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Developing a High Impact Church

From the series The High Impact Pastor

In these challenging days, have you ever stopped to consider how your pastor’s doing? In this program, Chip begins a new series called – “The High Impact Pastor: Building God’s Church Jesus’ Way”. He’ll offer hope to church leaders who are discouraged and struggling… and share how everyday people – like you and me – can support ‘em!

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Message Transcript

You know, we are in and are going through a global crisis and I don’t know that there has ever been a more difficult time to be a pastor of a local church.

I did webinars during all the pandemic and I heard from pastors, literally, from all the continents. And what I heard was, “You know, once we couldn’t meet on the weekends, and once we went through crisis, so much of what we saw in our people was they weren’t fully devoted followers, they haven’t necessarily responded the way we prayed and hoped.”

Uh, I started out as a young pastor in a very tiny, tiny church in a rural area in the middle of nowhere. So, I know what it’s like to have twenty-five or thirty people in the church and wonder how you’re going to make it and be the only person.

Fast-forward some years later, I ended up in a pretty good-sized city and the Lord’s hand was on it and thousands and thousands of people showed up and people put messages on the radio and the internet, and it went around the world.

And I have to tell you that although that looked very successful and I was very grateful, I saw a lot of mistakes. I saw that even though thousands of people showed up, it was only a small percentage that I would say were fully devoted to Jesus.

Then God moved me in a time later in my life to lead a parachurch organization that helped pastors all around the world. And so, I got to go all these places, all these continents and countries, and see different models, whether in Southeast Asia or South America or Africa. I saw God work in China.

And what I have come to at this point in my life is: How do we follow the Jesus way of building His Church?

You know, perhaps we put too much energy around that weekend service as the only real measurement of what makes a great church. But I want you to know that I think God is going to use this time like He has in all of history to do something great in His Church.

And I think we need to get back to the Jesus Way. How did Jesus do it?

Pause for a moment and think with me. Do you realize that the world situation right now is very much like the world situation in the first century? Now, here’s what I want you to know. I have had a lot of experience, I have made a lot of mistakes, and I want to share those with you. But I also have seen how God grows churches that are deep, churches that were literally multiplied by thousands and thousands of people, and I believe that God uses ordinary people just like you and me to build those kinds of churches.

You know, I have had a journey for forty years and in the midst of that, I am obviously married to Theresa, my wife. We have four grown children. I have twelve grandkids. So I understand that what we are talking about, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I mean, being a good father, being a good husband, dealing with the ups and downs of my children.

Like you, one of my children went through a season of rebellion before he returned to the Lord. And I had times where we have gone through cancer, or I had injuries, and I just want to remind you that we are all in this together. And here’s what I can tell you, that, “The eyes of the Lord are going to and fro throughout the whole earth” right now, “that He might strongly support those whose heart is fully His.” That’s 2 Chronicles 16:9.

I want to tell you that He’s not looking for someone smarter or better or more gifted than you. As I have been all around the world, it’s regular men and regular women whose hearts are fully His and He causes His power and the strength of His Word to change us first and then use us to follow the Jesus Way of growing disciples and really making a difference.

I think we are living in a day similar to Ezekiel, where God would say, “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me, that I should not destroy it.”

And I think it’s the saddest verse in all of the Old Testament – Ezekiel 22:30. And then He goes on to say, “And I found no one.” This seminar is so that together, God will look down from heaven and He will say to you, and He will say to me, “I found one in Southeast Asia, in Africa, in Central America, in South America.”

This is where God will say to normal people like you and me, “I have found pastors who don’t want to build their kingdom, they want to build My kingdom. And they have gone back to the very words and the very model of Jesus Christ Himself and they are building their churches the way Jesus formed His disciples.”

And so, that’s what we are all about. Before we jump in and really get started, let’s go over some, I’m just going to call it my framework of things that I think we all agree on, but I want to make sure we agree on these.

First, we are here to bring about glory to God, not to ourselves, not to our churches, not to others.

(2) We believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, and we are going to trust it, right? 2 Timothy 3. Every word is God’s Word and we can trust it.

(3) We believe there’s a promise, that Jesus said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.”

(4) That we have the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwelling in us.

(5) That we believe that we have been given a mission, that God actually expects us to take the message of reconciliation to all the world.

(6) And that the power of the Holy Spirit working in His people is literally the hope of the world.

That’s what we know. That’s what we believe. We believe that history is moving toward a climactic end and that the Lord will return and He will make all things right. But until that time, He has entrusted to us under-shepherds, to us pastors, “Take My Word, I want you to fulfill this Great Commission: Make disciples of every nation. I want you to seek and to save that which was lost, just the way I did.” And then I want your good works in your communities to so shout, by your love in meeting needs, in caring for people, the marginalized, the poor, the hurting – do it in such a way that people will glorify our heavenly Father. That’s the framework of what we are going to do together.

Now, here’s what I want to tell you, God uses ordinary people. And our focus isn’t to help your church get larger, it’s not so that you’ll get more money, and it’s not necessarily that you’ll have bigger buildings, even if you have a building. My goal in our time is to help you have greater impact. Now, it may require bigger buildings, it may end up that more money comes in to do more ministry, it may have a lot of things on the side.

But here’s what I’m going to tell you – when you go to the first century, what you realize, not very many trained people, didn’t have any buildings to meet. What they had was people that were fully devoted to Christ and they followed the Jesus Way.

Here’s the promise: “I will build My Church.” But here’s our assignment, “Go, therefore, and make disciples.”
My invitation to you is will you join me to rethink church? To just step back and us honestly say to one another, “This is where the world is and this is where the Church is, and there’s a gap.” The Church is not the salt and the light that we all know it should be. So, how do we change that? And could we even admit that it has to begin with us?

I believe one of the primary principles that Jesus gave to His disciples and that He modeled for them is that God must work deeply in us before He is going to work significantly through us.

Now, a high impact pastor creates as he follows Jesus, as he is submitted to the Holy Spirit, as He trusts God’s Word, and as He gathers a core group of people in community, a high impact pastor grows what I call a high impact church. And let me just give you a description of what a high impact church is – the kind of church that really makes a difference in your world, in your community, in your village, in your middle-sized city, in your big city, in any place all around the world.

A high impact church has three characteristics. You ready? Number one, lost people are regularly, systematically coming to Christ. In the early Church it was, “The Lord added to them daily.” I’m not saying that it will necessarily happen daily, but you are aware and I am aware that there’s – the great majority of churches all around the world – they go months, some churches even years before they see genuine conversions of people coming to know the Lord.

A high impact church has people coming to the Lord regularly. Jesus said, Luke 19:10, “I came to seek and to save the lost.” You can have a church grow with lots of people, but if people are not coming to the Lord regularly, systematically, it’s not a high impact church.

The second characteristic of a high impact church is that found people, right? People that are saved, their lives are transformed. They actually mature and they change and they grow in their character. They are more loving, they are more kind, they have more peace, they are self-disciplined, and they minister to other people. They make a difference in the lives of others. It’s Ephesians 4:11 through 16, right? “We,” right? “He gave some as pastors and teachers, apostles, evangelists to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry until they all grow up into the fullness of Christ.”

And then in the last part of that passage he says, “Here’s how you know when people are mature. They speak the truth in love, they fit into the body, their character changes, and they are outwardly focused and making a difference.” It makes different moms and dads and employers and people. They live the kind of life, not perfect, but they live the kind of life where people wonder, “What do you have? How do you forgive that way? How do you have that kind of a marriage? How do you raise children in that way?”

So, number one, a high impact church has people coming to Christ regularly. Second, those who are in Christ are actually maturing and ministering. And the third characteristic is a high impact church is meeting some of the deepest needs in your community. In other words, it’s outwardly focused. Where I have pastored at times, it was to the poor. For other times it was runaway teens. In one ministry I had, it was, we had lots of wealthy businesspeople whose marriages and issues were of huge problems. It was a ministry to them.

In other places, it was schools that were closed and we cleaned up the schools and we helped the students. In other words, what are the needs in your community where when you, as believers of Jesus, begin to meet those needs, those that don’t know Christ, the people that run your communities, your cities and your villages, they scratch their head and they say, “These Christians, why do they care so much about others?” Because that’s what the early Church did. And that’s what Jesus commanded.

We are to let our light so shine before men that they would see our Father in heaven. In Matthew 25, he said that when we minister to the least of these, to the marginalized, to those in prison, to those in poverty, to those that no one cares about, he says, “You have done it unto Me.”

And so, here’s what I want you to know. You can build a high impact church. There is a Jesus Way.

We’re going to learn that after being rejected by His family, after being rejected by the religious leaders, that He pulled His disciples together and He said, “This is how the kingdom works. This is what you need to do. This is where I will be with you. Here’s the next steps that you take. And here’s how I will use you to turn the world upside down.”

And that’s what we are going to learn together, step, by step, by step.

Ready? Let’s roll.