The Small Churc‍‍‍h ‍‍‍Project

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The Model

One who prays‍‍‍

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What is the purpose of these churches? Most of them will never grow, so how do they measure success? Do these churches still need to exist - or is it better if they just fade away, replaced by new, young, energetic, technology-adopted church plants?

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We, along with a big chunk of the modern church world, had been wrestling with some tough questions regarding the role of the small church in America. Questions like:

Back in 2017 we interviewed 13 small church pastors from all across the country.

And so, as I would do with any new strategy project in my consulting business, we scheduled as many 60-minute interviews as we could to gather research straight from the source. Admittedly, when we started the project, we were a bit ignorant of the true challenges and so here is the brief we used to frame the conversations:

 

Can small churches be profitable without having to rely solely on donations?

It’s an outrageous question on the surface, but one we feel led to explore as we consider the current state of the small, local church in America. Anywhere from 65-85% of churches are plateaued or declining, and it’s been this way for some time.

  • Some propose a solution of letting these older churches die out so new, younger and more relevant churches can be planted in their place.
  • Others propose upgrades to technology and media, saying that health and growth can be found by applying the smartphone standards of today onto the church

What if there’s another way? Small churches (<500 in attendance) represent 83% of church attendance in America. 46% of church attendance happens in churches less than 100 people. We don’t know what the solution looks like, but we do know that God has shown us His heart for the local church and that it still very much serves a purpose.

At the Word of ‍‍‍‍‍‍th‍‍‍e L‍‍‍ord

This sounded like:

  • "I felt impressed by a voice, 'I want you to shepherd my people.' This voice served as a force of strength over the years."
  • "I'm not a church planter, but we've done one thing well - I knew God said to do this."‍‍‍
  • "Through the leading of the Holy Spirit in prayer, we targeted partnerships with schools in our community."
  • "We were on the final day before we needed to say yes or no to planting and the speaker that day stops and says outloud, 'You're being called to plant this church.'"

"Nevertheless, at Yo‍‍‍ur word..." Luke 5:5

Prayer as a

Lifes‍‍‍tyle

This sounded like:

  • Prayer as more than a list of needs to be recited
  • "I've begun learning how to just sit quietly with God in prayer, with no agenda, no requests, no need for my voice to be dominant. Just to sit quietly with God.

"He departed into a mountain to pray" Mark 6:46

Joins with others

And shares a meal‍‍‍

With one accord,

starts to‍‍‍ take action

Only God does the building

This sounded like:

  • "We've become too dependent on metrics."
  • "They don't even put their name on the things they do."

‍‍‍"Unless the Lord bu‍‍‍ild‍‍‍s the house." Ps. 127

Unity more than self

This sounded like:

  • "Another church group allows us to use their space. Another church provides us volunteers."
  • "Even if our church doesn't win as a result of our efforts, God's Kingdom does. And that's OK."
  • "We can be guarded or generous. Let's send someone out."
  • "Our elders don't stress the importance of church membership at a specific church, but rather the importance is the church as a whole."
  • The Kingdom of God is bigger than just my congregation.

"Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they‍‍‍ may be one as We are." John 17:11

We'll be supporting you in prayer through the entire process, praying that the Lord would prepare the people for singleness of heart.

Once you've been able to connect with other believers, preferably in ‍‍‍neighboring churches, and shared a meal with them - then we'll plan a visit to help you continue the work.

Here's what you can expect from us:

Fill out ‍‍‍this form or feel free to send us an email directly: derek@menwhopray.com

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Mostly because we weren't mature enough yet in our faith to handle this information correctly. This is the Bride of Christ we're talking about, and up to this point we had not held her in high enough regard. We had not truly known the love and affection of the Son towards her. An‍‍‍d we had not yet understood that this love is best demonstrated by sacrifice. And those who love the bride as the Son does, willingly sacrifice for His sake, so that He can receive the reward of His suffering.

The Lord graciously took us lower as He taught us what it meant to be "the greatest." Ambition, influence, impact, relevance, acceptance - these pursuits were all ripped out and replaced with, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, " and, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." (John 12:24, Luke 17:10)

 

‍‍‍What we heard, after over 680 minutes of interviews, took us an entire year to process.‍‍‍

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Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.

Andrew Murray
Humility

Rather than helping these churches "modernize" or diversify their income streams, which was perhaps how we originally thought about potential solutions, what the Lord led us to ended up being quite different. A model which contains no sound business strategy. It does not focus on great communication or relevance. There is no emphasis even on meeting the social needs of the community. Instead, it's a prayerful and reverent mission to disciple church leaders into four areas:

  1. Are you hearing and following the Word of the Lord on a regular basis? Is this spoken and written Word rearranging priorities and given free access into any area of your life and doctrine?
  2. Is prayer a lifestyle for you? Are you caught up with His presence as necessary dependence rather than a strategy or tactic to employ as needed?
  3. Are you pursuing and praying into unity as the body of Christ rather than living in individualistic preference? Do you believe Jesus to be literal when He commanded us to live as one, and that this would be how the world comes to know we are His disciples?
  4. Are you refusing to move forward unless the Lord is with you? Trusting Him to be the builder rather than a companion and blessing-giver to your vision?

Speaking with these pastors revealed significant struggles around casting vision, helping church members care about generational legacy, initiating any kind of continuous prayer lifestyle, and living in unity with each other and other believers in their city.  

Yet in the midst of these serious struggles, four themes began to emerge as pillars of hope. And it is these four themes which form the basis of our approach.

To this end, we will be‍‍‍ traveling, at the word of the Lord, to small church communities and investing into them through prayer, worship, teaching, and finances.