Paul Nixon and Christie Latona say congregations ready to launch successful new initiatives typically possess four strands of congregational DNA — spiritual intensity, missional alignment, dynamic relationships, and cultural openness. Measuring and strengthening these four capacities can prepare your church to leap from maintenance to gospel movement.
Multiplication can mean many different things for a church. Sometimes new small groups, new worship communities, new hubs of activity, new people groups, new age-level ministries, new outreach initiatives, the proliferation of new ministry teams, new campuses, even new congregations that your church might help plant.
Multiplication also means the same things in every church. Leaders helping to recruit, form, and release new leaders. People letting go of the status quo in order to expand the church’s reach and to share Christ with others. Thinking about the mission beyond simply caring for folks already inside. And carefully evaluating everything you do in light of your stated purpose.
Congregations that are ready to create new places and launch successful new ministry initiatives typically possess four strands of congregational DNA that mark their ability to multiply leaders, ministries, worship, and even launch new faith communities.
1. Spiritual intensity
Is your congregation driven by its passion for Christ? All of the great church movements worldwide are intense spiritually, marked by a deep love for God and a surrendering to what God is seeking to do through human beings. Understanding the degree to which a spiritual fire burns within the hearts and souls of those leading and participating in the life of the church is critical. Characteristics of congregations with strong spiritual intensity include:
- Many people have an expectation of encountering the living Christ personally and/or in the congregation.
- Practicing spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, fasting, Christian works, and so on) is an important part of life together.
- People are willing to take risks as an expression of their faith and trust in God.
- Leaders — paid and unpaid — demonstrate spiritual vitality.
2. Missional alignment
Does your activity flow from your stated values? The degree to which a church consistently prioritizes investment of its resources (time, talent, treasure) according to a biblical vision and mission indicates readiness in this dimension. It is critical that your church’s plans, major initiatives, and pruning of ministry stem clearly from a biblical vision/mission and drive for fruitfulness instead of from habit. Characteristics of churches with strong missional alignment include:
- A clear understanding of their mandate to reach new people.
- Alignment to a clear direction.
- Good strategic thinking that is a regular part of leadership conversations.
- The ability to make decisions about resources based on priority as opposed to pleasing people or maintaining the status quo. Preference is the enemy of obedience.
- A shared sense of competency about the church’s ability to start new ministries.
3. Dynamic relationships
How dynamic and healthy are your relationships with those inside and outside your church? Good habits and skills for leading new persons into a deeper relationship with God through Christ is vital. Healthy congregations work as a system to accomplish this. Your relationships with others directly impact the strength of your evangelism muscle. Characteristics of congregations with healthy, dynamic relationships include:
- The practice of strong welcoming behaviors — more than a program but a way of being with newcomers.
- A strong track record of bringing people from the outside into participation in the community of faith.
- Positive experiences partnering with other leaders and groups.
- A culture of healthy teamwork and leader development — including healthy conflict management skills.
4. Cultural openness
Does your congregation exhibit a capacity for embracing people from diverse cultures? Since the first century, effective churches have been reaching across cultural boundaries to share the Christian good news with diverse people who begin with different experiences, perspectives, and stories. Churches that exhibit fortress behaviors or who spend excessive time mourning social change often have difficulty sharing life with new kinds of people. Characteristics of congregations with strong cultural openness include:
- A collection of attitudes and behaviors that support receptivity to folks who aren’t like them.
- A good ability to form meaningful community with people who puzzle and/or offend you in certain respects.
- A perception that diversity in church is a good thing.
- Energy for working with different kinds of people.
- Willingness and ability to share power with new people.
- Valuable experiences that help them reach people in their neighborhood that aren’t like them.
Are you interested in changing the trajectory of your church from maintenance to gospel movement? From stagnation toward life, renewal and a future that is befitting the Christian gospel? Measuring and strengthening these four strands of multiplication DNA in your faith community can prepare your church to make the leap from church maintenance to gospel movement.
Paul Nixon and Christie Latona developed the Readiness 360 assessment tool used by churches to evaluate the behaviors, patterns, and attitudes that contribute to success or failure when developing new ministry initiatives. This material is adapted from readiness360.org and a companion resource, Multiply Your Impact: Making the Leap from Church Maintenance to Gospel Movement by Paul Nixon and Christie Latona © 2013. Used by permission.
- “The Contours of the Church of the Future,” a Leading Ideas Talks podcast episode featuring Paul Nixon
- 7 Simple Mind Shifts that Unlock Outreach Potential by Kevin G. Harney
- 5 Steps to a Fruitful Restart by Dan Turner