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M.A.P. offers visual way to evaluate church practices

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A visual model to illustrate how a church can reach people for Christ, mature them as disciples and involve them in service and ministry has been introduced by the LifeWay Church Resources Division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We wanted a process that churches can visualize, that isn’t complicated and is biblical,” said Gene Mims, division president. The model and process (M.A.P.) is included in a revised and expanded edition of Mims’ book, Kingdom Principles for Church Growth, released in June.

Mims emphasized that M.A.P. is not a cookie-cutter approach but a diagnostic tool to enable a church to identify current practices and determine what changes are needed “to see the lost person transformed to become a Christian minister.”

M.A.P. begins with the mandate of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to make disciples. The five functions of a growing church-evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship and worship-are delineated. And the necessity for leadership to guide the process and prayer to undergird it are highlighted.

In the beginning stage, believers and unbelievers are grouped together for corporate worship and open groups, which may include Sunday school classes, short-term or ongoing Bible study groups or cell groups. Worship and open groups welcome new people. Worship focuses on celebration, proclamation and evangelism. Open groups include foundational, evangelistic Bible study and opportunities for believers and unbelievers to build and strengthen relationships.

In stage one, unbelievers are introduced to the gospel and, hopefully, are led to Christ.

“Unfortunately, many churches have no strategy to reach lost people,” Mims said, noting that worship services and Sunday school classes may be conducted for believers and not planned to meet the needs of persons interested in learning more about Christ.

“Some churches have a strategy to get unbelievers in the worship services. That’s an improvement. Some seek to get them into a Sunday school class and a worship service.”

The second stage, developing believers, focuses on closed groups designed to equip believers to serve. Equipping may focus on skills, knowledge or both, along with accountability. After being equipped through closed groups, believers move into stage three where they serve on ministry teams that focus on the needs of the church or on missions and service beyond the church walls and around the world.

Results of effective church practices to reach people, develop believers and multiply ministry then include numerical growth, spiritual transformation, ministry expansion and Kingdom advance, Mims said.

In piloting M.A.P., lay leaders of a church were walked through the process and asked to draw their church’s practices in the three stages.

One layman drew the church’s worship service with dotted lines, indicating it was open to unbelievers. His circle for open groups or Sunday school classes was smaller than the worship circle and had dotted lines on half and a solid line on the other half. This layman believed that some Sunday school classes were open to unbelievers and others were not.

His circle for closed groups was tiny, indicating the layman’s conviction that his church was doing very little to equip believers for ministry. For ministry teams, he drew a dotted triangle pointing back to the church to illustrate that the church’s ministry efforts were only targeted to church members and not to people outside the church.

In other groups of leaders, Mims said people often “draw a big circle for worship, a smaller circle for open groups, no circle for closed groups and no diamond for ministry teams.

“Many churches aren’t multiplying their ministry so the pastor and staff or a select group of people are doing all the ministry,” he said. “It’s God’s way for the leaders to equip people for ministry out of the pattern of Ephesians 4:11-16.

“M.A.P. is a framework to enable a church to stop and evaluate,” Mims emphasized.

“Are we reaching people for Christ? Do our worship services lend themselves to having unbelievers come? Are our open groups truly open? Do our closed groups aid people to be transformed? Are we undergirding the spiritual process to see people launched into ministry? Are we multiplying ourselves to reach the whole world for Christ?”

In addition to using M.A.P. as a diagnostic tool, Mims said, “it’s a great way to help people see what the church is all about. You can show people that the reason we do Vacation Bible School is evangelism in an open group that reaches people for Christ. Everything begins to tie together so they have a real understanding of the process. ”

In addition to helping individual churches evaluate and strategize, Mims envisions M.A.P. becoming a basis for dialogue between churches and LifeWay. “We’re going after two things, the needs they have and the solutions they require. What we will have for them will be solutions that are biblically based, needs directed and that will bring about positive Kingdom results.”

Mims believes M.A.P. can be used in any style of church-traditional, seeker sensitive, seeker-centered and cell churches.

“There’s no such thing in the New Testament as the way to do church,” he said. “There’s no one way to build a church, no one way to do evangelism, no one way to do worship.

“M.A.P. will help a church discover its needs and answer questions,” Mims continued. “M.A.P. is a simple framework to determine–if the Lord intends us to build the kingdom of God by making and maturing disciples and multiplying ministry — then how are we going to go about that? This is how to determine what you need to do.”

M.A.P. is not “chiseled in stone,” he said. “There are many ways to draw M.A.P. This is just a beginning pattern.”

The revised and expanded edition of Kingdom Principles for Church Growth is available through the LifeWay Church Resources customer service center, 1-800-458-2772, through LifeWay Christian Stores or the online store, www.lifewaystores.com.
(BP) graphic posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Graphic title: A CHURCH M.A.P.

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  • Linda Lawson