“What if instead of just becoming the church everybody wants to come to, we also become the church no one wants to leave.” So are the words of Larry Osborne, in a recent article in Outreach Magazine.
This sounds great! But is that missional? How would we re-write this line from a missional perspective? “What if instead of being the church everyone wants to come to, we become the church that releases its people for ministry outside of our church, especially on Sundays?” What does reframing that statement do to the mindset of the church?
1. Releasing makes room for more unchurched, de-churched, and people who don’t follow Christ.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to impact people on a large scale without the overhead of larger church facilities? You can do it. How? By releasing people from your church to ministry outside the church. Send them off to start new churches, build up struggling churches, do ministry in the community on Sundays, or be missionaries to the weekend marketplace. As people are developed, discipled, and released they free space for those who do not have a church home. So you have hundreds, even thousands impacting the community and other churches and the influence of your church grows exponentially. And you do not even have to bring on more staff or build new buildings or invest money in satellite worship locations.
2. Releasing keeps in front of the church that the Kingdom is the most important part of a relationship with Christ.
There are a lot of churches that talk about being kingdom-oriented. Few churches do it. But constantly releasing people to ministry outside your church demonstrates that the kingdom is the most important aspect of a relationship with God. The body gets to celebrate the calling of people to ministry. The body gets to see the importance of being a missionary to their world. The body celebrates the idea that everyone is a missionary and minister, not just the few people they see on stage. And the body gets to celebrate the influence they are having glocally.
Missional = Releasing
1. Missional is not about collecting; it is about releasing.
Missional is all about sending, not hoarding. Collecting and attracting are about keeping. This is inconsistent within the framework of Acts or even the writings of Paul. Paul was constantly talking about those who had been released from their churches, sent out to be ministers to and with Paul as well as the churches that had been started throughout the Roman empire. Paul himself was released, along with Barnabas for ministry.
2. Releasing demands we do what is best for the person, not the church.
Is that a harsh statement? It depends. Is the most important thing for your church its size? Is your mentality something like this: “If we had more resources (more people, which will bring in more money) we could do so much more ministry” ? If so, what I have said may sound harsh. But those who try to hoard their membership instead of release them are trying to do what is best for the church, not the person or the kingdom.
I had a discussion the other day with a staff person of a large church with a new addition. The reason they won’t encourage people who drive 30-45 minutes away to do ministry in their own community? They are in debt and are afraid if they release people they might not be able to pay off their debt. Is that a valid reason to not release people to do ministry in their own community? Is fear a valid reason to not release people to impact the kingdom where they are?
Preparing to Release People
How do we prepare to release people from our church?
1. Cultivate an environment that places importance on ministry outside the church campus, not inside the church campus.
How do you do this? Preach on it. Celebrate the efforts of those who are doing ministry within the community already. Allow these people to tell their stories. Emphasize the work they are doing.
2. Develop leadership training that prepares people to be released.
Few churches have training on putting together a good Bible study or mentoring others. Churches need to develop people for ministry, theology, and leadership.
3. Identify through networks areas and positions where your church can release people for ministry.
Look at areas where your denomination or affinity networks are already doing ministry. Talk with churches that are struggling to reach their community and encourage your own people to begin ministering there. Social ministries can always use ministers as well.
If we are going to be truly missional, we must encourage people to leave our church. It grows our influence and empowers people for ministry.