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September 27, 2015

Involving Large Church Pastors in Multiplication

By Ed Stetzer

FitimSalimi / Wikipedia

One of the common struggles denominations often face is a difficulty relating to the largest, most innovative, and the most “Antiochish” of their churches. These churches and their leaders are often creative and/or proprietary in their approach to, well, everything, but particularly in terms of discipleship and multiplication. They have their own visions, goals and methodologies for seeing them accomplished.

Many large church pastors tend to view the denomination as more-or-less irrelevant to what they are doing. In their eyes, denominations are primarily suited to serve and aggregate smaller churches that do not have the resources or capabilities they do. Larger churches to act far more independently than others, especially when it relates to church planting.

I understand wanting to do your own thing. Churches are very particular about their own brand, and it is not easy to let go of that brand when you start talking about multiplication. However, I also believe that we are better together, no matter the church size. So I would like to offer a few ways that denominations might encourage the involvement of larger church pastors when it comes to multiplication via church planting.

How to Get Large Churches Involved

The first thing I would encourage denominational leaders to do: Work hard at understanding your constituents and representing them well, and include large churches in that mix. This is something I’ve told almost every denomination with whom I have consulted.

If you have Latino churches in your denomination, you need a Latino council to help represent them to the denomination and speak back into the churches for the denomination. You need an African-American council that will know the context of African-American leaders. You need people who listen to the needs, concerns, and ideas of the leaders of young churches, as well as people who can concentrate on smaller churches.

These constituency groups are not lobbies to campaign for their audience, but instead are groups meant to listen, affirm and encourage particular people with particular needs at the denominational level. There are contextual concerns for all of these different groups, and the denomination needs someone who can speak to those concerns as decisions are made. Denominations all have a president or some person who functions as the CEO, and whoever that person is needs the help of constituent representative groups.

And, you need a constituency group for large churches. You need a group of large church pastors who understand their context and can speak into denominational life in a meaningful way. A word of caution here, though: You can lose others quickly if they believe you are only listening to large church pastors, so be careful how you frame it. But having this sort of representation will help to reconnect those large churches that tend to be disconnected from the ebb and flow of denominational life.

Set the Right Focus

The second thing I would do: Cast the vision for multiplication within that large church group. You might have eight to 10 pastors in the group depending on the size of your denomination. If so, set a goal of having two or three of those pastors become denominational church planting advocates. Recruit them to celebrate the multiplication that is happening and ask for their input into creating excitement around it. If you are successful, you can begin to influence the whole group.

Have these large church pastors celebrate the current multiplication efforts and invite them to preach at the annual meeting to help cast a vision for the whole denomination. Ask them to focus not on how big and awesome their churches are, but instead how awesome it is that they are able to be a part of starting other churches.

In doing so, you have welcomed the larger church pastors into the multiplication conversation. You have found some churches who want to multiply themselves, and you have held them up as exemplary churches. You have created common ground between those large churches and the smaller churches who are also involved in church planting. Then at the annual meeting, have the leader of one of those small churches that is planting churches join the large church pastor on stage and let them tell their stories together.

If you have them share their common stories, you are accomplishing a couple of really important things. First, you are affirming the larger churches and involving them in denominational life again. Second, you are building a culture of multiplication for the whole denomination. When it is held up and celebrated, people will began to ask the right questions. It won’t be, “How did you grow your church so large?” It will be, “How are you multiplying? How did you create the culture of multiplication in your church?” These are much better and far more useful questions for churches to be discussing with one another.

Purposefully invite large church pastors into the conversation and then subtly shape how they talk about their own churches. Large church pastors may not realize that when they get up and talk about their crazy growth and the size of their churches, other leaders often tune them out.

But when they talk about starting new churches a few towns over and how they are sending people and money and sacrificing to do so, other people perk up and tune in. Help them talk about things that matter to all of the churches, and turn them into advocates for partnership in multiplication.

What a change there would be in our denominations if large church pastors began to speak about planting in ways that invite all churches, regardless of size, to participate – and then shared the stories about how it is actually happening.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer), Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College. Ed also serves as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton, and as chair of the Evangelism and Leadership Program in the Graduate School. Ed is a prolific author, and well-known conference speaker. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written a dozen books and hundreds of articles. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is also the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, which is used by over 1 million individuals each week. As of fall 2015, Stetzer co-hosts BreakPoint This Week, a radio broadcast that airs on over 400 media outlets. He also serves the teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship, a multi-cultural megachurch in Miami, Florida.

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