In Exodus 25:8 we find the foundation of the Cultivate movement “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” The word for Sanctuary (Miqdash) establishes a moving dynamic presence that is not afraid to invade darkness. The word for dwell (shakan) establishes God’s presence in the midst of the ordinary (human living–daily activities). Throughout Scripture, the Temple moves with its light with the purpose to transform lives. We see this very clearly in the NT with Jesus–John 1:14. Jesus becomes flesh and dwells (same word–Ex 25:8) with us. Matthew 1 shares as a name Immanuel–God with us. Jesus moves and invades darkness and where he goes transformation happens.
Ellen G. White describes it this way, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ ” (MH p.143)
So, Jesus becomes flesh, moves towards the community, listens to their needs, provides for them then bade them “Follow Me.” After his ministry among us, he empowers his disciples (Acts 1) and his disciples empower other disciples and the movement takes place. The detail here is that neither Jesus nor his disciples were waiting for people to come to them or to a temple where they were but Jesus and his disciples always went to where the need was. The message of the Gospel in this context became dynamic, moveable and transformational, and its movement was so powerful that we still speak about it today.
Thus, as Ed Stetzer puts it, in the 21st century, churches that shift from a ‘temple mindset’ to a ‘network mindset’ will be more effective in evangelism. This is not a new idea but it’s a return to a Biblical model given to us by the Temple. The focus is always people. People as disciples; people as instruments of peace, blessing and healing. People are the agents, as feeble as they are; God always uses flesh and bones not walls nor pews, nor amazing structures, nor events, etc… it’s people–that’s the best network to create a redemptional movement..
Let’s take a minute to remind ourselves what that ‘temple mindset’ is…just so we’re sure we’re on the same page.
First, I have something people want—therefore they should come—if not they will miss out. The problem here is assuming that we think we know what they need. How do we know what they need if we are not mingling with them?
Here, I believe, we need to define mingling, “moving freely around a place or at a social function, associating with others”. In this context, it is moving freely around the community in which our church is. It is to know our community leaders, best shops, best restaurants, what is the community’s culture, what are their needs, what are their fears. We learn to love our community when we mingle … we learn to see the people as Jesus saw people… compassion drove Him to spend time with the crowds, and he did not do a cookie cutter approach with them but rather met each person within that person’s context.
Second, it depends on events that take place at church to which we tirelessly encourage members to invite their friends to. The problem here is that we encourage people to come to our church events to hear the “professionals”. This has its place but it should not be the center stage.
We need to move from the “professionals” to the “disciple in the pew”. The reach of the “professionals” is limited but the disciple at the pew has a world of connections and those connections have other connections and so on. Imagine activating the disciple in the pew to be the church, the mingling presence of God in their circle of influence. Then once in awhile, the “professionals” will have their place to join what’s already happening.
For this reason, the temple-mindset is a stand-alone mentality that never asks the question, “If our church were to disappear, would the community miss us?”
It’s a mentality that any type of faith-sharing or service goes only through the programs established but doesn’t take time to empower individual disciples to be excited about Jesus, His message and the sharing of it.
It’s a mentality where the church is the only starting point for mission and by church I mean the building. This is an inward-focus approach where people are left outside while the few inside enjoy all the blessings. It’s about mostly doing ministry in church with maybe one community outreach every year.
But a network mindset is about cultivating people to be the church wherever they are.
To be more precise, in their worlds of influence.
Because each person in our world of influence has a world of influence of his/her own. So we focus on the person, and our reach goes beyond the building to the place where the disciple lives life. We move “from a building-based to a circle-of-influence based outreach.” You, the disciple, become the agent of Kingdom transformation through a life deepened in grace and a urgent message for a time such as this.
We find this model in Exodus 25:8 “and let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
Here the church is movable, transformative, taking risks but obeying God and leaving the consequences to Him. The disciple becomes that transformative agent who invades darkness wherever there is a heart in need.
Here the disciple becomes counter-culture: where people reject, the disciple loves; where people condemn, the disciple sees a reason to have compassion; where people push away, the disciple welcomes with open arms; finally, where people live in consumerism, the disciple lives a life of service …. but also the disciple lives within the uncomfortable–the big ask–inviting people within their circumstances to follow Jesus by faith.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that with that invitation comes a message that will touch the bio-psych-social-spiritual life of an individual since God receives us as we are but loves us too much to leave us the same way he has found us.
In order to accomplish this incarnational presence in our communities, intentional training is necessary, equipping and empowering people within their own skill set to become the agents of transformation.
Imagine a church that becomes a movement.
I like this quote which shares a strategic approach to a world which is skeptical about church, religion and its followers, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ ” (MH p.143)
The paragraph before shares, “The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago–a revelation of Christ.”
In short, being present in people’s lives and creating great relationships will give us the opportunities to say “Follow Me.”
We at Cultivate want to give EVERY church the resources to be like Him.
To be able to use today’s tools to meet the challenges of the dynamics of today’s relationships.
To shift churches’ mindsets so we all are focused on relationships with our community and thinking about continuous, year-round cycles of evangelism.
To not be afraid to ask the the most important question “Would like to give your life to Jesus?”
To listen to stories of others and how they did it. To recognize in these stories that there is no special recipe to it, just a willing heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can together cultivate and reap the harvest “by reaching one precious soul at a time.”
Among these pastors and laity is a tremendous wealth of resources.
They took time to meet the community, love upon them, invite them to spend time together, then earned the right to share the Three Angels Message. Many of these churches, pastors and laity gave up an attractional model of evangelism to a more holistic incarnational model. Becoming flesh–John 1:14–with their communities, friends, world of influence, then earning that trust that says “I care about you”. It’s not that the attractional model is bad or wrong but if people are not coming then we need to go–Matt 28:19.
One more thing, let’s not conform with just one or two models (such as the attractional model or Jesus’ incarnational model)–even though we should celebrate them!–but this is a time to have a God-sized vision.
We need to pray and work for the impossible like Galax Seventh-day Adventist Church did when around 180 bible studies requests appeared out of nowhere.
We go because we are not benchwarmers; we like to live where the action is; we go because these are the people God loves and wants to bring home; we go because the alternative is to die in spiritual boredom and never be part of the story.
“How can we pool and share these resources so that ALL churches can benefit?” How can we inspire you and activate you for mission?
“How can we accentuate what these ministries are already doing in their communities and churches without imposing our agenda on them?”
We wanted pastors and churches to activate into mission in their own skin, taking into consideration the contexts in which they live. This takes away the ‘cookie-cutter approach’ and replaces it by a more meaningful presence with those we want to reach.
Cultivate is an initiative that challenges members to break beyond their walls and create a unique community presence. It’s about living life with others who don’t know about Jesus and, in our kindness, companionship, and acts of love, earning opportunities to share the Message
Cultivate is an initiative where we can converge for mission.
Getting together to accomplish mission creates more strength, more vibrance, more celebration. It’s not about accomplishing goals (even though they are part of it) but it’s about a grassroots movement. It goes beyond “such church is doing this…” to “my church peer has being doing …” The church moves with its disciples.
Imagine 34,000+ disciples becoming agents of transformation in their world of influence… get the picture?
The Cultivate initiative educates pastors, laity, and ministry leaders in the new mindset:
1. cycles of evangelism (sow, plant, tend, reap then repeat it again) where others are eventually empowered to begin leading their own evangelistic enterprises to inspire others – a huge chain reaction.
2. viewing evangelism as a large movement (churches + ministries working together – strength in numbers) rather than a church-by-church initiative.
3. ‘organic community outreach’ –
church-community relations are based on what is relevant to the community. (That is, community needs, wants, and hopes drive the agenda.) Examples – homes of hope, small groups meetup, health fairs, sports etc.
church-organized events happen where they are most effective, NOT just in church.
churches are inspired to build bridges that connect the community to the church, NOT the church to the community (In other words, the seeds start in the community.)
This education is via a pedagogical platform that challenges pastors, laity, and ministry leaders to think differently. The first focus will be on the pastors. They, then, inspire their laity and l ministry leaders to explore creative possibilities to train, empower and call to action their churches. We also aim “to inspire, nurture, and train the next generation of leaders, equipping them to be mentors of the next generation”. This includes targeting the millennials to get their input.
Specifically, the platform will promote cycles of evangelism by…
Program #1: Harvest event every three years
Program #2: Church planting
focusing on communities or people groups of 20,000 or more—one of the most effective ways (not new but since our founding fathers) to reach a community. Starting new churches takes into consideration all the aspects of cultivating–prep territory, plant seeds, tend the land and harvest.
Program #3: Young adult professional leadership initiative
Cultivate initiatives have already been having great success – check out these stories!
Cultivate looks different to everyone and the needs of each community are unique.
We need to support one another’s vision for evangelism and sharing Jesus through camaraderie, encouragement and by giving. By supporting each other, we become a movement – a powerful force that is more than just a building; more than just a worship session; more than just you or me. Imagine what we can do together!