Whether you are part of a new church plant or an existing church, here are a few things to bear in mind as you make disciples in the midst of consumerism:
1. Consumerism only exists where it’s allowed to exist. So, to change people’s orientation from going to church to consume a presentation or program to becoming a part of a people who give their lives for the gospel, you must begin by removing things they don’t need. It’s actually a theological impossibility to “go to Church,” so begin changing the paradigm with language and stop referring to your Sunday gathering as “Church.” Start by only using the word “church” for the people, or activities that take place during the week. Change your weekend lingo to reflect what you actually do on Sunday. Maybe call it “Teaching time/The gathering/seminar.” Of course, the best way to root out consumerism is at the heart level, to replace our consumer identity with a servant identity. Acting as rescued servants of Christ, not demanding consumers, comes by turning away from self-centered demands and turning to Christ-centered, church-blessing service.
2. Begin the non-consumer paradigm by changing your own role from doer of ministry to equipper of the saints to do ministry. The only reason anyone should get paid for ministry is if they equip others to do the actual work. So if your role right now is teaching on Sunday, start pulling together your best potential teachers either of small groups or missional communities and start a monthly “teaching training.” If your role is shepherd or pastor, start a monthly shepherding training. There’s always more bang for the buck when you spend your time developing leaders instead of developing messages or programs.
3. Deliberately spend 50% less time on your own sermon as a starting point. That should immediately give you an extra 10 hours a week to work with leaders.
4. Move from nebulous ministry time coaching ministry relationships. View every appointment as a means to an end. The end is that they will do the work of ministry. Have a plan of basic coaching questions for each meeting. For example: What is on your heart to do? What is hindering you from doing this work of ministry? How can I help you overcome these obstacles? What is the one thing you can do this week to move forward? As you view your role as a coach/consultant/ and connector of people, you’ll immediately begin decentralizing ministry to people who are desperate to find their place in God’s kingdom calling.
5. Move from maintaining present ministries to modeling new forms of missional leadership. There’s no easy way to say it; missional leaders must lead by example. You don’t have to be the best at cultural engagement, evangelistic relationship, service to the poor, but you must be in the fight so that your life can inspire others. Just as your people have to work a full-time job and then learn to give an evening a week or a few hours on the weekend to missional community, you must do the same. If you have to, begin redrafting your own job description to free up space.
6. Consider part-time salaries instead of full time pay. Most of the jobs we traditionally pay full time salaries for can easily be done in half the time. So only pay for equippers. This includes you!
7. Consider outsourcing basic functions like “set up/tear down/nursery/financial services.” We often spend more than we need to on services that don’t directly relate to ministry.
8. If you’re going to pay staff, only pay and staff to your greatest need. Most churches can actually find people who have a passion and gifting to teach or lead worship, or work with kids without any financial remuneration at all. If you don’t pay for these roles, it may open up financial space for people and ministry ventures outside the church. Many missional churches now staff “community developers,” “business for mission” ventures, and other outside the box roles. Ask yourself, “What would be good news to my community and if we were to be good news,” and “What types of people and roles do we really need?” Have the courage to put money into speculative ventures that bless the culture around you instead of just propping up the same ol’ roles that haven’t been producing fruit for years.
Hugh Halter is the national director of Missio and pastor of Adullam in Denver Colorado. You can find out more about Hugh at his blog or follow his thoughts on Twitter. His previous writings includeThe Tangible Kingdom, And: The Gathered and Scattered Church, and The Tangible Kingdom Primer (Workbook).