Ministry Styles 1: Recognizing Risks by Steve Childers

Steve —  September 14, 2018 — Leave a comment

In this article, we continue our foundational work by looking at the topic of ministry styles in church development. This article is a continuation and practical application of the earlier session on philosophy of ministry, when we answered the broader question, “How can I contextualize without compromise?”

“How can I contextualize without compromise?”

We’ll be revisiting and amplifying some of these key concepts here, but the more specific question for this article is, “How does this Church do ministry in this particular culture?” In our earlier series on purpose, we saw how in Scripture God has makes clear what the primary ministry purposes of a church should be. We organize these purposes into five major categories. Here, you’ll begin to answer the practical questions:

  • What does worship and prayer look like in this church?

  • What will discipleship and teaching ministries look like?

  • What will fellowship and small groups in this community look like?

  • How will we do evangelism and acts of mercy?

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Because these purposes are so clearly set forth in scripture, they must be seen as non-negotiable priorities in ministry development. In other words, all churches in all cultural context must always make these purposes a priority. But the church leader must help determine how these biblical purposes should come to expression in the unique ministry focused group that’s being served.

These expressions are called ministry styles. The process by which a church leader contextualizes or adapts gospel ministries into the culture of the focus group, is called contextualization. The deeper contextualization question in this session, is, “How can the biblical purposes be best expressed in this ministry focus group?”.

“How can the biblical purposes be best expressed in this church?”

Answering this question well is no small task. Now, let this sink in. The church leader directs how a group of people are going to worship, how they’re going to pray, how they’re going to learn from Scripture, how they’re going to fulfill all the “one in others” of fellowship and community. And how they’re going to reach out with the gospel in word and deed.

I spent fifteen years going across the Pacific working with church planters and missionaries in Asia. One of the saddest experiences I had was going into a small church worship service. The worship in that church felt like I had been transported back to America in the late 1950’s. The hymn books were the same. The liturgy, the style. Even the organ. It felt like time had been frozen back in America and then transported to Asia.

How did this happen? Some very well meaning, well intentioned cross-cultural missionary did not contextualize and wrongly imposed foreign worship styles from another culture. If church leaders fail to exegete the culture well and then create ministry styles that are unnecessarily stumbling blocks to impacting the culture, then they are destined to have an unhealthy church.

This is one of the top mistakes made by church leaders. If leaders don’t know how to contextualize, they will inevitably choose ministry styles based on two things: 1) what they prefer, or 2) styles they’ve seen be effective in another cultural context. With this in mind, let’s begin answering this question, “How does your church do ministry in your culture?”

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