Grasping At Everything To Gain Something

As the population continues to move into cities and be contained into areas that are unfamiliar and sometimes unsafe this question comes to mind: What is the Church doing to win the cities? There have been so many models and patterns set in the past 30 to 40 years that it is almost a “grasp what you can” to gain what you can. I remember coming home from seminars and growth celebration meetings discouraged because the procedures offered did not fit my area or ministry style. I would think, “Wow, how awesome it would be to win the city I am in!” I could not bring myself to become a seeker-oriented ministry nor could I change up the service times to meet a contained time limit. I even served as lead pastor for 5 years just 35 minutes from Willow Creek Community Church located in South Barrington, Illinois. Having stated that I also take my memory banks and open them up to the time before moving to Illinois to serve that I saw Bill Hybel’s church in the Sunday magazine as I was serving in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was the beginning of this seeker movement then and I was really hopeful about doing something of that model but I could not fit it into the “rules”, if you may, that define the “seeker” church style. I began to go to seminar after seminar and joining in with groups that were made up of large church leaders hoping I could glean from them on the “How To Grow an Effective Large, Enormous, Mega-church”. I depleted years on this search and found I was not going anywhere close to that. Made good friends, even to this day, but I could not find the pattern or model that would seemingly work. I was becoming discouraged to say the least. Once in the 1980’s, in a camp- meeting in Fresno CA., I made a covenant of prayer with John Dawson the author of TAKING OUR CITIES FOR GOD How to Break Spiritual Strongholds, as we talked and made friends in the lobby one afternoon. I even remember the days when there were “invitation” only gatherings for “giants”: those have 1000 or more in attendance. I really began to say, “Ouch!” and wondered about growth even more so when mirrored to the dynamics that these churches and leaders were producing. Lastly, when I moved to Santa Cruz, CA to open a church and mission to the disenfranchised I went to a luncheon with several lead pastors who were serving churches with a capacity of 700 to 5000 members. I suggested that they could begin to bring small church leaders into their mentoring/coaching circles. I explained that it would really help these pastors with insight on how to gain a harvest for their local churches. The response was from one “city pastoral father”; “We have nothing in common with the small church pastors,” I simply, not showing it on my expression, gasp! I have read books on the “Emergent Movement” and wondered if I should change to that sort of style to grow a church. I saw that I could not go along with some the “out-of-the-box” theology that did not line up to he Word of God! Wow, I have really been on a journey! Writing this makes me realize how much I have tried and also how many people I have spoken with about church growth. I could mention many names that are recognizable nationally; who I have become friends with over the years that serve very large churches, but that is not the point! I had found myself “grasping for everything to gain something” in my journey to grow a church which would be defined as successful because of it size. I have never ceased seeking the answers for this hope that I have! Recently, on my Facebook page, I had person comment this: “Dennis pastors a whole city.” I took a deep breath and realized that is true! I looked at the pattern that I was using and I considered this statement, very humbly, and deliberated with my spiritual father, whose name I will not state (because I do not like “dropping” names). Yes, I do pastor a city here in Santa Cruz, CA. I also pastor a community of believers in San Pablo, CA. where we are now beginning plans to win the city. I realize in this writing today I have expressed many thoughts and hopefully not placed and criticism or any degree of cynicism toward anyone or any pattern/model of church growth. I am just being “real” about my journey. Do not ever give up trying to grow a healthy church that will reach a city for Jesus Christ. Be real with God and real with your constituency! Reach your city and get to know the city fathers of your particular location. Maintain your doctrine and accept your fellow pastors who may not be of your particular doctrinal persuasion. Love your city and pray for it daily! Through my search I have found that the pattern that I have found to grow a church is this:
  1. Make sure you are in the right location (where God has planted you).
  2. Pray for your city.
  3. Know the plans of the secular city leadership.
  4. Seek good counsel from those that have built successful churches.
  5. Study church growth and know it from your heart.
  6. Realize what you gifts have and use them.
  7. Bring people around you who will be your strengths in areas you are not strong in.
  8. Everyone in your city has a place to serve God if they are given an opportunity.
  9. Learn how to regain confidence from your mistakes in your journey of establishing a successful church in your city.
  10. Platform off your success and mentor others as you learn how to win a city.
  11. Have regular meetings, if possible, with city leaders, and share your heart for the city.
  12. Have a compassion for the lost of your city, which is resident in your heart.
  13. Keep your identity and branding and remember whom you are and why you are growing a church.
  14. Be patient with the Lord He is working it out for you.
Stop grasping at everything to gain something like I did for so many years! Remember prayer moves the Hand of God.

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