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Paradigm Shifts


Today you hear a lot about the need for change or a “paradigm shift.”  Those who love new things and experimenting love this concept while others are not so sure.  A paradigm is defined as a typical example or pattern of something; a model.  A paradigm “shift” has been defined as a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions and a ​time when the ​usual and ​accepted way of doing or ​thinking about something ​changes ​completely.

Truth never changes but there are times we must evaluate assumptions, perceptions, and the way we are carrying out the Great Commission.  A paradigm shift is needed when the rules of the game change.  This is why Paul was so masterful in how he handled the Greeks, Romans,  Jews, and the Judaizers.  You see, a paradigm defines reality for the situation we are in and we must be aware of our audience and of the culture in which we are ministering.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paradigm shifts can correct past problems but they are not a fix all.  The reality is that new problems will arise.  Great paradigm shifts are occurring in churches, denominations, and in leadership.  These are usually needed because of momentum created by a certain focus that causes the pendulum to swing too far one way or the other.  One paradigm shift that should be applauded by all is in evangelism.  The goal has shifted away from scoring a decision to securing a disciple!

In Revolution in Leadership, Reggie McNeal says, “Paradigms inform both vision and values in people and in organizations.  They drive actions as well as influence attitudes.”  Paradigm shifts help us to refocus and to place the importance back where it needs to be because somewhere along the way we drifted.  This is why Reggie McNeal also says, “God has given each denominational system the freedom to become completely irrelevant or to be a relevant servant of the churches.”  Just remember “perception becomes reality.”

This is why our office has stressed so strongly, “Churches do not exist to serve us but we exist to serve churches and help you carry out the Great Commission.”  The center of the mission of God is the local church (Eph.3:10).  There are a couple of paradigm shifts here that are occurring:

  • From a church has a mission to God’s mission has a church to carry it out!
  • From missions driven by an office or organization to missions driven by a local church!
  • From the mission field being “over there” to we live in a mission field!
  • From we will send our money to accomplish missions to we will also get personally involved!
  • From planting churches to planting churches that plant churches!

Never fear, there is still plenty of work for us to do in coming alongside churches to help them develop their missionaries through assessment, training, and coaching.  Also, we have a network that enables everyone to help financially in getting missionaries and church planters to the field.

Churches are also going through paradigm shifts:

  • From being inwardly focused to becoming outwardly focused!
  • From being performance focused to concentrating on developing disciples!
  • From busyness and frenetic activity to spiritual health and vitality!
  • From one doing everything to the team being trained to do the work of the ministry!
  • From seating capacity to sending capacity!

What paradigm shifts might you or your church need to consider?  How well are people progressing in their spiritual walks?  Are you making disciples who are making disciples?  Is your church behaving like the body of Christ is supposed to behave?  What are the easiest changes you could make to get back on the right path?

The two biggest mistakes many churches make is, first, an unwillingness to evaluate their spiritual health.  The problem is that we know how to count but we do not know how to measure.  The second is this, an unwillingness to take the necessary steps the evaluation uncovers.  Once we discover our errors we must first repent and then begin to take the necessary steps for our behavior to change.

Healthy churches are willing to embrace paradigm shifts that are directed by the Holy Spirit!

Blind Spots – We All Need Outside Eyes

Blind Spots

     Everybody has a blind spot!  While riding in a friend’s rental car the other day I noticed that this particular model had quite a blind spot and made it difficult to see cars when changing lanes.  All vehicles do, even though some people still refuse to turn their neck and double check, and you must be careful to make sure you do not hit someone.  There are also blind spots in our lives that seemingly we do not see what can be very apparent to others.  It is a good thing to have another set of eyes to help us see things that otherwise would go unnoticed. 

     In a recent article When You Church is in a Slump Thom Rainer talks about the need for a church to seek the advice of a leader from outside your church.  He says, “Sometimes that person was the pastor of another church.  On other occasions it was a denominational leader or a church consultant. “  Outside eyes can see what maybe you can easily overlook and notice situations we have become desensitized to over time.  This is why golfers have coaches who watch their golf swing and analyze their mechanics.  They film it, slow it down frame by frame, and study the film to help their client perform at their best.

     There is a tool called the Johari Window that reminds us of the need for outside eyes because of the blind spots we all have.  There are four quadrants in this tool that describe what you and others know or do not know about yourself:

  • First, there is what is OPEN to all. This is what you know about yourself and what others know about you.
  • Second, the opposite of what is open to all is the UNKNOWN This is what you do not know about yourself and others do not know it either.
  • Third, is that which is HIDDEN in your life. It is known to you but it is not known to others.  This is who you are when no one else is watching.
  • Lastly, is the BLIND SPOT! Others know this about you or observe it but you have no self-awareness in this particular area.   

The real key is making the Blind Spot and Unknown areas smaller by becoming more self-aware and by maturing in Christ.  I Cor. 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

     Churches have blind spots also.  This is why Rainer challenges a church to get someone from the outside to help determine their current reality!  We all know that sometimes we cannot see the “trees for the forest!”  Churches can deceive themselves!  Rev 3:17 says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”  The church at Laodecia clearly had a blind spot!   The first step to a “preferred future” is a clear prognosis of your “present reality.”  

     How do you uncover blind spots in your life and in your church?

  • Pray and ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to see! (Psa 139:23-24)
  • Meet with your church’s leadership to evaluate your effectiveness! (Acts 14:26-27)
  • Don’t be scarred of, or offended by, constructive criticism! (Gal 4:16)
  • Find a Coach/Mentor who will challenge you and be honest with you! (Ecc 4:9-10)
  • Join a mentoring group where you can learn and encourage one another! (Pro 24:6)
  • Get together with several pastors and talk about what is working and what is not working in your churches! (Acts 21:18-19)
  • Use a survey tool for your membership to evaluate how healthy they believe your church is right now!
  • Compare your perspective with the perspective of your leadership and membership!
  • Research what other churches have done to turn their ministries around. Don’t compare or copy but learn from them.   Keep a teachable spirit.
  • Bring a coach/church consultant to help you uncover blind spots in your ministry! Someone who has been equipped to guide you towards a “preferred future.”

     Recently, another friend said this to me, “Larry you can’t see the blind spot in your life right now but here it is!”  He then described the situation and why this blind spot had developed.  Was it uncomfortable?  Yes!  Was he right?  Yes!  Was it helpful?  Absolutlely!  

     Healthy Christians and healthy churches invite others into their lives and their ministries to help them discover any blind spots they might have.  They are not afraid of outside eyes!!!