Cart and Horse (March 2013)

By Matt Dabbs

By Lee Keele

The topic for this edition resonates with me. In my experience, we put the cart before the horse… building the church before we’ve made disciples. I say we flip that around. Let me try to explain what I mean and how it fits in the context of ministry at my home congregation (Crossroads Christian Church) and in my home community (Hutchinson, KS).

I love Hutchinson. I’ve lived here now for over 5 years. The people I go to church with… they love Hutchinson, too. Together, we’ve sought God for a vision that <i>involves</i> Crossroads, but stretches beyond the borders of our meager campus. We asked and prayed for a “God-sized” vision with “God-sized” goals. Here’s what the Lord helped us with.

God has given us a vision:
That we partner with him in bringing about an unprecedented awakening of hope through reconciliation with Jesus Christ within ourselves first, then our city, and then around world.

We truly believe that Crossroads will be a small part of something that God does to change the world. That Hutchinson, KS could very well be an epicenter of some very seismic spiritual activity to come. I could describe this in monotonous detail, but I’m a bullet point kind of guy, so here goes.

What our church does to make disciples first, then worry about the church…We build ministries that focus on community; not trying to simply get people to be members at Crossroads. If we make disciples that attend a Baptist church, or a Catholic church, or whatever … we’re okay with that. We don’t compromise our theology or our convictions about New Testament Christianity, but we’re okay to let those convictions find a home elsewhere..

Our shepherds believe that Hutchinson is our flock, not just Crossroads. We are challenged to shepherd our community, not just the folks with Crossroads membership cards. Every person is a lamb of God potentially. They’re either in the fold, or they are not.

Our members are viewed and preached to and encouraged as if they were the 20%. In the 80/20 rule a lot of preachers preach to their church as if they were the 80 percent who do little or nothing. I preach to the whole church as if they were the 20 percent on whom God is relying to do everything. We never expect the 80/20 ration to change, but we do expect the 20 percent to grow in number (and that the 80 will naturally follow).

Our members are encouraged to make it a goal to tithe as a MINIMUM. Granted, we don’t focus on money. In fact, I rarely preach about “giving.” But around here, we recognize in Scripture that the people God has always used to change the world, including Jesus himself, were NOT ten percenters. They were ALL in. This doesn’t just refer to money, but to time, energy, and especially to relational investments.

Here are some examples of some of our ministries that are following these guidelines and staying focused on community as flock.

As a church staff, we try to stay focused on leadership development. We don’t always succeed at keeping this focus, but we try. Our goal is to encourage every leader to shepherd both within and without the walls of Crossroads.

One elder has a Bible class that meets on his back porch (deck) every Wednesday evening (weather permitting). Most of them do not attend Crossroads. They are just as much “flock” as the folks at Crossroads.

One elder teaches at the local soup kitchen at least once a week. They are his “flock” as much as the folks at Crossroads.

One elder is planting a “Cowboy Church” on the south side of town. They’re his flock as much as the folks at Crossroads.

Our Men’s and Women’s Encounter (and soon to be Teen Encounter) Ministries focus on inviting any and everyone to have an Encounter with God. Most of the people who attend an Encounter (each Encounter weekend runs about 150 to 200 people) are not Crossroads Members. Some of the leaders of the Encounter ministries have a personal goal of reaching 10 percent of our cities population.

Our Wednesday night Children’s ministry is ALL ABOUT REACHING KIDs. We don’t do adult discipleship on Wednesdays because we ant ALL our adults focused on reaching kids. We have kids coming whose parents don’t attend Crossroads.

Our summer VBS operates with about as many people in “helping” roles who are Crossroads members as those who are not. We’ll have close to 200 kids and 100 volunteers. I’d say it’s about 50/50 between those who are Crossroads and those who aren’t. (I may be exaggerating on this one, but not much).

Those are probably the best examples I could share of the ministries we’re involved in that focus outwardly.

You may be wondering what’s the result of having ministries like these… You may be wondering if we’re growing as a church. The answer is: Yes, slowly. It’s taken five full years for us to grow from about 260 to 370 (averages). (I’m fortunate that Crossroads was growing before I stepped foot in the door!) But ultimately, that isn’t our goal. Our goal is not to grow this congregation, but to grow God’s kingdom and overcome darkness in Hutchinson. That’s God’s vision… to bring hope to the people of Hutchinson. Whether that happens inside the walls of our church building, in someone’s back yard, at the soup kitchen, some other church, the local public swimming pool… we don’t really care. As long as the kingdom is making headway, we find that we don’t have to worry about church growth. As God would have it, the disciples we’re making take care of that for us… or with us… or however you want to look at it.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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