I just read a fascinating article by Elizabeth Dias, “Evangelicos!” (Time Magazine, April 15, 2013), reflects the exciting growth of Hispanic evangelical churches in the United States.
If you read the article as a case study and analyze the principles and dynamics, you can mine a number of basic New Testament principles that would revolutionize stalled and declining churches.
Jesus modeled to His disciples a God-watching culture: “I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19). The approach is simple: Take note of how God is working and do that. The key is not adopting programmatically—I’m not suggesting you make your Anglo or African-American church speak Spanish, but note the principles. They are biblical and universal—and they work for any church.
Diagnosing the Principles
Reading the article from the perspective of a Church Doctor analyst, the following elements are as obvious as they are familiar:
- De-institutionalize church—treat Christianity as a movement.
- De-program church—work through relational, social networks.
- Promote relational interaction.
- Speak the heart language of your target audience—language they dream in.
- Use the musical instruments of the culture of your target audience—as the delivery system for unchanging biblical truth.
- Balance the academics (preaching, teaching) with experiential.
- Increase the celebration dimension of biblical worship (when many churches worship, it looks like the whole crowd is baptized in vinegar).
- Make room for God to show up: If the God of the Bible is the God of today, anything that happened in the Bible can and does happen today.
- Turn your church inside out: Make bringing people to church a distant second to the primary strategy of bringing church to people.
- Focus on spontaneous, relational witnessing—share “God stories”—what God is doing in your life—through social networking… and optimize use of YouTube and Facebook by the masses.
- Move from doing church to being church: model genuine acts of kindness with sensitivity to felt needs.
- Cultivate a culture of church as an attractive family—not an organizational platform to do but a relational community where you can be and belong.
- Have leaders operate in a New Testament posture of the priesthood of all believers (think equipping the team—Ephesians 4), rather than the Old Testament priestly approach of hierarchy.
- Get over the fixation on seminary graduates trained as “generals” as the only full-time paid staff and add an army of missionary-trained ground forces equipped in short-term boot camps for on-the-ground ministry.
- Develop an infrastructure of accountability groups who focus on prayer and spiritual formation.
- Raise your expectations to a God-level: The church is supposed to grow explosively. That’s the norm. It’s not the “new normal.” It’s the New Testament normal.
- This is not rocket science. Look at what God is doing, and get out of the way.
By Kent R. Hunter, Founder, Church Doctor Ministries