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What summer webinar topics would you suggest?

April 5, 2012

As you know, 3DM has started doing webinars in the last couple of months and we have seen quite a number of people attend these webinars. We’ve done them on church planting, how to use the Bible in a missional church, raising kids who love Jesus, marriage and mission and many, many others.

We are looking to begin planning our summer webinar schedule and we’d love your help.

What topics would you suggest we cover this summer? What would be most helpful?

Would love any input you have! Feel free to comment below.



The plug-and-play problem of church leadership

April 4, 2012

The following is a brief excerpt from my forthcoming book Multiplying Missional Leaders, which comes out at the beginning of May. 

Imagine that it’s a Tuesday morning, and that the staff of your church has gathered for its weekly staff meeting. Staff members discuss the weekend service and whether it delivered the message and experience they hoped it would. They discuss the attendance numbers; small group numbers and effectiveness; budget, buildings, and cash flow. You know, the normal staff- meeting routine.

Then, there’s a soft but decisive knock on the door. Someone says, “Come in!”

Into the room, dressed in normal clothes, step Peter, Paul, James, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia. (Obviously, we’re in a hypothetical situation here.) They introduce themselves and say that the Lord sent them to your church to serve in any way they can. They ask, “What can we do? We don’t want to be on the stage or anything. You’re doing the preaching/teaching thing really well. But we’ll do anything else you need. Just tell us what you’d like.”

A stunned silence comes over the staff — after all, this is a strange situation. But soon enough, the staff members snap out of it.

“Uhh, well, OK. Well, how many of you are there? Six? Well, let’s see. Could three of you be small group leaders? We’re looking to start some new small groups, and clearly you’d be great at that. Peter, James, Paul, could you do that?

“Hmmm . . . you know, we lost the person who heads up our First Impressions team a month ago, and it has been a bit lackluster. It has lost the punch it used to have. You know it’s important that people have a strong impression of our church within the first 15 seconds when they come to the service. Priscilla, do you mind heading that up?

“Timothy, we could sure use another usher, you look like you could handle that. Lastly, Lydia, I hear you play a mean bass and can sing too. We’re down a bass player and would love to have you in the band. Maybe you can even fill in and lead worship from time to time. Are you up for that?”

This is called plug-and-play. This is about having various positions we need filled in the machine of our churches and plugging people into those roles. Now don’t get me wrong: there are always going to be logistical needs when the scattered church gathers. That’s reality, and we need to attend to that and do it well.

But does anyone really think this is where a church should be using Peter, James, Paul, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia? Would this be the most effective use of their time and energy given the skill sets they have? Of course not.

There’s a leadership myth out there that programs that need leaders create leaders in and of themselves. But this hypothetical example shows us how systems can fall short.

Maybe we can think about it this way: If your church were suddenly given 250 missional leaders, would you have any idea what to do with them? Or would you just plug-and-play them in what you are currently doing?

We are starting a Missional Community with only 6-10 people. What should we do first to grow to 20-50?

April 3, 2012

Each week, via a short, 2-3 minute video we try to answer one practical question that we hear lots of people asking. Our hope is that these will be helpful, but will also spur on conversation and more questions in the comment section. If you want to keep digging around with questions related to this topic, post the comment, and we’ll be interacting with these daily.

Today’s question is answered by Jo Saxton, who I’ve known for more than 17 years and who has served on my teams for almost that long. She is a BRILLIANT leader and today looks at how you can make the jump from 6-10 to a mid-sized group of 20-50. What should you concentrate on at the outset.




ALSO, Jo and my wife Sally are releasing a book next week in the UK that’s fantastic. It’s called High Heels and Holines. Definitely worth looking into getting this book.

We must expect different things from Pastors | What America can learn from the European Church | Part 4

April 2, 2012

[This is the fourth post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]

When I trained at seminary to become a Baptist Minister, there were a number of assumptions that were made about what that ministry was going to look like.

The major focus was on theology, because of course it would be my job to make sure that my future congregation understood the Bible in the right way.

Other key components included pastoral care and a little on how to preach.

I had no training in leadership, no training in what it means to be a disciple or to disciple others (other than Bible study), no training in how to build or facilitate effective evangelism.

My training was equipping and shaping me to fulfill a certain role; one that most churches in the UK expect their Pastors to perform and one that most Church leaders go along with. The role I was being trained for was this:

  • To look after the people of the church and care for them
  • To teach the people and to feed them spiritually.
  • To help them to be comfortable and healthy as they try to live good lives in a difficult world.

The huge problem with this is that it’s a million miles away from the model of discipleship presented in the Bible. In fact, it could be argued that it’s the exact opposite. Jesus said:

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 25-26)

A benefactor is someone who provides for other people and in return is able to exercise some degree of control over their lives. The provision of a benefactor can be financial, intellectual, social or spiritual; sometimes it can be all of these.

Pastors in the Church seem to have entered into a ‘benefactor agreement’ with their congregations, where they are expected to be the providers of what people need pastorally and spiritually.

We have ‘taken hold of that for which the Church has taken hold of us’ instead of taking hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us.

When we do this, we effectively become like a ‘shell’, insulating people from the life of discipleship that Jesus has called them into, instead of a skeleton supporting and helping people to disciple others.

The church becomes like a crab or a wood louse, with the staff surrounding the people with care and teaching, catering to their needs. But what we want to see is the church operating like a human body; arms, legs and torso supported by the skeleton and working together to achieve the commission that the head gives it.

Jesus’ commission is ‘Go and make disciples.’ Are we primarily doing that as leaders? Are we helping the people in our church to do that? If we are not, then are we really fulfilling the commission that Jesus has given us?

In a city with rock-bottom levels of church attendance, we have seen folks coming to know Jesus on a weekly basis. We are seeing hundreds come into our missional communities each year in a country where the average church congregation size is 38. And we are not just producing consumer-Christians, but believers who get straight back out there, discipling others. Why is that? What have we done that is different?

I believe that it starts with us as leaders.

  • Rather than providing pastoral care, we should be building a culture and supporting structures so that our people care for each other.
  • Rather than providing spiritual food, we should be equipping our people to access God’s Word and receive food from Jesus directly.
  • Rather than making people into clients for what we provide, we should be making disciples who can in turn go and make disciples.
  • We can do this by ‘pruning’ out a lot of the management we do, and then start living the life. We form a core community, live life-on-life and reach out to others to bring them into the Kingdom. Like Jesus, we identify and call a group of disciples to go on the journey with us and ask them to do the same. We percolate this throughout the whole church.

We do our job of making disciples and let Jesus do His job of building the church.

Paul, along with Rich Robinson, are spearheading much of our 3DM efforts in the UK. To check out their blog, click here.

You voted: Here’s why you believe you haven’t reached your leadership potential

March 29, 2012

Yesterday I did a post on reasons people don’t reach their leadership potential. I suggested that probably the most common reasons this happens is:

  1. You’ve never been invested in by a competent leader.
  2. You’ve been invested in by a leader, but they weren’t terribly competent themselves.
  3. You’ve been invested in by a leader who is competent, but you might have blown the opportunity.


Included in that was a poll for readers to submit which reason they believe articulates why they haven’t reached their potential. Here are the results:

  • I’ve never been invested in by a competent leader:                                 39.13%
  • I’ve been invested in, but not by a very competent leader:                    41.74%
  • I’ve been invested in, but might have blown the opportunity:             19.13%
A couple of people, in the comments from yesterday, asked if we are going to explore this more and hopefully make some recommendations. In the next 6-8 weeks we are going to be hitting this leadership topic over and over. Moreover, it’s all leading to the release of my new book: Multiplying Missional Leaders: From half-hearted volunteers to a mobilized Kingdom force.
  • But for now, let’s talk about these results. What do they say to you? What are they suggesting? What do you see?

Three reasons most people don’t reach their leadership potential

March 28, 2012

1) They’ve never had a leader willing or interested in investing in them. In other words, they’ve got a really steep learning curve ahead of them AND they already feel inadequate.

2) They’ve had a leader(s) invest in them, but they weren’t a terribly competent leader. In other words, they’ve received investment, but it wasn’t the kind of investment needed to help them reach their potential. In many ways, it was the blind leading the blind.

3) They had a leader invest in them, but never really learned what they had to share or put it into practice. In other words, they are what Jesus would call a foolish man. They heard something and saw something true and worthwhile, but didn’t do anything with it. Often this has to do with humility vs. arrogance.




Discipleship and Mission | Another short Story from the Missional Frontier

March 27, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from someone deep in the rainforests of Ecuador. In short, this is essentially what the email said:

Greetings from the rainforests of Ecuador! You don’t know me, but I wanted you to know how what you’re doing is impacting what we are doing for the Kingdom. We started one Huddle a little while ago and a few years later we have NINE generations of Huddles and have planted several churches discipling people in this way.

Can you believe that?!

Think about that. One Huddle of 7-8 people. Those people all start Huddles of their own. That’s second generation Huddles. Then all those people started Huddles of their own. That’s third generation Huddles. They did that NINE TIMES! Imagine the math at that. Just think about the numbers of people they are discipling because they are taking Jesus at his word when he said, “Go and make disciples.”

Bigger doesn’t mean Better | What America Can Learn from the European church | Part 3

March 25, 2012


[This is the third post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]


Have you noticed that we can see ‘cultural blind-spots’ in other people’s cultures, but rarely in our own?

This is true of nationalities. I am an English Pastor but I spend on average about 10% of my time in the USA and so I’ve had some opportunity to observe our two different cultures.

For the Brit, America is the land of vision, space and abundance. We have about 1/5 of the population of the USA squashed into a land mass around the size of Ohio, which probably helps us to learn to tolerate those who are different from us, but is not great for helping us to “think big” or “outside of the box.”  I try to get as many of my team to spend time in America as possible, because your nation teaches them to branch out, to think out of the box, to expect more. In many ways the entrepreneurial pioneer spirit is alive and well in America, and for those of us from settled, institutional Britain, it is a joy to see.

However, there are some cultural ‘blind spots’ too. The ability to ‘think big’ can also become the belief that ‘bigger is better.’ this might be true of some things, but not always true of the church. The church is a living organism, a body made of many parts.

The mark of maturity in living things is not size so much as ability to reproduce.

Getting big is not that difficult – all we have to do is eat delicious food non-stop and sit around doing little exercise. I believe that this is true spiritually as well as physically.

On the other hand, when a couple have many children you know that they have a very busy life ahead of them, and also that raising those children well is going to be a difficult task! However, in time their influence on their community will be significant. There will be members of their family in different places and walks of life across the region and if their children have lots of kids too then the whole clan can become very influential!

As Christians, we reproduce by making disciples. This means that we find the ‘People of Peace’ referred to by Jesus in Luke 10; people who will welcome us, listen to us and serve us. When we find them, we begin to find ways to live ‘life-on-life’ with them, knowing that the life of Christ in us is contagious. As friends who are committed to their wellbeing, we look for opportunities to challenge them to go further in their journey towards Jesus as well as opportunities to invite them to participate more in our life.

Making disciples is not a complex thing to do, but it is costly. It costs us in time and energy. It may cost us financially. It will require our spiritual capital. It requires a commitment to the Great Commission, to following the commands of Jesus. If we are not careful we conveniently forget that this is what He has asked us to do and default back to being  spiritual consumers.

I come from a ‘renewed evangelical’ tradition, where we love to study the Word of God and we love to worship Him together. We traditionally leave “mission”  to the professionals. We give money to Christian aid agencies and to overseas missionaries. I remember growing up we had a ‘Missionary Box’ where we were trained as children to put some money every week. We can feel quite good about ourselves if we do this conscientiously. Or maybe we pay professionals who can get people to make a “decision” if we get them to church on a Sunday morning, but we requires very little of us.

Back in the 1990’s our culture began to change at St. Thomas’ Church. Our Senior Pastor at the time, Mike Breen, introduced us to a tool called the ‘Up, In, Out’ triangle. It is an articulation of the way that Jesus clearly had a balance between His devotional life with His Father (up), His close community with the disciples (in) and His ministry to the crowds and to strangers (out). This may not seem to be a great revelation theologically but when we applied it to our lives as a mirror and we started to see things we never saw before.

We realised we had a tendency to be an ‘Up and In’ church who were really quite dysfunctional in our response to the Great Commission.

They say that observed behavior changes. Perhaps this is true. What I do know is that since we started to apply the cultural mirror of the ‘Up, In, Out’ triangle to our communities, we have seen transformation in the area of mission. Where our growth once came through transfers from other churches, now we have seen hundreds of people come to faith in Christ. ‘Up, In Out’ now runs through every part of our church; every size of group from twos and threes to large gatherings.

What about your community? Where are you hitting the mark? What are the blind spots? Is it more about “bigger” or about “reproduction?”



How do you build an extended family on mission when everyone is so busy?

March 22, 2012

Each week, via a short, 2-3 minute video we try to answer one practical question that we hear lots of people asking. Our hope is that these will be helpful, but will also spur on conversation and more questions in the comment section. If you want to keep digging around with questions related to this topic, post the comment, and we’ll be interacting with these daily.

Today’s question is answered by my lovely wife, Sally.  She is fantastic at building teams, is a crock pot wizard and pretty much everything I’ve ever accomplished is because she’s been right there with me, doing it together. In this post she’ll look at how to build an extended family on mission when everyone tends to be so busy.

[vimeo 38965910]

Sally and I are also doing a webinar on a similar topic coming up called, “Mission or Marriage? How to acheive breakthrough in both.” You can click here for more info.

What America can learn from the European church | Part 2

March 21, 2012

[This is the second post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]

One of the things I have learned as I have pastored St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, UK, is how seductive the trappings of leadership can be. Those of us leading churches can find that we have a leadership role with almost everyone we know. We are given honour and respect and rarely are we expected to do the menial jobs. People behave differently (generally better) when they are around us and give us gifts and encouragements. From what I have seen, this is even more the case in America than it is in England. I once had a suspicious immigration officer question me in detail as I was coming into the USA – the questions continued until he discovered that I was a Baptist Minister, and then he turned very friendly and stamped my passport immediately!

I joined the church in 1992 as a grad-school student. Like most other Gen-Xers I was not too keen on responsibility. I joined a bible-study group and I played guitar in the worship team. I enjoyed the freedom of just being responsible for myself, and life was easy.

Until Mike Breen came to the church as the new Pastor.

 Mike started to challenge us to look towards a better prize than the easy life. He painted a picture of a city transformed, and perhaps even a nation turned around, and I found in this vision something that I was prepared to fight for.

I met my wife Elly through the worship team and together with some others we decided to start one of the new ‘Missional Communities’ that everyone was talking about. We had a  3-dimensional vision (Up – relationship with God, IN – with each other and OUT – with those who do not yet know Him) which was to ‘Learn to Worship God with all of our lives, not just our voices‘, to ‘Live lives of real community together, not just mid-week meetings‘ and to ‘Welcome the strangers, where ever we meet them‘. This group grew significantly over time, with a number of people becoming Christians including some heroin addicts and suddenly we found ourselves responsible for other people, with all of their ups and downs. This of course is the essence of the Christian walk. To Cain’s question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” followers of Jesus must answer a heart-felt “Yes!”

One of the main things we learned at this time was how important it is to identify and raise up new leaders. We had to multiply a number of times as we grew and this was only possible if there were people prepared to take up the leadership of new groups. Eventually I became a member of the Staff Team and was asked to turn leadership of the groups over to others.

I was asked to lead ‘Roxy AM’, the morning service in our city-centre ex-nightclub building. I shrank back from this because I struggled with being on the stage regularly in front of all those people, but Mike said to me “Paul, you must realise that your destiny lies in taking responsibility for things.” This was a great word for a Gen-X person to hear. I needed to step up! Within three years Mike moved to the USA and I became the leader of St. Thomas’ Church on a new campus in the Philadelphia district of the city.

Now, eight years later, the church has grown and more than doubled as we have continuously multiplied Missional Communities and is continuing to grow through reaching folks who do not know Jesus.

Leading this church is easy for me now as I have a great team, but once again I have had to hand over the leadership role to others. They are ready and it is their turn to ‘step up.’ Ironically after trying to avoid responsibility for all of those years, it was really hard; I think I had begun to like being in charge.

But we are absolutely committed to a culture of discipleship. This means that first I needed to learn to take responsibility for stuff. Then, like Mike before me, I needed to raise up the next generation and do myself out of a job. And as much as I may not want to see it all the time, often the people I who take my place are better than I am. But isn’t that what we want? To, like Jesus, make sure that those who follow us will do even greater things than us? What if that was the true measuring stick of success?

As leaders, are we committed to raising the next generation into leadership and helping them to do it even better than we could? To go deeper, wider and higher than we were able? Or are we hanging on to our jobs, resting on the laurels of what we have achieved in the past?

There is more for us, and more for those we raise up.

Are we called to just lead churches, or to build movements of missionary disciples that could change everything?