Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

The answer isn't just copying what mega-churches do, Michael Fletcher says.
Compiled By Leigh Devore

Nineteen years ago, Michael Fletcher became pastor of the 350-member Manna Church, a nondenominational charismatic congregation in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Now attendance is 2,300 and growing, and Fletcher has participated in planting 44 other churches in the United States and around the world.

"I went to a lot of megachurch seminars, and the unspoken implication from the speakers was the same," says pastor and author Michael Fletcher. "Copy this, and you'll get the same result."

But when he wrote Leadership Transitions for Growth (Wagner Publications), Fletcher was trying to answer a simple question: "How does the average guy, who loves God and is an average leader, grow a local church?"

His secret? It's not about finding someone else's trick and copying it or making a list of organizational goals and accomplishing them. "A leader must get into the face of God and find out what God wants to do," Fletcher told Ministries Today. "The pastor is not the vision creator. He is the guardian of what God has for the house."

However, there are some principles that Fletcher has discovered--and learned from others--in his years of ministry.

Take, for instance, the concept of momentum. "It's a pastor's best friend," he says. While many pastors crave growth, Fletcher believes that they wouldn't be prepared for it if it happened, because they haven't implemented the practices that pastors of larger churches already have in place to maintain momentum.

For Fletcher, decisions such as hiring a "No. 2 guy"--as he calls the associate pastor--are pivotal for growth preparation and maintaining momentum. "Pastors usually hire a music guy or a youth guy when the church reaches the point where it can afford an associate," he says. "But your No. 2 guy needs to be a 'jack-of-all-trades and the master of none.'"

Why? Because the associate pastor must have the caliber of character and anointing that people can place their trust in when the church grows to the point that the senior pastor is no longer as accessible as he was when the church was small.

Not only should pastors prepare for growth but they should also prepare for the invisible barriers that exist between a small church becoming a medium-sized church, and a medium-sized church becoming a large church. For Fletcher, the key to overcoming these barriers is changing the way the pastor and the elders relate to ministry.

With each transition in growth, elders move from doing ministry to overseeing ministry to advising ministry. Likewise, pastors must change from what Fletcher calls the "shepherd model," in which he or she is the go-to person, to the "rancher model," in which the pastor must "embrace the idea of sharing ministry and leadership with others."

Fletcher notes--as have most church-growth experts--that these barriers exist at 100 or 200 people and at 700 or 800 people. "It is much easier to pastor a church with 350 active members than a church of 200," he writes. "By the same token, leading a church of 1,500 is infinitely easier than leading a church of 800."

Why is this? Fletcher believes that a church of 200 members arrived at that plateau by developing a certain methodology of ministry and a governmental infrastructure that fueled their growth to this point. As they approach the 200 barrier, Fletcher argues, the methodology and infrastructure employed to get to that size has run its course of usefulness.

But he also recognizes that numbers are often inaccurate in defining the size of a church. "Ultimately, it's not about numbers," he says. "Size is relative to the community you want to reach, and I don't think that's something church-growth people often say."

To get an idea of relative size, Fletcher suggests comparing the size of one's church to the size of the community. With this paradigm, a church of 500 in a community of 10,000 may not seem large, but imagine 5 percent of the population of a city of 2 million showing up at a church on Sunday.

Even percentages must be viewed from an eternal perspective, Fletcher contends. "Ultimately, growing a church is about emptying hell and filling up heaven," he says. "It is about making room for harvesters and harvest alike."

Preach It!
By Stuart Briscoe (Group)

"Beware of depending on outward affirmation for your joy," Stuart Briscoe warns in his latest book, Preach It! Having served as pastor for 33 years at Elmbrook Church, near Milwaukee, Briscoe shares insights on the role and the life of an effective preacher. Because it is not overly scholarly in its intent, Preach It! is helpful as an orientation for the beginning preacher. Of particular interest--and a topic not often discussed--is Briscoe's understanding of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in preaching. "It is clear that the preacher must be plugged in to a source of power not purely human," he writes. "This power, while not unrelated to gifts and training and rhetorical skill, is totally different from them and infinitely superior to them."

Main Street Mystics: The Toronto Blessing and Reviving Pentecostalism
By Margaret M. Poloma (AltaMira)

Few scholars are as incisive and sympathetic in their understanding of the 20th century Pentecostal movement as Margaret Poloma. In her newest book, the sociology professor explores the historical roots of the renewal that shaped the Pentecostal and charismatic church in the late '90s. While some would resent the terminology, Poloma identifies the Pentecostal/charismatic community as a mystical movement, noting that the characteristics historically associated with mystics can be easily applied to the current Pentecostal/charismatic subculture. Poloma supports her arguments with examinations of the expressions of music and dance, concepts of divine healing and interest in imagery such as water, wind and fire.

Hard Questions, Real Answers
By William Lane Craig (Crossway)

Is it wrong to doubt? Why are some prayers unanswered? Why does God allow suffering and evil? Pastors are notorious for providing pat answers and pedantic solutions to the questions that plague the minds of those they lead. Craig contends that rampant anti-intellectualism in the Christian world has resulted in a failure to engage culture and answer the questions that people are asking--questions for which the church has the answers. A philosopher and theologian, Craig offers a readable discussion of the common questions surrounding topics such as abortion, homosexuality, suffering and failure. But he avoids formulaic solutions and consistently points the reader toward the truth of Scripture. Hard Questions is a useful resource for those ministering to young adults and teens.

The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash
Dave Urbanski (Relevant)

The church is full--or at least should be full--of people like Johnny Cash. He was a man who, inside and out, was scarred by the effects of hard living, but who was beginning to understand what redemption and forgiveness were all about when he died at the age of 71 late in 2003. Urbanski's spiritual biography of the legendary singer doesn't attempt to whitewash Cash's struggles, but presents him as a trophy of God's grace. The Man Comes Around is especially relevant to younger readers who crave the vulnerability and realism Cash represents and in whose eyes the Man in Black has become an icon of late.

Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers
by B.J. Worth (Evangel)

It's that time of the year again--tax time, that is. In its 31st year of publication, Worth's annual tax guide remains an invaluable resource for pastors plowing through the endless tax codes governing housing allowances, professional expenses and much more. The 2004 edition (for preparing 2003 tax returns) includes updated information on retirement planning and auto expenses, reflecting new government rules. Sample tax returns and worksheets will assist the full-time or bi-vocational pastor in capitalizing on the allowances for nonprofit workers, while still giving Caesar his due.

Breakthrough Prayer
By Jim Cymbala (Zondervan)

"Many of us fail to call on God because we don't understand the need to pray about something God has already promised to do," Jim Cymbala writes. In his new book, Breakthrough Prayer, Cymbala explores principles of prayer that he has learned in his 25-year pastorate at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, discussing issues such as the place of desparation in prayer, the relationship of God's promises to prayer, unanswered prayer and God's timing. Throughout the book, he draws on the experiences of individuals--both biblical and modern-day--who saw supernatural results from what Cymbala calls "breakthrough prayer." As Cymbala writes, "For any given prayer or undertaking in our life, we need to discern whether the Lord is saying one of these four things: Never, Always, At certain times or Not now." With its short chapters and conversational style, Breakthrough Prayer is particularly useful for devotional reading or small-group discussion.

Make It Glorious
By Tommy Walker, Hosanna! Music

Make It Glorious showcases veteran songwriter and worship leader Tommy Walker's unique approach to worship and his world missions perspective. Recorded live and backed by a full choir, this album features Walker's classic song "Prepare Ye the Way" and familiar hymn "Hallelujah What a Savior." The blended styles of music make the songs on this album accessible to many churches.

World Service
By Delirious,

Delirious returns to its roots of progressive and introspective lyrics with their latest worship album, World Service. The band offers new tracks sure to become church favorites. The sound is typical Delirious, which might make some melodies too rock 'n' roll for some congregants. However, in the Delirious tradition, these songs could be easily adapted for use in a variety of church settings. The lyrics of "Majesty" are especially stirring and the melody sincerely worshipful, making this a great choice for any worship team.

Carried Me: The Worship Project
By Jeremy Camp, BEC Recordings

Jeremy Camp is fairly new to the music industry, but he started out as a worship leader on a Southern California college campus. His Web site states: "Music is not my life. Christ is my life." That passion comes through on this album. Camp's deep, rich voice offers a collection of all-out worship songs, expressing a deep need for God. His music is modern, but not overtly rock 'n' roll, making these songs perfect for church worship.

Draw Near to Me
By Scott Brenner, Grace Music Group

Draw Near to Me are declarations of devotion to the Lord, and the lyrics and melodies are sincere, yet simple enough to consider for corporate worship. Some songs are prayerful, spoken directly to the Lord. Several have Scripture themes, yet others are direct quotes of Scripture presented to the Lord. Simple reiterations of God's traits, glory and character will inspire individuals to indeed draw near to the Lord.

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