CMBA member and church connection leaders were introduced to former pastor, author and consultant Will Mancini’s latest book Future Church: 7 Laws of New Church Growth in a unique workshop held Oct. 27 at Shandon Baptist in Columbia. Mancini and Future Church Company contributing presenters shared concepts gleaned from years of church, denomination and missions organizational work intended to help position today’s Church for future ministry. Challenged to evaluate their church against the effects of cultural trends leading up to the pandemic and the ministry shifts happening as a result, Mancini says every church is now a “church plant” and every member and leader an “innovator.”
“Embrace the disruption. Don’t waste your pandemic. You have more permission to dream and redesign than you ever had. Don’t try to go back to what you had. What you can build in the near future, even though it may have fewer people, will actually be better that what you had,” Mancini says of the opportunity before churches today.
Future Church gives churches this license to reclaim the simplicity of community ministry and discipleship as congregations are encouraged to seek a fresh vision from the Holy Spirit to reach the lost. Mancini presented Eras of Church Growth as a defining lens for churches to view cultural references for early DNA and congregational attitudes based on when the church was founded. Lexington Baptist Senior Pastor Mike Turner found Mancini’s definitions here to be “on point.”
“Historical churches include layers [of eras] and figuring out what they are and how they interact is important. Will’s familiarity with what is happening across the country is good and he is strongest in discerning trends for how people and churches are responding to COVID, it stimulated some thinking. His presentation confirmed in us that the programmatic church is really starting to struggle. One of the main reasons is the volunteer issue, and COVID has knocked blocks out from under volunteer-based programmatic ministry,” says Turner, whose congregation is a new CMBA church connection member.
Participants also reacted to Mancini’s contrast of the Great Commission to what he labels a church’s Functional Great Commission as being, “Go into the world and make more worship attenders, baptizing them in the name of small groups and teaching them to volunteer a few times a month.” What keeps leaders serving the Functional Great Commission that is not the missional Great Commission?
“This statement, while challenging, has been an ‘aha’ moment for church leaders. The contrast between the functional mission and the actual Great Commission could not be more striking. The defining reality of our current moment is that this is not a statement that makes the everyday pastor defensive. Rather it stokes a holy discontent to do something about it,” Mancini explains.
The concept of two motivating member connections to the church resonated with some participants. Lower Room connection points include the provisions of People, Programs, Place and/or Personality, and Upper Room connections relate to the church’s Purpose, or God’s unique call and defined disciple-making process. The Future Church depends on how well a church can move people from the Lower Room to the Upper Room.
Associate Pastor Scott Kelly says Shandon’s team found the Future Church presentation to be informative and challenging. “We’ve begun thinking more critically about the deficiencies in our disciple-making processes, and specific opportunities to revision our missional strategies. The Future Church model provides a framework where leaders can be fiercely focused on intentionally organized discipleship.”
Mancini urges church leaders to have an Upper Room mentality, transferring authority to believers to minister as they are gifted and called, thus multiplying the church through one-on-one discipleship throughout the week. The Future Church depends on making disciples that become leaders that are sent out on the mission to make disciples. Mancini cautions that if church staff spend the majority of their time preparing for Sunday morning they are a “production company,” not a “reproducing ministry.”
“I trust the good intentions of church staff preparing for weekend services. No pastor ever got up to preach and teach on a Sunday morning and didn’t want to make disciples. But the disciple-making fruitfulness of a local church is determined more by the design of the ministry than the content of the preaching. The easiest way to quickly reveal the over-programmed approach to church is to analyze how much time the paid staff spend on worship services and supporting programs. If it’s more than 80%, it's unlikely that people in the church are actively involved in disciple-making that is occurring to the third and fourth generation,” he explains.
The Future Church Company offers a variety of resources on leadership growth, vision casting and spiritual gift application, and has announced a new resource specifically for associations. CMBA will be part of a limited number of associations across the United States invited to participate in the launch of the Denominee process, which Mancini is producing in partnership with the North American Mission Board. Citing the dramatic rise in “larger sized culture churches” over the last fifty years that that have impacted how they relate to associations and state conventions, Mancini says Denominee associations are now seeing a renewed sense of partnership and interest from these larger churches to invest in a local network.
“Denominee helps associations increase the value they bring to the local church. Churches can expect a more agile association, helping them to think through their best next step as a local church. Churches can expect a more active network where churches bring more value to one another. Every church is unique and associations that embrace the Denominee Future Journey are better equipped to bring value to each church’s unique context and unique challenges,” Mancini says.
For more information about Mancini and the resources offered through the Future Church Company, visit www.willmancini.com.