Excerpt from David Putman’s newest eBook
I was in a remote location deep in Central Africa. On a previous trip, the children who were plagued with sickness and disease struck me. We hadn’t been there long when I noticed it. We were conducting a Bible School under a large Baobab tree that shielded us from the African heat. Most, if not all, of the children had what appear to be upper respiratory issues. Their breathing was labored, their eyes were bloodshot, and their noses were crusty with mucus.
On the way back to our camp that evening, I noticed a group of kids gathering water from one of their favorite waterholes. The animals were drinking and defecating from that same waterhole. No wonder they were sick. Like so many parts of Africa, they had a water problem. I knew then that we would have to return.
On our return trip, we were completing a water project that would potentially address the sickness we first saw in the children, and transform the entire area that consisted of three villages. It was our last day, and it was now time to dedicate the Well. People came out in droves. The village Chief joined me on the hillside as we celebrated our new friendship and the potential for a new and healthier future. I asked for permission to share with the people. Chief Waya graciously granted.
I spoke from the passage found in John 4 on living water. I contrasted the benefits of water with the gospel. Giving my best Billy Graham invitation, I invited the village people to drink from His Living Water, and then I waited. Nothing happened. No one responded.
I walked off the mound of dirt perplexed. What had happened? I had spoken on other occasions in various parts of Africa, and dozens, if not hundreds, always eagerly embraced the message of the gospel.
As I stood there praying, asking the Lord what had happened, the Chief sent for me. He and the elders were requesting a private meeting. I made my way back to them, unsure of what to expect.
That's when, through my interpreter, the Chief said, "The words of Jesus have strangely warmed our hearts. We want to know more." I shared the gospel the best I knew how. God did the rest. Their hearts did open, and they received Him. That day they began to drink from the Well that never runs dry.
As we prayed together, our driver came to let me know our flight back to the USA would be leaving shortly. It was time to go. With so much to tell them, this caught me off guard. We had worked all week for this moment. The Chief and his elders had just embraced the gospel, yet they knew so little about it. There was so much I wanted them to know.
I didn't know what to do or say. I looked at my interpreter and said, "When we get to the city, we will buy Bibles, and when you go back to the village, start with the Sermon on the Mount and teach them more about Jesus and His ways." And with that, I was gone. I never even took into consideration that most of the village, including the Chief, were illiterate.
Since that encounter in central Africa, I've asked myself a question. If I only had one hour to disciple someone, what would I want him or her to know? After spending many days, and now even years, reflecting on this question, here’s what I would like for them to understand. I would want them to be able to answer three questions. I believe these questions form a foundation for everything they need to know to begin the journey as a Christ-follower. They are:
1. What is the gospel?
2. What is a disciple?
3. What is the church?
These three questions, answered in this specific order, form the bases of a gospel-centered worldview they would need to navigate their new world. It is also the same three questions we need to navigate our new world. Jesus refers to this new world over and over again as the Kingdom of God.
When we change the order in which we ask these questions, it always distorts our view. The gospel is our foundation, and we must begin with a good foundation. Our mission of making disciples follows this foundation, and when we make gospel disciples, healthy churches are formed around those disciples. One question builds upon the other. In practice, we plant the gospel, make disciples, and form new churches or communities around those disciples. As you work your way through these three questions, remember this order matters.
Welcome to the journey of rediscovering the simplicity of Jesus and His ways!
What is real church growth? In short, real church growth is when we shift the core of our church family from a weekend only culture to a disciple-making culture. In a weekend-only culture, I participate and attend because I get something from it. In a disciple-making culture, I participate and attend because I’m giving something. In this case, I’m giving myself to a shared disciple-making identity and a disciple-making vision. This produces growth because people are moving out of the lower room of preference into the upper room of vision. From the upper room of vision, we move out on mission to where we live, work, and play. In real church growth, this is where disciple-making most begins considering our current western context. Our context is post-Christian and can be summed up in that we have reached everyone like us or everyone who wants to be like us.
You don’t have to look too far back to realize just a short time ago, those who were lost or at least disconnected from the church found their way to our doorstep through a simple invitation and a seeker-friendly environment. Not so much anymore. Where do we go from here?
The good news is people still respond to the gospel. Nothing has changed when it comes to it’s power to transform the heart of men and women. I just recently spent a week with a church on the West Coast. They have experienced significant numerical growth in their worship gatherings over the past five years. This year for the first time, this growth has slowed.
We spend several days using our visionary planning tool to map out a vision and an actual plan for achieving that vision. They recognize to maintain and even grow their relevance in their community; they must transition from what they call an “invitation” culture to a “for” culture. This is not to say that they are giving up on an invitation culture. Their weekend attendance is still growing. They grew by 4% last year compared to 10% and 15% in the previous years. However, they recognized that for them, the future will still consist of gathering people, but it will flourish only if they send people.
More and more churches are getting this, and those that do will have a bright future. Those that don’t will become more and more irrelevant and continue to decline until they die.
In our next webinar, I am going to talk about how to develop a visionary plan that leads to real church growth. I’m going to be joined by Matthew Peeples. Matt is a young pastor that walked into a declining church in a declining denomination just outside of New York City. Over the past few years, it has been my honor to work closely with him as he transitions the church to a disciple-making church that is committed to revitalizing and planting churches throughout their region. To join us for this live webinar register by clicking on the link below and join us on February 25th at 11 AM EST.
I have the distinct privilege of being a clarity evangelist. I help others with their personal and organizational clarity. My clarity mentor Will Mancini puts it this way, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything." This is my go-to quote when it comes to clarity. Take a moment and reflect on it. Imagine for a moment on having clarity around what we call the Five Questions of Irreducible Leadership. Which are:
• What are we doing?
• Why are we doing it?
• How are we doing it?
• When are we successful?
• Where are we going?
Now apply this to your life or your organization. Imagine how answering these five questions could potentially speed up every decision and action related to your life or organization. You get the idea.
Last week I spent time with our Auxano Team in our annual meeting designed to resync our team and our lives. Once again, the impact will be lasting if not life-changing. One statement stood out to me more than the others. I believe it originated with Scott Adams and is "Goals are for losers, systems are for winners." While I'm not too fond of the tone of this statement, the implications of it are significant. In other words, it's one thing to have a goal, but it's another to have a system for achieving that goal.
Now imagine what would happen if you had a tool that combined the elements of clarity around your goals with a system for accomplishing your goals. That's precisely what we have in our master tool Horizon Storyline unpacked in Will Mancini's God Dreams book.
This tool takes into account that we both see and plan along different horizons. In this case, what we call Beyond the Horizon (5-20 years), Background Horizon (3 years), Midground Horizon (1 year), and Foreground Horizon (90 days). This system we affectionately call the 1-4-1-4. Imagine for a moment ten simple goals along four horizons to a better future. Not merely ten goals, but a system for implementing those goals.
In 1911 Arthur Brisbane said, "Use a picture: It's worth a thousand words." Well, there you go. The picture on the left was made at the Great Pyramid just outside of Cairo. We literally rode a camel through the backside of the desert to get there, poor camel. The picture on the right is from this past summer taken in front of a hat store in Madrid. In the first photo, I was 48 years old, and in the second, I was 60. It's amazing what a few years can do for you or against you.
In 2010 I had a life-changing experience. For the very first time in my life at 50 years of age, I went through a life planning process with a professional coach. While I set several goals during this process, there was one that has impacted my life more than any other. During my life planning process, I committed to getting healthy. My goal was pretty simple; I want to live healthily and die healthy. As a result, I hired a personal training and wrote him a check for $4,000.00 before I went through a single training session. Six months later, I had lost 55 pounds and was running from 6 to 8 miles every day of the week. Twelve years later, well look at the picture which one of these guys would you rather be?
This leads me to 2020! Over the past seven years, I have been working with Will Mancini and the entire crew at Auxano and Younique, helping those committed to a greater good go further, faster, and longer than they imagined possible. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a leader discover their life design and develop a life plan that allows them to be their best and achieve their goals.
On January 21, 2020, I'm going to launch our webinar series on How A Personal Life Plan Can Change Your Life. Join me at 11 AM EST, where I will be sharing:
As you get those traditional New Year Resolutions out of the way, let's connect and begin a dialogue that could change your life. How do I know? Because it changed my life, all I know is I was fat, and now I'm not.
"We don't have the right leaders!" "I need more leaders?" "Where will my next critical hire come from?"
These are a few things I hear from church leadership as I travel around the country working with them. We have a leadership crisis in our churches, or maybe what we have is a leadership development crisis.
Can you relate? I certainly can! I've been there. I can still feel the pain associated with having the wrong volunteer or staff person and having to let them go. I recall the long sleepless nights feeling overwhelmed by the need for more and better leaders.
You are right! You have a leadership problem! And guess what! You're it! I know that sounds insensitive. However, the reality is that one of our primary responsibilities as leaders is to develop more and better leaders.
Churches and organizations that experience break-thru are figuring it out. They are moving leadership development to the top of the list. They are developing intentional structures, systems, and training for engaging and developing spiritual leaders.
Imagine drawing a line in the sand and saying no more excuses. We're going to win in this area. We're going to develop more and better leaders. What if you could invest the next months of focused energy into developing a leadership pipeline that would provide you with an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders?
David Putman is the founder of Planting the Gospel and a Senior Lead Navigator with Auxano the category leader in vision clarity. When David isn't writing or consulting he enjoys staying fit and competing at Crossfit.