BUILDING A MULTI-ETHNIC CONGREGATION

by Robin Horn, pastor of Southside Vineyard

Our journey in South Auckland has been one of building an authentic multi-ethnic or multi-cultural community.

Roughly 80% of marriages in Southside Vineyard are cross-cultural, with most of our people from Pacific Island origin and Pakehas in the minority.

For me, coming from a fairly red-neck, middle-class family having no contact with Maori or Pacific people, coming to South Auckland to plant was like going on the missionfield, not knowing the culture and all the protocols and pitfalls that go with it. So it’s been a continual learning curve and at times God has confronted the prejudices in my own heart and the dominance of my own white culture.

All cultures are a gift from God

Here are some things I have learned:

Having different ethnic groups come and trying to assimilate them into your church culture under the guise of “It’s all about Kingdom culture” is not building an authentic multi-ethnic community.

Actually there is no such thing as a pure Kingdom culture. When the Kingdom comes it works in and through the culture. Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, spoke Hebrew. He ministered in and through the Jewish culture of the day.

All cultures are a gift from God and they have to be honoured and given a place to express who they are. In all cultures there is good, bad and neutral. As a pastor, it’s suicidal to point out the faults in another’s culture and try and change it. Let God show them and redeem the bad but celebrate the rest.

We endeavour to encourage ethnic groups to express worship in who they are.

Building a multi-ethnic community is a constant dying to self. But the rewards are amazing.

Worship is far more an expression of our culture and personal preference than based on any theology. We encourage different worship leaders to sing songs in their own language, cultural expressions and instruments. For instance, drums and movement is huge in Pacific Island culture. I have seen them come alive when we give them permission to use those expressions in genuine worship. And I’m not talking about tokenism where you ask them to do a cultural item. It has to be part of corporate worship.

For many cultures, connecting in intimacy with God in worship does not mean becoming contemplative and quiet but the exact opposite. Loud and expressive. As the pastor, I have to learn to lay down my personal preferences in worship.

Our leadership is made up of different ethnicities as a reflection of our wider community. As a result, our leadership gatherings are invaluable, challenging but precious and a God-send because they all bring their different cultural perspectives and allow my own cultural blind spots to be confronted. It’s saved me from putting my foot in it many times.

Building a multi-ethnic community is not an easy road. It’s costly and been a constant dying to self. But the rewards are amazing.

Having a multi-ethnic church is like seeing a multi-faceted diamond being formed with each part reflecting a different facet of God’s glory.

Leaving a legacy

by Shore Vineyards pastor Vic Francis

“We may not need any more cathedrals but we do need cathedral thinkers, people who can think beyond their own lifetimes” (philosopher Charles Handy).

I was with a New Zealand Christian leader one day and we got to talking about a key ministry in this country with which we had both been involved.We spoke warmly and respectfully about the ageing leader of the ministry and the challenges the organisation faced replacing him.

But we disagreed when we came to the subject of the legacy he would leave. My friend tended to think this man, for all his magnificent service, had stayed on too long and become a hindrance rather than a help to the ministry he had served for much of his life. I took the position that he was an amazing servant of God, a warrior who was an inspiration to all of us younger leaders as we considered our own older age.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since then and now believe I was wrong. He should have got out years ago.

My legacy at Shore Vineyards won’t be known until five years after I leave. If our church continues to thrive and grow and reach people for Christ under their new leaders, I will have succeeded. But if it flounders and loses momentum because I’m not there, or because it was too much built around me, or because I’ve somehow subtly set it up to fail without me, I will have failed.

I have concluded that the way you leave a ministry is as important as the way you arrive. Some people leave too early, just when the breakthrough they had prayed and sacrificed for is near; others leave too late, in the process helping to kill the very thing they have given their lives to create.How do we process this vital decision? Some thoughts:

  • Start with the end in mind – plan your succession early.
  • Think young – don’t build a team of your age or older.
  • Keep trusting God – in many ways, the older you are the harder this becomes.
  • Grow in your role – increasingly do what only you can do and hand over the rest.
  • Seek truth – find someone who will tell you when it’s over.

I’m unproven in this, being a long-term pastor of Shore Vineyards. But I trust that, having invested so much into this church, I will be obedient when God calls me to let go.

 

Being the leader God has called you to be

by Vic Francis, pastor of Shore Vineyards

“If God has called you to lead, let nothing stand in the way of the privilege you have to serve him and to serve his people through applying the gift, the resources and the opportunity he has provided to you. You are among a special group of people who have been identified by him for a challenging but rewarding task: leading his people to victory” (George Barna).

The three leaders I have most intimately served under are three very different men. One is an “A-type” make-it-happen kind of guy; another a prophetic, charismatic, dominate-a-room type; the third has a teaching-encourager style of leadership.

All of them have inspired me and called me forward; none of them is a complete blueprint for the way I lead. And that’s as it should be.

I have had to take the best and find my own leadership style

It took me years to accept that I was a leader at all, and then it took me years more to work out what kind of a leader I am.

I have learned that every leader is different – different backgrounds, different skills, different callings, different eras, different environments, different challenges.

I have valued each of those three men who have been key leaders in my life, but ultimately I have had to take the best and find my own leadership style. We will always have people who inspire us and draw us forward, but anything we see and learn must pass through the filter of who we are and what God has called us to do.

I love this quote from Episcopal priest Robert Capon: “I have never done an honest day’s work as a clergyman. In fact, I hate, despise, and avoid at least half the things clergypersons are supposed to do. I love preaching, celebrating the Eucharist, teaching and counselling; so I have done those things just for the joy of it. I am also moderately fond of administration (which I delight in doing as quickly as possible), and I am more than a little enamoured of ecclesiastical politics (which I have pursued with relish, if not success). But I have little love for writing newsletters, attending other people’s meetings, paying house calls, or visiting in the hospital; so (since they are no fun), I have done as little of them as I could get away with.”

I don’t know if I agree with Capon completely (he seems a bit self-indulgent and unrealistic), but I think what he says is worth pondering as we discover how to be the leaders God has called us to be.


Working from your rest

by Sam Harvey, pastor of Grace Vineyard's Beach Campus

Imagine if a leader or pastor in our church was caught lying or cheating on their spouse, or we discovered they actually believed the spaghetti monster was god and worshipped him secretly in their office?

What if we discovered one of our leaders had the nasty habit of murdering people?

We would be outraged, shocked, it would probably spell the end of their leadership for a while, and there would be some pretty serious conversations that would need to take place.

Now all of these things are in the 10 commandments, and we rightly take them very seriously. But what strikes me as rather odd is that we don’t mind people working for the church constantly and never taking a break! We are commanded to engage with Sabbath rest, and this is clearly something very precious and central to God's heart.

I wonder whether this is one of our greatest blind spots in regards to sin?

I find it fascinating that the Israelites were commanded to rest (punishable by death if they didn’t!) when they were freed from Egypt. For a nation that had its identity caught up in how many bricks they produced, God was giving them a new identity that wasn’t caught up in what they produced, but in whose they were.

The same is true today. If we are unable to stop working (even for God), we are still a slave to what we produce.

it’s a day that places God back on the throne . . .

One of the great challenges of ministry is to prioritise the weekly “down tools”, disengagement from the work. There always seem to be a reason why it's not quite possible in “this season”.

It is also one of the areas that can be the greatest blessing. The Sabbath is like the future reign of God breaking in to the present, where the world is the way it should be. It is the time to be refreshed, renewed. It’s the time we are saying with our actions, “this ministry is not mine, it is Yours”, and therefore I can stop producing “bricks”.

It’s a day of laughter and celebration, of good food, of lifegiving relationships, it’s a day of the kingdom in its fullness. And it’s a day that places God back on the throne where we outwork the spiritual muscle of obedience to Him, where we remain passionate about building the kingdom, but building it the King's way.

Practically … what day is that for you? What does rest look like for you? How can you involve God in your day of rest? What could this day look like for you? Why does it feel difficult to slow down?

What is church? Part four

by Mark Brickell

In nearly every kind of church someone preaches. Sometimes long, sometimes short, sometimes engagingly, sometimes boringly, sometimes systematically through the Bible (expositionally) sometimes thematically, sometimes by way of proof-texting and other times, sadly, with little reference to the Scriptures at all. 

Some see it as useful for warming us up for ministry time, others for imparting the vision, values, culture and strategy of their particular church. A few see it as the boring bit between worship and ministry. 

We may therefore, be surprised to find that in Protestant theology ever since Luther and Calvin the preaching of the word has always been the one constant mark of the church.

In this short piece I want to answer the question, “Why is preaching the scriptures so important?” I also wish to show you why the reformers had such a high view of it and why we should too.

The main reason for its importance is that scripture is a proxy for the authority of God; that God himself in someway is exercising his authority and power through it among us

The main reason for its importance is that scripture is a proxy for the authority of God; that God himself in someway is exercising his authority and power through it among us. It is more than just inspired advice, warm counsel, interesting stories or moral lessons. It is the word of the King of Kings and contains the creative power of the King’s words. When the King spoke it was done, “Let there be light and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). All the authority and power of the king is inherent in his word. 

It says of itself: “By the word of Yahweh were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . . . Is not my word like a fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces . . . All flesh is grass, it withers and fades but the Word of our God will stand forever . . . Like the rain and the snow coming down and watering the earth … so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but it will succeed in the task to which I shall send it” (Psalm 33:6, Jeremiah 23:29, Isaiah 40:8, 50:10-11).

In other words, the Word of the Lord is like a great lake of power and wisdom which the speakers and writers of scripture could tap into so God could flow through them to fill and grow his people or like a great sledge hammer that can break down hard hearts and resistance. 

We are also told that the Word of God is “living and active like a sharp two-edged sword that can separate the bone from the marrow” (Hebrews 4:12). It is able to separate our mixed motives, to expose and remove sin that clings so strongly to us that we can be unaware of it. It is not just inspired but is alive with the power and presence of God.

In these scriptures and others we find the elusive but powerful idea of “God’s Word” not as just a synonym for written scripture but as a strange personal presence, creating, judging, healing, recreating. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul describes scripture as “God-breathed”, a phrase that implies more than just inspired – perhaps God-infused is an appropriate translation. 

No clear distinction is made in Scripture between what God says and what he does. When looked at this way, we can see why CH Spurgeon said you can no more defend the scriptures than you can a lion. Let it defend itself. 

The gospel itself is also seen as the word of God. “The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes” (Romans 1:8). 

This story (Gospel) contains God’s power to overcome resistance and transform the most broken lives.

The gospel referred to here is not the four spiritual laws or the Romans Road to salvation, helpful though they are. It is the whole story, the biblical mega-story of creation, fall, slavery, exodus, Israel, the Kingdom of God and Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s rescue mission (There are many ways of telling this story but I trust you get my point.) This story (Gospel) contains God’s power to overcome resistance and transform the most broken lives. 

Additionally, the power of God contained within the mega-story – the gospel – is a good reason for doing more expositional preaching. The scriptures were meant to be taught as a meta-narrative not as a random grab bag of tenuously-related pieces – an approach which can lead to getting so absorbed in the details that we miss the big picture.

We do not have the apostles and prophets among us to speak the words of God into our situations, but we do have the record of what God spoke to his people in the past to situations much like ours. God uses that record to call us to himself and renew us again, just as he did through Ezra reading the word to the assembled returnees from Babylon. As we look at the Old Testament we see Israel called and formed into the people of God through his word. The word spoken through Moses, the Psalmists, the Prophets, the Wisdom writers and the writers of the narratives formed Israel’s life, worship and behaviour. 

In almost the first strategic restructuring of the Early Church we find the apostles delegating bureaucratic and organisational tasks to deacons so they could focus on prayer and the teaching of the word. We who preach need to try and do the same if we can, so we do not become so absorbed with operational matters that we leave a vacuum where the preaching of the word should sit, a vacuum that may be filled by the solutions that our culture and prevailing ideologies provides. 

The reformers spoke of preaching as God’s audible sacrament, a means of grace – or a way of receiving the power to live the Christian life. In short, preaching is not just for the imparting of information, not just for exhortation or backing up our beliefs but one of the regular places where heaven and earth meet – or, in the words of the ancient Celtic church, “a thin place”, a place where we meet with God, where his presence is, where he walks among us and transforms us. 

The Early Church looked back to Jesus and the tradition they received from him and one of the most notable things is that he was self-identified as a teacher or preacher (Rabbi). It was the title he was most commonly called by. 

As Jesus taught, signs and wonders happened. There was little differentiation between his words and his works. Works happened before, during and after his sermons. We should also expect the same. The New Testament talks about preaching so often that it uses 30 different Greek verbs to describe it.

I hope this brief discourse encourages you to go back to preaching with a renewed passion that comes from understanding the place preaching has in the church and how God is present in it.

Coaching, mentoring and discipling meetings

by Lloyd Rankin, Vineyard national director

As leaders and disciplers, we must learn to do effective meetings with individuals or small groups. These are incredible opportunities to help shape a person’s life, and we should do them as well as possible.

We also need to decide which people we will see, and which people we will refer on to someone else. I will usually see someone who is moving towards making a commitment to Christ, someone just joining the church (to help him or her discover where they can fit) or one of our leaders. I refer other people on to others in the church. I would only see a man alone and would refer a woman to see another woman – and would urge you to establish and keep healthy boundaries and practices.

Points to ponder

1.     Be disciplined about setting and keeping appointment times, even if you are meeting in your lounge or in a cafe. Your time, and theirs, is very precious, so respect it and use it well.

2.    Before you meet, take time to be still and listen to what God might want you to do or say when you meet. We are prophetic people at heart – receiving from God and passing on what He gives us.

3.   When you get together, take a little time to connect at the heart level. Talk about what has happened since your last meeting. Has the person done what they said they would do? It is always good to have something to follow through on.

4.     Use an easy-to-remember structure for how you meet. Free form is great for social and friendship, but usually ineffective for mentoring or discipling. For a number of years I have used the G-R-O-W acronym to help me structure where we go in our time together.

G – Goal

The first step is to establish together what you would like to accomplish by spending this time with each other. The person you are seeing may already have a clear idea, or the goal may come out of asking a few questions like, “What is your biggest challenge/pressure right now?” or “What has God been speaking to you about lately?” or “What is your biggest question right now?”

R – Reality

The next step is to look at all the current factors – what is happening, how are they feeling, what is God blessing, what is working and not working, what are they currently trying etc. Our role is to help them understand their reality, to help them see clearly and give feedback to adjust the goal if necessary.

O – Options

This is the time to brainstorm, drawing out options they may not be seeing by asking questions and providing context and feedback. Then help them evaluate those options in the light of vision, values and reality.

W - Will

Help them commit to a course of action. It must come from them, if they are to own it. Help them make concrete, realistic next steps. “What are you going to do next?” It is the homework for the next appointment.

5.    I like to aim for three things when I meet with someone – give them something to celebrate, something to learn, something to work on.  If it is a conversation that is challenging, use the encouragement sandwich approach – something encouraging, followed by the challenge or correction, finishing with more encouragement!

How to do social media well

By Dan Sheed, planter of Central Vineyard in Auckland

You may have heard it said that your Sunday gathering “is a shop window for your church.”

Yes, it is, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your website and other web-based platforms are a 24/7 shop window for your church. The people who walk into your church gathering, leave. And what do they then do? They are getting online. We’re in a people business, and this is where our people are during the week. See for yourself: http://youtu.be/xJXOavGwAW8

This isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to grow your church, but a place for conversation

Just like a church gathering needs worship, notices, an offering, a message and ministry, your church needs a website, Facebook, Twitter and a video channel on Vimeo or YouTube. These online platforms are built for broadcasting a message and it is always good to remember that as leaders of churches we are in the communication business. 

How should we work with this online world?

We must have a healthy perspective on how we use it. This isn’t a “silver bullet” to grow your church, but a place for conversation. Think of it like bumping into a friend in the supermarket. It’s not just a public noticeboard. It’s not static, it moves. People post and leave messages, and you must give attention to it. You must “like” them, or write a message in return to them. YouTube videos are linked and shared and laughed at. Important information can be dished out quickly. Prayers posted. A call for help for food to a new mother issued. Missions trip update photos tagged for loved ones to see. It is all like a noisy, busy cafe with a lot of people catching up.

What your church website and social media are not

• “Set and forget.” You must maintain and update, keep things ticking over. The days of setting up a website and walking away from it are over.

• “News update only.” We all know church is so much more than getting people to attend events and programmes, so why do so many of our online interactions feel like they’re just ads?

Your church online presence can become a wonderful meeting point for people to engage and enjoy life

• “Embarrassing.” Ditch the clip art. New Zealand has a wonderfully trendy culture with fantastic design “looks” everywhere, so let's not have websites and online language that dates back to 1992 … #terracotta

• “Done on the cheap and easy.” A decent website is an investment. To keep being online well takes a plan, commitment to evolving and finding a person willing to do this for you.

What your church website and social media can be

• “A dynamic part of people’s online life.” Your church online presence can become a wonderful meeting point for people to engage and enjoy life in your church.

• “Inspiring, funny, pastoral, holistic . . .” Don’t just use your website for information, use it to engage people. Plug into the needs in your community, post something to laugh at together, Instagram the new best coffee place to be at, do pastoral care with people by messaging them and saying you’ve noticed and are thinking of them.

• “Cool.” Pick up some magazines and observe what things actually look like at the moment. How do TV ads for their new shows? This is always what is trending at the moment, so tap into that. Don’t build a new site or logo for your online apps that steps back in time; keep moving forward.

• “Invest.” This will involve spending money, finding a person to keep things happening and doing things you are told. When someone who knows how to communicate a message says, “This is how I need you to post on Facebook a bit more...” listen to their advice because Facebook posts aren’t the same as 40-minute sermons. Invest in learning how to work well with this incredible tool for communication.

So remember, we’re in the people business, and we’re in the communication business. The online world is where both of these things dynamically meet, and as church staff and leaders we must engage with it all, and engage well.

This all sounds rather interesting, what else is there to read on this?

I highly recommend http://churchmarketingsucks.com for plans, inspiration and discussion on how churches can improve their websites and online presence.

How to recruit volunteers

by Victoria Rankin, Urban Vineyard

Recruiting volunteers is essential for a work to be healthy, grow and multiply.

At Urban Vineyard, we talk about each of us recruiting three people – those who we notice are in church but not presently involved. We are intentional about involving others who attend regularly but are not enfolded in our community life. As “front half” of the church people (those involved, who attend regularly), we want to recruit those uninvolved “back half” of the church people.

This requires us to be proficient as leaders who can do what has been termed (in the Vineyard) IRTDMN (Identify, Recruit, Train, Deploy, Monitor, Nurture). In Urban Vineyard culture we have tweaked and rephrased this acrostic to – FIT DO (Find, Invite, Train, Deploy, Oversee).

Let me summarise the first two:

1.         Find

Be a people person. Never underestimate the power of building relationships with people before asking them to follow you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Mingle. Look out for new people, get to know them, remember names.

Take an Interest. Ask questions related to their life. Listen to people’s stories. John Maxwell says, “Effective leaders know that you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.”

Notice who you naturally connect with. They often become future co-workers, friends. Leadership flourishes within meaningful relationship, not mere regulations.

The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

Ask God to provide the right people at the right time. We frequently ask God for more helpers/workers and they may be in our community already.

Pray for divine appointments. Who are you noticing, who is popping up on your radar? Who is emerging that you can invite or call forward?

Church is not just for our friends. This is especially true for Sundays, which are work days for leadership teams. The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

There’s an old saying: “To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart.” Always (try to) touch a person’s heart before you ask them for a hand.

2.Invite

In John 1:37b, the disciple asks, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replies, “Come and you will see.”

Practise the same invitational, apprentice-based model found in the Gospels. Introduce new people to others you know with similar interests, gifts.

When inviting people to be with you in task/roles/ministry:

Be enthusiastic whatever the task! We are privileged as servants who lead. May this be catchy and infectious for those we recruit.

Match jobs/roles appropriately. Be aware of one’s personality, strengths and gift mix – eg, avoid putting a greeter on the door who feels uncomfortable around new people. Bad experiences can be a cause of withdrawal from further involvement. We ask newcomers (at our welcome evenings), “What do you love to do/have been involved with in previously in community life?” This identifies gifting and interest areas more quickly.

Show and tell. Be practical. Demonstrate in order for tasks to be understood and goals achieved. Use run sheets, provide lists or details for people.

Stay alongside, until they are proficient and glitches are sorted. Few sign up to serve alone, it’s more fun serving with others.

Communicate the complete description of responsibilities. Make sure you know what they are at the outset.

New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well.

Clarify expectations from each other to avoid resentment.

Don’t change the game plan half way through the task without communication.

Have a verbally contracted time commitment. Include a review date from the outset. This allows a more “Easy in, Easy out” – no pressure to stay to a task beyond the agreement.

Motivation rises when goals are understood. Once this is clear, give others room, creative space to follow through using their uniqueness.

Connect to the big vision.

Always debrief. A question like “What could we do better?” provides validation and welcomes shared ownership.

Receive feedback with humility, which allows room for constructive criticism. New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well. “The underlying idea is you recruit to Jesus. If you recruit to station, turf, title, anything else but Jesus, you're in big trouble!” (author unknown).

Celebrate the wins. Share stories, be an encourager to those you find and invite to serve. Thank people often.