Stepping Into the River of Grace and Riding the Momentum Stream
We all know what momentum is-- One basketball team is down by fifteen points in the middle of the fourth quarter and then, somehow, things start to shift. The underdogs gain the momentum and win the game. When you first start an exercise routine, it takes everything within you to stick to it day in and day out; but over time, as you get in shape you gain momentum and sticking with the routine becomes easier.
In chapter four of Renovate Or Die: Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, Bob Farr writes about creating momentum in the church. Far too often, pastors and churches miss opportunities to build momentum because they miss the wave of momentum when it arrives because either churches and pastors are not looking for it or they are simply afraid to catch the wave and go for the ride.
Farr outlines the five steps for catching momentum in the church:
1) If you want momentum, you have to change something. You cannot keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
2) You go for the low-hanging fruit. Get a quick win. What are the visible and easy things to change that will have an impact on attitude? Just make the easy changes quickly. Don't talk about it for six months and wave a flag in front of everyone. Just do it! Start a new small group. Start a new softball team.
3) Do certain practices well, over and over. The only way to sustain something is to do it well over time. Keep practicing. Don't give up. Don't let a failure or two or a person or two stop what you need to do (my italics).
4) Lead by example. The church is not going to go anywhere that the pastors and the leaders have not already gone. You have to step into the water first. If you want your church to tithe, are you and the leaders tithing? If you want your congregation to invite new persons to worship, are you inviting and bringing new people to worship?
5) Preach change to get change. If you want momentum, it starts in the pulpit. It starts with a very realistic and positive approach to the future you want to happen. It has to be biblically based and often on the past missionary roots of the church. Remember you cannot preach something you have not already done. You can't preach prayer if you are not praying. You can't preach about reaching new people if you are not personally reaching new people (pp. 38-40).
Farr refers to Andy Stanley who reminds us that momentum will inevitably create conflict. When conflict arises, there are two choices. One can back away and keep things the same. This will eventually lead to decline. The other option is to press on through the strife. The result of the latter will produce growth (p. 37).
One of the more insightful parts of chapter four is when Farr refers to John Wesley who taught him that "if you want the grace of God you have to place yourself in its path. God's grace is continually running free, wide, and abundant, but it will not force itself upon you" (p. 38). The wave of momentum is produced by the river of God's grace which is always flowing. It's not a one-shot deal. It is always there; it is always available. But we must be willing to step into the water to ride the wave.
The problem I suspect is that many pastors and churches are in actuality unwilling to step into the water because they have no idea where the wave might take them.
In failing to do so they cheat themselves and their fellow believers out of a divinely guided journey to a God-desired destination.
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