What do you cheer for? Sports teams? Your child getting good grades in school? What about your church? What do you celebrate? I’ve celebrated numbers of attenders on any given weekend. I’ve cheered when we baptize people in our services. I’ve gotten super excited when people respond to God’s invitation to salvation. What would it look like for churches to celebrate sending people out? What if mission was more critical than metrics? It’s hard celebrating as you send away someone you love. The release of someone or something can be sad, even frightening. You lose control. It could be a child going off to college, the selling of a business, the planting of a church, or even the birthing of a new small group. Sending someone out to do life or ministry without you can be extremely difficult. But celebration is essential.
Critical to the success of sending is the celebration of the one who is being sent. We’ve all heard it said, “What is rewarded is repeated,” or “What you celebrate they will emulate.” Those clichés are rock-solid truths. Too often we spend so much time worried about the what ifs that we miss the opportunity to celebrate what has happened in the lives of those God is calling to their next stage of development.
I led a men’s small group for more than two years. We truly did life together. We had gone to countless dinners, taken hunting and fishing trips, and shared things with one another that rarely come out into the open among a group of men. It wasn’t long before I realized that there were multiple leaders in my midst. These men were ready to take the next steps in their own personal discipleship journeys. I was not ready for that whisper from the Holy Spirit. It frustrated me at times and made me insecure at other times. There was no question, God was calling me to release these men from my own circle and allow them to develop an influence of their own.
The initial conversations were met with some emotion, but God was leading us and no one could deny it. I remember looking at Mark and saying, “Buddy, you are equipped to lead these men. You have done the hard work personally and have grown in your influence collectively. You are respected and it’s time to step into what God has waiting for you!” It took almost 3 months for the entire group to buy into what came next, but we all knew this is the calling of those of us who make disciples – to multiply other disciple-makers. The key, however, was the celebration. We met one Monday night as was typical, but afterward we took time to go around the room and affirm Mark, his character, what God had done in his life over the past two years, his heart for people, and his ability to lead. I even invited one of our small groups pastors to be there and affirm Mark alongside us. I wanted Mark to have support and know that support extended beyond just this group, but that the staff of our church was cheering him on. We laid hands on Mark and prayed as a group, and when the tears cleared, we began to clap, whoop, and holler. It was just amazing! That celebration and intentional releasing would seer into the minds of other group members, catalyzing what disciple-making is all about. And as we celebrated, it encouraged the others standing around in their own journey with the Lord. God was proud of Mark, and so were we. Mark still leads groups of men today. He is making disciples. He is living out his calling as a Jesus follower, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Remember, when you see someone win, make every effort to stop and point it out to as many as you can. It will reap more rewards than you could imagine. Intentional celebration is the key to unlocking the culture you’re trying to create.
by Matt Roberson – Lead Pastor
The MET Church