In this post we will continue our series on the vision of Ascent. Today, we will be looking at the measures (our why?) and our strategy (the how). If you haven't already, be sure to check out the first post in this series before reading this one. You can view the first post by clicking here.
We are combining two sides of the vision frame in this post because without each other they are useless. Our measures are how we know we are successful, but without a strategy to accomplish those measures, what is the point? We can have great reasons, but with no strategy we will never see them realized. In the same vain we can have a superb strategy, but if we are measuring the wrong things none of it will matter. On that note let's jump in first with the why and then we will finish with the how.
Our Why (Measures)
Our “why” is the catalyst for the rest of the vision frame. We exist to see these four things happen in the lives of people, because we believe these are what God wants for His people. Our success is not found in how many people attend on Sunday morning or by the size of our building. We will count ourselves successful if we are helping lead people through these four promises from God for His people.
1. Know God - We believe that God desires everyone to know him in a personal way. According to Barna research, 70% of Americans claim to be Christ followers, but only 7% say they have a weekly conversation with God. Of those who regularly attend church a mere 13% of the 1,000 surveyed claimed to have a conversation with God in the previous week. God doesn’t just want us to know things about Him, He desire that we know Him as the living person He is.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. -John 17:3
2. Make a Difference - God has called all of those who are His to be difference makers. Not in the way the world defines it, but in the way He does. We are to be disciples who are making disciple makers. This is often seen as a job just for pastors and missionaries, but we are all called to be eternal difference makers. You were designed to make a difference.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
3. Discover Purpose - So many people are wandering around this life looking for purpose. They spend countless dollars during mid life crisis. They travel the world and change jobs yearly in the pursuit of passion. Tragically, some leave their families or take their own lives due to the emptiness they experience in this pursuit. Jesus paves the way to true purpose. He shows us that purpose is not found in what we can gain, but rather in what we can give.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:39
4. Find Freedom - The good news found in Jesus is amazing. Through faith and by grace we can experience freedom from the penalty of our past sins and in the age to come we will experience freedom from the very presence of sin and suffering. This is amazing news! However, we often forget this: the gospel is not only powerful in the past and future, it is alive and active in the present. We believe God wants you to find freedom from addiction, sin, pain, and strongholds now.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. -James 5:13-20
These are the four things we believe God wants for everyone and the reason we are planting Ascent.
Our How (Strategy)
You’ll probably notice that what was written above is for the most part adopted from the first post in this series. That is intentional as I believe that most of the truths above are self evident from the scriptures. We will have plenty of time in the future to see our biblical basis for our measures in greater detail in the future. For this post I want to focus on the way we actually accomplish those goals. Our strategy can be summed up in 4 G’s:
To facilitate our mission we gather, go, give, and grow. You will notice that from the bold letters each strategy points directly correlates to a measure. This is not to say people won't discover pursue in a missional community or come to know God in a DNA group. God will move in whatever way He sees fit. However, instead of making everything for every purpose we will focus each thing we do on one specific purpose. I will flesh this out below.
1. We gather through weekend service so that people can know God.
Our weekend services will be focused on leading people into a relationship with God. In our context, people still go to church because they are “suppose to”. This is different in places like New York or Los Angeles, where people see no reason for the church or Jesus. But, in our context most people know they should be going to church because it is just what “good” people do. Now, we know church attendance makes you a Christian like putting your head in an oven makes you a biscuit. (Don’t try this at home - I’m looking at you Tim Good)
That is because we don’t “attend” church, we are the church and as the church we gather together. However, we will use this cultural factor to our advantage as long as it exist. We will do whatever it takes to get the disconnected to visit our gatherings so that we can then show them what it truly looks like to follow Jesus and be a part of His church. This will affect everything in our church services.
For instance, when deciding music style, coffee flavor and a number of other conveniences we will choose in such a way that benefits those who aren't yet here. This may be uncomfortable for some of you. Our tolerance for traditions will be low. Our weekend service will have only one non-negotiable item, that is the gospel message of Jesus. We will put mission over tradition every time. We will sacrifice our comforts for the salvation of others.
Now when I say this, we all say “amen!” but let me give you some examples of problems this will cause.
Geez Blake, that is harsh. I’m really not trying to be. I just want you to understand that we are dedicated to this idea of making our gathering welcoming and excellent so that the gospel can be presented with no distractions. We will all have to use our gifts to see that become a reality. Our gatherings are not about us. If those things above made you angry, you may not be comfortable living on mission with us. There are plenty of churches without this vision that you would fit with great. At Ascent, we will be contributors, not consumers.
That is not to say the gathering won’t be beneficial to you. The gospel should affect every area of our lives and we are always being called to follow Jesus in new ways. You should grow in your relationship with God every time the gospel is preached, as the word of God is alive and active. And as we mature in our faith we begin to realize that true growth begins when we actually begin to live out what we already know. The more mature you are in your faith the less you will think that the church needs to cater to your every need. This includes me. One day I will be face to face with wanting to do something my way or the effective way and I pray that in that moment I will choose what is effective, even if I hate it, for the good of others and the Glory of God.
We all love the idea of living on mission until we are actually called to do it. Our weekend services will be designed for those not yet here. Be prepared for the sacrifices you may be called to make a long the way.
2. We go in missional communities so that people can make a difference.
I think we all know that as Christ followers we are supposed to share our faith. The great commission (Matt. 28) calls us to proclaim the good news and disciple others in it. Yet, it's no secret that the majority of those who call themselves Christians have never actually made a disciple. However, it’s worse than that. Christ followers aren’t just avoiding participating in the great commission, many of them don’t even know what it is. Consider this from Barna research:
“In partnership with Seed Company, Barna conducted a study of the U.S. Church’s ideas about missions, social justice, Bible translation and other aspects of spreading the gospel around the world, available now in the new report Translating the Great Commission. When asked if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission,” half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, “the Great Commission” does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term “the Great Commission” before.”
I am not sharing this to condemn any of you. In fact, before I was a youth pastor I had never led anyone to Christ personally. That’s crazy. I was a youth pastor and had never led anyone to Christ. Something is broken in the way we make disciples. I believe the problem is that we expect people to make disciples alone. When in reality we always see disciples being made in groups throughout the bible. Look at Jesus and His 12 disciples or Paul with his missionary teams. We need each other.
This is the heart of our missional communities. They will have elements of Bible study and community, but the main focus will be living on mission together as a family. It will be more than just a group of people you get together with once a week. You will strategically plan and engage on mission together in your everyday lives.
Missional communities will be the heart of what we do. I will share more about them as we go forward and we will begin to live them out. Understand, this is not a program like small groups. It’s a lifestyle we are calling you to partake in.
3. We give through discovering our gifts and serving on our dream team so that people can discover purpose.
Forget following your passion and begin living in your God given purpose. You were made to give. You might be thinking, “This is where he asks for my money.” and yes I am asking you to give of your resources, but that is about 1% of what I am asking. If you want to find purpose you need to realize every gift, resource, time and relationship you have were all given to you to be given to someone else. What God does in you He wants to then do through you. As soon as we launch we will begin helping people discover their gifts and then giving them opportunities to begin to use them for the glory of God and the good of others!
As a corporate body the quickest way we will be able to connect people to their purpose is by giving them opportunities to serve on our dream team during our weekend gatherings. They aren’t volunteers. You volunteer for a school or non profit. When you serve using your gifts in the church body you are on a mission team. Everyone will be expected to serve in this way and then as a natural outflow they will begin to use gifts in all 4 areas we live on mission.
Here are the 4 areas of mission Christ followers ought to be engaged in.
4. We grow through our DNA groups so that people can find freedom.
Earlier I said we are contributors, not consumers. On many levels this is true. But, in another sense we are all consumers. Without Jesus we have no hope and we desperately need to consume His grace every day. We believe the Gospel is powerful and moving now. You can find freedom over sins and strongholds now. You can pray for and expect to see miracles and blessing now. The gospel is active and alive now. God wants you to experience freedom over death and sin in your past. He will eliminate all suffering in the future allowing us to live in perfect freedom. And my friends, He wants you to experience freedom in the Gospel now.
The way this happens is through His body. We grow and find freedom in community. We live on mission together and give all that we have for His mission, but we also receive from one another. We are a family. We find freedom in honest and accountable relationships within the body of Christ. This is the reason for our DNA groups.
They will be groups of 3-5 men or women. The reason for this is because in groups with more than 5 people the conversation begins to drift towards only the loudest speaking and in groups with a mix of genders, much of the honesty is left out due to embarrassment or respect. The DNA name has meaning and defines exactly what the groups will practically be doing.
We’d love for freedom to be found as easy as saying a prayer. Sometimes, God grants us freedom supernaturally through one prayer -and we rejoice over those occasions- however, most of the time we find freedom through a slow process found only in authentic, honest, accountable relationships within the body of Christ.
I have went longer on this post then I intended, so I will keep the conclusion short. I’m sure many of you cheaters skipped to here anyways. ;) I don't blame you. I do the same thing! Ha.
Ascent church exist to help people know God, make a difference, discover purpose, and find freedom. That’s it. That is how we measure success and to accomplish this we gather, go, give, and grow.
It’s simple because we can’t do everything, but we can do our thing! Thanks for reading. I pray it was helpful to those of you with questions. If you have any comments or if this post led to more questions feel free to reach out to me!