)
Research has shown that Churches around the world are full of people that may be committed to attend a church service, but during the week their lifestyle is no different to that of their friends. There should be a clear distinction between Christians and Non-believers.
10. Complementary gifts rather than competitive agendas (1 Cor 1:12,13; 3:3-5)
Competition is based on feelings of insecurity. When Pastors acknowledge their own strengths, stop comparing themselves with others, and look for ways to complement one another, we will see amazing breakthroughs.
11. Values-based networks rather than just denominational (Acts 18:2,3,18)
For many years Christians have attended events based on common interests and values. One of the best known examples is the Sydney Hillsong Conference that attracts more than 30,000 Christians from every major Church denomination.
12. Interaction rather than monologue (Acts 17:2; 19:8)
Traditional teaching models have the expert at the front of the classroom with learners remaining silent. Coaching, mentoring, serving and discipleship models encourage interactive learning that increases retention. No question is off limits.
13. A focus on homes and not just church buildings (Acts 5:42; 20:20; Rom 16:5)
Many western churches have been slow to acknowledge the impact that small groups can have. Building community, hospitality, and loving relationships were central themes in the New Testament church.
14. Apostolic teams working alongside pastoral models (Eph 4:11,12; Acts 13:1)
Pastoral gifts were never intended to work in isolation from the other gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher. Although we have seen great progress in recent years, do we need to increase understanding of the role of the apostle and not confusing a teacher or a pastor with an Apostle?
15. Balance between organisation and divine inspiration
For greater fruitfulness in leadership meetings, community outreaches, or any gathering of believers, churches may want to embrace the spontaneous leading of the Holy Spirit while continuing to develop structure and organisation. Many churches think they must choose between the two.
16. Ministry partnerships rather than individual vision (1 Cor 12:12)
Not everyone has the ability to initiate a project, but when people with the same interests come together, everyone can use their unique gift and get involved. Empowering leaders gather together people with common interests.
17. Multiplication not just addition (2 Tim 2:2, Jn 12:24; Mt 13:23; Tit 1:5; Acts 14:23)
The fruit of an apple tree is not just more apples, but more apple trees. The New Testament Church multiplied as elders were ordained in every city, not only by the Apostle Paul, but by his spiritual sons Timothy and Titus.
18. Raising up spiritual sons (1 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; 1 Pet 5:13; 1 Cor 4:15-17; Gal 4:19)
Paul told the Corinthian church that they had 10000 instructors in Christ, but not many fathers. Timothy, Titus, and Marcus, were three of Paul’s sons in the faith. If you are a senior leader, do you invest time into the younger generation?
19. Magnetic disciples rather than just attracting people to programs (1 Thess 1:6-8; Col 1:9)
Churches love to attract people through various programs and events. Programs are great if they are fruitful, but we need more emphasis on discipleship that encourages people to live an authentic ‘Christian lifestyle’. Christians should be a magnetic influence in their community.
20. Prayer as a lifestyle rather than just an event (Acts 1:14; 6:4; 16:13)
Prayer networks and combined prayer rallies are all very good, but they often delegate prayer to intercessors. In the New Testament church, prayer played a much bigger part of the Christian lifestyle than we currently see in our western churches.
21. Empowering leadership rather than controlling leadership (Eph 4:11,12; 1 Pet 5:2,3)
Empowering leaders will help believers grow in maturity, equip them for service, and then celebrate as they are released into ministry roles. They send people out to bless the body of Christ, rather than just attracting and holding onto people.
Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you would change? Let us know.
To review the studies and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.
Please also share our blog to allow others to consider – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.
Peter Sewell has over 25 years of ministry experience, training church leadership teams, business and government leaders, and community groups. He is a passionate supporter of the local church and served as an associate pastor for 15 years. During this time he was involved in planting new churches, and coordinating cell groups, pastoral care, and discipleship. He has qualifications in biblical studies, business, counselling, coaching, and adult education, and is currently involved in training future leaders across Europe.
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