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“Leadership is influencing people – by providing purpose, direction, and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization!” Where did this excellent quote on leadership come from? Interesting but it comes directly out of the official Army Leadership Manual. This description fits exactly what the church, the army of the Lord, should be focusing on. Three words stand out needing more of our attention and understanding.

The first is influencing! This means motivating and loving others in the mission for the mission. As leaders we are to influence people into an active relationship with Christ, with the church, and in their community. We need to develop a system that gives people the tools they need to stay on the path of spiritual vitality. Church systems are to be reproducible and interconnected processes by which the church actualizes and achieves its mission.

The second is operating!  As leaders we are called upon to create plans, develop systems and manage their execution so that the mission is achieved. Our role is to help people find and follow Jesus. Do we have a clear discipleship pathway and a leadership development pipeline? Do people know what “next steps” they need to take as they progress in their spiritual maturity? Please notice the emphasis is on the mission and not on the individual. God is all about the team!

The third is improving! There is always room for improvement and we should all want to get better in everything we do. A great way to improve your team is by dedicating ourselves to adding value to those around us and to the organization for the betterment of the mission. If we want to change tomorrow we need to begin doing the necessary things and taking the necessary steps today. Once again make sure you think of a clear process of next steps people need to take.

The key concept is reproducible and it is not reproducible if it is too complicated and confusing. Confusion on what to do next paralyzes any organization and brings an advancing army to a screeching halt. This is why II Timothy 2:2 defines a clear process. “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Our responsibility is to create the pathways to a clear and understandable goal.

Systems are needed and necessary to sustain the relational capitol you have work diligently to build up. Gary Rohrmayer writes, “Functional structures are the links that enable all the church systems to function harmoniously.”

Here are five areas with key questions that will help you keep your structures effective.

  1. Mission outcomes – what results are you looking to achieve?
  2. Ministry flow – what are the steps needed to achieve those results?
  3. Focus on organization structure – who will ensure that those results are being achieved?
  4. Organization flow – how do we keep people informed and involved as we achieve our goal?
  5. Focus on charting the course – how do we keep our structures effective? We need to know where we are headed and what success looks like to us. Focus on goals, steps, who is responsible, how do you cast the vision, and how can you be effective.

What do healthy and unhealthy systems look like? Here are a few thoughts I heard recently on healthy systems while attending Courage to Lead preconference at Exponential West 2017.

You must place high trust in your leaders by allowing them to lead. Sometimes team leaders are given a position with no authority but that will eventually create problems and frustrate them as they realize they have responsibility but are powerless to do anything about it.

They need to earn that trust with a proven track record. The trust level increases as information is given with clearly defined job descriptions. Remember, confusion paralyzes so a trusted leader is one who communicates well where they are headed, how they are going to get there, and how you can best help them in that journey. Resist the temptation to micromanage. Empower them to make decisions and oversee their ministry in a Christ honoring way.

Have very few committees but have a lot of conversations. Being over structured almost always guarantees less effectiveness. The best decisions are always made as a team in a group and not on an island. Those you lead will not buy-in unless they are given the opportunity to weigh-in. Develop an information process that gives everyone the right to be creative and to offer feedback. Allow decisions to be made at the lowest possible level.

Celebrate the right things and have fun along the journey. When you see something that is being effective you first want to celebrate it but you also want to do more of it. Do not allow team members to sit around with frowns on their faces. Remind them that the joy of the Lord is their strength. The question we must ask is whether the frowns on their faces are because they are imitating us? Someone creates the atmosphere and environment so make sure it is a positive one.

Stay simple and do not allow the system to become too complicated. If you are having meeting upon meetings and nothing is really working then the system is broke and needs an overhaul. Think about downsizing the busyness and focus on becoming simple. Bureaucracy is defined as an administration characterized by too much red tape and routine. Make sure you are not just meeting to meet. There must be a defined purpose for the meeting.

Think through the “Army Way” by focusing on influencing, operating, and improving. This way you can focus on executing the mission you have been called by the commander-in-chief to carry out!


Keep It Simple


Years ago, I remember being told before I preached not to forget K. I. S. S. (Keep it Short Stupid). There are other versions I have heard though the years and the word stupid, I am sure, is no longer politcally correct (tongue firmly placed against cheek). It has been used more often to stand for Keep it Simple Stupid.  That is great advice for our lives, families, and churches.

All too often we fall prey to the “more is better” mantra thinking that the busier we are the more effective we will be. That is not necessarily so! Much has been written, and is being said, about simplifying our lives and making them less complex.  Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger have written Simple Church. Recently Bill Hybels released Simplify.

In Good to Great by Jim Collins he says, “Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding ‘to-do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works.”  Dave Browning in Deliberate Simplicity says, “If the paradigm doesn’t work, executing the paradigm better actually makes it worse.”

While simplicity is needed, the reality is that simple is not easy and takes a lot of hard work. In the Leadership Journal, Angie Ward makes this clear, “Simple Church is a great, easy-to-understand concept that many churches need to hear. But the process implementing it is not all that simple. My fear is that the difficulty of the process will get lost on readers who are looking for a quick fix for their ministry.” She later says, “The philosophy is simple. The process is not!” Exactly!!!

Think about the word simple. It is actually quite complex with at least eleven definitions in the dictionary.

  • Simple is defined as easy to understand and deal with such as in a simple matter.
  • Simple is described as plain; not elaborate or artificial as in a simple style.
  • It means unadorned, not ornate or luxurious like a simple gown.
  • Simple is defined as not complicated and implies a simple design.
  • It can also mean singular, common, ordinary, and refers to the fundamentals. It can describe a simple way of life and refer to simple folk.

We need to think simple in our churches and ministries and here are a couple of guidelines:

  • First, make sure you present and handle the gospel well. The gospel must be handled carefully and correctly. It really is the simple plan of salvation but the doctrine of salvation must be covered well in explaining sin, repentance, and redemption. Every believer should be able to sit down with a pre-believer and show them God’s requirements on how to be born again. Every church should equip every member in how to biblically present the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sound theology is not complicated but it is imperative.
  • Second, have a clear vision of who your church is and why you exist. Be careful to focus on the 2-3 things you do well instead of the 50-60 you do so-so. The New Testament metric was loving God and loving others. Your church needs to stay centered (Love God More) through worship, it needs to stay connected (Love People More) through community, and it needs to stay concerned (Love More People) through outreach. It really is simple but it is not very easy.
  • Third, have a process of discipleship where everyone understands the next steps. What are those next steps and what do they look like? The early church was focused on relationships and did not have all the programs we think are essential today. There is nothing wrong with programs but are they producing disciples? It is easy to become bogged down with time-consuming activities that are tiring but not effective.

When focusing on keeping it simple it is good to remember Meyer’s Law which says, “It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.” It is easy to be complex and allow more and more frenetic activity to rule the day.

Keeping it simple requires:

  • A lot of prayer! In Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning says, “God has been extraordinarily gracious and kind to us, and if He were ever to withdraw His hand of blessing, our ministry would fall like a house of cards.” How true that is, and if we desire God’s direction we must spend time in our prayer closets seeking His face.
  • A lot of brain-storming and thinking! In Divine Mentor, Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as thinking in the presence of God. There is a partnership between us and Him. There is no doubt that we cannot do it without Him but He has chosen to use us for His glory. We must work hard to cooperate with Him in where He is leading and working.
  • A lot of discipline and saying no! Keeping it simple requires a lot more time and attention. It requires meeting with staff and team leaders to make sure that everyone is on the same page protecting the vision. Praying together and planning together as a team can help to ensure that you are focused on working smarter and not just harder. We must keep asking, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?”

Here are a few more quotes to consider in your desire to keep it simple:

  • “In our increasingly complex world, nothing works more powerfully than simplicity.” – Howard Beckwith.
  • “The secret of concentration is elimination.” – Howard Hendricks.
  • “The real work isn’t acquisition. It is good reliable filtering.” – Eric Garland.

Keeping it simple means focusing on the crystal clear commands of Jesus Christ in Matt. 22:37-40, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Make sure you ask the following questions about your vision, values, ministries, and systems:

  • Is it easy to follow and understand?
  • Is it reproducible?
  • Is it transferable?

More Than a Pep Rally

Most of us have been to a pep rally at some time in our lives or a sporting event where we cheer for our team.  There is some humor and a lesson that can be learned from our participation as fans at one of these events.  The trumpet blows followed by everyone standing and yelling, “Charge!”  Then we all sit down to eat our hot dogs, popcorn, and nachos.  We aren’t in the game and we do not know the game plan.  We are only spectators!

Every team has a particular cheer or song that unites everyone in the stadium.  In high school my sons played sports for the Ft. Gibson Tigers so every game we heard “The Eye of the Tiger.”  In college football the Razorbacks call the hogs, Oklahoma has Boomer Sooner, and Georgia has “Who Let the Dogs Out!”  In churches today we have a “Vision Statement’ that is meant to rally the troops in our churches to carry out God’s Great Commission.

Vision has the ability to excite people, rally them, and urge them to join in the game.  Vision statements are worthless without a game plan that will turn followers into spectators.  What is you process of discipleship and does everyone in your church know how to get from point A to point B?  Vision needs an easy step-by-step reproducible process to ensure progress toward its fulfillment.  Every member should know what that process is and be able to explain it to others.

Churches should be good at welcoming people, inviting people, and building relationships with people outside of the church.  One problem is that when they are ready to join the team there is no system in place to show them the step-by-step process for greater involvement.  Some may say, “That doesn’t sound very spiritual and you don’t need a system!”  The truth is that not having a system is a system but not a very good one.

In Church in the Making Ben Arment describes a system as “the way your organization operates.  It’s a series of steps that are repeated (or not repeated) as a way of accomplishing your goals.”  If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound scriptural, Paul gave Timothy a system when he said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” 

When a church understands its unique vision (if members cannot articulate it easily they don’t understand it) then you can then begin the process of developing a system to carry out that vision.  The system should always serve the vision, protect the vision, and help carry out the vision.  Clear vision enables leaders to navigate difficult times and hard decisions because they know where they are headed.  A church can become the victim of circumstances unless it has a clearly defined unapologetic vision.   

Here are a couple of quotes on vision from Thom Rainer; “A vision statement can be concise and clear but unless it is communicated well, it has little power…It isn’t enough to talk about vision from the pulpit.  It must be lived out by the leaders…An unclear vision statement can actually do more harm than good.”  When you know what God wants you to do and how He wants you to carry it out in your context it gives you the freedom to do it and the liberty to not do anything outside His vision for your church!

Vision is important but without a system in place to sustain the vision it can easily just become a pep rally.  Everyone gets excited for a moment but then they sit down and are not involved in the process.  Vision is where you compare the present reality with a desired future.  This is where people are asking what it means to be a disciple and how they can be more involved.  Here is where you Engage them Personally.

People must know you heard them when they said they wanted to be more committed to your vision.  When they are ready to take the next step(s) everyone needs to know what those next steps are.  Systems enable people to know how to move from an observer to a seeker to a follower and then to investors of their lives into the vision.  This is phase 2 where you begin Equipping then in Practical Ways

The reason you create a system is to make you more effective at achieving your vision.  You must consider what it takes to reach people, what it takes to keep them moving forward in their faith journey, what it takes to keep them engaged, what it takes to equip them for the journey, and what it takes for them to be effective disciples.  This is where systems fit in the big picture.  They Empower a Process that is easily reproducible and sustainable.  We will be discussing in the weeks to come systems that give our vision the opportunity for long success!