The (Obvious) Key to Effective Gospel Ministry

Peter Mayrick may strike some as an odd candidate to deliver a keynote at a church conference. After all, he has a background in the pharmaceutical industry, not Christian ministry. But, as he was introduced in last year’s Anglican Connection Conference, “his background enables him to make effective Christian ministers.”

Mayrick has no interest in turning the Church into a business. Instead, he draws from his experience to identify the key drivers God has put into all organizations that make them effective, whether that organization is a Church, a nonprofit, or a thneed manufacturer.

encourage engagement with your congregation

“I might use some ugly words from time to time [like marketing or business strategy],” Mayrick begins. “Please forgive me for that. Come and talk to me afterwards if you think I can use better words for ministry.”

Any Christian ministry, in Mayrick’s view, must be a gospel ministry. How one is a gospel ministry is a question Mayrick leaves to the other keynotes. He uses his time to focus on one question: How is one an effective gospel ministry?

What Is Effective Gospel Ministry?

Many churches in America are gospel-centered and Bible-based, but few of these are effective, and the rest could be more effective.

By effective, Mayrick simply means: “We hit what we aim at.”

What is a gospel ministry’s aim? What is its purpose?

Every major business, Mayrick says, has something called a Statement of Purpose. The statement answers the basic question: Why do we exist? Why do we want to connect, grow, and serve? Notice, the question is “Why do we want to grow?” The question forces businesses to give an answer besides, “We want to grow because we want to grow.” Growth can’t be its own goal.

A church can grow without being effective. Look at it this way: You might successfully draw in crowds by the hundreds, but if the people in your church aren’t maturing in their faith, then your church is not growing.

The Church’s Statement of Purpose, is copied straight from Matthew 28:19: “[Insert church name here] exists to make disciples.” Another way of saying this could be, “The Church doesn’t make disciples by growing; she grows by making disciples.”

That’s your mission (in fact, your Divine Commission). And if you’re taking it seriously, you will try to be effective. Mayrick says:

“We want to prioritize the outcomes that Christ asked for in His Commission. The consequences of our work is the difference between heaven and hell for people. And time is short, so we want to be effective.”

Effective ministry is stewardship of what Christ has given us as a faithful response to His Commission. “And of course Christ has delegated His mission to us,” says Mayrick. “Be stewards of His gospel, His truth, and the resources He has put in front of us, and the people He has put in front of us.” That means doing all we can to hit what we aim at.

Learn more in the free ebook, Vision, Mission, And Purpose.

Warning: Don’t Be Effective in the Wrong Areas

“When we talk about growth or effectiveness, there is a real danger of growth for growth’s sake,” warns Mayrick. “There’s a real danger we focus on ourselves, the ministry, or the church as an organization, and not on Christ.”

Citing a survey he conducted for Anglican churches in Sydney, Australia, Mayrick “found we were doing so many activities, that the purpose, the objective of church, was more about running activities than it was about making disciples of the Lord Jesus.”

A preoccupation with programs and activities can often be cured by revisiting the simplicity of the Commission: “We proclaim the Gospel and pray to our Lord,” says Mayrick. “He works through His Spirit. He gives us disciples, and they disciple others. The model is we engage people in the Scripture. We equip them to disciple others. It’s not a complex model, is it? But we seem to make it more and more complex.”

Simplifying Your Ministry Today

Mayrick doesn’t believe the solution to simplifying your ministry is merely to limit the number of programs or activities your church does in a year. To be sure, that’s probably a good idea from a management and resources perspective. However, just because you have fewer programs does not make you more effective. According to Mayrick, ministries don’t need to be limited so much as reshaped:

“We don’t need to totally change the ministries we are focusing on. Many are good. Some of us are doing too many ministries. We will need to reshape them so that the guiding principle is ‘making disciples’.”

Ask yourself for each ministry, activity, or program in your church: How is it contributing to making disciples of Jesus Christ? If you can’t answer in two sentences, then you should ask if this is something your church should be doing.

Everything your church does needs to be brought under the Commission and the Word of God. That is the defining principle for everything you do; it’s what makes you the Church. What the Church does is something only the Church can do. In fact, what people increasingly want is a church that actually looks and behaves like a church.

Mayrick has a favorite question to ask church leaders: “What are the most important ministries in your church?” The typical response is Sunday services and Bible studies/small groups.

“Tell me,” says Mayrick. “What is the most important thing you do for Bible studies/small groups?”

Usually, some sort of Bible curriculum and leadership training.

“What sort of leadership training do you do?”

Quarterly training.

“What do you do for that?”

Up to four hours on two Saturdays, where we usually do intellectual-type lessons: Biblical exegesis and the like.

“So, help me understand. You just told me this is the second most important ministry you run, and you spend eight hours on it a quarter?”

Mayrick reports that, on average, six out of ten churchgoers are in small groups. What an asset! However, less than half of members are aware or committed to the plan of the Church (i.e., “Make disciples”). Subsequently, small groups operate as though they served a separate function than the Church. “Something is going wrong,” says Mayrick. “The Church doesn’t know what it’s doing…My finding has been that most of what happens in our Bible studies will be on an agenda that is slightly different from the church.”

When we mix our messages, church members can’t be mobilized. “So it’s not surprising,” says Mayrick, “when we ask if people are growing in their faith, only a third respond in the affirmative.”

Too many churches are busying themselves with things that aren’t a high priority. If it isn’t clearly contributing to making disciples of Jesus Christ, either shut it down or reshape it by aligning it with the Church’s Commission. At any rate, refocus your attention and resources where it matters. That is the first step to a more effective ministry.

What Does Effective Gospel Ministry Look Like?

Like we’ve said, the Church doesn’t make disciples by growing; she grows by making disciples. But growth is pretty easy to measure—all you need is a headcount. So how does a church know she is succeeding at making disciples? That seems much more difficult to measure.

Basically, if your goal is to make disciples, then it follows that people need to feel they are growing in their faith. Is maturation actually taking place, or are people just busy at church?

How do you find out?

Surveying some 35,000 Anglicans in the Sydney area, Mayrick found that people who reported that they were growing in their faith were…

  • 4 times more likely to look for opportunities to share their faith with others.
  • 2 times more likely to invite at least one person to church.
  • 2 times more likely to tithe or give offerings.

When you have an effective gospel ministry, you can expect to see these behaviors among your churchgoers. They should factor in your profile of a mature Christian.

Now these are correlatives, not causes. That makes them useful metrics you can use to get an idea of the spiritual state of your church. However, they are not determinative. That is, people were more likely to have these behaviors because their faith was growing, not vice versa. So the goal is not to get people to share their faith more or put more in the offering plate (remember the warning from earlier?). The goal is to cultivate their maturation as Christians. Mayrick says:

“If you want to increase the evangelical temperature and giving in your church, let’s first focus on what Christ called us to do: Making disciples, maturing disciples, so that out of their maturity, out of their love for their Lord Jesus, they will live out their faith.”

But the question remains: What is the key to making disciples like this? Where does all this begin? How do we make mature Christians who share their faith, invite others to church, and give?

What is the key driver?

The (Obvious) Key Driver to Effective Gospel Ministry

We’ve already mentioned quite a few things your church can do to be more effective in its ministry, and, frankly, much more can be said. Resources abound that can help your church succeed in its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. So I won’t pretend what follows is going to be a total solution. However, it lies at the heart of an effective gospel ministry.

In short, the key driver to effective gospel ministry is leaders who are growing personally in their faith.

This may strike you as eye-rollingly obvious, but that last phrase is critical. While we happen to have many church leaders with gospel-grounded ministries who work day in and day out for their flocks and their communities, church leaders who report personal growth are becoming a rarity.

“We found a direct correlation between church growth and the commitment of a senior pastor to his own private devotions throughout the week,” reports Mayrick. He reminds us that this is a correlation, not a causation. However, an 83 percentile is very high. Meanwhile, there are a number of pastors who do not spend any time in private devotions, although most “ministers acknowledge that they are reading God’s word for preaching purposes only,” reports Mayrick. “That is not good enough.”

According to his survey, half of all pastors pray weekly. “That is half what we need,” says Mayrick. Church leaders are overworked and burnt out, yet seldom sit under the Word of God in the posture of a disciple. “We can’t make disciples if our leaders don’t act like disciples,” says Mayrick. “We need to anchor ourselves as disciples: Sitting under God’s Word and praying.”
Mayrick recalls one pastor of a very large church who prayed for thirty hours every week. When asked how he found the time, the pastor responded: “I run too big a church not to be in private devotions thirty hours a week.”

The key driver to a growing church is leaders who are growing in their faith. If a pastor would desire this from his flock, then he must demand it from himself. “Disciple-making is modeling,” says Mayrick. “Your first discipleship responsibility is to yourself. Your time alone with God’s Word is essential.”

Looking Forward

Church growth and discipleship are multifaceted challenges. Prioritizing your private devotions is the starting point, but that’s not where you end. Every faithful, gospel-centered minister of a growing congregation is doing things in addition to reading his Bible and praying. And as has been mentioned, small groups are a critical part of your ministry that (most likely) deserve more of your thought and attention.

For more on church growth and intentional ministry planning, download the free ebook, Vision, Mission, and Purpose, today!

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