Recently, I was in a meeting with a successful businessman who has a genuine love for the Lord and God’s people. Midway through our conversation, he informed me that he had not been part of an organized church in 10 years. I couldn’t resist probing a bit, so I asked him, “Why is it that you love God and His people but reject His church?” In short, he let me know that he was frustrated with the church and its focus on a “weekly gathering.”
He continued to explain how he thought it was irresponsible for the church to think it was okay to spend so much of its resources on a two-hour experience. His final statement has haunted me since: “We sit in the pews and hear a 45-minute message, give our finances and are herded out—left pretty much the same as we were when we entered into the building. I look at this and I ask myself, “Am I any better off than I was a year ago?”
Multiplication Requires Every Possible Christ Follower
I could have simply dismissed him as an angry, anti-church dude. But he was very clear that he was a committed follower of Christ. I paused for a moment and questioned our church’s motive and assimilation process. I couldn’t help but think about how we measure up to the old-school phrase, “You will leave here different than you came.”
I thought through my role in urban church planting in North America and wondered if we were dropping the ball in some way in our church planting strategies. Has the local church, our church planting networks, and denominations become more focused on the day and much less focused on what happens after the music stops?
As a church planter who has planted three urban churches and leads urban church planting for the Wesleyan Church, I take these kinds of conversations seriously. If the church is going to move the needle on multiplication in America, ultimately carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission, we need every possible committed Christ follower to be part of our multiplication efforts. We need to captivate Christ followers with the idea and story of being “sent” as Jesus was sent to earth to redeem and restore.
If the church is going to move the needle on multiplication in America, we need every possible committed Christ follower to be part of our multiplication efforts.
But people will only want to be part of that story if they believe that the church they’re planting is making a difference. As leaders, we all want to see true transformation. That’s why we’re in this. The people we ask to be part of our multiplication efforts want the same thing. They want to be part of something that’s changing lives and communities.
A Few Questions
In 2006, Christian hip-hop recording artist Lecrae released a mind-blowing song called “After the Music Stops,” in which he pleads with church leaders, artists and those in the congregation to take our focus beyond the church service. The song became the mantra for many Christian hip-hop fans across the country.
In the song’s chorus, Lecrae says, After the show, after the set, after the music stops, what’s next?/ Will there be fellowship, prayer, disciples?/Will you open your Bibles after the music stops/After it’s over, after it ends, after the music stops, what then?/Will you understand that Christ is King?/ Or will you just like the words we sing after the music stops?
The lyrics from this song and my recent conversation with this businessman and Christ follower open the door for a few questions we can ask ourselves, especially if we desire to become Level 5 multiplying churches. Go one step further and discuss these questions with your team.
- How are we doing beyond the church service?
- How solid are our best practices in assimilation? What exactly are we assimilating people to and where?
- If we were to plant 10 churches like ours in our area, would we see a difference in people, in the community?
- Are we leading a church that needs to be multiplied? Are people captivated with the idea of multiplying our church?
From Attender to Multiplier
What we’re talking about here is discipleship. Are we making disciples who make disciples? If so, our church will be more than a weekend service and we will be spending our resources in areas that move people beyond the worship service. Some churches I know of acknowledge that church actually happens in weekly small groups. They realize that discipleship won’t happen in a weekend service.
Are we making disciples who make disciples? If so, our church will be more than a weekend service.
In a joint research effort between Barna Group and The Navigators, they produced a report called “The State of Discipleship.” This fascinating research revealed a few startling facts about the desire and practical application for discipleship:
- 38% of Christians say they are not happy with where they are in their spiritual life.
- 1 in 4 Christians are currently being discipled.
- 1 in 5 are discpling someone else.
- 1 in 3 Christians are looking for someone to disciple them.
The stats indicate that people want to be discipled, but unfortunately the church is not doing a great job at that. When we closely examine even the best-executed assimilation strategies, we find that there is a critical flaw in the “flow chart.” We bring people into the church, culture them, baptize them, get them to give financially and sometimes even move people to serve in the local church. These are important milestones. We should look to contextualize these steps. However this is only 60 percent of the puzzle.
Phil Struckmeyer, director of church multiplication for the Wesleyan Church, said to me once, “We have not assimilated people until we have moved them from attender to multiplier.”
“We have not assimilated people until we have moved them from attender to multiplier.”
If our goal is not to make disciples who make disciples who in turn send out church planters that plant life-changing churches, then we have failed in our assimilation process. As leaders, we have to realize that life transformation happens beyond the weekend worship experience. And it is life transformation that will drive committed Christ followers to want to be discipled, make disciples and ultimately be part of multiplying the church.
Pastor Troy Evans (known as PE) understands transformation. A former gang leader, he surrendered his life to Christ at a church on the east side of Detroit. Today, he serves as the urban church planting catalyst for the Wesleyan Church, and he and his wife have planted three churches in the urban context, including the nationally known The EDGE “Hip-Hop Church.” He is the author of The EDGE of Redemption, used in universities and ministries to equip and challenge individuals to reach the “hard to reach” in the urban context.