Established Members Equipped Leaders (Part 2)

Training Up New Leaders

Mentoring others to grow as leaders requires us to exercise a certain amount of faith and trust in our members, our interns, and ultimately in what the Lord is doing in their lives. Some people view empowering others as a risky move since they do not really know whether the person they are entrusting other people to will be a good leader. However, we need to entrust God and remember that someone took the same risk with us.  

This will cost us, as we will need to spend a significant amount of time, energy, and effort to make the relational investment in our interns – and for a lot of people, there needs a justification for the cost. However, though there will be highs and lows, we will ultimately find that the reward is greater than the risk. We may not have quantifiable data, but at the very least, we know that we have planted seeds of the Gospel in the lives of these people no matter what may happen. 

Also need to consider the fact that of the twelve disciples of Jesus, one fell away. This shows us that not all interns we train can follow through, even during Biblical times. Nevertheless, the leader who raised them is not liable for their mistakes. In fact, the greatest leader to ever walk on the planet trained Judas, yet he still somewhat failed in his relationship with God. 

Let go of false burdens.

We remember not to carry too much of the burden should people fall or things fail. We also need to start letting our members and interns be accountable for their decisions in their personal relationships with the Lord. At the same time, we must also not allow this revelation to stop or discourage us because the success rate is far higher than the opposite at the end of the day. In fact, another way we can look at it is this: if we actually take the risk, we may end up raising this generation’s version of the Apostles Peter, James, or John. 

But to do this, we need to take the time to establish reciprocal trust with them. They have to know that they can run to us should something wrong happen or need wisdom. Some of us need to keep quiet when our interns are opening up. You need to pause before issuing corrections and directions. 

We remember that our goal is not to churn out leaders for the sake of it. Instead, we are to be responsible for the people God has entrusted to us. Your role is to love and to serve them in whatever capacity. We need to be careful to impart a heart of servant leadership and an attitude full of love and grace. They will exhibit what you have modeled in their future small group members and interns. 

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Established Members Equipped Leaders

Established Members Equipped Leaders:

Relationships in the Group: Boon or Blessing?

While the strength of a small group is hinged on the relationships built within the circle, this can also become its weakness. Some small group members can become so comfortable that they no longer are interested in building relationships with people outside their group. This becomes a problem not just because this features exclusivity but also because it means that within the small group is a culture that allows complacency, leaving the members with no intention to move beyond their current role. As such, we need to start being more deliberate about raising our members as leaders who can take on their own small groups. We need to maintain a small group culture that remains missional just as much as it is spiritual and relational. 

Train Up Future Leaders

Practically, we need to start identifying the small group members who can become small group leaders. This does not mean that we are to pick and choose only those seemingly special because the goal is to have everyone eventually become leaders who lead their own small groups. But it does mean that we will be strategic in raising our small group members to become leaders. To begin, we need to look at who has the most potential at this point and who has the most initiative and maturity to handle leading other people.  

When the apostle Paul was mentoring Timothy, he had this to say: 

2 and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.  

(2 Timothy 2:2) 

We also need to learn to entrust the message we have been given to others who can teach it to others. Like Jesus, we need to look for people who can become our interns. And once we have our interns, we start equip them and guide them as they go through the process of becoming a leader.  

Model Leadership

It usually just starts with us leading a small group meeting and our interns observing. Afterward, we set some time with them to discuss the things that they have learned from observation. Eventually, once they have enough information and foresight, we can ask them to help us as we lead the small group by giving them time to share or by letting them facilitate the discussion.  

We can provide them with feedback thereafter to grow in the way they discuss with and handle the group. Then once we think that they are ready to go to the next level, we will switch positions with them and have them lead the groups we are handling while we merely observe and support them as safety nets. We will allow them the freedom to teach the group and navigate the discussion as we note what we could improve. After a few meetings of having them lead, we can finally release them with several other group members to begin their own small group.

Check back in the next post for more of establishing members & equipping leaders.

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Equipping Leaders to Lead Small Groups

Last Words

Before Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, his last command was for his followers to make disciples. He made sure to spend his last days on earth giving instructions to his disciples and speaking about the kingdom of God. Before he went up on a cloud, he had this conversation with his disciples:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:6-9) 

However, we will see in recent studies that even though Jesus gave his own variation of a dying wish, many Christians have failed to live out what he wanted – discipleship. In fact, only 20% of Christians are involved in discipleship. This percentage already includes participation in various activities such as mentorship, accountability, Bible studies, and small groups.

Partially, it’s due to a lack of commitment on the believer’s part. On the other hand, it can also be due to the lack of initiative from the leaders in the church to establish discipleship as an important part of their congregation’s culture. Several Christians even claim that they handle their spiritual growth better if they are by themselves. While this is largely due to the individualistic western culture we have, it can also be due to the church’s lack of substantial community interaction.

God’s Design for Community

This is a dangerous mindset that has started to go around in Christian circles, and we need to put a stop to it while we still can. We need to remember that God designed us to be in a community and should start being more deliberate about establishing an environment where our leaders and members can truly flourish as children of God.

Furthermore, it has been seen that particularly traditional churches have been set on a particular slate of leaders and refuse to integrate and empower new ones. This discourages those interested in disciplining others, as the structure refuses to make room for them. Meanwhile, some Christians believe that discipleship is only for the ministers and those in full-time ministry. This view could not be further from the truth. A church can have the best programs, the most active ministries, and the greatest technological advancements anyone could possess. Still, if they fail to disciple others, then they fail at actually being the church.

The Great Commission

In another version of the great commission, Jesus had this to say:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).  

Jesus empowered all those in his small group. Jesus modeled how to make more disciples, teaching them and baptizing them as they go along. Christ called them to devote their entire lives to this cause. If they were truly to permeate the whole world with the Gospel as Jesus wanted. We also need to make disciples who also make disciples.

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The Model for Small Groups

Small Groups and the Mustard Seed

If we can take a good look at our church and see that perhaps, our systems may be more like the mustard tree, we need to apply guardrails to make sure that we only do things the way God would have wanted for us to do.

On the other hand, our numbers may have ballooned to the point that church leaders can no longer serve them. This growth did not necessarily come from unnatural methods. This means that we need to look at how the early church did it. 

How did they grow in number? We need to learn from how they did things.

Certainly, these churches did not grow because of their big establishments or impressive surround sound systems. They grew because the fire of the Holy Spirit was upon them, and fellowship drew people into the relationships they shared within the community.  

They opted to establish house churches.  Early churches did not really have domes or halls to hold public gatherings for believers of Christ. Through these house churches, the Gospel became widespread.  The believers challenged the established social order in their time and culture.  

How did home churches spread Christianity?

Ultimately, it was this movement and church setup that sustained the first three centuries of church ministry. We don’t necessarily have these setups anymore due to the wide acceptance of megachurches. Nevertheless, studies show the average number of members of house churches ranges from 15-20 people. This number was due to the size of houses during that time. So we can then liken it to our small groups today.

The thought of managing small groups does not appeal to some. If the sense of largeness drew people to the megachurch, they probably enjoy being in a big community of believers. In contrast, a small group narrows down the community and focuses on fewer relationships. However, it is here that we can apply the principle of the mustard seed: we do not despise the small beginnings, and we ensure that the seed being planted in the lives of other people is grown the way it needs to.  

Talking to people over small groups allows us to establish and share accurate theology. It is these personal settings that allow us to rebuke wrong doctrines with honesty and love. Moreover, small group settings build deeper relationships with them that may allow accountability. In the same vein, the intimacy of the model allows space to encourage one another and spur each other on towards Christ.  

Resistance for Small Groups

Some leaders find it frustrating to lead small groups because the growth in their members’ lives seems slow, but we must not force them to grow just for the sake of it because if we do, we might end up making them into mustard trees. We ourselves should not step out of the boundaries God placed over our lives, and we must only exercise as much authority as He would allow us. A good passage of Scripture to remember when we find ourselves struggling with this is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church: 

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). 

We are tasked to stay faithful to the mustard seed, and eventually, we will see how the Lord will be the One to take the faithfulness we offer Him in the seemingly small things and make them into something big. 

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Small Groups and Changed Lives

How Christ Changed Peter

A specific disciple whose life we can look at is the apostle Peter, who famously walked with Jesus on water. He is the perfect depiction of a three-dimensional human being who struggles with his own strengths and weaknesses. We see this conflict in him unfold when he encountered Jesus walking outside of their boat: 

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30). 

Jesus Was Patient With Peter

In the span of three verses, we see how bold, impulsive, presumptuous, and fearful Peter could be. Remember when Peter sliced off the high priests’ servant’s ear. Peter fought for Jesus when they were arresting Jesus.

Nevertheless, Jesus had to tell him to put his sword away. Peter’s interference is actually getting in the way of the will of God (Jn. 18:10). Every situation became a teaching moment. There was also an instance when Jesus started to prophesy about his future suffering and death. Peter rebuked Jesus.

Can you imagine that? Jesus sternly rebuked Peter in return. Jesus said he was a stumbling block and that he had no concern for the things of God (Matt. 16:21-23). 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that all of them would stumble and end up scattered. Peter, in all his sincerity, said that everyone else might stumble but not him. Yet Jesus continually warned him that. In fact, on that very day before the rooster crows, Peter would have denied him not just once but three times. Still, Peter could not reconcile himself with this and refused to accept it. Eventually, what Jesus said came to pass, and Peter was left hurt and in disbelief over what he had done (Lk. 22:54-62). 

Yet it was through this that he came upon his turning point. He understood the gravity of what he had done. When he came face to face with Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, Jesus asked him three times if Peter truly did love him. One for every time Peter betrayed him.

Understandably, he was hurt that Jesus asked him thrice. Yet, when Jesus responded affirmatively and told Peter to feed and tend to his lambs, Peter decided to hinge his entire life doing exactly that. He went on to continue serving the cause of Christ after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Consequently, Peter set an example of what it meant to be a good servant-leader.

Leaders Must Be Patient Like Jesus Was

Leaders need to remember that Peter had to go through all these challenges to come out as the man he ended up being after the Pentecost. The change wasn’t immediate, and he made stupid decisions, but Jesus still restored him to the group.

In the same way, we as leaders must extend the same amount of patience and grace to our small group members. There will be times that the people in our small group will mess up as Peter did.  

In a small group, we establish friendships with others. Relationships are forged. As in any other relationship, conflicts and hurt can occur. 

We are all works in progress

There will be moments when we wonder why it takes such a long time for some people to change. Why are people so proud or stubborn?  Like the Twelve, we were still undergoing sanctification and transformation. 

They were still immature even after spending every day with Jesus for three years. Therefore, we shouldn’t be pushy with the members of our small groups.

We can sometimes find ourselves struggling with leadership and thinking of ourselves as unworthy vessels of Christ. But we can look to the twelve disciples. Remember, we’re not really that different from them.

The fact that Jesus chose ordinary, broken, flawed people to be his chosen twelve shows us that no matter how difficult some disciples are, they are still working in progress.  

As long as someone is willing to stay in a small group and wants to change, we should do our utmost best to lead them like how Jesus led the disciples. It was through the small group that Jesus largely taught and modeled what it meant to follow God, and it was through this close contact and interaction that the disciples ultimately changed. 

Jesus Cared About His Small Group

This is because Jesus didn’t view his small group as a mere organization model established to attain a goal. He didn’t do it to fulfill all righteousness. He cared more about the relationships being built and the spiritual foundations being established. More than anything else, the trust, love, and respect built that the disciples felt for him transformed their lives.

 Like the rest of us, Jesus could have chosen to stay neutral and detached, establishing his role in the lives of the disciples simply as a leader and nothing more. Yet, he allowed himself to be vulnerable to his disciples, allowing himself to be anguished and pained before them and asking for their support when he knew that the time for his arrest and crucifixion has come (Matt. 26:36-46). 

Foundations and Fellowship

Some of us don’t allow room for vulnerability in our relationships with the people in our small group because we want to be perceived a certain way. For certain people, it is their form of establishing their leadership over others, acting as if they’re too busy for small groups because they have so much to do in general ministry. However, this was not the model Jesus gave us, and this goes against how he designed and functioned in small groups. He allowed himself to move in a small group setting before moving into his more public ministry. And at the end of every big gathering held, he returned to mentoring his disciples and processing things with them after. 

Jesus built the very first small group by building the important foundations in their lives. He cared for them, he shared his lives with them, he served them and served with them, then he went on to empower them to make disciples even after he had gone. And it was because of this, what began as a small group of twelve turned into the billions of Christians that we have today. 

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jesus-Called-The-Twelve

Jesus Called The Twelve – First Small Group Ministry

Small Groups Were Fundamental

When we study the structure of how the early church did ministry, we will find that small groups have indeed existed since the time of Jesus. They did not tag them as “meetings.”

When Jesus started his ministry on earth, he sought out several people. They are twelve disciples – Christ’s own brand of a small group.

Jesus gave these men the honor of being the first disciples and Jesus’ ministry. They paved the way for Christianity to be as it is now.  

In the Bible, the first mention of anything is considered monumental. The first mention of the word dictates its true context. In the same vein, Jesus introduced discipleship in the context of a small group.  When Jesus called the 12, it represented the first form of small group ministry and discipleship in the Bible.

A Small Group of Disciples to Mentor

During the first century, it was common for leaders – be this in religion, philosophy, or politics – to have a dedicated group of followers and apprentices.

In Judaism at the time, it was common for rabbis to have their own set of apprentices following after their footsteps.

Normally, interested students would approach a rabbi they admire and ask if he would mentor them. If he agrees to take them on, they will only be considered a part of the rabbi’s group.

However, Jesus did the complete opposite and chose seemingly random people with not particularly noteworthy occupations. It was common for the rabbis to mentor the brightest pupils about the Jewish faith, so having a group with many fishermen was outside this norm.

Jesus’ Small Group Had Different Personalities

At the time, there must have been plenty of men who were seemingly qualified, educated, and teachable, so there must be a reason why Jesus chose these particular twelve. Interestingly enough, they came from backgrounds various enough for us not to detect a pattern.

The first he called out were brothers Peter and Andrew. They were fishermen. Jesus called the brothers James and John next.  Jesus came across them when they were still fishing with their father.

Though their occupations were not blatantly mentioned in the Bible, Philip, James, and Thomas, there is evidence they were also fishermen since they were fishing when Jesus showed himself to them after his resurrection.  

On the other hand, Matthew was a tax collector. In that culture, Jewish people despised this profession. Jewish people considered them traitors. They believed tax collectors were corrupt. 

Meanwhile, Simon used to be a zealot, a religious sect that instigated protests and rebellions to overthrow the Roman government.

The opposing views and personalities in this group show us that Jesus did not choose them based on their credentials or righteousness.

Bible commentators can say that these disciples lived rather ordinary lives before they chose to follow him. Advanced studies of the Gospels show that none of them were especially students of the law. 

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Highlight: Beware of the Birds

Highlight: Beware of the Birds

God is the Sower. Ultimately, nothing grows if He did not plant it. He uses people to establish His purposes. Most of the time, He can use you to share the Gospel with your friend. However, it’s also only God who can make things grow. 

Sometimes, we are the field by which God sows things. Unfortunately, there are times when we become the birds who snatch away the good that God has planted in the hearts of others.

Who are the Birds?

The church can attract different sets of people. Sometimes, the people are like the birds in the parable of Jesus.

Jesus uses these parables to warn us. There would be members of the church who can steal or kill or destroy what God has been doing. The enemy is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Every Christian must be vigilant. In fact, even Christians can be stirred in the wrong direction and become birds at one point in their lives.

Some people may also take advantage of the church community. They become members not because of their faith but because they want to be served. They want to benefit from belonging to the church. However, since there is no genuine repentance and Lordship in their lives, it ends up in chaos. Church leaders must be vigilant that “birds” do not steal the seed that has been planted for the church to grow. Birds snatch up the seed. They steal the seed so they cannot take root and bloom.

As true believers, we can take comfort in the fact that we can ask for wisdom from God. We must be careful to weed out such people so that they don’t steal away the fruits that have the potential to grow in our lives. God can sow a prophetic word in your heart, but birds (fear or doubt) can snatch them away. Nevertheless, birds have a purpose in the story.

Jesus still allowed the presence of Judas Iscariot as one of his chosen twelve even when he knew that Judas was bound to betray him (Jn. 6:70). This shows us that Jesus, in fact, allows or permits evil to coexist with good under his sovereignty and use it for his purposes. 

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Highlight: The Mustard Seed

Seed: In the last post, we talked about how it is crucial to plant good soil for the seed to grow.  Sometimes, we are the farmer who can sow seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of others when we interact with them. In other times, we are the field by which God Himself sow greatness. In both cases, if the soil of the field is hard, nothing will grow.

The Mustard Seed

Scholars note that it is odd to call a mustard a tree. The fact is it’s only grown to be a shrub. Jesus certainly did not make a mistake in his word choice. The people who were listening to him understood that mustard seeds don’t really grow into trees.

This metaphor implies that a mustard seed growing into a tree is unnatural and could not happen if agricultural laws apply.  

If you notice this, you’ll see Jesus’ warnings. There will be many churches and Christians that seem to grow unnaturally. While we can chalk this up to the supernatural grace of God, this can also mean that there are perversions in the way Christians and churches are produced.  Jesus wants to warn Christians about this unnatural way of being.

Shrub vs. Tree Potential

A shrub differs from a tree.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit develops a true Christian. This individual will differ from one who has a superficial faith. The Christian can live and make decisions by the grace of God. Conversely, the other who claims to be Christian is only borne out of good works and trivial human effort. Somehow, a part of us shrivels in discomfort when we enter a church or encounter a Christian that may appear God-honoring on the outside but is truly self-gratifying on the inside. Even the least discerning of us get uncomfortable around certain people because we know that the way they present themselves is fake and unnatural.  

The Lack of Authenticity in the Church

When watermelons grow naturally, they are oval in shape, full of seeds, and are covered by a green, striped outer skin. Yet these days, we will find watermelons that are square, seedless, and monochromic. These are unnatural, produced by the interference of human hands. While we enjoy eating a seedless watermelon for its convenience, watermelons were never really designed or created to be this way.

In the same way, some churches have become perverted when it comes to their doctrines, values, and objectives; thus, they take on a new nature – one that is not of God. They may identify as a church of Christ in the same way that the mustard tree is identified as something that stemmed from the mustard seed, but the way they present themselves and what makes them up differ. They grow because they placed their own hands in the process.  As a result, we will encounter churches with resounding accusations of secularism, manipulation, abuse, purposeful connection with authoritative figures to acquire power, and unnecessary extensive expenses on marketing and advertising.

 

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The Sower, The Mustard Seed, The Field, The Tree, and The Birds

Variables in the Parable of the Mustard Seed

Five variables made up the parable:

  1. the sower,
  2. the mustard seed,
  3. the field,
  4. the tree,
  5. and then the birds who come over to live in it.

Bible scholars agree that the sower in this scenario is Jesus, while the mustard seed is the Gospel. 

The parable speaks of how the seed grew into a tree, and science shows us that it can grow up to twenty feet tall.

This is substantial growth considering that it came from a seed with the size of just 1 millimeter in diameter.  

And once the tree grows big and sturdy, birds start to flock to it and build their nests in it. Interestingly enough,  the author referred to the birds as the wicked ones in another parable (Matt. 13:4, 19). We must take note of these as we will address their vitality later on in this chapter. 

Some preachers take this parable and make it a case for how God will grow big things out of the small that we plant. And to an extent, this concept is Biblical.

In another parable recorded in the Gospels, Jesus makes it a point to say that those who can be entrusted with little will be entrusted with much (Lk. 16:10). This means that if we stay faithful with whatever has been given to us now, God will eventually expand our capacity and entrust us with more. 

The Field

However, if we take it strictly, we will find that we are not the sowers. Rather, we are the field in which the mustard seed has been planted.

Once Jesus plants the seed of the Gospel into our lives, it will grow within us and take deep root in our lives. What is important to note here is that the mustard seed is pungent and fiery. And in many ways, this is an accurate depiction of the Gospel once applied to our lives.

The Bible contains many commands and passages about God, what is expected of us, and what He created humanity to be that we wrestle with it. In fact, it is the reason why many people who encounter it choose to turn away from it – it burns, and it makes us squirm. 

The quality of the field when the sower plants the seed is crucial. Here, we can draw a parallel to another insight given to us by Jesus through the parable of the sower: 

3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with earslisten!” (Matthew 13:3-9) 

The Farmer or the Seed Won’t Matter If the Soil is Bad

If the farmer planted the mustard seed on any other soil other than good soil, it wouldn’t really have borne good fruit.

We see this in the numerous people who attend church but don’t really stay.

God can use you to the tiny seed of the Gospel in other people’s hearts. However, if the state of their souls makes it impossible for these seeds to really take root and grow, then it won’t.

This can be discouraging for Christians to watch, especially if the fields still appear dry. However, we can rest in this: we can faithfully water the seeds God plants, and God will make them grow.  

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Breaking Down the Parable of the Mustard Seed

What does the mustard seed teach us?

Countless churches and Christians today look to the parable of the mustard seed. We must take cues from the values that Jesus was presenting to the early believers when he spoke of it.

Still, the parable has important facets that we can only understand if we have the same context and knowledge as the ones who initially heard it.

While most had come to understand and appreciate how the mustard seed was the smallest seed known when this parable was given, there are elements that we do not inherently know due to cultural differences.

Agriculture was an important topic for the listeners of Jesus. The listeners knew the specific traits and functions of the different kinds of seeds.

For instance, apart from the fact that the mustard seed was known for its size, its quality was also something that was to be noted. Apparently, it is also famous for being an irritant.

Should it touch a person’s skin, it can cause contact dermatitis. The place of contact will turn red and feel as if it is burning. In modern times, we mix it with vinegar, oils, wine. People need to mix other spices with it before the public can commercially consume the seed.

Small in size but with great potential

Legend tells us that when Darius, the king of Persia, invaded Europe with his army, he sent a bag of sesame seeds to Alexander the Great to symbolize that there are as many soldiers in his army as there are seeds in the bag. Stepping up to the plate, Alexander sent back a bag of mustard seeds to Darius as a way of saying that while their army may be many, his army is biting and fiery. Such was the case for the mustard seed – small in size but large in potential. 

 

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The Principle of the Mustard Seed

Everything Starts Small

Every large corporation that exists today started with a group of people who had a dream. Apple started with three friends in one garage. They started simply building computers as a hobby. One day, they decided to sell several units to distributors. They initially had trouble going up against Microsoft. They struggled with getting customers. But they kept on pushing until they came out with the ingenious iPod. As a result, they changed the entire landscape of portable technology as we know it.

Now, MacBooks and iPhones are viewed as status symbols. They have permeated the market in ways that were initially deemed impossible for them.

Facebook started with several students deciding to make an online community platform originally limited to Harvard. This expanded to different universities until it opened to the general public. It was not without its fair share of challenges and controversy. Right now, it continues to be the most-used online networking site with over 2 billion users.

Coca-Cola started with a curious pharmacist developing a unique-tasting soda and a partner deciding to market it to soda fountains. When it was just beginning, it only sold nine servings per day. Now, an astounding 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola are sold every day.

The Megachurch Started Not-So-Mega

In the same way, every megachurch that exists now started with a small group of believers who wanted to do something for the Lord and their community. They knew that they were faithful in what has been entrusted to them. Moreover, they must have had no clue that the church was going to blow up the way it did – and yet it did. Growth can attribute this fruitfulness to the amount of passion, toil, and sincerity that they put into the work of the Lord. It also says a lot about how great things come from small beginnings if these small things are entrusted to the Lord. 

A good story to look at is that of Ralph Moore, a 70-year old pastor. In 1971, he felt the Lord speak to him about planting a church, so he did. The Hope Chapel movement began with just him, his wife, and nine other people. He just did what he knew to do: speak about Jesus, who he is, and what he has done.  

Once the church became a megachurch that had already planted 29 other churches, he felt God call him to start another congregation, and so he obeyed once again. Before long, this congregation grew into a flourishing church planting movement, so much so that right now, there are 2,300 churches. About 220,000 people can attribute to this one man’s seemingly small act of obedience. And yet, for all he has accomplished, he can only attribute it to this: not a great strategy, but a great Savior.

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why the megachurch is criticized

Why The Megachurch is Criticized

The Risk of Disengagement

Despite these efforts, the megachurch has been constantly criticized for the sheer number of attendees per service would mean that there will be people who won’t get engaged or given enough attention.

Additionally, the setup of the worship service with a high stage and a large number of congregants can give off the impression of a concert.

Consequently, the attendees are mere spectators and faces in a crowd. Thousands more choose to attend for the thousands of people who choose to commit to the megachurch and get involved. They do so simply because they get to live in some anonymity. They cannot do that if they join a smaller church.

A large number of attendees attend each service. Therefore, some locations can host more than 5,000 people at a time. The multiple services run each weekend.

The majority of the people are scrambling out of the venue even before the service has ended. There isn’t really time to talk with friends afterward, nor can people loiter inside the hall because everyone has to be cleared out, and the room must be re-done completely within 15 minutes.

 Some consider megachurches’ worship time as mere experiential performances. Similar to rock concerts, the music team leads worship with fog machines and synchronized lights.

We are guilty of pointing a lot of fingers in the way of megachurches for their strict programs. The traditional churches would claim that these megachurches leave no room for the Holy Spirit.

Moreover,  they would accuse the megachurch of the “specularization” of something that is supposed to be sacred.

Is it too personality-driven?

A harsher criticism is that megachurches follow a largely questionable ideology. 

For instance,  megachurches are largely leader-driven, with one specific point person that most churches look up to.

This can be the senior pastor or the president of an organization of ministries. But while this leader is almost certainly of ministerial position, this leader is a minister who cannot attend to everything. Most attendees have probably never met the leader in person.

The purpose then of the leader is to embody a vision and get the members to act on this. The criticism for Christian celebrities is present. It adds to the seemingly impersonal setup of megachurch services. 

Opening Doors for More People

At the end of the day, megachurches have done their part in making ministries and discipleship available for all who attend. To balance out the distance between the senior minister and the general attendee, they have employed small groups, also known as Bible studies, care groups, or fellowship groups.

As a solution to the increasing number of attendees, the megachurch has chosen to empower its leaders and allow them the authority to shepherd and disciple their communities within these groups. In this context, they really get to build relationships with each other and discuss their personal problems, along with Biblical truths. Those who attend small groups are active members. Most megachurches make it a foundational requirement for volunteers and leaders. In this scenario, the small group leader then takes on the role of being a minister to his or her members.  

Your weekly dose of prophetic wisdom and anointing awaits you. Join our LIVE Conference Call!

1) Call 515-604-9266

2) Go to startmeeting.com, and use the login: BishopJordan