Andy Stanley, founding pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta, is among the best. He’s the Derek Jeter of mega-church pastors. He has offered something so useful and helpful, I feel I just have to share it.
Andy’s “Five Faith Catalysts” come from his book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.
1) Practical Teaching
Many people have been exposed to the Bible. But far fewer understand its teaching, and can see its relevance and application to their own life. Practical teaching means teaching for a response, for a life change. “People are far more interested in what works than what’s true.”
Andy is not being a crass pragmatist. He simply realizes that most people are on a happiness quest, not a truth quest. They want to know how what they are hearing will make a difference, how it will be useful in making their life better and happier and freer. “We are adamant about our content being helpful, not simply true... Truth without handles is static. Truth with next steps grows people’s faith.”
2) Private Disciplines
“Somewhere along the way, Christians begin to pray. Alone.” Personal spiritual disciplines like prayer and giving are essential in growing to maturity as a Jesus follower. Personal spiritual disciplines introduce a sense of intimacy and accountability to our faith journey and tune our hearts to the heart of God.
Jesus bids his followers to “ go to your room to pray, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” (Matt 6:6) Andy tells of a time he prayed alone in his closet while in college, and heard God saying that he needed to repent for cheating in a class. “Before we go forward, we have to go back,” he realized. He did, and ended up repeating the class... and growing as a disciple. But not before the discipline of intentionally positioning himself to hear from God.
3) Personal Ministry
North Point is always putting people in ministry positions before they are ready. “Few things stretch and grow our faith like stepping into a ministry environment for which we feel unprepared.” Andy mentions the feeding of the 5000, where Jesus says to the disciples: “You give them something to eat.” (Matt 14:16) And they did! But not before first having to “stare down the barrel of their own inadequacy.”
Ministry forces us to be consciously dependent on God, leading to teachable, flexible, and dependent disciples. “Putting people in ministry environments is the quickest way to capture their hearts. So we move quickly.” Wait till people are totally ready? You’ll wait a long time. Adults learn on a need-to-know, mentoring basis: so “the sooner we can get people into ministry environments, the better.”
4) Providential Relationships
Every faith story seems to include a person who came along at the right time - individuals God put in one’s path to grow their faith. “I’ve never heard a faith story without a relational component,” says Andy. Providential relationships (‘divine appointments’) involve hearing from God through someone and seeing God in someone. Andy tells of his own encounter with such a person when he was a young man.
Unlike the first three catalysts, this one can’t be programmed. But being aware of it, leaders can create environments that are conducive to such relationships...and remove what thwarts them. The relationship-centric North Point model favors getting people connected more quickly and keeping them connected longer. This leads to unusual practices, such as assigning youth leaders to one group which they follow all the way through high school.
5) Pivotal Circumstances
These revolve around “defining moments.” They can be good or bad, but they are always crucial moments when God’s grace can intervene in a definitive way, setting trajectories for a lifetime. Although these can in no way be programmed, Andy and his team made an important discovery. What often makes such moments so critical is not always what happens, but the interpretation that is given. It’s the interpretation that determines the trajectory the event will have.
Two things determine the interpretation: worldview; and who we are doing life with at the time. By helping people develop a biblical worldview, and surrounding them with growth friends who help them see things in light of this worldview, a church can help ensure that when such pivotal circumstance do occur, they will grow faith, not diminish it.
Mature followers of Christ have grown in their faith. They have confidence that God is who he says he is and will do what he has promise to do. They trust. “At its core, Christianity is an invitation to reenter a relationship of trust with the Father.”
“What fuels the development of faith? What are the ingredients that, when stirred together, result in greater confidence in the person and promises of God?” These are the questions which led to the five faith catalysts.
Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:20) North Point church is bearing beautiful, mature fruit. Hence, smart Christian leaders would do well to listen and learn from these five faith catalysts.
- Which catalyst(s) played a role in your faith story?
- In your local church, which of these catalysts are present?
- Which are lacking?
- What can you do about it?
Click here for the video series
Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
North Point Church Sermon podcast
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