Measurements or counting what counts?

Measurements or counting what counts?

We are a team of 9 – 4 couples, serving together as leaders in the church planting ministry in Moldova. As we abbreviated it LGCM. Maybe somebody would quickly reply: A little correction, the number is wrong. No, there is no mistake. This is a team of spiritual leaders, so Jesus is in the team too😊 – thus 9.

I don’t know if you liked math in school or if that was your nightmare. I liked math, ok till the 9th grade, and then I studied music. But Jesus seemed to be fond of counting. And His counting was always a bit different than ours…

In Jesus’ math 5 loaves and 2 fish made 12 baskets of leftover after feeding 5 000. Later, Jesus asked the disciples to remember exactly the number of bread and the number of baskets left. He wanted to teach them to count. To count well and to understand what they counted. How many? In different situations Jesus wanted them to see different things.

In ministry, to lead well, we count too. We call this counting: statistics. Often, when one must fill in the statistics, there is an inner deep sight. Week by week we are filling the data in the statistics form. Sometimes we write more numbers there, sometimes less. How many people heard the Gospel, how many spiritual conversations, how many follow-ups, how many disciples, etc. One can get lost or discouraged if the numbers are low. And we are tempted to go in the direction of what we could do to add more. But with the Iron on Iron tool introduction, I came to realization that there is a better direction.

The idea is that as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens another man. In a group of trusting people, you share about your walk with the Lord, about your relationships and about your personal ministry. You learn to understand multiplication and analyze your ministry in terms of it. First there were the leaders who went through the Iron on Iron process, and in a year every team member came part of it. A great tool, like a mirror, are Generational Maps. They taught us the 9 elements we want to see in our home churches and communities: 1. Prayer 2. The Word of God 3. Worship 4. Fellowship 5. Prayer, Care, Share 6. The Lord’s Supper 7. Baptism 8. Giving 9. Caring Leaders. This is the perfect picture of a healthy church where all the elements are present in full bloom. I just like it how you can simply draw it yourself and be inspired.

Yet the main discovery was in understanding the multiplication perspective and power! You start with little, like the 5 loaves and 2 fish and God does the multiplication as you slowly build in the right elements. Once you know the direction, you go!

In our team meetings, we use the generational map of our country in order to assess better our situation: what God has already done, how many people are there in the movement, how many of them are Christians, how many are baptized, how many groups are led by lay believers, how many by disciples, how many by staff from Cru. We look at the present elements, we pray and think of our next strategic step in terms of what, where and when, in order to have all the elements present in all the groups and churches. We think about the key places and key people that need to be trained, about how to build and strengthen the flock. We pray and ask God to show us the key things we need to do in order to multiply. We think about the money we have and the money we need and how we can build parterships with others for sinergy. And we gather the stories. These are crucial in measurements. They reveal to us the supernatural work of God. The decisive value of ministry is that it changes lives.

Measuring outcomes takes us beyond counting numbers, keeping us true to our mission and passionate about making a lasting difference in the world. So we pray and think again.

Finally, however precise our measures, the results are merely a commentary on our efforts, not the measure of success. Success is measured with God’s yardstick. As J.I Packer puts it: “After all, the way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success as God sees it.” So we ask Him to teach us His math and help us count and see.

The Story of Iwona- Is multiplication possible today?

The Story of Iwona- Is multiplication possible today?

I met Iwona a few years ago thanks to Beata our common friend. Beata wanted her friends to read and get to know the Word of God.  She asked me to lead a Bible study group for her friends from her fellowship and not only. 

Iwona started to attend.  She is a teacher of biology in one of the primary schools.  God is important for her and she tries to teach God’s truths during her classes.  Iwona had heard the Gospel from her cousin Ola who died from cancer about ten years ago.  

Iwona is that kind of person that asks a lot of questions and thanks to that I decided to spend one meeting of our group to explain what is the Gospel.  To be more precise, I talked about the benefits  of the gospel in the lives of believers.  During that meeting I could see the sparkle in her eyes –  something had happened.  She finally understood.  That was the aha effect for her.  From that moment she likes to answer others the question: OK, so if somebody would accept Jesus what changes does that decision bring?

Iwona tries to use her time at school to talk on spiritual issues to other teachers and students.

This spring she started to ask about our fall weekend retreat. I have organized such an event for women for a few years and this year I was a little tired.  But she insisted.  And other Bible study group participants insisted so I decided to do it also this fall – well that is the power of tradition 😊

Our weekend was spent in a friendly atmosphere, there were 20 of us and 2 new ladies that Iwona invited. Our topic was: I dream, I want,I desire.  We talked a lot about our women desires from the God’s perspective. We studied the person of Anna from 1 Samuel.  We also watched the movie “Case of Christ”.

On Sunday morning I talked on – What does God want?  During that I shared the Gospel and I invited those who did not know Jesus to accept him and I went through the prayer of accepting Jesus. Two friends of Iwona: Agnieszka and Małgosia prayed to receive Jesus.

As the application from that event they decided to organize meetings at their place to study Bible together and also to invite there some other people.

Iwona was very excited and happy.  They all decided on the date of the first meeting. 

I became a spiritual grandma.

During that weekend retreat Dorota led us through the story of Anna from Old Testament.  Dorota shared Christ with me when I was in the University, I attended her Bible study group.  She assisted me on my first steps of faith, reading and applying God’s Word.  Her enthusiasm and devotion for the lost influenced me also. I am sure that God used her in putting the foundation for my Christian life, what I believe and do today. 

There was also Jagoda at the weekend retreat.  She is the person who shared Christ with Dorota – she is my spiritual grandma. 

That was an amazing moment when we realized that there at the same place we had 5 generations of Christ disciples even though Agnieszka and Małgosia have just started that adventure. 

For me the devotion of Iwona to her spiritual daughters is very encouraging.  To see her willingness  to help and readiness to assist them in their growth brings delight.

I pray that she would be able to see her own grandchildren!

What about you? Have you tasted the joy of becoming a spiritual mother or grandmother? Where is God working in your ministry that may move you toward the multiplication journey?

Discipleship group
Discipleship group
From Moldova to ‘Moravia’ a faith adventure

From Moldova to ‘Moravia’ a faith adventure

This summer two of our Moldovan staff families decided to take an expedition trip to Czech Republic. The idea was birthed several months before.

“When we were told that 5 countries in our region did not have a GCM ministry, our hearts were deeply moved by the need and we started to pray. We do really love when people are garhering together as a home-church or live group to share their faith and lives with one another. It is where a lot of spiritual transformation happens. In Moldova we have a lot of groups and churches like these and we would like to start movements of multiplying churches and comunities in other countries” shares with us Liuba Voleanschii, our GCM staff in Moldova ”
” In Cyprus, at our regional staff conference, when we saw the list of the countries without a GCM ministry, our family prayed and Czech Republic caught our attention” (more…)

How About Church Practices Instead of Church Programs?

How About Church Practices Instead of Church Programs?

OK, let’s say you want to change something about the culture of your church.You want to help people move from a consumeristic mindset to a discipleship mindset. You want disciples who live on mission to make more disciples who live on mission to be the norm for your church…

How do you do it? If you’re like most leaders, your go-to strategy is to adopt and implement some kind of church program to make it happen. We’ll preach a sermon series and offer this program that people can sign up for, and we’ll be on our way!

So we buy the materials, write the sermons, get the staff on board, recruit the facilitators, put up the signs, put a booth in the foyer, talk about how excited we are about this new thing, and try to get everyone to sign up for the church program.

Disappointing results

If you’ve never tried this kind of thing, I’ll save you some time and effort: it just doesn’t work.

Even when you get a great turnout and participation in the program, the real results you were looking for won’t be evident. People’s lives won’t really be changed, they’ll just get busier and more excited for a season, and then you’ll move on to the next thing.

So even when it does seem to work, it doesn’t really work. Even if you succeed in getting people into the program, it doesn’t result in the life change you were hoping for.

Programs vs practices

Part of the problem is that there’s something wrong with the very idea of recruiting people to attend church programs, and it’s this: offering church programs to people plays into the very same consumeristic mindset that keeps them trapped in non-discipleship.

So here’s an idea: instead of asking which programs are “working” (which typically means the ones that are well-attended), try asking this instead: What practices are forming us into a community that can pay attention to and participate in God’s mission?

The difference between thinking in terms of “programs” and “practices” is more than semantic.

  • We offer programs for people to consume (usually by simply “showing up”), but
  • With practices, we invite people to, well, practice them!
  • A program is just something we can only really attend or support, and it doesn’t have much formative power.
  • A practice is something we do together that shapes and forms us as a community.

For an example of what I’m talking about, check out the practices we are cultivating in the church I lead.

What if every ministry at your church needed to be filtered through this lens of “practices that form us to pay attention to and participate in God’s kingdom”? If the ministry or church activity doesn’t lead us into that, we stop doing it.

It might change a lot of what you do. It could also change a lot about how you do what you do.

Written by Ben Sternke

No risk no… multiplication

No risk no… multiplication

No risk no… multiplication

No risk no… multiplication

We are talking much about the idea of multiplication and we hear much from all over. There is no doubt that it is important; needed and that was the strategy of Jesus. Many times and on different ways, we teach others what is the difference between adding and multiplying. We draw maps; we kind of try to calculate how many people shall hear the gospel in the next generation. I love that part of training especially because I am a mathematician, I love numbers and elegant neat charts.

None of us needs to be convicted to multiplication, so why the reality around us does not look like what we can see at these beautiful charts? Now, I can hear voices of those reading my statement. Everybody will easily find plenty reasons why that does not work. I would like to add one more reason to that long list. That is the thinking I can see around me lately and what is on my heart. When I read the book “T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution” (Steve Smith and Ying Kai) one thing draw my attention. There in the chapter 4 are described two models of discipleship, one is Jesus model, and the other one is of Paul. Authors write that many contemporary models of discipleship are based on Jesus’ model, which is based on physical presence among disciples. Paul’s model is leading from distance, preparation of disciples and leaders to do the task when he has to go to another place. That does not mean that Paul is not in touch with them once he is gone. He writes letters sends coworkers and prays for them. But we need to see that they grow and develop without his presence.

The difference between these models punched me, but are they really so different? Jesus said to their disciples: “…it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you…” (John 16:7 NIV).

Were disciples of Jesus left alone after Jesus went to heaven? No. Holy Spirit came, Spirit of Jesus, God in third Person.

Did Paul, when he left a town in which the ecclesia (community of believers) was established, leave them alone? No, they were left with somebody without whom they cannot do anything: the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus. He was with them. Paul taught them to depend on and become addicted not on him, Paul but on Jesus.

And it is here, where we find that element of risk. Jesus “took risk” choosing such and not different disciples and leaving in their hands that enormous task, matter of death and life: the gospel, as it is the power of God that brings salvation. We know that after the Pentecost disciples started very well, but we do not know everything, we do not know all their struggles, successes and failures. Only a few of them wrote letters, which give us today some light on their lives. We do not know if always and everywhere they did the same. Probably not as every of them were different. The similar thing is with the ecclesias started by Paul. We know that they struggled with many obstacles. They were not perfect. But the gospel was spread all over the ancient world and had huge impact. There is no doubt about that.

I think that one of the key elements of multiplication is teaching people to depend on Jesus, not on us as mature leaders and allowing them for autonomy and maybe even for failure (?!).
Somebody one day trusted me that I would be able to share Christ with others and lead them in a group. Of course I was not perfect in that as was my leader. I made a lot of mistakes and I still do. I am not a perfect leader.

Of course, not all of our leaders will be doing everything as good as we might do.
Of course, there is a risk of mistake. Jesus also knew that. The very history of the church is full of councils solving what is right and what is not. They also struggled with heresies. Gnosis was present there in the first century.

But the gospel was carried to our times with its unique DNA.
As we have entered a new year, and many of us like to reflect and come up with resolutions, I wish you courage in leaving the gospel in the hands of the people you are discipling, and trusting that Jesus is surely with them always, to the very end of the age and will enable them to overcome.

No Greater Joy

No Greater Joy

We were soaked! It had been pouring rain for 3 days! It was my first youth camp and I had been a believer for two years. Our guests from the US brought their tents but they were not made for this mountain rain. They were flooded. Some of us decided that we would crowd in and make space for all the guests to fit in our tents. We started arranging boys with boys in their tents and girls with girls in their tents. I went to the couple who were leading this group of Americans and I offered them my room in my tent. They were amazed that I would do that and sleep in the hallway of the tent. I thought that this was what a true disciple of Jesus would do.

Making disciples is one of the things that is so dear to my heart. I experienced it. It is something that even today I love to do. That process begins before they pray a prayer or submit to Jesus. A disciple is one who is learning to obey Jesus in all aspects of his life. It is a process, not a program. A disciple never graduates. Always there are new areas that the Spirit reveals where we need to submit and let Him have control. As I look back on my experience, I see three major components of discipleship.

  1. Life on life. Discipleship is more than a Bible study that you do weekly. Studying the Bible with your disciple is important but this is just one aspect. You need to meet outside of the formal study time with your disciple. Let them be part of your life. Have them over in your house for meals, games, and informal time. I learned a lot by being included in the life of my discipler, Floare. I saw her discipline her daughter. I saw her have a conflict with her husband and saw how they solved it. I saw her ask forgiveness. I traveled with her and saw how she acted when tired and under stress. I saw her give her bed to guests who came unexpectedly. She gave us rides to different places, let people borrow her car and things from her house. I saw what it means to put Jesus in charge of all you have. I knew I could go to her anytime with any question and she would never be bothered.
  2. Life in community. Discipleship is not just one on one meetings. You need to involve your disciple in a small group where others can speak into his or her life. Our disciples need more experience than any one of us can provide. Floare and Adi (her husband) put me in a group with seven other boys and girls. I was probably the youngest one but I learned a lot. We grew up as a community. We knew each other well and had the courage to correct each other. We had fun together, studied the Bible together, planned things together, and had Christmas parties together. We kept each other accountable and we grew up together. We were like a family. We cared deeply about each other and we called each other during the week to keep in touch. I still keep up with all those dear friends from that group. Our friendship goes beyond distance and time.
  3. Life on mission. Discipleship is not just gaining knowledge about Jesus. A disciple of Jesus makes disciples. A disciple is active and shares what he learns about Jesus with others. All of us from our community group were given responsibilities. We led the youth camp. We invited colleagues from school to the youth meetings and camps. We shared the Gospel with kids who did not know Jesus. We were challenged to go and find kids who need to be discipled. We were not just to attend the leadership group, pray, study, discuss and agree on what the Bible says; we were expected to go and act on what we talked about. All of us started our own small groups with other teenagers we found and invited. We spent time with our own disciples and helped them to take steps in their walk with God. We challenged them to also go and make disciples, and they did.

My life has changed but I still put a high value on discipleship. This year I started praying for God to show me who I should disciple. God put on my heart two women. I went to them and challenged them and they accepted. One is a professional from Zimbabwe, the other ran away from her pagan family who would like to see her dead. Both women are involved in communities with me. I want to help them go and make disciples.

Look around you. Who has God put in your path? Invite them to life on life, life in community, life on mission. What a joy to see your disciple discipling others in Jesus!
“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4