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Why Ministry Fails
By Dan Vis
May 11, 2020
Comments:

This month we're zooming in on how to reach our communities more effectively. And it's important. As things begin opening up, there will be many opportunities to serve. It's our hope these memo's will help you get ready to take advantage of them!

As I've traveled across the country, I've visited church after church. And few seem to be growing dramatically. Inspiring testimonies here and there, but strong, steady, evangelistic growth--not so much.

As I've reflected on this situation, in search of some solution, I've come to realize a big part of the problem is our inability to think strategically about ministry. We may have a great desire to serve, good skills and resources, talent, dedication, and even a strong spiritual life--but without careful strategic planning, most ministries will fail at consistently bringing people to Christ.

“We may have a great desire to serve--but without careful strategic planning, most ministries will fail at consistently bringing people to Christ.”

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Imagine two cliffs separated by a deep chasm. The people you are trying to reach are on one side. The place you would like to see them--commitment to Christ and active membership in your church--is the other. What's needed is learning to see our ministry as the bridge that connects the two.

Think of it as a wooden plank bridge. Each plank on that bridge is a small step on their journey to Christ. If those steps are closely placed, firm, and in good repair, people have easy access from one side to the other. But if there are gaps in the bridge, with missing or broken planks, people will find it more challenging to come across. If the gaps are big enough, even in just one spot, the entire bridge becomes unusable. No one will cross. The ministry will fail.

This doesn't mean the ministry won't be doing good. That lives won't be touched. That the workers in that ministry aren't doing something valuable and worthwhile. Or that God can't use that ministry in special ways. It just means that particular ministry is unlikely to succeed in accomplishing its purpose of steadily bringing people to Christ.

Planks in the Bridge

To oversimplify the process, every ministry should consist of several irreducible components: contacting people, connecting with them, and communicating Bible truth. And of course, each of these can be broken down into many smaller, specific steps. If any of these components are missing, even if it is just one plank, the effectiveness of all the other pieces will be impacted dramatically. People may make it part way over the bridge, but they can't cross over completely.

Suppose you do a major evangelistic series. Spend thousands on advertising. And hire a great evangelist who gives powerful presentations. Yet despite all the hard work, and expense, the results prove meager. Why? People were contacted, and truth communicated. But no process was in place to build relationships with the people who came to the meetings. There was no connection. Because there was a gap right in the middle of the bridge, few people made it across to the other side.

Imagine your church runs an active cooking school ministry. There's lots of great marketing and advertising, and it's popular in the community. People come out, have a great experience, and over time, casual friendships are formed. But after years of meetings, and huge investments in time and money, only a handful of baptisms have resulted, if any. Why? Little thought has been given to transitioning these participants into an environment where they can be exposed to Bible truth. The gap here was at the far end of the bridge.

Perhaps you have a small group, that enjoys great fellowship, and great Bible discussions. Participants enjoy coming, are learning, and consistently make decisions for Christ. But few seekers visit the group, and ultimately it fails to grow numerically. Given the time and effort invested, the results in terms of outreach are small. Why? While there's connection and communication, there's no real strategy in place to contact new people and bring them into the group's fellowship. Here, the gap was right at the start of the bridge.

“It doesn't really matter where the gap exists, at the beginning, middle, or end of your ministry bridge--missing planks will prevent people crossing over.”

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Conclusion

The fact is, it doesn't really matter where the gap exists, at the beginning, middle, or end of your ministry bridge--missing planks will inevitably prevent people from coming across. Until we learn to start thinking strategically about our ministries, and create plans that help people through the entire journey, from start to finish, we will continue to have ministries that struggle. And as a result, our churches will only experience limited growth.

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Comments

Have you seen "gaps" in any of the ministries at your church? How important is it to think of ministries as bridges? And to patch these gaps? Can you think of other things that can keep a ministry from enjoying success? Share a note in the comments below...

Posted by Dan Vis on 05/18/20 

With a small church, it is more important than every to really specialize on one area of ministry, because our resources are more limited. Hope you get a chance to read the next week's article, it talks about that: Keys to Target Grouping. Praying God leads you and your church Carol!

By the way, sometimes one person starting with a good idea, can begin a ministry, and then get others involved that way. That solves the problem of people saying, we tried that before and it didn't for us. That can really get in the way of progress! So just show them it works...

Posted by Carol on 05/18/20 

Very good article Dan. I feel it is important to bridge the gaps. As, I have mentioned that my church is experiencing a huge gap. The congregation consists of older individuals and the younger ones are consistent of only about a dozen of us.

I don’t know if we have strategic measures in place for growth. I know that many of the board members are older and don’t view advertising as a necessary. We have experience a big lost of members in our church.

I thing we are not growing because we have so many of the decision makers are seniors. We need to find away to draw people between the ages of 25 to 55 to join.   

Posted by Dan Vis on 05/15/20 

I like this line: "It's one thing to 'announce' the good news... It's another to 'share' it with someone". And especially when you think of sharing, as participating in an experience together. Casts a whole different light on your whole post Qing, when you think of it that way.

And I like those three points. They sound familiar to me. :) I wonder if I should changed our Memorization Discipleship & Leadership tabs to Behold Reflect & Multiply... ;)

Sorry, just like changing things...

Posted by Qing Ling on 05/15/20 

Denise I hear you sister!
Habakkuk 1:1The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
sounds like you have such a burden for souls, which surely God will equip you to minister to.

Wow Dan, pretty cool to re-read your response to my old post all that time ago in 2018!

Your point is excellent: "the same people can walk people through the entire process together. I'm thinking of the paralytic carried to Jesus by his four friends. They didn't each individually carry him a quarter of the way. They all carried a quarter of his weight for the entire journey."

It's true we can all take heart in the "Apollos watered" concept when we have momentary contact with ppl, but what's stopping us from intentionally building solid genuine relationships with seekers? Because it's genuine relationship that's going to keep a friend by our side journeying with us until we get to heaven together. As opposed to politely passing by a stranger and maybe sharing small talk before going along our merry way in a different direction.

John 1:34And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
II Corinthians 3:18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
II Timothy 2:2And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

There are so many places in the Bible that we see the law of "pass it on". And that's evangelism isn't it? Passing on the good news?

  1. Take Him in (Behold)
  2. Live His way (Reflect)
  3. Pass Him on (Multiply)

Right? ✌️

It's one thing to "announce" the good news... It's another to "share" it with someone the way Jesus did on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:32And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Our testimony/witness/story/influence carries more weight when ppl know us, trust us, and like us.

Posted by Dan Vis on 05/12/20 

Hard to answer that question without knowing the whole situation Carol, but you can be sure the enemy does not want there to be unity among God's people, and he's always looking for ways to bring in division. If that's happened in your ministry, you just have to rebuild as best you can using the principles. Expand your circle of contacts, find ways to build connections with those who respond, and be creative in communicating Gospel truth.

There are other principles involved if you are talking about something besides a ministry team that probably go beyond the scope of this article.

Posted by Carol on 05/12/20 
What if you use to have a strong fellowship but people started to leave because of some views on the LGBT?
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/11/20 

Yes, that's another whole aspect of this I didn't even mention Carole Bliss , the need for good follow up and support. Of course if you do a good job with the core steps in the evangelism side, the nurture side will do better. But we do need to be just as intentional about it.

Having a strong discipleship program in place, and building a strong small group culture are two really important keys to follow-up.

Posted by Carole Bliss on 05/11/20 
I can remember a class our pastor had and what he did was wonderful. Thankfully some people started attending church regularly. I. Have found to keep them coming, you have to show interest in them personally. One isn't coming due to work issues, I keep in regular contact with her, we pray for each other, we can't let them slip away. Blessings, Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/04/19 
Yep, lot's of good advice Carole. Prayer, wisdom, the Spirit's power, plus getting to know people and staying in touch. :)
Posted by Carole Bliss on 09/04/19 
For ministry to be successful, it must be prayed over, seeking Heavenly wisdom and relying on His Spirit to reign.
Getting to know people first and staying in touch after an event has ended brings greater results.
BLESSINGS
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/03/19 
Make sure you sign up for Unleashed. It's free through the month of September Emmanuel. :)
Posted by Emmanuel Ajiroghene on 09/03/19 
I really want to learn more about this, it's sounding very interesting and in point. Thanks for sharing sir
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/03/19 

Thanks for your feedback Denise! And I agree completely. The real issue has to start with our connection to God, and a dependence on His power. No question about that.

But at the same time, part of that transformation involves learning to align our methods with divine principles. We're told that Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people, and that method clearly involved a relationship progression. Without understanding, and following that method, no ministry can be successful--so there's definitely a place for studying it.

When we have a fully consecrated people who use the methods outlined in Scripture we will have the best possible results. So I think it's important to emphasize both aspects.

Posted by Denise Buglino on 09/02/19 
Will you allow me to share a strong opinion on what is hindering our "success"? I believe that no humanly devised strategy or church program will win anyone to Christ. We as a people are deficient in the fruits of the spirit and lack a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. Where there is no oil, there is no light to share with the world. We must first have transformation of our lives, transformation of character which only comes from a serious battle with self and allowing Jesus to prune out the dead and sick parts of us. When that happens we will reflect His character more fully and be able to witness with power. We may not be aware of the change that has taken place in our lives, but others will surely see it. The spirit of God is what draws men/women to Himself and we can be His true ambassadors/witnesses only as we are filled with His spirit (as Jesus was). To "play church", going thru the "strategic steps" of programs, etc. will accomplish nothing of itself. That said, we cannot judge by our own human standards what is "success" in winning souls for Jesus. God is the searcher of hearts. We are very poor judges of anyone's character and heart. Our commission is to point people to Jesus, to reveal the heart and character of Jesus (and of God) to others. This is best done by a living example (as explained above) and not by "preaching", "programs" or the like. We cannot expect to lead others to Jesus if we don't earnestly desire to walk/talk/spend time with/communicate with Jesus ourselves, before any other desire we might have. Until the world and the things of the world cease to occupy the first place in our hearts, we will not have the true joy and influence that shows others we "have been with Jesus" and know Him. This is something that weighs heavy on my heart as I struggle to break free from the bonds/chains of this world and all its allurements, distractions, demands. I fail miserably and am often convicted over it. It is the struggle we have with self and our own desires that holds us back. We must make our calling and election sure and we'd better sense the urgency as none of us knows how much time we have to live and the sleep of Laodicea is strongly upon us as "God's chosen people", "His witnesses". Thank you for bearing with my heavy-duty reflection. Not intended to be a criticism of anyone or of this ministry. May God bless our search for a deeper connection with Jesus.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/19/18 

Thanks for your thoughts Qing! Sorry I missed your comment somehow. :) And it is true: all our ministries need to have the same common components to be successful, and most lack one or more pieces to function effectively.

Given that many of our members are over-extended in their time commitments, we find it hard to commit ourself to ministries with those missing gaps because they don't seem to accomplish much. And who has time for that? But I definitely suspect a functioning ministry would attract all the help it needs, because everyone wants to be part of something that's working.

I also don't think the idea is to hand people off to others from one stage to another. Rather we need teams that work together to lighten the load, so the same people can walk people through the entire process together. I'm thinking of the paralytic carried to Jesus by his four friends. They didn't each individually carry him a quarter of the way. They all carried a quarter of his weight for the entire journey.

Just a few thoughts back! :)

Posted by Qing Ling on 09/07/18 

Important message, this - showing how the dots connect between all our ministries which can be categorised in which section of the bridge they fit in - start, middle, end. I have felt 'torn' in the past, considering not getting involved at all, when I contemplate how ministries in my church would function and how investment of my time in them would only mean partial progress for the person we are trying to outreach to. each example in the article above perfectly described the common 'gaps' I too have lamented over and would be at a loss of how to 'bridge' the gap.

I guess the answer must be about how we need to be strategic, and work better as a body of Christ. I say this because I feel limited in my abilities. I can befriend only a certain amount/type of people (CONNECT). I need someone else to bring new faces to church (CONTACT). and I can share some bible truths, but would need someone with more experience and knowledge to lead bible studies (COMMUNICATE).

And if I were the person bringing a CONTACT, it means I am already CONNECTING with the person.. but then I'm still left with the end gap where I need help from others to transition of our relationship from a social friendship to one where Bible truth is being COMMUNICATED. That last little plank is my biggest challenge.

Other things that keep a ministry from enjoying success could be the lack of a questionable life in the life of the ministry workers. by questionable I mean to be 'salt of the earth'...modelling a life for unchurched people to wonder what they need to do to become like them.
I Corinthians 11:1Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. ; Zechariah 8:23Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. ; I Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Posted by Dan Vis on 08/15/18 
That's an important gift Jackie, and one part of the ministry process. And a great prayer! Now the key is putting all the pieces together to form a complete bridge... :)
Posted by Jacqueline on 08/15/18 
Yes in Stevenson church slow groth. It is true. I great at building friendships with my neighbors and I pray and ask Lord to help me to be a light. We have to meet them where they are at
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/14/18 

Exactly right Carole, and the relationship needs to continue after baptism as well. We'll be including information on that in our Worker Tools course as well.

Such a common situation Valerie. I think building up the foundation that leads to a successful campaign first is important. And exciting because we can start to see people taking at least the first steps relatively quickly. Then, once everything is in place, your meetings will become more exciting too. :)

Thanks for reminding us of that picture Pam. I've seen it too. Love thinking about the angels helping people navigate through the weak spots in our ministries. Of course, better still to fix them!

Posted by Pamela Kendall on 08/13/18 

David I love how you brought Jacob's ladder - Jesus into this topic - indeed he is the only one that can truly bridge the gap, the "great gulf" between earth and heaven.

John very good point - some gaps are easy for some people (people with long legs, people who are strong enough to do "long" jumps, etc) while for others those gaps are difficult due to weakness, timidity, lack of jumping experience, etc. For some of us raised with a religious upbringing some jumps may seem logical and easy to bridge in our thinking while to those for whom these things are totally new, it could be a big jump - the gap seems larger or smaller depending on prior experience and background. It is good to remember that what seems a logical and easy jump (conclusion) for one person may not seem logical to another until the background foundation is more solidly built with gaps filled in. It may take extra explanations..., personal testimony or testimonies from others from similar backgrounds who have successfully made the jump in the past, etc.

It reminds me of how when someone experiences a life altering injury such as an amputation or a spinal cord injury resulting in permanent paralysis it can be so helpful if they can meet and talk with someone who has experienced a similar injury and has successfully learned to move past it, deal with the inevitable challenges, learned strategies to maximize independence despite disability and have a productive life. We have all been severely injured and crippled by sin but Jesus came down from heaven and walked in our shoes (without actually sinning) so that he could understand and help us jump the gaps and hurdles with his strength Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. ; Hebrews 2:17-1817 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. . If we can learn to identify with those who come to our "ministry"/programs they may be able to trust better that we can help them over (rather, point them to Jesus as the ultimate long jumper who can safely carry them over the chasm - because we can point out how he carried us over our own chasms.

I am also reminded of the famous picture of the 2 young children playing on or walking across a high bridge over a stream far below with planks missing... and the guardian angel hovering by them to protect them.

I am looking forward to learning how to mend bridges and jump gaps successfully in the upcoming course.

Posted by Valerie de Fluiter on 08/13/18 
Yes. Gaps. About to launch Evangelistic series number 3 since I've come to my little church. We had one baptism at the first meeting. He has proved to be a solid, steadfast soul. But despite the fact that people came forward for baptism or rebaptism at the last one (the 2nd), no baptism has occurred and we start another series next month. It is a LOT of time and effort as ours go for 29 or more nights. Big time fatigue kicks in by the last 2 weeks. Discouraging when there is nothing to show for it. I'm excited to see what this class can teach me to help find and bridge the gaps.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 08/13/18 
Failure to stay connected to the people you have worked with, will cause people to not continue to grow in the full knowledge of the Gospel.
The need to be consistent, is so important. It must be a prayed for ministry. Seeking God's Spirit to move and guide, in decision making.
You want the person to come over the the "other side". That takes, investing time with them, praying with them, becoming friends with them.
Great message.
Blessings,
Carole
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/13/18 

Glad this seems to be clicking with people. I shared this at a lovely little church in Virginia this weekend and the response was quite enthusiastic. Can't wait for Worker Tools to start. We're already into triple digits!

And yes, Valerie, let's keep looking to Jesus for help building better bridges. After all, as David hinted, He is the Master bridge builder. :) Appreciate your comment John. Lot's of implications to this article. You hit on several of them.

Thanks everyone for posting!

Posted by John Gilmore on 08/13/18 
I've seen many bridges that work only poorly. Perhaps we expect others to be able to jump the same gaps that were not intimidating for us. Perhaps some of the gaps we jumped were handled because someone with long legs and arms gave us some help. May God help us build better bridges and, in the mean time, to help others cross the bridges that exist.
Posted by Deanna Dekle on 08/13/18 
Yes. Very true assessment. This class is very important
Posted by David Grabe on 08/13/18 

Greetings, all my FAST Friends in the Name of the "Ladder(Bridge) (Genesis 28:12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.; John 1:51And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.) that bridges the gap between successful & unsuccessful ministry!
Thank you, Pastor Dan, for this post! What a spiritual appetizer!!!
Amen, Valerie, Diane, & Lynn! I am truly looking forward to this Class! And in 40 years+ as an SDA Christian I have experienced the "gaps" in all 3 areas and desire to learn how to obtain that "strength to keep going (Ephesians 6:10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.; Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:;3:13,14; Hebrews 12:1-31 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.)

I Corinthians 15:57,58But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 08/13/18 
I pray for us as believers to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. What did the first church have that we are missing today? I have signed up for the training class looking forward to what the Lord will teach me through it. There seem to be many gaps in my area which can almost be discouraging. I keep looking to Jesus for help and from Him get strength to keep going. Let us pray for each other to gain wisdom, strength and courage for the journey. Maranatha!
Posted by Diane Castanon on 08/13/18 
Amen, Lynn! I was thinking the same!
Posted by Lynn Badger on 08/13/18 
This makes so much sense. Can't wait for the class.


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