Growth and Renewal

Craig Clemons is an entrepreneur who wrote a blog about growing his business 10X. I am always skeptical about such things, but decided to do some reflecting on something I would love to grow in the next few years: my disciple-making. In the past four years, I have had the immense privilege of baptizing 9 adults at Parklane CRC. But what would happen if, in the next four years, we baptized 90 adults? We would have 90 more followers of Jesus to mentor youth, serve the homeless, lead worship, serve in leadership and go out to plant churches. In fact, that is starting to sound like a renewal movement! So, after some prayer and reflection, here are six guidelines, adapted from Craig Clemons.

Guideline 1:  ‘Quit Hijacking Your Brain’

Everyone has some sort of time-waster that hijacks your brain. It is a distractor, a crutch or an idol that we run to when we feel tired, stressed or overwhelmed. What if, instead of running to twitter or pornography, we got our bible, journal or put on our favorite worship album? At the risk of sounding like a Sunday School answer, I do believe it’s as simple as that. Rediscovering Christian disciplines that don’t hijack our brain but fill them with the love, grace and mercy of Christ gives us a bigger vision.

Action step: Identify the distraction and commit to quitting it for 60 days.

Guidelines 2:  ‘Continually Examine Boundaries’

As pastor or lay leaders at churches, we can get drawn into all types of commitments. These could be of a social or ministry nature. We might spend five nights per week at the church building, because we feel guilty or because “there is no one else to serve.” This prohibits us from spending time with co-workers, neighbors or friends who are outside of faith or faith family. I recently drew a boundary around ministry responsibilities, which then allowed me to plan a neighborhood 4th of July party that was attended by 80 folks, most of whom are unchurched and have young families like myself. My wife and I exchanged contact information with several families and are building those relationships. If you prioritize making disciples, it will cause you to make hard decisions. But in the end, when we see people follow Jesus, it is well worth it!

Action step: Look through your monthly calendar and set one new boundary.

Guideline 3:  ‘Quit A Ministry Program (That Isn’t Fruitful)’

Craig Clemons talks about how he had three businesses, all of whom were profitable and fun. But they were distracting him from the one business that mattered. When he focused on that, it grew by 10X. This reminded me of Jesus’ words to Martha: “You are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42). Jesus told us to “go and make disciples.” I believe this is central to what it means to be a disciple. We have to put it at the center of our lives, which means putting it at the center of our calendar, our checkbook and our prayers. If you’ve been running a ministry program that is not bearing fruit (e.g., not making and growing disciples), stop that ministry! Don’t fall into the trap of “but we’ve always had this,” or “I wouldn’t want to hurt the leader’s feelings.” What we are doing in fighting back the powers of the darkness is so much more important than a business. We must be as ruthless as the business world in assessing ministry programs.

Action step: Pick one ministry with great potential and prayerfully move forward, stepping back from others if necessary!

Guideline 4: ‘Love Your Neighbor’

Has there ever been a more distracted age than ours? There are a million things to distract us from ministry. Even within ministry we are pulled in many directions. How do we know what to focus on? Oftentimes, the ministry God is giving us is right in our face. We can spend tons of time trying to come up with a vision when Jesus is saying to us, “I am your vision!” For many of us, we are the only church in our community. God knows that. It is strategic on His part. Start at home, bloom where you are planted, and make disciples in your backyard (sometimes, literally).

Action step: Make time to pray for and invest in neighbors, especially as we come out of the pandemic. People are hungry for community and we know the greatest Source of it.

Guideline 5:  ‘Spend Your Time Wisely’

We spend so much of life worrying about how we spend our money but often aren’t intentional about how we spend our time. If we want to make disciples and make an eternal difference, we should be strategic about our most costly asset: our time. Wise entrepreneurs like Clemons have little tricks, such as setting aside time at the beginning of the day to do your most valuable work, or setting a timer every hour. These are effective, and you won’t find someone who utilizes the ‘do not disturb’ function on my phone more than me (every time I write a sermon/article and every time I meet with someone). But followers of Jesus also have the gift of Sabbath, an intentional day every seven to worship, rest from our labors and remember that God is in charge. Because I am from Oregon, I frequently think of those that traveled the Oregon Trail in the 19th century. Those who practiced the Sabbath had higher survival rates of both humans and cattle (even the animals needed a rest!). Even when you’re chasing big dreams, live into the blessings of time management that God has given us.

Action Step: If you don’t already, develop new habits of Sabbath-keeping that point you to God’s control and provision of His world. Rich Villodas’ new book ‘The Deeply Formed Life’ is a great place to start.

Guideline 6: ‘Want Something Huge’

Followers of Jesus do not chase the same things as the World. But it is good and right to desire the Kingdom, to pray for its expansion and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Where others dream about multiplying their income or their influence, we need a new generation of believers who long to see their communities transformed, families restored, marriages saved and children raised to love Jesus. In too many of our churches, the APEST of Ephesians 4 is not represented. We’ve got some shepherds and teachers (which we desperately need!) but the Apostles, the Prophets and the Evangelists have left the building. We should be praying that the vision of Joel 2 and Acts 2 comes alive in our towns and cities. That “your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29). May we dream dreams, see visions and be moved by the Holy Spirit to pursue those renewal dreams!

Action Step: Take intentional time every council meeting to pray for dreams and visions for your church and community.

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