By Peter Sewell
Ever since I was a young boy I have been asking questions. In fact, I make a living out of asking people questions. In my experience I have found questions offer the biggest growth experiences. This week I have chosen 12 of the most important questions that leaders can ask themselves in order to see growth and positive change in their church.
1. Do I equip and support every person to serve in their area of gifting?
(Eph 4:12; 2Ti 2:2; 1 Cor 4:15)
Leaders are often quick to vocally support people, but slow to involve people in practical ways. Empowering leaders recognise the value of involving every person and equipping them to serve. Poor leaders withhold opportunities from others, prefer to do ministry alone, and create conditions that limit ministry to a very few. In the New Testament church, Barnabus mentored Paul, and Paul actively mentored Timothy, Titus and others. Individual mentoring can help people to identify their gifts, and involve them in practical ways.
2. Do we have counsel and support from ministries outside our church?
(2 Tim 3:10; 1 Cor 4:17; Prov 11:14)
One of the inescapable realities of life is that the longer we function in any role, the more self sufficient we feel. On one hand, self sufficiency is a sign of maturity. On the other hand, it is the breading ground for blind spots, meaning that we fail to see our weaknesses. Pro 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety”. Over the last few years we have started to see the restoration of Apostolic and Teaching gifts to guide churches by asking the right questions, and giving them insight to areas they are currently overlooking.
3. Do we ensure the ministry involvement of each person matches their gifts?
(1 Cor 12; Eph 4:16; 1 Pet 4:10)
Leaders often wonder how they can get more people to volunteer. The question that leaders need to be asking is how they can support people to serve in areas of their interest and gifts. During the last week I had complete strangers from the other side of the world volunteering to help me on a project. I didn’t have to give them a motivational talk or any incentive. I just found a group of people already doing what I needed, I sent them a polite message, and they not only volunteered to help but offered to do much more than I had even requested. Tap into the interests of every person in your congregation and you will have a different church. Of course, the floor still needs cleaning, but when people feel appreciated and excited about using their gifts to serve, they always go beyond what they are asked to do.
4. Are times of prayer an inspiring experience for our members?
(Col 4:2; Act 4:31; Matt 6)
I often hear church leaders complain about the low attendance of their prayer meetings. I have been blessed by being in churches with an exceptionally high attendance in prayer meetings. Some of the things they had in common were: convenient prayer times, prophecy and spiritual gifts, small groups or triads, reading of scripture, testimonies, and spontaneous singing. I believe every Christian desires to pray, but unfortunately not every Christian has had the opportunity to actively participate in prayer. In 1904, there were 30,000 people in Melbourne Australia who were praying daily in prayer groups.
5. Are we aware of the needs in our community?
(Acts 11:28; 9:39; 2:45; 4:35; Mat 25:35, 36)
Throughout the New Testament there are many examples of ministering to the needs within the community. They collected offerings for famine relief (Acts 11:28), made coats and garments as an act of charity to the poor (Acts 9:39), sold possessions and distributed to those who had need (Acts 2:45; 4:35). The words of Jesus should challenge us to be aware of those in need, both in our congregations and communities. Mat 25:35,36 says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me”.
6. Do we continue to evaluate the effectiveness of everything we do?
(Luke 14:28; Mar 7:13)
In recent years much has been written about the decline of traditional churches. As you drive through the Australian countryside, you will find many abandoned churches. In the same way, in recent years we have seen many large companies such as Borders, and Blockbuster, close their doors. They failed to change with the times and suffered from the global competition of the internet. In the same way, many churches are deaf to what is happening around them. Leaders need to continually question whether there are any unhelpful traditions developing and make changes.
7. Do we know which members of our church have the gift of evangelism?
(Eph 4:11; Act 21:8; Mark 16:15,20)
We are all called to share the wonderful good news with those around us; however there are those in the body of Christ who are especially gifted as evangelists. Identifying these people and supporting them offers the biggest return on investment. Think about how much your church spends on advertising and evangelistic outreach each year, then carefully consider how much of your resources, finance and time is invested into those who are gifted in the area of evangelism. Do you train them? Do you send them away for training? What might happen if every church invested in those that are regularly bringing friends to church? Statistics suggest that on average, up to ten percent of your congregation have the gift of evangelism. There are many ways you can support these people, but the best way to start is by asking them.
8. Do we involve young people in our ministry team?
(1Ti 4:12; Tit 2:15; Acts 2:17)
One of the greatest failures of the western church is not involving young people in ministry roles. We are great at saying goodbye as they leave for bible school, but sadly fail at giving them responsibility and support when they return. We are quick to point out their weaknesses, and make generalized statements about their lack of discipline. We accuse them of being irresponsible, but never stop to think that we might be contributing to their behaviour. When you view people as being responsible they will act responsible. Titus and Timothy were both young men, yet they were appointed to the role of overseeing churches and responsible for appointing elders. Paul encouraged both young men not to let anyone despise, depreciate, disesteem, or thinking badly of them in any way.
9. Are our worship services an inspiring experience for everyone?
(1 Thess 5:16-19; 1Co 14:26)
Whether this is a relevant question at all is debatable. After all, “it’s not about how we feel”, right? Nevertheless, there are several points we can learn from the above scriptures which I believe are guidelines that ensure services are inspiring. The first is that personal involvement from every member is encouraged. The second is that all things be done to build each other up. If people are regularly walking out of a service feeling unloved, judged, or more depressed when they entered, there’s something wrong. Church services, in whatever form that take, should lead to an encounter with God, in an environment where members build each other up.
10. Is attending our church a joyful experience for our members?
(Gal 5:22; Prov 17:22; Ps 126:2; Phil 4:4)
In the book of Galatians we are told that one of the fruit of a believers’ life is joy. A healthy church is therefore, without doubt, a place with lots of joy. Yes, there will be times of sadness and grief, but the life of a believer should not be characterized by sadness. Even during times of persecution, as the New Testament church faced, Paul encouraged believers to rejoice. The world desperately needs more joy, and any place where believers gather together should be somewhere with lots of joy and laughter.
11. Does our church promote the multiplication of small groups?
(Tit 1:5; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:20; Acts 5:42)
Much research has been done on the benefits of small groups. I don’t particularly want to reference that here. Instead I would like to ask the more important question, assuming we accept that small groups are helpful and even necessary for Christians to grow in their faith, do you have a strategy in place to multiply the number of groups? This question also relates to leadership ability, and also causes us to consider what we value. Empowering leaders are motivated to duplicate themselves and place people in roles of responsibility. Dominant models of leadership tend to withhold responsibility, and lack the trust to release people into leadership roles.
12. Do our members regularly invite someone home for a meal or cup of coffee?
(Acts 2:46; 16:15, 34; 28:30; 1Peter 4:9; Heb 13:1,2)
Even though the word ‘hospitality’ only appears a few times throughout the New Testament, the practise of showing hospitality was practised consistently by all followers of Jesus. Believers meet in houses and fellowshipped regularly around food. Hospitality also often extended to having people stay with them. I truly believe that hospitality has been overlooked as one of the things that have played a significant role in the revivals we are currently witnessing around the world. In the midst of our technology jungle, face to face relationships are needed more and more. I read a comment recently saying how sad it was that people would happily send a text wishing them happy birthday, but not take the take to call and arrange a coffee date. Can our churches be an example of loving relationships that the world desperately needs?
What is the one question that you find most challenging? Are there other questions you have found helpful in the past? Let us know. We would love to hear from you.
Join our Facebook page: Ecclesia Framework to receive regular updates and daily updated content.
Click here to sign up to the Heavenly Realms page.