Who is doing the work?

Alan Roxburgh describes the Church as a foretaste of heaven[1]. However many of us would find it hard to recognize this in our fellowships. Mike Breen talks about how we are often better at identifying the differences between our denominations rather than being able to articulate the good news to someone for the first time, he goes on to examine the structure and resources of the organizations we are working with.


If we have a look at a church structure, here with 100 on the roll to illustrate the point[2], each fellowship will be different, however this pattern plays out in many of our organizations. There will be a small full time team, usually working very hard probably more than they should be. They will be supported by a leadership team, which will include roles such as worship leader, missions and evangelism and children’s and youth ministry. Most of these will have full time jobs and will be contributing, as much as they can, a few will be paid or volunteering full time. This gives you approximately 3.25 full time equivalent staff supporting the 96.75 attending church.

There will be some input from the general congregation however when the Sunday service and one other weekly event are subtracted very little time is left.

This thinking is based on a terrible fallacy, that church is a spare time activity for the vast majority[3]. The sort of questions we can ask in this paradigm are, can we get enough people interested in a new group or programme, can we get more people to contribute some money, how can we make our church more attractive so that people will want to attend? When we look at the work needing to be done within a few kilometers of the sanctuary, never mind overseas or elsewhere in New Zealand this is a recipe for depression and burnout.

The church appears to have all of the essential characteristics of an organization designed to be a church[4]. Community groups, small groups, mission groups can have a big impact on the effectiveness and impact of a church but are largely resourced out of the volunteer time available[5].

The challenge is to get as many of the 96.75% behaving as disciples and being sent out into the mission field that is all around us. Our dichotomy is that to train people, as leaders of disciples will put even more load on those already contributing while adding extra load on the management and oversight structures long before we start to see fruit.

How would we cope with a Simon Peter in our team, would we be able to grow him into the Apostle Peter?

[1] (Roxburgh 2010, NP)

[2] These numbers are based on discussion with a small number of pastors and my personal experience. I would love to follow up some of these ideas through research and my own networks.

[3] Mike Breen. Multiplying Missional Leaders. (Pawleys Island: 3 Dimensions Ministry, 2012.) NP


[4] (Breen and Cockram, Building a Discipling Culture 2011, NP)

[5] Tim Keel modestly describes an approach building on strong narrative and respecting and building on creativity, the leaders in Jacobs Well are engaging well in the post-Christendom arena where often music, art and games are effective agents in their season. This approach, also used in my own fellowship, makes best use of the resources available however does not mobilize all the potential resources, time, effort and money allocated to other activity.