Tuesday, 18 December 2012


At the beginning of one of our building projects at King’s (and there have been several in the life of this church since I came!) I wrote to the leaders of our church – that would include those who lead ministries or small groups - to tell them that we were in earnest discussion with banks and I said, ‘I need to know if you are really with us!’ Their response was to commit themselves to giving over £720,000 over the first three and a half years of the project. There were 150 of them, representing 88 ‘giving units’ as some of them were married. That’s 88 families committing themselves to giving.

Since I began to lead King’s I have taught the following principle: give 10%/save 10%/ live off 80%. This makes for sound budgeting and is honouring to God. The thing is – most people live of 105% of their income – that’s the culture we are in and the results of that approach have caught up with our world in a big way, in case you haven’t noticed! Spend, borrow and manage debt is the way the world does things – but living by the 80/10/10 principle will restrict some of the things you would like to do because you are making a priority call – putting God first and putting something aside for a rainy day.

There will be those who are in debt and who would like to honour God but have lived life at 105%. Being in debt is not fun – we know that. It can be crippling and can destroy lives. At King’s, in order to offer help and support in this area, like some other churches we have set up a debt advice team – people who will sit down with those in debt and help them to see the way ahead.

For others it is simply a matter of making priority calls and deciding what to do with the money we have. To give at King’s, people can put cash in the buckets as they are passed round during worship - but those who have been around the church for any length of time will know that as those buckets go along the rows, especially the front row, it begins to look as though no-one is giving anything. No-one seems to put anything in the bucket! The reason for this is simple – we actively encourage people to give by monthly standing order directly from their account into the church bank account. There is a great deal of money given in this way – the easiest way to give. So, for Deb and I, we have worked out what to give and when there is a salary increase I immediately work out the extra needed so that by the next bank transfer it has been updated. That’s how we do it!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Willing giving!

King’s continues to seek to raise millions of pounds beyond our usual tithes. As we look at the Old Testament we see that beyond their tithes there were opportunities for them to give offerings – voluntary and freewill offerings. I want to draw your attention to three such occasions.

In Exodus 36, when the Tabernacle was being built, it records that the Israelites brought freewill offerings ‘morning after morning’. The result was that the skilled workmen who were creating the Tabernacle left their work to come to Moses and ask him to tell the people to stop giving as there was more than enough! And it says that Moses did so and ‘the people were restrained from bringing more’ (Ex 36:3-6). This is a leadership challenge I have yet to face – but would love to have to deal with! In the past I have restrained one generous lady from giving £25,000 to one of the King’s projects – knowing her circumstances I thought this was a right thing to do. She gave £5,000 instead.

The next example is in King David’s time. He raised money to honour God but it was his son, Solomon, who actually did the building. David raised the money before it was actually needed. In 1 Chronicles 29 it says,

‘Then the leaders of families and the officers of the tribe of Israel, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave towards the work of the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron.’
It’s a great passage! Afterwards David stands and gives a great prayer of thanksgiving – if you read it you will notice that it has great similarities to what we call the Lord’s Prayer and is the Old Testament foundation for it – in effect, the Lord’s Prayer is founded on generous, willing giving!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The early church and giving

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about giving and instructed them like this,

‘On the first day of the week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income’

This indicates that giving should be regular, systematic and proportional. Later on, in the second and third century, Iranaeus, an early church father said, ‘The Jews were constrained to regular payments of tithes. Christians, who have liberty, assign all their possessions to the Lord, bestowing freely not the lesser portions of their property since they have the hope of greater things.’ In other words – it’s all His!

Augustine even put it this way – ‘let him render tithes and out of nine parts let him seek to give alms.’ In other words, there’s the principle of the tithe as the starting point of giving and then you ‘give alms’ on top of that – that’s showing mercy by giving to those in need.

So how are we doing with this? You might say to me, ‘Steve – you are always talking about grace. Doesn’t grace mean that God loves us – even if we don’t do anything that comes close to this?’ And you would be right! The message of grace is that God’s acceptance of us in Christ is not dependant on our performance. We cannot earn our salvation – we couldn’t earn it before we came to Christ and we can’t earn it afterwards, either. But – it would be a misrepresentation of the message of grace if we took it to mean, ‘I don’t need to pray, I don’t need to read my Bible, it doesn’t matter how I live my life... and it doesn’t matter what I do with my money!’

Randy Alcorn wrote this, ‘I will listen to the Christian who says ‘Tithing isn’t meant for us today’ – provided that he gives regularly and that his giving exceeds the tithe.’ Now there’s a statement to make us smile – and think! That’s the message of grace. Under the grace of the law it was a tithe – surely under the grace of Christ it can’t be a lesser amount... can it?’

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

New Testament giving

To those who would think that tithing is ‘only’ an Old Testament view and would want to move on to talk about Jesus and his attitude to giving, well – that Old Testament practice of tithing was the foundation of the grace of the law. When we come to look at Jesus we have to remember that he was a Jew. He would have tithed as a matter of course. In his conversations with the Pharisees on this topic, not once did they challenge him on it. In fact, he challenged them and commends tithing. Matt 23:23 says this,
‘Woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites! You give a tithe of your spices, mint, dill, cumin, but you have neglected the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.’
This comment is repeated in Luke 11:42. Jesus is interested in the heart and so challenges them but does not say that tithing doesn’t matter.

From the New Testament church we can learn further lessons. These people were very, very generous. Even a surface reading of the Book of Acts shows that this was a giving community, selling possessions so that no-one was in need and bringing the proceeds to the apostles and laying it at their feet - conveying that they were giving it freely for them to distribute.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The More Monster

The More Monster is in us all and in the end it’s an issue of the heart. Perhaps there are other demands on our money - ‘I can’t afford to tithe because of the cost of education’. Or, ‘We have two cars to run’, or ‘I go on a number of holidays each year’, or ‘I have a number of houses to maintain’. These things are not wrong – I have a mortgage on our house; I own a car too. Deb and I have made some choices concerning our priorities – we don’t have a second car and our boys go to the local secondary school but we go on some nice holidays. We could forgo the holidays and put the money into private education but we have made choices – God gives us choice - but the principle of firstfruits is one I believe in.

My firm belief is that a tithe is 10% before tax... I have known people who have tried to engage me on this topic as though we are in some sort of negotiation. My response to that is that you make your decision before God. It might help you to know my history in this. In my twenties I was established in a very well-paid job and drove an expensive car. Then I became a youth pastor and saw my salary reduced to a fifth of what I was earning before! Through all of that I knew that where and how you put your money says a great deal about your heart and your priorities.

Scripture clearly sees giving as part of worship – which is why at King’s we take up the offering during worship. We are saying to God, ‘I trust You!’ Our giving springs from an understanding that before everything, all that we have belongs to Him anyway! So when some people give and say, ‘You don’t know how hard I have worked to get this. It’s mine and I’m giving this bit to God...’ actually, biblically it is all His. Whether it is a great deal or a little, it belongs to Him. Leviticus 27:30 indicates that we should live off 90% of what we receive.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Firstfruits or lastfruits...

Then there is the biblical principle of ‘first fruits’. Proverbs 3:9 says ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops’ - the principles of tithing and firstfruits overlap. The best book I have ever read on Christian giving is Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn, if you are interested in following up this topic – it’s a good book to read.

‘The firstfruits and tithes certainly overlapped, and it seems that generally they were the same thing. The term ‘tithe’ stressed the exact amount while ‘firstfruits’ emphasized the nature and quality of the offering.’
That is why in Old Testament sacrifice, it wasn’t a blemished lamb that was offered – it was the best! It displayed that, as a follower of God, God deserved the best. He is first in our lives. So the tithe was 10%, while the firstfruit was about motive and what was in one’s heart.

Sadly, many Christians practice the principle of ‘lastfruits’, giving what is left after everything else has been covered. If we are honest, this is true – in a congregation the size of King’s, we know it.

It’s an issue of priorities – ‘I have my list of priorities, once I have budgeted for them whatever is left I give to God...’ That is not what Scripture teaches we should do! But people probably know this already as they read the Bible – there is a big tug going on in hearts because many want to follow God... but there is also a big tug from the More Monster!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The tussle of tithing...

An overview of what the Bible says about money is powerful stuff. Some of the verses we read are quite scary so we need to remember that we are looking at what God says in His word about this subject!

When some people in our churches talk about tithing, it’s not giving 10% before tax that they mean – it’s just their way of talking about their giving, like a catch-phrase. When we read Malachi 3:8, we face a different point of view.
‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. Yet you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings – you are under a curse, the whole nation of you because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgate of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’
This passage is quite clear – it says if you aren’t tithing then you are robbing God. It also says that if you do tithe then God will open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing so that there will be no room – that would be our testimony at King’s. Over the last fifteen plus years at King's we have taught proportional giving, that is giving from what you have, not what you haven't! We have also recognised that as we move from the Old to the New Testaments there is even more in the grace of God to us to be grateful for! Our giving arises from that recognition and a response of grateful love to the God who has done so much for us.

Some people say, ‘If I give my money then God will give me more money back.’ This attitude comes out of a view called ‘prosperity theology’ – we do not teach that at King’s; we think it is in error. God is not a slot machine where I put my money in and get more back - that sort of thinking is more about greed than sacrificial giving. The truth is that God might bless you financially... but He might not.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Our relationship with our wallets

During Lyndon Johnson’s tenure as President of the USA, on the wall of the Oval Office in the White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson’s great-grandfather Baines, more than a hundred years earlier. Baines had led Sam Houston to Christ and Houston was a changed man – no longer coarse and belligerent but peaceful and content. The day came for Sam Houston to be baptised, an incredible event in the eyes of those who knew his previous life-style and attitude. After his baptism Houston stated that he would like to pay half of the local minister’s salary. When someone asked him why, his simple response was, ‘My pocket book (wallet) was baptised too.’

What we are talking about here is a discipleship issue. It is a Lordship issue, ‘Thank you, Lord for saving me - but you want to be Lord of my money, too?’ Well, yes! That’s what the Bible says. It is an obedience issue and it’s not secondary. It’s of primary importance, particularly in our culture which is dominated by the God of money - which is why Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve money and God’. It gets right to the heart of where we put our priorities.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Money, money, money...

There has never been a more important time for us as the people of God to look at our money and how we should rightly think about it, plan with it and handle it...

I am not a financial advisor, I am a pastor and all I intend to do through this series is to tell you how I handle my money. This came into clearer focus for me some years ago when I went from a big salary to a smaller one. When I worked in business I had a BMW company car along with other perks that went with the job. And then I became a pastor with a pastor’s salary – a different matter entirely. As a result I had to learn to look after every pound and every penny, especially in those early days.

At King’s, our aim is to equip people to handle money wisely and we look to the Scriptures to establish the biblical principle of stewardship – what I will give you in this series of blogs is our emphasis when we teach at King’s around the subject of money. We know that other churches might major on other aspects but whether we are dealing with £50 or £50,000 the issue is how we steward that. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of the parable of the talents and this story sets the scene for us – servants commended or condemned for the way in which they looked after what they were given.

Firstly, we establish the principle that what we have we have been given! We may have earned the money by the sweat of our brow or the power of our brains but ultimately all we have we have received from the hand of a loving and faithful Father who has promised to provide for us. We acknowledge first of all that it all belongs to Him and we are using it and looking after it on His behalf.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Keller on Church Size - final suggestions for very large churches

Change the senior pastor’s role This is a key and highly visible part of the church’s large-size culture. The ‘normal’ functions of the pastor must be delegated to others so that the senior pastor can concentrate on the tasks of vision-casting and preaching. This is a difficult transition for many to navigate – both senior pastor and church can see this as an error in redirection but the reality is that the senior pastor must overcome any guilt feelings over this issue and relinquish teaching, pastoral care and administration to others with the time and energy for it (and greater experience and qualification?) or the result will be personal burnout. Senior pastor, ministry leaders and wider church must accept this change is inevitable and allow it to take place.

Build trustThe very large church is more accessible and capable of reaching young people, singles, the unchurched and seekers (Schaller). This being the case – why are there so few? It requires:

- Allowing the senior pastor to be less accessible
- Allowing the staff to have more power than the board
- Allowing a small group of executive staff to have more decision-making power than the wider staff or congregation
- Allowing directors more power to hire competent specialists and release generalists

The key is trust. In smaller churches, people with a tendency to be suspicious feel happier, consensus is required for decisions and any minority that is unhappy can block a decision. The larger the church, the more trust is required from the congregation in the staff - and especially in the senior pastor. Though the staff and senior pastor must be open to criticism and be relationally available, communicating in a way that helps people to feel included and informed, ultimately a very large church runs on trust.

Steve: Wherever our church appears on the size range, as leaders we need to take time to consider these insights from Dr Keller. If we are to see a greater number of larger churches in the UK I believe that grappling with the issues that he so clearly puts before us will be essential. Leaders and their teams need to come together in honest appraisal of their situation and be prepared to make what are sometimes hard decisions – and then see them through. And it goes without saying that those same leaders and teams need to be together in prayer to the Lord God who gives the growth that they earnestly seek. Meanwhile, as Bill Hybels puts it so well, ‘the Kingdom of God advances - one life at a time’.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Keller on Church Size - further suggestions for very large churches

Allow the decentralisation of power
A church that has grown to 1800 members will see the ‘hub and spokes’ structure, with the senior pastor as the hub and the staff as the spokes, become obsolete. No longer one team under the senior pastor, the staff become a team of teams. Power is shifted to specific departments, each under a director and the senior pastor can no longer supervise those directors closely. Two major consequences come from this – staff leaders have more responsibility for their own area since others in the team have insufficient information and ability to question decisions. Secondly staff cannot expect the same level of mentoring, instruction and supervision - or rescuing - from the executive staff as they previously received.

Bring on more specialised, competent staff workers who understand the vision
Fact: churches of less than 800 members are staffed primarily with theological college trained ministers but the larger the church becomes, the less of these there are on staff. Why?
- The very large church needs specialists in counselling, music, finance, social work, children’s development, while theological colleges produce generalists. The need is for specialists who can be theologically trained - not vice versa.
- The very large church can’t afford to hire people who aren’t already experienced and competent in a particular ministry – a young person straight from seminary may be able to run a youth work of 30 but won’t be able to deal with a group of 300. For all staff, the larger a church becomes the greater the competence required and the requirement that they ‘make things happen’ is a large one. Resourcefulness and creativity are of prime importance at this stage, with staff needing to be able to inspire followers and to move to be leaders of leaders
- The very large church will have a distinctive vision – with a highly defined and carefully balanced set of emphases and styles (its ‘voice’). Those trained in seminaries prior to coming on staff invariably bring a set of attitudes and assumptions to the task, perhaps even a superior attitude and an underestimation/ignorance of that church’s specific context, so it becomes more important for a large church to train and recruit leaders from within. The result of this is that those from within require heavy support for continued theological education and those recruited from outside the church need thorough training in the church’s history, values and culture.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Keller on Church size - suggestions for very large churches

Be non-judgmental

Keller states that attaching moral significance to a particular church size can be an issue with moving to becoming a very large church. People view their preferred church size (often the smaller size, as that is likely to be all they may have known to that point) as the ideal and see the very large church not as ‘different’ but as ‘bad’. If your definition of an uncaring or unfriendly church is one where you can’t get the senior pastor on the phone as a matter of course, then you will not have a positive view of a very large church. For a church of 3000 it would be a disaster for the senior pastor to be available to everyone in this way – and at the same time if the pastor of a church of 150 tries to impose a larger church culture then that will also end in disaster.

A very large church is marked by:

     - change – the overall vision may stay the same but few of the programmes and practices are sacrosanct.
     - complexity – it is not immediately obvious who to talk to or involve in any given issue or decision and
        new events may have unforeseen consequences for other ministries.
     - formality – this is needed in greater measure, so plans have to be written and carefully executed rather
       than face-to-face and ‘on the hoof’.

These elements are the inevitable cost of ministry and should bring no moral aspersions with them.

Form smaller decision-making bodies

In general the larger the church, the fewer people should be involved in decision-making, because of the diversity of views likely to be present and the inevitability of a lengthening decision-making process with watered-down outcomes and compromises as a result. To maintain the same level of progress, decisiveness and intentionality from previous days the decision-making must be entrusted to fewer and fewer people. A very large church can be seen by some as undemocratic or unaccountable – a prime reason why many churches never grow to this size, or shrink again when they do.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Keller on Church size - further issues with larger churches

These issues are - complexity, change and formality. Largeness brings:

      • Complexity in place of simplicity
      • Change in place of predictability
      • Need for formal rather than informal communication and decision-making

Where simplicity, predictability and informality are valued more highly than the benefits of growth, people will leave.

Another major issue is succession. The bigger the church, the more the church is identified with the senior pastor because

a) he is identifiable among a large team of staff/leader

b) churches don’t grow without a visionary leader – and one who can articulate that vision. This is the key to the whole church. Such a gift is distinctive and is irreplaceable – even more than good preaching.

So how does such a leader retire without people feeling the church has died? One plan is to divide the church and give each new site its own senior pastor. Lyle Schaller believes that such successors need to be people who have been on staff for a good while - not outsiders.

A very large church continues to grow only if the advantages given are exploited and the disadvantages above are resisted and minimised.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Keller on Church size - disadvantages of the very large church

There can be issues that the increasing size of a church can bring:

- Commuting longer distances can undermine mission. Very large churches can become famous, attracting Christians from further afield who cannot easily encourage non-Christian friends and neighbours to come along. The result is that the congregation ceases to be representative of the immediate neighbourhood. This can be offset by church planting and being relentless in a mission orientation.

- Commuting longer distances undermines community/fellowship and discipleship. Those who travel longer distances are not likely to plug into real Christian community and receive discipleship benefits. The person you meet on a Sunday is unlikely to live near you, inhibiting natural friendships and connection. This can be offset by an effective small group system.

- Diminished communication and involvement. A very large church can outgrow its internal communication system and so plateau. People begin to feel the loss of a sense of belonging and numerical decline can set in. In such a church people become unsure who to talk to about an issue – staff members may not know about systems outside their own ministry and the long list of staff and ministries is overwhelming. No-one feels they can get info quickly; no-one feels they know how to get involved. This can be offset by upgrading the communication system – extraordinarily important in a very large congregation.

- Displacement. Those who joined when the church was smaller feel a sense of loss and may have difficulty with the new size culture. They may no longer be connected to events, decision-making and the senior leader. ‘Old-timers’ who leave will be sad - and so will those long-term members who remain. This can be offset by giving recognition for the changes they have made over the years and not making them feel guilty for missing the old ways and the smaller church! Eventually this issue lessens – those who join a church of 1500 will not notice much of a difference when that church reaches 4000.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Keller on Church size - the very large church - 800 plus

Keller describes the character of such a church:

- Missional focus – now the needs and interests of outsiders are prioritised above those of the members/insiders. Staff and executive leaders gain a louder voice. The more staff-driven a church is, the more likely it will concentrate on ministries that reach non-members that will not directly benefit its own constituents, e.g. – church planting, mercy and justice ministries.

- Things that attract seekers and particularly young adults:

     • Excellence – quality of arts, teaching, children’s work are important to those who have no obligation to
        go to church because of kinship, tradition, ethnicity etc.
     • Choices – people are now used to having choices as to time of services, type of worship, ways of
        learning, support services etc.
     • Openness to change – newcomers and young people are generally more tolerant to constant change
       and the fluidity found in a large church. Older people and long-term members and families often place a
       high value on stability.
     • Low pressure – seekers often appreciate being able to come into a large gathering where they can 
       initially remain anonymous and no pressure is placed on them to join anything!

The very large church has the potential to develop certain qualities and ministries:

- Being multicultural. A larger staff can more easily be multi-ethnic; a larger church with multiple services/congregations can embrace a greater range of approaches.

- Creating a full family support system. Families will be attracted by a full range of groups for children of differing ages, recreational opportunities, etc.

- Church planting. Large churches are generally better at this than denominational agencies and smaller churches.

- Faith-based whole-person ministries. Because of their larger pool of volunteers, finances and expertise it is easier for the very large church to provide these.

- ‘R&D’ for the broader church. New curriculum and ministry structures are often formulated and tested in such churches rather than in denominations, smaller churches and parachurch organisations.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Keller on Church size - breaking through the 800 barrier

The same five changes mentioned previously in the context of transitioning through the 200 barrier need to be taken to the next level:

- Multiplication options. A mediocre or poor small group system may have sufficed previously as people receive shepherding via programmes, classes and groups run by staffers. At this point the small group system needs to be well run and cover pastoral care as well as the Bible study for which it is generally valued. Small group life is the key to successful navigation of this barrier.

- Multiplying staff. Up to this point a small staff of generalists may have been sufficient but now staff members must be gifted in particular specialisms – not just workers or even able to lead workers but able to lead leaders. Qualities of maturity, independence and the ability to attract and supervise others are of increasing importance.

- Shifting decision-making power. After a stage where decision-making power was increasingly centralised - from the whole church through the lay leaders, to the staff and then to the senior staff – it now becomes increasingly decentralised again to individual staff and their leadership teams. As well as an increase in competency they must have an increasing authority to make certain executive decisions.

- Increasing formality and deliberateness in assimilation. Well organised, highly detailed and supervised incorporation of newcomers becomes essential.

- Adapting the role of the senior pastor. The pastor must concentrate on preaching, large group teaching, vision casting and strategising and is less accessible for individual shepherding.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Church size - moving through the 400 barrier

While the smaller church grows through pastor-initiated groups and ministries, Keller states that the medium-sized church grows through multiplying these groups and by improving their quality and effectiveness. There is no room for the ‘amateurish’ approach of the small church – classes must provide a great learning experience, music must be at a certain quality, preaching must be informative and inspirational.

Once the 400 mark is reached, such a church will grow only if the habits of the 200-sized church are broken and discarded. Often it will also require that a church moves to new space and facilities.

Large church – 400-800 attenders:

With this size of church the primary circle of belonging becomes the small fellowship group – usually between 4 and 15 people in size and more of a miniature church, not focused on a particular task within church life but existing  for Bible study, worship, fellowship and ministry.

In a large church the leadership qualities of tenure, skill and maturity that served smaller churches are also desirable but must be combined with commitment to the church’s distinct vision and mission. Key ministries will grow, both in size and importance, and will become an important reason visitors decide to join that church.

Staff members in a large church, including the senior leader, will find themselves in an increasingly specialised role. Preaching, vision-casting and strategising will be the senior leader’s major tasks and he must relinquish many/most of his administrative tasks or find that he has become a bottle-neck to further progress. Change and decisions now come from ‘top down’ - from staff and key lay leaders.

The means by which a large church grows differs from small and medium sized churches in that the key to its growth is what happens in the worship services – the quality and style of worship and preaching are paramount here, giving a means of growth by a front door approach. This is unlike the small church’s groups and ministries (backdoor approach) and the medium-sized church’s targeting of felt needs of constituent groups such as young families, youth, seniors, seekers - providing specifically designed ministries for them (side-door approach). For the large church the Sunday meetings provide the front door through which new people will come.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Church size - the medium-sized church: 200-450 attenders

At this point of growth Keller states that the interplay between three vital parameters of church life comes into focus more clearly. The three are team, facilities and finance – place them as the three sides of a triangle to see how they affect the stability of the church; if one of them is weak it will affect the life and growth of the church. So much so that if a church has stopped growing it is usually one of these areas – or a combination of them – that needs to be looked at carefully.

In a church at this stage of growth, the primary circle of belonging for the individual ceases to be the entire membership of the church and becomes a specific ministry group within it. Men’s and women’s ministries, a worship group, an outreach team, the social action group, youth work, children’s ministry – all these are possible circles of belonging that make church life ‘living’. Each of these groups is likely to be the size of a house church, namely 10 to 40 people.

In the medium-sized church, leadership functions differently – the structure becomes increasingly complex and the leaders must represent the different areas of church life such as young families, older people etc. There is now too much work to be handled by one committee or board and work is devolved to influential leadership teams that have the power to make important decisions. Leaders are now chosen not for their length of service and strength of personality but for their skills and gifts in specialised tasks and roles. Lay leaders cease to have the power to merely rubber stamp proposals or withhold permission and are required to be active in ministry or lose their role.

The senior leader now becomes less of a practitioner and becomes a trainer and organiser of others. He must be able to train, support, supervise and organise - this requires significant administrative skills. Change is generally driven by forward looking groups – often the mission, ministry or evangelism team.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Church size - more about moving through the 200 barrier

Tim Keller identifies further issues for a church moving through the 200 barrier:

- A willingness to let power shift away from lay leaders to staffers. The old approach to decision-making requiring total consensus from everyone is now too unwieldy and up to this point any change that brings strong opposition and the possibility of anyone leaving the church is avoided. Growth toward the 200 barrier brings the point where someone is going to experience discomfort at any change and in order to facilitate necessary changes (necessary for growth!) much decision-making has to move to leaders and staff. Increasingly staff will know more about the members than lay leaders and newcomers will take their cues from the pastor and the staff. Decisions will need to be made by those individuals on the ground rather than the traditional committee.

- A willingness to be more formal and deliberate in assimilation and communication. Where previously this has taken place ‘naturally’, without planning, it now has to become more deliberate and thought out – word of mouth is no longer sufficient. If newcomers are to find their place in the church a more intentional and organised approach is required from the church.

- An ability and willingness of both pastor and people to allow the pastor to do less pastoring and more leading. More vision-casting, strategising and administrative ability is required at this level. Recruiting and supervising volunteers and programmes become more time-consuming while planning, delegating, supervising and organising become more important. At the same time the pastor becomes increasingly less available to the membership - this development needs to be recognised and accepted by both pastor and people.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Church size - moving through the 200 barrier

Approaching the 200 barrier, a church that truly wants to make room for more people is likely to have to engage seriously with the following:

- Multiplication options. There has to be a willingness to accept that it is no longer possible for everyone to have a face-to-face relationship with everyone else. This requires a major change in attitude within the church or newcomers will pick up that established members feel that the church is becoming too big and impersonal. Often the way to deal with this is to provide multiplication options such as an additional Sunday meeting and/or an active small group ministry. Experience generally shows that such moves provide a growth spurt – as Keller records, ‘when you give more options, people opt!’

- A willingness to meet the cost of an additional primary ministry staffer. It should be a given that one full-time minister cannot personally shepherd more than 150-200 people. Specialists, such as youth workers, administrators and musicians can help with the span of pastoral care – the actual profile of this will vary with the local culture. Often a middle class environment will require such specialists earlier on in the process. The time will come when it will be necessary to employ a second full-time staff worker – such an appointment should be made for growth – and in essence that person must be able to aid growth and generate the giving to cover his/her salary. For this reason the second staffer is often an evangelist, unless one of the primary gifts of the senior leader is evangelism, in which case a pastoral gift would complement the situation and work on internal growth. At this stage the church can be big enough to give the senior leader a feeling of increasing burn-out but has not yet got to the point where it can/will pay for that second worker.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Church size - starting small

Keller examines churches of different sizes and from his research gives the following observations. He talks of ‘house churches’ with up to 40 attenders growing in an organic way attracting new people by their warmth, relationships and people. They have no recognised programme of outreach and find that newcomers, once they have been invited and have come along, tend to continue to attend because they are befriended.

The small church, which has between 40 and 200 members, continues to build on the importance of relationships between the members of the congregation but the relationship with the pastor tends to be the primary attraction for new people. With the backing of one key informal leader Keller maintains that the pastor can start and run two or three ministries, groups or activities which will in all likelihood bring lots of new people into the church

At this point, moving through the so-called ‘200 barrier’ becomes the issue. Keller actually talks about ‘making room’ for more than 200 people and I am sure he is not just talking about having the space - or enough chairs. A significant change in thinking and a commitment to many of the following changes is required.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Church size - why it matters

In considering the issue of church size there is one person whose work I would turn to every time. Dr Timothy Keller, the founder and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan has written very helpfully on this topic and I make no apology for being heavily dependent on his work for what follows. 

 You can find his complete article ‘Leadership and Church Size Dynamics – How strategy changes with growth’ on the Redeemer website: 

What follows are highlights from the article with my own personal slant on some of the points.

Keller stresses that how a church operates and functions will be heavily impacted by its size and that failure to realise the significance of church size provides the common reasons for mistakes by pastors and leaders in managing their church. He talks of a ‘size culture’ which will majorly influence the areas of decision-making, the flow of relationships, how effectiveness is evaluated and even what ministers, staff team and volunteer leaders actually do.

Major differences between churches are often seen in denominational or theological terms - so we can underestimate how size impacts the way an individual church operates. In Keller’s view, a staff team member who moves from a church of 400 to one of 2000 is making a massive change and one greater than a move between denominations. He tells us that it is not just a matter of a large church being a bigger version of a small church but it has a massive impact on the scale and scope of leadership skills required to cover the difference in the means and style of communication, ways of forming community and the decision-making processes.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Keep building your marriage - and have FUN!

One of the observations Deb & I have made over our years in ministry has been that as ministry responsibilities have increased our marriage has had to grow to in parallel to meet the new challenges. This recent series has summarised some of the lessons we have learnt over time.

My encouragement to all of us would be – continue to invest in your marriage and to read widely together on the subject. We have recently read Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage and I am planning to read Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage over the summer. Deb and I would say that at the very least a weekly date night is important and should be protected. Also, ensure there are no ‘no go’ subjects between you, and further, that you regularly ask each other these questions:
-      Am I meeting your emotional needs?
-      Am I meeting your sexual needs?

We would recommend the book The Five Sex Needs of Men and Women and the companion book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women by Dr Gary and Barbara Rosberg - both are worth reading, as are two books we have previously recommended, Men Only and Women Only by Geoff and Shaunti Feldhahn.

As a leader you are an example and a model to your church. It would be true to say that the strength of the marriages within the church leadership will be reflected in the community you lead. By investing in and prioritising a good marriage for yourself you are building a foundation for the young couples who are in your church. It’s a vital investment! I would also encourage you to preach annually on the subject of marriage – here at King’s we also run the excellent HTB Marriage Course once a year.

All this can sound heavy and weighty – I would also say that you need to prioritise having FUN together! Marriage is a gift from God, to be enjoyed and that enjoyment has got to include some fun! Deb and I celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary this week. The longer I am married to Deb, the more I realise God has been amazingly good to me. I am incredibly fortunate to be married to such a beautiful, intelligent and godly girl and to get to spend the rest of our lives together! 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Changing seasons...

Deb: I have come to realise that the changing seasons of family life have a great influence on our marriages. During the time when I had babies and children under five, I was often out of the Sunday meeting in crèche, sometimes as a helper, sometimes looking after one of our own boys. Unlike most other couples in church life, it wasn’t a role I could share with Steve - he had to be in the meeting! Yet, although I missed out on Sundays there were many positives in that season. As a mum of under-fives who had recently moved to London, I had numerous opportunities to make connections in the community. It was a demanding but very sociable time.

Once our youngest son went to school, I chose to work part-time. This has brought new and different challenges. I find that I don’t have as many automatic connection points with others and have to be more proactive in maintaining friendships. Steve and I are in constant discussion to ensure we are balancing family life with three lively boys, with Steve’s ministry and my work at school.

Looking ahead, we are aware that one of the most challenging seasons is still to come – when our children leave home. It will inevitably bring more freedom but there will be adjustments to make, having spent the last 20+ years pouring ourselves into bringing up children. This season is often combined with the increased responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

But God has shown us that no season lasts long – although it may not seem like it at the time! We need to embrace each season as it comes along and enjoy the good within it. We also need to be willing to make thoughtful adjustments in our marriage and family time as those seasons evolve and make sure that we keep on communicating as a couple.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Vital Investment

Steve: If your marriage isn’t a positive thing that refreshes and refuels you both you will struggle in Christian ministry. Even if you have a strong marriage there will be times when life will be hard, but a weak marriage will compound the issues many times over. As further safeguards to and investment in this most important of relationships I recommend the following:

- Invest time in your marriage. Don’t let ministry demands and opportunities take time away from your wife and family. Ministry will take all the available time you have - and more, so putting time with your spouse and family into the diary well ahead before any other demands seek precedence - and protecting that time – is the only way to ensure that it happens.

- Remember the Biblical principle of example. Like it or not, we provide a role model of marriage for those we serve. People will always be looking at you – it’s the goldfish bowl of ministry! We cannot dodge the biblical exhortation as leaders to be an example to others. It may be challenging but it is true – the strength of your marriage will have a direct impact on the strength of the marriages in your church.

- Teach regularly on the subject of marriage. This will show to those in our churches that our marriages are to be valued, worked at, invested in – and not taken for granted. Teaching in this area will prepare those still to launch into marriage and encourage and redirect the stumbling. Such teaching will help our people to refocus their attention on their own relationship and at the same time you are helping to lay the foundation for the marriages of the next generation.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Deb: For me, being in partnership in mission with Steve has ultimately meant owning the call on Steve’s life and doing all I can to support and release him into it. At this stage and season in our lives I don’t go with Steve on all his trips away – but it does mean that he knows he goes with my support. It means that I do my best to make sure that home is a place of relaxation and refreshment for him to come back to. Steve might be the one going to the meetings and conferences and standing up to lead and preach on Sundays – but I am still caught up in what we would see as very much a joint call. I pray for him, talk to him and discuss with him what he’s doing and I act as a sounding board when he needs to offload.

As Steve’s areas and levels of responsibility have grown and increased I have had to step up too. I am discovering that owning the call and continuing to be releasing and supportive is an ongoing process. It isn’t always easy and it is a choice I have to make each time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Strengthening your marriage

Steve: Building a great marriage takes time and effort. In a ministry setting it also takes determination to ensure that ministry priorities don’t take precedence. For Deb and me, every time we have seen ministry breakthrough, our marriage has had to strengthen accordingly. Involved in this has been a commitment to talk about the challenges involved and being clear as to what it means to continue to show love to each other. I firmly believe that for church leaders, the strength of our marriages will have a direct impact on the effectiveness and potential of our ministries. This is another good reason to be committed to investing in our marriages.

So much is at stake here. To fall morally can mean the loss of wife, children job and calling. Behind each story of a failed marriage is the pain caused to families, churches and to God himself. I see this clearly lays out a need to take responsibility.

Take responsibility for your marriage. Talk together about how you are doing. Ask your wife if you are meeting her needs and be honest if your sexual needs are not being met. (In talking with others I find that it generally works this way but it is totally possible that it could be the other way round.) As part of our commitment to our marriage and to each other, Deb and I have agreed that we will read a book on marriage every year. We discuss together what we each read – it gives us the chance to look at things from a point of view we would not necessarily have arrived at on our own.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Meeting each other's needs

Deb: In recent years Steve and I have made it a regular practice to read helpful books on marriage and to discuss them together. One that we have found particularly helpful is an enlightening book called ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. The author identifies five different ways in which people like to receive love – quality time, receiving gifts, kind actions (acts of service), physical touch and affirming words. It’s an easy read, full of stories that encourage and help us to see how important it is to communicate and show our love in a way that the other appreciates.

We came across this book some years ago now, and reading it helped us understand one another to a far greater degree than we had previously done. Knowing each other’s love languages and trying to show love in the way that our partner likes to receive it will help to create a healthy marriage.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A good barometer for a marriage

Steve: For some years now Deb and I have run an annual seminar at King’s entitled Sex, Romance and God. For married couples only, it takes place on a Saturday morning providing protected time for couples to think about their relationship and to talk together, as well as giving Deb and I the opportunity to address the subject of sex and romance in marriage far more openly than would be possible on a Sunday morning. Some of the questions we have faced have been challenging, some have been fun! When we first ran the seminar we had to repeat it the following Saturday in order to meet the demand!

It goes without saying that sex is just one aspect of marriage – but it would be our observation over our years in pastoral ministry that the quality of a couple’s sex life provides a good barometer for the health of the marriage overall. Where a couple are not communicating, or have problems in one part of their relationship, it is almost guaranteed that the problem will be quickly reflected in the bedroom.

As part of that seminar we spend time looking at the differing needs of men and women when it comes to maintaining intimacy in marriage – as a broad generalisation (and there will always be exceptions) women tend to need to feel emotionally connected in order to be physically intimate whereas a man finds emotional connection through sex. Interestingly, men are wired in such a way that they are often more emotionally open after sex. It is important that men and women understand how they each approach the matter of closeness and intimacy and how each defines and expresses it. Communication – both talking and listening - are vital in this understanding.

Two books I would recommend in this area would be:

- Sheet Music by Dr Kevin Leman
- The Five Sex Needs of Men and Women by Gary & Barbara Rosberg

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Attitude is key...

Deb: When Steve and I got engaged in the summer of 1988, I had little idea of what God had in store for us as a couple. Yet ours is a gracious God, who leads, directs, and even carries us when needed. Looking back over more than 20 years of marriage, I am able to see just how much He has taught me along the way.

One of the most important things I have come to realise is that having a sense of being caught up together in the call of God is vital to being partners in the mission God has given us together. Steve and I aren’t experts in this area – we owe much of what we have learned about this to the example of other ministry couples – Dave & Liz Holden, Terry & Wendy Virgo and John & Liz Lanferman come immediately to mind.

It is important to recognise that different couples operate in different ways, according to their own gifts and the call they have. Some ministry leaders’ wives have a very public ministry of their own; others take a more supportive role. There is no set rule for this – it has to be worked out couple by couple. But one thing that has become clear to me in recent years – and especially since we have been at Catford - is that my attitude to what God has called Steve to do is key.

When Steve first went into full-time ministry as a youth pastor, we had been married just a year and I was in full-time work with a demanding job. While I was supportive of what he was doing, my involvement was minimal! When I gave up work to be at home with our children, I had more time to be involved in church life and so that changed. But there were times when I would feel resentful of the time when Steve was away from home and there was a real sense in which I didn’t feel part of what Steve was doing and so not actively involved in his call.

A few months after we had arrived in Catford, God met me in a powerful way. While away together on a leaders’ weekend, I found myself deeply challenged about my attitude to Steve’s ministry, and felt the need to confess and repent of it. At that moment God showed me that He would give me grace to release Steve into what he was called to do. Over the next weeks I experienced a sense of freedom and strength which transformed my attitude.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Importance of a Great Marriage

Steve: I think it is vital that church leaders should work at their marriage, aiming not just for a good marriage but a great one! The growth of the church at King’s and the increased demands that came with such growth showed Deb and I that our marriage needed to grow in parallel – a great marriage provides a strong foundation from which to serve God together. I would say that marriage is a vital partnership – and as such is worth giving time and energy to. This wouldn’t be a hardship as far as I’m concerned! Deb is the love of my life so any excuse to spend time with her is fine for me!

When I see leaders who seem to prefer ‘doing ministry’ to being at home I recall that early in our marriage, young and ambitious, I could be out six nights a week – not a healthy way to live! It all came to a head about nine months before we moved to London and centred on a ministry trip to India which required me to fly out on Christmas Day. While there I was challenged by God that I needed to prioritise Deb more.When I returned home I told Deb what I believed God had said to me, repented of that attitude and sat down to take practical steps to adjust my work/life balance. I had to re-order my priorities in order to put Deb and the boys above the demands of ministry - and it’s an on-going process, one that requires regular attention.

The first five years at King’s saw us not only building a church but also a marriage that would be a place of mutual support and rest – vital if we were going to achieve all God had called us to. The personal life and the corporate leadership of a church leader are totally linked together – I believe our culture makes a great mistake in separating the private and public aspects of a life; integrity is always an issue of character.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Better Together

Just over a year ago (and so much has happened in that year!) King’s launched a new site in Downham, partnering with an existing Newfrontiers church. King’s adopted this church on a large south London estate and replanted it as a part of our move to becoming a multi-site church. It is extremely exciting to see the site flourish - just a few weeks ago three people become Christians on one Sunday and seven others responded to a call for baptism. So much has happened in such a short time - a church which had struggled a little over recent years is now healthy and growing!

On this journey we have been helped by the wisdom and experience of Jim Tomberlin from the States, an expert in the multi-site movement and now someone we consider a friend! He and Warren Bird have recently written a new book on the subject of churches that merge to become more effective. Called Better Together - Making Church Mergers Work, I was asked to give a review/recommendation – this is what I wrote:

‘Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird have provided the church with a visionary and practical book from which, if many churches could embrace it with real humility, the kingdom impact could be huge. Whether you lead a thriving church or are involved in one that is struggling, I commend this book to you.’

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Growing a church - Keep telling the story...

If I’m preaching elsewhere on a Sunday I will receive a text message from a staff member at Kings at the end of the day which gives me the numbers of people who attended and the numbers of responses – all this comes in as I drive back.  I’m motivated that way.  Some of my team think that at my funeral people will say, ‘Well… Steve would have been pleased, you know, because we’ve done the count.  There were 415 at the funeral …’

I believe if we’re going to impact a nation we have to be intentional about mission. I live in a big city with 250,000 people in the borough of Lewisham alone, so King’s needs to reach thousands of people.  I don’t know many pastors who say ’I want my church to be smaller’ - in the end it’s about having a heart for people - you must prioritise growth and mission right up front and this will impact your Sunday programme. 

We know that historically our church grows most in September and January - we have also had times when we’ve grown very fast and the usual trend has gone out of the window.  We build what we’re doing on Sundays around that knowledge.  We plan quite far ahead and we aim to be Spirit-led too!  So in September we have a Vision Sunday and prior to that date a personal letter goes out from me to everyone in the church and also to everyone who’s visited the church in the last 12 months, inviting them to come along for the Vision Sunday.  I sign a lot of invitation letters in the run-up to those particular Sundays!

I find there is a need to repeat our vision to the church - time and time again - this is very important because people often just don’t get it first time – or the second!  So I keep telling the story and explain why we do what we do, keeping the vision before the people - constantly.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Growing a church - Mission - just do it!

I believe in local church-based evangelism.  I also believe that mission has to become central to the life of the church - if you want your church to grow and see evangelistic breakthrough, then mission has to be the primary focus of your church.  The priority of mission in the life of the church affects issues as basic as the church diary and prioritising what happens on a Sunday.

When I first came to King’s the church programme was shaped by my diary and my availability, not around the purpose of mission. For example, ‘I can’t be here on that Sunday as I’m on holiday so we won’t do the mission event there…’ We soon worked out was that was the wrong way of building! We decided - mission comes first.  I think in everything we do now, right through the philosophy of the church, mission is primary and then we build in behind that priority - the church programme must reflect this philosophy.  

Mission at the heart of church life particularly affects our Sundays - our Vision Sundays which we do twice a year, one in September and one in January, (and which I always do as the team leader) always includes an aspect of growth presented within it.  It will always include an appeal for new people to step in.  It will always include telling some of the King’s story.  Mission will be explicit in our goals and what we are reaching for over the next 5 years - that will be very high profile.  I’ve got this evangelistic thing in me (although I am not an evangelist – I realised that when I met one!) which makes me instinctively think that’s the way to grow.  So in our prayer meeting, if I’m leading, we will pray for other areas including pastoral care but I would probably always lead us into vision and into praying about growth.  I just do that.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Growing a church - Your front door - a door to growth...

If your church size is under 150 the primary way it will grow is through relationship with the senior leadership, particularly the pastor. The best way for you to reach people, and for your church to grow in that situation, is for you – the leader – to have people round to your house.  Guys - that is the best outreach strategy you can follow!  Now, you will also need to run Alpha and provide other things - but the thing that will really make your church grow is you opening your home. Your front door could be the door to growth! Running discipleship groups, gathering young men - these are the ways to grow your church.  Become involved with unbelievers, people making recommitments, new Christians – these are the people I’m talking about.   When I first came to King’s I ran the Alpha course as I wanted to be among those unbelievers. 

When you get to a size of around 150 and above then the way you will grow is likely to be through multiplying ministries. You reach a critical mass where you run a kids’ club or toddler group or something like debt-counselling. You have all those different avenues which get you into pools of different people.  So that’s what you have to do at that phase of growth. 

The last phase is if you get over 500-600.  The bigger you get, then your Sunday meeting (or meetings!) becomes THE growth engine.  People join your church through that front door.  Of course you will need all these other things going on that I have already mentioned – toddler groups, Alpha etc.  At every stage you need to be aware that the impact of church size is massive.  

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Growing a church - Size matters

So if you want your church to grow you’ve got to work and build to momentum moments - these can be a whole range of things. How do you create this? I believe local church-based evangelism is the way. 

A few years back I got into trouble for an article I wrote about para-church organizations. The heart of the article was that we should build missionary churches.  If we are building missionary churches and doing what I believe God has called us to do, then para-church organisations will be less influential.  Fewer resources (money and people) would go to them because we are fulfilling what God has called His church to do.  Because I believe in the local church the article was actually more of a challenge to the church than a comment on para-church organisations. The church is the best way to reach people, to disciple them and see them come through and integrated into the body of Christ. 

A comment on church size here. If you don’t factor in an awareness of the impact and influence of your church’s size then you can attend conferences on church growth and either go away really disappointed at the end of it or you can misapply to your situation the exhortations you have heard. So, the size of your church will determine the best way for it to grow and be effective.  You may have heard an exhortation to preach the gospel on Sundays.  You may build it into a guest service programme - but then the exhortation comes to do so every week. Added to which you hear someone like me tell you that we see people respond practically every week when we preach the gospel.   

The difference is often the size of the church. Some of you know the name of every single person in your meeting and you will know as you preach that there is no unbeliever in the room - or perhaps there’s just one person. How you implement such an exhortation will depend on your church size and on your understanding of the impact that will have. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Growing a church - Behind every 1, another 10...

We have at King’s a good friend in Steve Nicholson, a leader in the Vineyard movement in the US.  Years ago he said to me, “Behind every 1 person there are another 10” and that would be our testimony.  Time and time again we find that one person comes through and gets saved.  One person comes in and gets restored in God and recommits to Christ.  One person moves into the area.  One person is worshipping God in another part of London and then starts coming here instead.  Behind each of them are another 10 people – family, friends, work colleagues. 

Each Sunday we look for new people to step towards us – that’s what I pray for every Sunday morning. At the end of each Sunday I know how many ‘Like to Know More’ forms have been given in that day.   And I know that my church will grow by 10% in a year if I have five people step towards us in this way every week - because we’ve done it so long now we know that’s the trend.  That in turn becomes 250 people through the year. Nine forms given in – a very good Sunday,  so if the following week there are only two, it’s OK because there were nine last week. 

We have a process behind the ‘Like To Know More’ forms because of the current size of our church. In a smaller church you can spot any new people there.  In that situation I would strongly encourage you – engage with them as soon as you can! Talk to them before the beginning of the meeting! 

At King’s we have a break in the middle of our meeting so we can talk to new people and then at the end of the meeting we talk to new people again.  I never talk to established attenders in the church on Sundays.  In fact, after about 10 minutes normally I feel a bit lonely and lost because the church is so well educated not to talk to me because they know I don’t want to talk to them – I’m looking for the new people.  Most of you are pastors, so your tendency can be to be immersed in the existing people and talk to them.  Fight that tendency! 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Growing a church - Momentum moments

John Maxwell says that the power of momentum makes an average leader look good and that the lack of momentum makes a good leader look average.  Such is the power of momentum - leaders will know what I’m talking about.  If you can get some momentum it makes things much easier for you in fuelling change management within the church. An example…

A couple of years ago we needed to further extend our Catford site – we were looking at raising £100,000.  We had gone to two meetings on Sunday morning and were talking about bringing in a third meeting. Despite the fact that we had already gone to two meetings, we had space issues for our children’s work.  We needed the extension to accommodate the kids - everyone recognised that and said, ‘Fine!’  We had to raise another offering and momentum made it easy to lead in that situation.  So, as a leader I crave and pray for momentum moments. 

When we started out at King’s we could provide a momentum moment maybe once a term - there was so much to do in the church here. At first there were no elders, when it rained the water came in, I was new and didn’t know much, had young children and was exhausted and we could just about muster a momentum moment about once a term.  As you gain momentum and resources increase you can get such a moment perhaps twice a term. Now it feels like sometimes every Sunday is such a moment. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Growing a church... Reach the lost, build the church...

…Build the church, reach the lost. You have to have these two things in balance because if you first reach the lost and you’re not building the church, then you won’t contain the growth. The issues around this point would be those of leadership capacity and facility size - issues that generally come with growth.  Leaders, at this point you need an ability to multiply yourself, work through others, build team - and of course you need to have the gift to realise hundreds of thousands of pounds as well.  That is the leadership challenge!   

I think many leaders build and hope to reach.  Our philosophy at King’s has been to turn that upside down and say, ‘let’s reach and then we’ll build’.  I even think that’s how the book of Acts is written! It is missionary at its heart - with the apostles running around after gospel breakthrough trying to ‘fill in’ behind it, ensuring converts are baptized in the Holy Spirit and teaching them. Paul committed himself, in one context, to teach in one place for 2 years.  To me, it’s what apostolic ministry is about. We are an apostolic movement committed to reaching out beyond the gathered community and then bringing all the spiritual gifts to bear behind that. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

We've got to reach people...

Luke 19:10 says “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost”.  Church life should have at its very heart this sense of ‘we’ve got to reach people’ - that’s the heart of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  My own conviction is that as pastors, we have historically tended to lean towards building the church, caring for the saints and teaching them - and rather less towards reaching people. 

Some of us would say that pastoring is our primary gift - that’s extremely valid but if we’re going to make the church an effective outreach family, my conviction is that we have to intentionally lean towards outreach because churches have a tendency to turn in on themselves. If as a leader you’ve got a teaching or pastoring bias in your own gifting, that combination is likely to mean that the gradient of your church will be towards excellent care and going deeper and deeper in the Word and we’ll know more and we’ll be well equipped and well taught but - are we seeking and saving the lost?  For some of you this will raise questions about your primary gifting and make you examine how you shape your whole leadership structure. 

Our own story is that I arrived at King’s about 15 years ago.  The church had been in some decline over the previous 10 years, it had gone from 300 to about 150 and the building was falling down.  I arrived and during that first 15 months the church didn’t grow.  Everyone that joined was matched by someone who left because they didn’t like my leadership style… then after about 15 months we began to grow and that growth has continued.  We’ve grown from, on average, 200 in attendance to about 1200 on a Sunday morning.

During that time we sent 30 of our members to plant into South Central London and then a further 10 went to support Stuart Gibb at the Greenwich church plant. We believed it was right to do that and we did this even while we were looking for a 10% average increase at King’s. We balance these two elements - build the church and reach the lost.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Growing a Church... 'God made it grow!'

I am often asked by church leaders how to make a church grow. On the basis of my experience and from the best of my knowledge I attempt to provide them with advice that will encourage them in the noble task of leading God’s church. So, it is important to state at the outset of this blog series on this important topic that only God makes things grow! Although there might be times when we can hinder growth, Paul says clearly in 1 Corinthians 3:6, ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow’.

Once this has been stated and acknowledged we need to take seriously another fact - that God has chosen us to partner with Him in the great task of building His church! I firmly believe that God desires His church to grow, both in spiritual depth and also numerically. I live in a big city and, as I look at the communities around our part of London, I am convinced that we need some churches that can reach thousands of people. This does not mean that I think that God loves a larger church over a small one, that’s not the character of the God I love and serve.

My own observation is that many churches do not reach their potential in God because there is a serious underestimation of the importance of leadership and structural change to facilitate God-desired growth. Recently I heard Dave Smith who leads KingsGate Peterborough say, rather provocatively, that the difference between a church of four hundred and one of a thousand is the word ‘management’. That the term management still gets so much bad press in Christian circles continues to amaze me!

If we want to reach more people for Christ we will need to learn how to lead in a different way than we have to date. Exodus 18 recounts that Moses discovered this, following advice from the first management consultant in the Bible (just joking…!). He follows Jethro’s advice and re-engineers the leadership structure of God’s people in order to be able to care for the ever-growing number.

In this next series of blog postings I am going to outline some key themes and factors which we have found worked well at King’s Church, here in the great city of London. As I say in my book Good to Grow,

King’s... reflects my style and flavour of leadership, and the biblical values which are precious to us.... This is not the only way to lead a growing church. (p191)

Having said that, I hope that some of the lessons we have learnt along the way will be of help to you! We will look at topics such as church size matters, growth engines, Sundays, integration, community, leadership, team, raising money and the importance of vision.

Lastly, I want to say that a growing church is normally a healthy one. At King’s this health is reflected in the church’s prayer life, the generosity of His people, our amazing mercy ministries and includes embracing the challenges of building a church that is diverse in culture and age. It’s not all about numbers - but it is good to grow!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Great by Choice!

I’m just finishing reading the new Jim Collins book Good by Choice – and I’m loving it. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of Jim Collins and his books - two previous books by him - Good to Great and Good to Great for the Social Sector - are ones that I highly recommend to the leaders who come to my coaching sessions. This one is up there too! Get hold of it and read it – I defy you not to be impressed!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A vision health warning!

Vision is a powerful leadership tool - but it should come with a health warning. It needs to be handled with wisdom and it requires stamina!

Vision, and clearly expressing that vision repeatedly, is a vital component in keeping the church moving forward.

At King’s we define vision as what God has called us to do. It needs to be God-inspired - as it says in Proverbs 29:18, 'without vision the people perish'.

Vision is different to goals - effective goals have a set time line for achieving them, while vision is about the ‘big picture’ and is something which is humanly speaking beyond your reach! A wise visionary leader will have a sober assessment of his own call, gifting and context before describing a preferred picture of the future to any hearers.

On these grounds a series on vision needs to come with a health warning. A God- inspired vision needs a team, a plan and finance to fulfil it - or very quickly the credibility of the vision and the visionary will be brought in to question. As I read recently,
  • Vision without action is merely a dream 
  • Action without vision passes the time 
  • Vision and action can change the world 
A clearly articulated vision can bring momentum, direction and purpose. In my experience God’s people are generous givers; they just need a vision which is worth giving to!

A clear vision can help you to say ‘no’ as well as ‘yes’ at critical moments. It can  help you stay the distance and fulfil the call of God on your life - and that of your church.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Partners! Come and help!

Outline of vision talk given in January 09

Tibbert Christmas news. Personal: each Christmas and summer holiday I do a personal/family review – cover marriage, spiritual disciplines, how the kids are doing, physical health, emotional state, finances. For this last point – I have a 25 year plan. I have one life and I want to ‘max it’ for God.

On Vision Sunday I do a similar review for the church – possible to set the bar too high so that such a review and analysis demotivates. Also possible to set the bar too low and underachieve.

Lk. 5:1-7 Jesus’ miracle leads to the call – ‘Partners – come and help!’ 

Since Jan 07 we have experienced a Big Catch! Jan 08 I put before you the five challenges that could have sunk our boat
-      Diversity – not remaining a monoculture church
-      Growth – caring for people in small groups and providing enough leaders
-      Facilities – looking at relocation - quote for £12 million was beyond us. Need for further office space.
-      Finance – growth requires large financial demands
-      Apostolic – recovering from church plant into Beacon (40 people sent), 10 people to Greenwich, a further 10 to Beacon. My role in Newfrontiers expanding, Mick Taylor’s involvement in Newfrontiers’ training – a huge gift that benefits us and the wider movement.

Response to the challenges: Gracism series, move to a third meeting. Review how we have met our goals from 2007. Growth in our numbers could be described as ‘a massive catch’ – be encouraged! Recognise parts of our set-up are overstretched, though we have massive momentum. I don’t want us to sink –going to need partners to come and help us! Elders to discuss launch of a 4th meeting – possibly on another site – please pray for us. 

:7 = key. Signalled to partners to help – or they would sink. Went to those nearest – if you are here we don’t want you to just be here for the (boat) ride – come and help on this battleship, not a pleasure cruiser.

5 ways to help – step up in
- leadership – come and carry some weight
- membership – come and join - sign of commitment
- serving – come and serve - don’t assume that everyone else will do the necessary tasks
- praying – come and pray - especially collective prayer meetings
- giving – come and give - aware of current economic situation but prime way to show where your heart is – by tithes and offerings

Conclusion: ‘Partners! Come and help!’

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Nehemiah's Task

Outline of vision talk given in Sept 09

Highlights of summer holiday and study leave in context of new building project. 
Nehemiah’s building project! Neh. 1 and 2. 
Video clip: tallest wave surfed! To do that needed preparation and courage – events move at speed. There’s a potential cost – Nehemiah’s life was on the line in the royal court setting – he began his request with a great prayer – he was God-focused - reminded God of His promises. (For us 10 years ago – a prophecy that we would gather 2000.)

Review of last year: grown faster than ever.
Attending - 780 in 2008, 1000+ in 2009 - on the same Sunday.
Welcome desk – 122 LTKM forms given in Jan – Aug 2008, 230 Jan – Aug 2009.

Crunch moment – collision of needs between team/buildings/finance! Show artist’s impression of new refurbished facility at Lee. Visited USA to see examples of multi-site – an urban church phenomenon arising from a situation where the limiting factor is facilities. Multi-site gives the chance for growth. Remain one church, one leadership, one identity. We need to strengthen the team – through year team members, internships, taking on Robert Kwami to join the Pastoral team as well as Malcolm & Cathy Kyte (Malcolm will oversee the Pastoral team) - all coming to help us build a church of 2000.

Letters coming from me to each of you re our giving. We need to give £750K for the next 3 years and £375K for the following six months – above our current giving levels. Ask some to consider a double title – 20% before tax – something I am already doing. Pledge Days coming up in October. Please give – and please pray! Currently amazing momentum – behind all the figures, the figure of God at work, reaching out to the lost – for His Glory!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

20/20 Vision

Outline of vision talk given in January 2010

Tours of new Lee building – one response, ‘You have seriously undersold the building, Steve!’ Primary purpose today – giving thanks to God for what he has done.
Look back – look forward. 20/20 vision – definition: perfect understanding or appreciation of what has already been seen.

1 Thess. 1:7 – ‘...you became a model to all the believers and the message went out.’ Chance to impact a city and model something to other churches in the UK – we are watched by them. If we can go from 200 to 1000 it will give them added faith for their own situation. The important thing is that the message goes out!

Résumé of church journey over last 15 years given. In last 10 years 500 have joined us. Mark event by getting congregation to light 500 tea-lights on tables around the auditorium – each one representing a transformed life.

Interview: Shirley J – joined in Jan 95 – gives her highlights of the decade (new auditorium in 2000, ‘gracism’ series and the changes brought by that, expansion of youth ministry) and her hopes for the future (becoming a huge church; multiple meetings at Lee; growth in maturity and unity as well as size; healings, signs and wonders).

Experience of asking the banks for loans – wanted to know our history. ‘When looking at the future, the best indicator of future trend is past performance.’ For us the past is counted in tens, the future in hundreds and thousands. Want an increase in diversity (culture, class and age), growth in our mercy ministry, sending out more leaders to plant/resource other churches, creativity – books, albums and teaching material.

We need your prayers, your pledges for finances and we need you - to step up and volunteer to be an active participant in the great task before us, for the glory of God.