God is building a movement here in New Orleans and across the globe! A missional movement of churches and the body of Christ across the globe are sensing the Holy Spirit’s call to return back to the basics. In April 2013 I was privileged to lead a team of pastors from Lakeside Church which include some of our ministry staff for Abandon Productions and our families to Exponential Conference 2013 (themed “Disciple-Shift”) at FBC Orlando. The gathering is billed as the largest for church planters in the world and featured leading communicators and visionaries such as Francis Chan, Craig Groeschel, Jeff Vanderstalt, Wayne Cordeiro, Derwin Gray, Chris Hodges, Neil Cole, Ed Stetzer, and many more. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of what we learned and my thoughts from Exponential 2013:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” -JESUS (Matthew 16:18)
Jim Putman, founder and senior pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, ID, who co-authored the book “Disciple-Shift” on which the conference was based opened by asking, “Why does it feel like we’re on the loosing team?” Jesus told us He is the one who builds His church and there is nothing that can stop it, not even Hell itself. Can we really call ourselves a church if Hell is winning the battle? No. His church wins! His church wins when we follow Him. How do we follow Him? In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Disciples who make disciples are the essence of what it means to be the church.
Over the 3 days we were challenged to make 5 Disciple-Shifts, shifts in disciple-making, in the context of the local church:
- From Reaching to Making – Occurs when church leaders move away from only reaching people and toward relational disciple-making that apprentices people in the ways of Jesus.
- From Leading to Being Led – Occurs when church leaders move away from leading and toward being the first among Spirit-led followers of Jesus. Because leaders reproduce who they are, if we want to make strong, mature disciples, leaders must first be strong mature disciples.
- From Teaching to Modeling – Occurs when church leaders move from seeing their roles as teaching about discipleship toward disciple-making like Jesus. Jesus strategy to influence the world was by apprenticing and equipping twelve disciples. He apprenticed them through modeling faith, service, and leadership and then commissioned his disciples to do the same.
- From Assimilating to Creating Community – Occurs when leadership moves away from assimilating people into programs toward creating missional communities. Cause created communities foster environments of encouragement, accountability and risk-taking where disciple-making happens best.
- From Attracting to Deploying – Occurs when church leaders shift from focusing their energies on drawing in masses of people, but instead leading churches that send equipped Christ-followers to the masses. Our scorecards must change from simply counting the number of people we attract to counting the number of people we deploy.
Most people in and outside the church long for the deep community and love displayed by the early church in Acts 2:42-47, but as Jeff Vanderstelt, visionary leader of Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA, shared, “Acts 2 is the result of Acts 1.” We must rediscover our purpose and mission as followers of Jesus which ultimately creates the authentic community we all long for, as Jesus commands his followers in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Vanderstelt went on to implore, “Live in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation…Don’t be friends with people for the sake of the Gospel, be friends because of the Gospel!”
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.“ -Acts 4:31-32
Pray for boldness. Proceed with Jesus. We are united. We are gifted. Be the Church!