“Space: the final frontier.” These introductory words spoken by Captain James T. Kirk, at the start of each original Star Trek episode, will go down in infamy. Over the past decade there have been a lot of worth-while discussions on the subject of relational spaces, particularly as it pertains to church ministry. In his book, The Search to Belong, Joseph Meyers helped trigger this conversation by resituating the four physical spaces, from the field of proxemics (public, social, personal and intimate spaces), into the realm of ministry: public relationships (i.e. worship gatherings), social relationships (i.e. missional communities), personal relationships (i.e. small groups) and intimate relationships (i.e. accountability partners). In the spirit of Star Trek, I believe that “intimate space” is the final frontier for the church, in the arena of disciple making. At the heart of making disciples is both the maturing (i.e. transformation) and the multiplying (i.e. expansion/reproduction) of a disciple – and this happens best at the micro level, that is, in intimate space. (The graph below connects the different spaces to the four main groupings of Jesus’ ministry: the crowds, the 72, the 12 and his inner circle – Peter, James and John; and reveals where transformation and expansion occurs most powerfully).In their recent work, Missional Moves, Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder, identify four micro maxims that are germane to this conversation: 1) Reproduction is God’s design for everyone; 2) Multiplication is God’s plan for everyone; 3) Disciple making happens best through micro; and 4) Small and simple reproduces better than large and complex. This is not to knock the role of the macro (i.e. public and social spaces) – they have a place in providing the necessary elements of centralization and standardization on a mass level. However, to move towards the necessary disciple making components of decentralization, customization and incarnation, that significantly contribute to reproduction and maturation, we need to journey into the personal and intimate relational spaces. This is where life-on-life ministry, accountability, modeling/imitation, etc. happens most effectively. Over the next the month I will explore in more detail the role of intimate relationships as we journey to the core of the disciple making venture. In the meantime, would love to hear your thoughts!
Not long ago I came across the following quote: “Today a growing groundswell of interest in multiplying disciples is to be seen in many churches and by many people.” As we peruse the Christian landscape in America today, there clearly is an intensifying focus on disciple making. For example, Christian publishers are pumping out disciple making books at an accelerating rate, and two of the pre-eminent church planting/leadership conferences in the U.S. today are focusing on disciple making in 2013 (Exponential and Verge). Additionally, best-selling authors Francis Chan and David Platt are combining their efforts towards catalyzing a disciple-making movement through their web-based ministry, www.multiplymovement.com, and the U.K.-based missional/discipleship movement, 3DM, has relocated its senior leadership to the United States in order to equip church leaders here in the U.S. to build a disciple-making culture in their local churches (check out www.weare3dm.com).
So what are we to make of this upsurge? Is it simply expanding rhetoric fueled by the all-too-common American entrepreneurial, marketing approach and ethos that can powerfully propel the next new thing on to the scene with little to no lasting impact or change? Or is this swelling movement truly bringing about kingdom results? On a large-scale, I believe it is too early to tell.
I am encouraged by this emerging movement, for the church needs to recapture its disciple-making roots – so that it may recalibrate its disciple-making routes after the greatest disciple maker of all time: Jesus. However, for the rhetoric to be translated into results, it will require effort-full and continuous intentionality on the part of believers who are committed to making disciples in the power of the Spirit, after the pattern of Jesus, for the praise of the Father.
The quote I shared at the beginning was written by LeRoy Eims in 1978! It comes from his best-selling book, The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Looking back through our ecclesiastical rear-view mirror we see that the “groundswell” referenced by Eims did not significantly change the landscape of the church, and thereby the terrain of our society. It seems that rhetoric won the day then. I pray that it will not in our day. What are your thoughts?
A few years ago, Dallas Willard succinctly captured the ecclesiastical malady of our time – “Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians. These are only effects of the underlying problem.”
Recently, a surge of books, web articles and leadership conferences have addressed this issue and identified strategic ways of removing this “elephant” from the church in order to help the people of God recapture their primary mandate: making disciples who are maturing and multiplying. These efforts have provided some key insights and tools that are helping church leaders reboot and recalibrate ministries around the prime agenda of disciple making.
Yet, I believe that in order for this conversation to truly be catalytical, it will need to capture a missing piece critical to any change process. Building upon his classic work, Leading Change, John Kotter in his follow-up book, The Heart of Change, argues that the central issue in the change process, “is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. All those elements, and others, are important. But the core matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.” He continues, “people change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.” Kotter proposes that change depends on a SEE-FEEL-CHANGE paradigm rather than an ANALYSIS-THINK-CHANGE one. Short of a decade later, Chip and Dan Heath wrote, Switch – How To Change Things When Change is Hard, echoing Kotter’s thesis. They use a three-fold process to bring about change – interestingly, also using the analogy of an elephant, but in this case to represent the power of emotions. The Heaths picture the individual as a rider on an elephant. To effect change, it is necessary to: 1) Direct the Rider (i.e. point to the destination); 2) Motivate the Elephant (i.e. find the feeling); and 3) Shape the Path (i.e. build habits). Most pertinent to this discussion, is their second piece – motivating the elephant.
Many of today’s attempts to reorganize the church around the disciple-making mandate focus on the first and third parts in the change process – casting grand, clear visions for disciple-making, and providing concrete steps, ”action triggers” for forward movement. As important and helpful as they are, these elements provided without the heart/feeling piece are akin to throwing out paddles and a compass out to a sinking canoeist. The Heath brothers provide three practices necessary to motivating and moving the elephant: 1) Find the feeling – visually evoke positive emotions that will motivate people towards action; 2) Shrink the change – plan for small wins that are celebrated; 3) Grow your people – cultivate identity and a growth mindset. I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on how these practices can be fleshed out in the context of transitioning a church towards being more intentional and purposeful in the disciple making venture.
Prophetic voice and biblical scholar Walter Brueggeman states, “The contemporary American church is so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or to act.” I came across these words a few years ago and ever since then they have stuck with me – mainly because of how tragically true they are. A sign of this enculturation is the ever increasing number of churches who are spending thousands of dollars to hire ministry-consulting organizations to help them market and brand their ecclesiastical uniqueness and flavor (including their programs and teaching series). This, in my opinion, is fueled significantly by a consumeristic mindset! For consumerism is about creating a culture that causes people to value the brand of a product over the product itself – or said differently, value image over essence. I can remember when I was in high school (back in the early 80′s) Levi’s came out with red tab jeans – these were the jeans to have (they had a red tab attached to one of the rear pockets). If you could not afford them there was always the cheaper orange tab version – but there was nothing hip nor cool about this pair. I could not afford the red tabs, so I bought an orange tab pair. My younger brother had an old, used-up pair of red tabs that he was going to get rid of, so I snatched them from him. What I did afterwards is removed my orange tab from my pair and sewed on the red tab from my brother’s. Wearing these new branded pair of jeans took my identity and persona to whole new level – at least that is what it felt like. I was now a ‘red tabber’ (not genuinely, but only a keen eye could tell the difference between the two kinds of pairs). Many churches want to be red tabbers, so they replace the kind of branding we are called to with one that is fueled by a consumerist mindset. In doing so, they lose their potency in making an impact in their community. Please do not misunderstand me here - I am not against churches getting a sharp looking logo, creating an attractive, thought-provoking poster or banner for a teaching series, articulating in creative ways their God-given calling, and so forth. What deeply concerns me is this form of branding has been given more attention and energy than to the type of branding we are primarily called to. The Apostle Paul declares, “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17) Elsewhere he writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) For the apostle Paul – and for all followers of Christ - our brand is the embodiment of a crucifixional lifestyle that reveals and releases the life of Jesus. This is in keeping with our call to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). The word used in Acts 1 is, martus, which carries the sense of dying for your faith – it is at times translated, martyr. As I venture more and more down the way of missionality, trying to live and operate more like a missional leader, I am discovering how painful the process is – it requires a letting go, a denying of and dying to many things that I tightly hold onto. In certain areas of my life I have allowed myself to be victimized by the way of consumerism – a life that is more concerned about wearing a cross than carrying it! The cross is the means, message, manner, medium and metaphor of the Christian faith – you cannot by-pass it if you want to fully embody the gospel and showcase it to others. I love how John Piper puts it – “Suffering is not an accidental result of obedience. It is an ordained means of penetrating the people and the hearts of the lost.” A life marked by suffering, sacrifice and surrender clearly does not have all the sizzle and pizzazz of mega-mall marketing, but it’s the only kind of branding that will release the life giving aroma of Christ. What are your thoughts?
Let’s take a closer look at the first-century process of growing grapes. At the time of Jesus’ incarnation, a vine would be cultivated, planted, and left to grow for three years before being allowed to bear fruit. Every time it tried to bring forth a bunch of grapes, it would be cut back. After the third year, the grapes would be allowed to grow on their own. By then the branches were strong enough to support the weight of the grapes without breaking. After the harvest, the branches were pruned back for a time of nourishment and rest before the fruit-growing season began again. Bearing fruit is the most natural thing in the world for a branch. It doesn’t do it by straining to push out a grape. Looking at our lives, however, it would seem producing fruit-making disciples is strenuous. If fruit bearing is not coming naturally in our lives, could it be that we have not spent the proper season abiding? Could it be that we are overgrown branches, too weak to support a single grape, let alone a bunch? Pruning is not the fun part of life. We seldom see churches displaying banners advertising “40 Days of Pruning,” or small groups practicing “pruning yourself to a better life.” But if a grapevine is not pruned regularly, the branches grow spindly and weak. There is no abiding time when they gain their strength for the growing season. We need to learn when it is our pruning time. This seems unproductive at first glance. After all, aren’t we supposed to be pressing forth with all of our energy to do the work of the kingdom? In a word, no. We are supposed to pattern our lives after that of Jesus. It is not our energy and determination that impresses God, it is our living in the manner he made us that will produce the fruit he intends for us to bear. Pruning is not automatic for the branch. Left to its own plans, it would continue to grow, increasing in size but decreasing in strength, endurance, and health until it would be unable to hold the fruit it is intended to bear. We need to have times of pruning in our churches, times when most, if not all, activity ceases. Times of rest and abiding. This runs contrary to principles taught in most church growth courses and seminars. From abiding we grow, from growing we bear fruit, from bearing fruit we are cut back … When the Lord is moving you into a time of pruning and abiding, surrender to him. There is much grace to be found in the place of abiding.
Over the years in pastoral ministry I have often, in partnership with team members, attempted to address the issue of church growth barriers (i.e. how do we break the 400, the 800, etc. barrier) in our context. We would look to matters such as staffing, structures, systems, culture, alignment and vision in hopes of discovering and removing the block(s) - so that we could experience greater growth and expansion. There is no question in my mind that these are important components to investigate - yet, I believe that they are secondary (and a far second at that) to what is the primary place where key barriers are more than likely to be discovered: inside me, you … inside we the leaders ourselves. It seems to be our tendency as leaders to look through ‘windows’ to identify blockcades external to us, instead of looking in the mirror – and asking the question, “What is it about me that could be contributing to the barrier(s)?” It was John Morley who once said, “No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character” - similarly, we could say that, “no church can grow beyond the character limitations of its own leadership.” Therefore, it is our character that primarily dictates where growth barriers truly exist. A few years ago during my doctoral studies I was introduced to the Enneagram, a personality profiling/typing system that identifies in very clear and succinct ways, strengths and liabilities in your character type. My Enneagram type is Type 3 (Achiever). The following is a summary of characteristics pertaining to that type (with an emphasis on the liabilities), provided by Ricard Rohr and Andreas Ebert in their book, The Enneagram – A Christian Perspective:
Pitfall – Vanity/Superficiality
Root Sin – Untruth/Deceit
Social Subtype – Prestige
Self-preserving subtype – Security
Idealization – I am successful, competent and effective
Self-image – I am successful
Temptation – Efficiency
Avoidance – Failure
Defense Mechanism – Identification
Immature Attitudes – Opportunistic, deceptive and career-addicted
Normal Attitudes – Pragmatic, status-conscious and role-oriented
Mature Attitudes – Competent, Authentic, Truthful and Reliable
Talk about a sober look into the mirror! This is not the kind of list you want to put on a resume, but it is a list that needs to be honestly looked at (whatever your list is) if one wants to take the journey of self-discovery and personal growth - as Socrates put it, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The Enneagram not only identifies your type, but it also provides guidance towards experiencing greater health and maturity – so that you can become the person you have been created to be. The following sites have been very helpful in my journey, and I encourge you to check them out in order to identify your type and corresponding pathway to growth:
The beauty of this journey is that in discoverying more of who I am, I discover more fully the God who saved and loves me. My prayer has echoed that of Augustine of Old, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee” – and God has been answering that prayer! May you be blessed by such a journey.
The summer seasons usually have been an occasion for me to set aside time to pause and reflect on my life and minstry – as well as, to ponder what the following seasons could have in store for me and my family. This summer, as a aid to my time of reflection, I read through Lance Witt’s book, Replenish – Leading From a Healthy Soul. Lance is a former Saddleback teaching pastor and he established Replenish Ministries. In this blog I would like to share some key quotes from his book that are playing a formative role in my life and ministry, and taking me in some ways - as the expression goes – further ‘down the rabbit hole’ of leadership.
“‘What’s missing in the church today?’ This question was posed to a well-known mega-church pastor. His one-word answer was ‘vision,’ and I couldn’t disagree more with his assessment.” (If you want to find out why, you will need to get the book).
“Your ministry is not your life … Jesus is.”
“If I’ve learned anything about the health of churches in the last several years it’s this: The weekend experience is a poor indicator of the health of the church.”
“Relationship comes before responsibility.”
“Never lose sight of the fact that the box (your ministry) is not as valuable as the gift (Jesus). And the only reason the box exists is to deliver the gift. You have dedicated your life to the gift, not to the box.”
“It seems to me we are reaping the results of a generation in the church where it has been all about raw electricity. The outcome has been a spike in leaders who are coming unglued. I have a growing conviction that it’s dangerous to equip young leaders with vision, leadership, strategy, and church growth principles without equipping them to have healthy souls. We need to be just as serious about building transformers as we are about generating raw electricity.”
“Ministry is a character expression.”
“Ministry hasn’t turned out like we thought it would. We’ve done the best we could, but more often than we want to admit, ministry has been more babysitting than leading, more mundane than miraculous, more life-taking than life-giving.”
“One of the spiritual health questions every ministry leader must answer is, ‘Am I willing to serve in obscurity?’”
“What would it be like if you unplugged for twenty-four hours and focused more on your visible relationships than your virtual relationships?”
“One survey among pastors found that 70 percent do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor. Henri Nouwen wrote, ‘Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop heatlhy, intimate relationships.’”
“Looking back I realize there’s a correlation between my communion with God and my courage for God.”
“Preoccupation and speed can derail my ability to pay attention. On the positive side, I am learning a principle that enhances my ability to notice people: intention precedes attention.”
I have been working my way through the recently released book by Willow Creekers Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Move – What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, which is a more expansive study than the original one Willow did for themselves a few years earlier (later published as Reveal). The original survey launched by Willow had the goal of determining how effective the ministries and activities Willow offered were at helping people grow in the relationship with God and others. The findings shocked and bewildered many in leadership – in Bill Hybel’s own words the results “wrecked” his day. As a result of their discoveries, Willow made some significant changes in how they fostered spiritual growth in their congregants. But they did not stop there – they decided to widen the use of their survey to include 1,000 churches and over 250,000 congregants, to see if the original findings were unique to Willow or not. The expanded database resulting from this broadened effort revealed that the key issues Willow had to address were not unique to Willow, but were in fact universal among the churches assessed. Move, is the result of this inter-church effort. In this blog I would like to share some of their findings, as well some personal thoughts and reflections arising out of these discoveries:
1) Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on Scripture: “If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark – because only one out of five congregants reflects on Scripture every day.” (Move, p. 19) The high importance of this practice does not surprise me – was it not Jesus who said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”? The Word of God is essential to our nourishment and growth as Christ followers. But what surprises me – knowing that many leaders recognize the criticalness of this practice - is how they struggle cultivating this practice in their own lives, and in the lives of their congregants. Before we can, as leaders, inspire and equip people to be marked by the Word of God, we need to have our own lives – and the staff and other leadership team meetings we lead – marked by God’s Word as well. It starts with leadership, not with some this-is-how-to-reflect-on-Scripture-church-program. Once leadership has embraced this practice, it can then move to motivating and mobilizing people to follow suit – remember, it is more caught than it is taught. (To help us cultivate this practice in our church context we provide daily Scripture readings that are connected to the teaching of the week, along with reflective questions that help people meditate upon the provided Scriptures in deepening ways. Additionally, our weekly life group questions are as well connected to our Sunday teachings and the daily Scriptures. This way our Sunday teachings, daily Scriptures, and group questions work in concert with each other, creating a great context for consistent Scripture reflection at both the individual and group level).
2) Church activities do not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. “More precisely, increasing church attendance and participation in organized ministry activities do not predict or drive spiritual growth for people who are in the most advanced stages of spiritual development. Church activities have the greatest influence in the early stages of spiritual growth, but things like personal spiritual practices, including prayer and Bible reading, have far more influence later in the spiritual journey.” (Move, pp. 18-19) No wonder many of our churches struggle with experiencing depth and maturity – we are putting most of our eggs, efforts, and energies in the basket of church activities. This may, as Willow notes, help move people who are beginning the Christian journey into increased growth – but if we have nothing else to move them to they will stay immature. One way of looking at it – metaphorically speaking - could be that our Sunday morning services and mid-week programs are in some fashion venues by which we put training wheels on people’s bikes to help them learn to ride, but at some point we need to provide growth venues and contexts where the training wheels can come off … and this leads us to another finding by Willow.
3) Going public is catalytic. “In essence, the church needs to encourage its people to take the most logical first faith-steps outside the church, much as parents must encourage youngsters to welcome the first day of kindergarten. The world is a big place and we would miss a lot if we never left the family nest. Similarly, staying in the comfort zone of church pews and church-related activities will ultimately stifle growth of our personal relationship with Christ. For that growth to continue, maturing Christians need to live out faith beyond the walls of the church.” (Move, p. 145) Imagine an athlete always staying in the locker room and never getting out into the playing field, a farmer continually remaining in the barn and never working out in his field, or a love letter staying in the post office and never getting delivered to its destination – in each of these situations we would think that this is both sad and ridiculous! But this is exactly what is happening to so many believers – they are staying put in their ecclesiastical post offices (i.e., church buildings) and never getting out into the game field of life to share their faith publicly. Every once in a while when my wife Gloria and I are out in public with our kids, and we hug and kiss each other, they will respond by saying, “too much P.D.A. (public display of affection)!” – or sometimes it’s, “get a room guys!”. I think believers, similarly, need to show more P.D.A. between each other, and towards to the world – it is in those moments when we publicly showcase the love of God or share the good news that we experience ourselves significant growth and transformation.
Many more pertinent findings are shared and discussed in Move. I believe these discoveries are worth being considered by church leaders, particularly as they reflect upon the means and ways in which they seek to cultivate growth and change in people’s lives. Ultimately, it is God who brings about transformation – but we have our part of intentionally positioning and posturing ourselves (and our churches) in the stream of God’s transforming grace and truth, and Move, helps us towards that end.
A significant part of our calling as followers of Christ is to be, “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Sadly, our effectiveness in this area has not been so great – particularly in North America. Why is this the case? I believe we find our answer in Luke 5:1-11. In this story Jesus, after he finished teaching the people from a boat belonging to Simon Peter, speak these words to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (5:4). But Simon responds, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” This response clearly captures the current status of the church – working hard with little or no results. As I reflect on my years in pastoral ministry, as well as those of my colleagues, I see countless hours of energy and effort having been exerted in outreach programs and services which have born very little fruit in regards to fish catching. The early disciples were professional fishermen, they knew when and where to fish – at night and in shallow waters – but this was not working for them. As professional pastors we think we know how to get a great catch – put on a great, attractive, dynamic program that meets the needs of people and is marked by excellence. But this is not working for us (and when it looks like it is working, you can be sure that this is primarily due to transfer growth at the expense of other churches). Perhaps the way forward is to heed the words of Simon Peter to Jesus, “because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Jesus called those first disciples to something different, out of the box – to cast their nets out into deep waters. And because Jesus said so they did, and as result caught an overwhelming amount of fish. Jesus is, similarly, calling the church of today to cast their nets out into deep waters – into uncharted territory away from the safe and shallow waters we have acclimated ourselves to. Where are these deep waters? The answer to that question can only come as we intimately abide in Christ and open ourselves to hearing his voice – it is in this posture that we will hear His “say so” to us. One thing is certain though, wherever he may lead, is that it will require entering into the lives of people deeply … willing to descend into their pain, loneliness, anguish, despair and sadness - and incarnating the love, truth and grace of Jesus for them in real and tangible ways. This will require graciously welcoming them as they are, patiently listening to their stories, compassionately identifying with their struggles and doubts, clearly speaking into their lives the Good News of the Kingdom … in essence, loving them with a deep love – the love of God.
Leadership is not so much about answering questions as it is about asking the right questions – questions that ultimately propel people forward into a fruit-bearing, kingdom venture. As I began my ministry of leading and pastoring people many moons ago, I understood my role to be that of a bestower of wisdom, insight and understanding – providing answers to people’s questions about life, ministry and purpose. But that created a form of leadership that was (is) dysfunctional – it made people dependent upon me as the purveyor of truth, and it robbed them of their own journey of wrestling towards an answer. As I grow in my leadership, I am recognizing that my role and function should end more often with a question mark than with a period.
Here are some of the questions that I am asking in my life and ministry these days, particularly as it relates to motivating and mobilizing people towards a quest of missional engagement and impact in our world:
1) Who Are We? (Or asked differently, whose are we?) – This question is concerned with establishing our identity as followers of Christ. How we perceive ourselves at our core greatly influences how we behave and act. Imagine people beginning to answer this question by seeing themselves as the bride of Christ, the house of God, embassies of the kingdom, a holy priesthood, sons and daughters of the most high, the beloved, and so forth. If we truly grasped who we are in Christ – I can only begin to envision how that would powerfully recalibrate and reshape the way we would live and minister as believers!
2) Why Are We Here? Though intimately connected to the first question – this question is concerned with ascertaining our mission, purpose, mandate … our raison d’être. Some may ask this question in a different manner – What are we to do and accomplish? But these are really two separate questions that need to be kept distinct. The “what” question addresses issues of practices, steps and actions. The “why” question gets to the roots below these steps … the paradigm behind the praxis. The missional conversation that is occuring these days is helping many churches recapture their ‘sentness’ as believers – a key piece to answering this question.
3) Why Do We Do The Things We Do? This question gets at our motives – it helps us uncover our values. For example, what we measure, count and evaluate in our churches is fueled by how we answer this question. Aubrey Malphurs states, “You won’t do ministry that really matters until you define what matters.”
4) Where are we going? Is there an immediate horizon and/or a distant horizon that God is calling you and your church to? This question goes after the matter of vision and what is ahead. When you look into the future what do you see – where does your imagination take you?
5) How are we going to get there? Once we have established a destination we need to create a M.A.P. (missional action plan), a strategy or pathway to get us there. This will involve determining the necessary steps needed for the journey. This question could also be asked – what are we going to do to accomplish our mission? A word of caution here – remember that the medium is the message, and that what you draw people with, you draw them to. For example, a church decides that as part of their outreach strategy they offer an annual, top notch community dinner venue - which includes bringing in a Christian sport celebrity to deliver the main address/testimony. What this church needs to realize is that in their use of a sport celebrity guest speaker, they are communicating to their audience that – at the least – some kind connection exists between celebrity-ism and the good news, as well as with it’s role in cultivating people’s relationship with God.
6) When will we know that we have arrived? Here the focus is on the more concrete characteristics of the destination – the fruit of our efforts. Here the outcomes usually comprise of both qualitative (i.e. increase our church’s passion for prayer over the next six months) and quantitative measurements (i.e. plant 2 churches in the next year). With this question it is wise to heed the words of Einstein, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Taking a leadership team through a process that creates the context for the team to prayerfully and biblically work through these questions in unity and openess, can do wonders towards seeing a church body move in greater aligment in their quest of missional impact. What do you think would happen to the church in America if local churches became intentional in working through these questions together, and started to live out their answers with passion and focus? Do you think we would see a change in our neighborhoods and cities?