Reaping Whats, Whys, and Hows
In the last two blog posts, we covered cultivation and planting. Next comes reaping. Simply put, reaping takes place when you challenge friends to respond to the truth of God's Word. It is the natural result of cultivating and planting. If we cultivate in love and plant in God's truth, the result will be the challenge and joy of the harvest. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:9)
Reaping a response to God’s truth involves an understanding of the difference between our job and God’s job in the reaping process.
Our job in the reaping process of evangelism is to:
This partnership with God calls for bold proclamation with prayerful dependence.
Skills That Need to Be Developed to Do Our Job
To fulfill our part of the reaping process there are two skills that can be developed to enhance our effectiveness.
Enhancing Our Reaping Skills—Presenting the Gospel
One of the hindrances to reaping is best expressed by this statement: “I would love to tell my peers about Christ but I don’t know how to share the essential elements of a Gospel presentation.”
I suggest starting by memorizing Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Do you believe it? Then, live it!
Enhancing Our Reaping Skills—Calling for a Response
Jesus was a master communicator when it came to getting individuals to respond to spiritual truths. He would often paint a word picture and then ask people questions that caused them to evaluate their spiritual condition. He always made space for their response.
Calling for a Response in Practice
You can use the same two steps to call for a response. First, paint a word picture, like this:
Then, ask these questions:
In my next blog post, I'll show you a variety of ways reaping might look.
Why do I think I know so much that I can assume your church is not planting new churches? I do it with 97% certainty.
Before I answer the question here’s a quiz for you to take:
That’s 1.3% of our current 12,260 congregations.
The bad news is that we are losing far more churches than we are planting and we can only expect the rate of decline to accelerate. Thus the question, “Why is my church not planting new churches?” Here are five common answers we hear.
1. Our church isn’t growing, how could we start something new?For over twenty years now the general research is that 80% of American churches are declining or plateaued. The result is that when a church is not growing—struggling to maintain itself—it's difficult to imagine that growth of any kind is possible. Planting new churches is our research and development. New churches can help us learn how to grow again.
2. It’s not a good time for us.I’ve heard this reason many times. When I’ve followed it up with “when would be a good time?” the typical answer is 10 years. But what will be different 10 years from now if we do not make the decisions to change?
3. Can we control a new church?What we mean by this statement is we want to make sure a new church will look, act, and think just like us. Yet, can we defend the idea that our existing churches are perfect? Have we truly made a perfect church?
New churches are engaged in a deeply creative process to engage our dynamic culture in faith. The best control we can offer is the trust that those we have raised in faith will pursue their task with humble obedience to God’s word.
4. We don’t know how.Twenty years ago our knowledge of church planting was limited and individualized. Today, however, there is a great deal of information available.
Kairos has identified three seasons of planting, each with five critical tasks that will help a new church successfully come into being. Our challenge is not really knowing what to do, it is learning how to execute what we need to do.
5. We can’t afford it.Individually, few churches can afford the cost of planting new churches (approximately $250,000 over three to five years). Yet God has not left us without resources.
First, what if we worked together with several churches forming a support group? By distributing the costs it becomes much more affordable. Second, we need to faithfully close many older, dying churches that have finished their course in order to plow those resources back into the future.
Here are the answers to the questions I asked earlier:
Almost every church I visit and talk with today is beginning to realize that if they're going to survive long into the future they have to become millenial oriented. Adjusting to a millenial viewpoint is not a simple matter of changing worship times, or seating, or adding a new song or two to the music repertoire. Millenials think about the world in fundamentally different ways. In this season of high school graduations here are some characteristics of this year's graduating class:
Think about this! In 1998:
3. Multisite churches are on the rise. Multisite means one church that has worship services at different sites or venues. Leadership Network reported that there were 200 multisite churches in 2002 while in 2014 that number exceeded 8,000!
4. Even committed believers are attending services less frequently. People who used to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month. That means your church attendance may be down 20% even though your membership has stayed the same!
5. More new churches are opening than old churches are closing. Every year, approximately 4,000 churches are birthed in the U.S. (500 more than are closed).
6. Starting new churches continues to be the most effective means to reach new people. Typically new churches are highly focused on connecting with not-yet-believers. Their leaders, members, and ministries are designed to allow new people easy connection to belief.