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Just Push the Easy Button

There are many programs and promotions today that seem to promise how to double your attendance in a certain amount of time.  They appear to promise amazing results if you will just follow their steps, strategies, and implement their systems.  It seems as if you really do not need God involved at all. As we have become more and more organizational and industrial we are no longer as spiritual and evangelistic.  We must be careful not to write God out of the equation and it should concern us greatly if we can double anything without His involvement in His church.

We do need systems in our churches but we also must remain focused on our absolute dependence on God showing up.  It is not the pastor’s job to gather a crowd, amaze them, and then collect their tithes.  It is his job to help every follower of Christ to discover the power and potential of the Holy Spirit living inside of him or her.  There is no sustainable or truly satisfactory answer apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Colossians 1:27 says, “God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of the mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”

Here are a couple of things to consider as you think of ways to reach more people and disciple them while remaining gospel-driven.

First, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Sometimes we become so heavenly minded that if we are not careful we are of no earthly good.  Pragmatism is not evil and sinful in and of itself.  We all evaluate certain things we do through what works and what doesn’t work.

Second, make sure that you remain focused on allowing the Holy Spirit of God to guide you and direct you.  Different people and ministries tend to lean toward being either time-driven or being goal-driven.   In our DCPI training we teach, “The time-driven are challenged by deadlines and pre-determined set dates.  In this approach, the calendar rules.  The goal-driven tend to move forward based on reaching their goals and objectives but a Spirit driven approach combines the time and objective driven approaches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

“This is the best approach.  Galatians 5:25 says it well, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.’  A Spirit Driven approach looks at the calendar plus the objectives and brings everything before the Lord for His timing. Timeline dates are pre-planned, but are always ‘written in pencil’ so they can be erased and changed based on the Spirit’s leading.  You make plans and decisions only after intense prayer and waiting on the Lord. Everything is subject to revision by the Holy Spirit!”

Third, develop a culture of prayer with an intentional prayer strategy. When you begin to develop a prayer system and ministry think about what these individuals have said about prayer.

Recently on a Sunday morning, a good friend texted the following quotes on prayer to me. They have challenged me and blessed me greatly.

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”  -Charles Spurgeon

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  – Andrew Murray

Here are a few more quotes for your consideration.

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”  – Oswald Chambers

“There is no other activity in life so important as that of prayer. Every other activity depends upon prayer for its best efficiency.”  – M.E. Andross.

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” – John Bunyan

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet.” – E. M. Bounds

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring it’s power down to earth.” – Andrew Murray

The truth and testimony of the power of prayer in these followers of Christ continues.

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” – Mother Teresa

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” -C.S. Lewis

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” – Rick Warren

The last three, for now, are a great summation of the importance of prayer.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” -Oswald Chambers

“He who kneels the most, stands the best.”  -D.L. Moody

Are reading these quotes do you believe your natural inclination is more toward a time-driven approach or a goal-driven approach? Do you thinkthat those working with you will be inclined toward the same approach that you are?

What steps will you take to ensure that your ultimate timing is a Spirit-driven approach?

  • Are you willing to do what is necessary to take the time to hear the Lord and allow Him to direct you in every area of your life and your ministry?
  • Plan a personal prayer retreat to hear from Him.  This is a time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.  It is in this setting that you can then ask Him what He wants you to do in your personal life, your family, and your ministry.

Fight the temptation to just push and play and instead fall prostate and pray!

Evaluating Your Systems

In his training book, Next Steps for Leading a Missional Church, Gary Rohrmayer says, “You need systems which are reproducible and interconnected processes; by which your church actualizes and achieves its mission.”  Your values drive your practices and your practices determine your results.  You need to ask if your systems are producing what you want them to produce.  Honest evaluation is needed.  Is your leadership development system producing the leaders you expected?  Is your evangelism system producing converts?

Our body has systems such as circulatory, nervous, and respiratory.  If one system fails we can find ourselves in quite a predicament.  When our systems function well we call ourselves healthy! Each system has an essential task to complete in a specific manner so that the rest of the body can continue to function properly.  The systems rely and depend on one another.  That is why church systems are so important because they put the essential processes in place that will help your church remain healthy and give it the ability to multiply.

  • You need to ask if the system you have built is reproducible.  Can it be easily understood and implemented?  Is it confusing to figure out and follow?  How does the system contribute to the reproductive nature of the church?
  • You should ask if the systems are interconnected.  How does the system connect with the rest of the systems needed?  Does it compliment and help the other systems?  Are the systems mutually benefiting the other systems through healthy cooperation?  The healthier the system the healthier the church will be.

            Do you have systems in place that provide a clear pathway for involvement and personal growth?  When you are developing systems you need to think through these steps.

  1. You need to consider mission outcomes.  What results are you looking to achieve?
  2. Consider how it assists in ministry flow?  What are the steps needed to achieve those results?
  3. Does it fit in your organizational structure?  Who will ensure that those results are being achieved?  Who is responsible to make this happen and have they been adequately trained?
  4. Think through a clear communication flow.  How will you cast vision in a way that keeps people informed and involved as you achieve your goal?
  5. Then you need to be able to start charting your course.  How will you keep your structures effective?  There must be constant evaluation and check-up! Remember, your systems are meant to actualize and achieve your church’s mission.  Are they?  This is the importance of taking the time to work on your ministry not just in your ministry.  Plan your Work and then Work your Plan!

Build margin into your ministry for reflection and application.  Evaluating your church systems requires asking great question about all of your systems whether that is assimilation, outreach
, finance, worship planning, or discipleship.

  • Do you have a functioning system for those areas and ministries?
  • What parts of each system are working well?
  • What new parts of each system would you like to implement?
  • Who will you ask to help you with each system?
  • As you evaluate you are always asking; what needs to be done and who needs to do it?

Make sure you also decide:

  • What pieces of each system will you upgrade in the next 3-4 months?
  • What do you hope to accomplish within the next 6 months?
  • Then think through realistically what it will take 12-18 months to implement.

 

This process will move forward when you have a leadership team in place that understands what needs to be done, who is going to get it done and when it needs to be done by.  Two of the greatest dangers of any ministry is first an unwillingness to evaluate and secondly, an unwillingness to utilize and implement what you discovered in the process.

When evaluating systems here are three things to think through to help in this process of actualizing and achieving your church’s mission.

  1. It will require an assessment.  If you are taking a look at your outreach system you must be able to describe its current condition.  What are your strengths and weaknesses in your present outreach system?  Assessment requires figuring out what needs to change, why, and how.  Second, it will require envisioning an implementation plan.  Transformation begins with defining your present reality.
  2. You must envision your preferred future so you can then develop steps to get there.  That is what a system does by providing a clear process.  You begin to think through 3-5 changes you can make in the next 90 days that will make a difference in your outreach system.  You must also decide how committed you are to making those changes.  On a scale of 1-10 how important is the change to you and are you willing to pay the price to make sure there is a change?  DCPI says if you are inclined to rate it less than a seven then it probably will not change.
  3. Then for change to occur begin setting goals. These are specific goals you believe are strategic and necessary for moving your church forward and becoming more effective.  These goals must be specific, attainable, and time sensitive.  What is the deadline for these goals to be implemented and who is responsible and accountable for them to actually happen?  Here is something to never forget about vision and seeing it become a reality:  Avision written down on paper does not ensure that it is accomplished – people do!

Effective churches utilize systems to carry out the vision that God has given them.  You need a team approach that helps encourage quality through careful and prayerful evaluation.  Do your practices confirm what you say your values are?  Values drive our practices and our practices determine out results!

Leadership 101 – Systems

In a recent leadership training this statement was challenging but rang true when Matt Perman said, “The result of management without leadership is that you will never get there.” With that being said, the next logical conclusion is that leadership without management means we will never sustain it. Systems enable us to sustain all of the relational capital we have worked so hard to build. We should never stop building relationships and loving people but we must also develop systems to help care for the relationships we now have.

Every church needs to take a hard look at developing systems that enable them to be more effective in caring for the people God has given them while remaining focused on reaching those who are far from God. We get so busy working in the ministry that we do not take enough time to work on the ministry. Francis Chan says, “The pastor is not the minister. The pastor is the equipper. Every member of the church is a minister.” With Ephesians 4:11-12 in view we then have to develop a process for training the team God has called us to minister.

One misconception is how many churches have adopted a culture where the pastor is expected to care for everyone. The reality is that this demands more than one man can handle. It is not the responsibility of the pastor to care for everyone but it is his responsibility to make sure that everyone is cared for. You cannot do that without a ministry care system in place where everyone knows his or her responsibilities. The focus shifts from overseeing everyone to training and equipping key people to help oversee the church and its ministries.

Effective churches utilize systems to carry out the vision that God has given them. The pastor needs a team approach that helps encourage quality. A vision written down on paper does not ensure that it is accomplished – people do! Good systems such as outreach, assimilation, worship planning, spiritual growth, ministry care, ministry placement, finance and reproduction save you stress, time, energy, money, and a lot of headaches. All you have to do is take a look at Moses with his father-in-law Jethro, Nehemiah, and Acts 6 to know this is true.

Here is one thing Dynamic Church Planting International has to say about the importance of systems. “In your church, everyone hopes that someone will be in charge. They hope that someone will think things through ahead of time. They hope that someone will come up with quality ways to attract people, lead them to Christ, disciple them and invite them to serve in ministry. They hope their donations will be handled well. They hope that the services will have quality and continuity. They hope that someone will pray for them, befriend them, and communicate with them.”

The need for systems is not only for church plants. It is also imperative for any church running 40-50 and above. There is a great need to evaluate the systems you have because of how desperately they are needed. DCPI continues on the importance of systems, “They (people in your church) hope that someone will introduce them to a more significant life than they are leading now. This job belongs to the leader. The only way the leader can make this happen is to develop systems that ensure every system works every day of the week, every week of the year.”

Here are a few things to think about in developing systems:

  1. Determine your values because values drive your practices, which then determine your results in the areas of your systems.   DCPI states, “Cars are designed to transport people. Medicines are designed to cure people. Machines are designed to manufacture toys, clocks or other gadgets. The systems you designed are giving your church exactly what they were designed to do, whether you like it or not. So, if you want your church to reach more people and grow in Christ, you will have to design your systems well.”
  2. Train your people how to develop systems. DCPI training covers 10 ministry issues such as designing an implementation plan, teaching the 12 Biblical Principles as applicable to church systems, gives over 25 ministry skills for the phases of church growth, and shows how your church size impacts your ministry. It also helps you think through how to deal with discouragement, difficult people, and time demands. It walks you through what pastoral transitions should look like.
  3. There are at least eight necessary systems that must be undergirded by the word of God and much prayer. Every system must go through both of those filters to ensure you are headed in His direction and not yours. Those systems are Reproductive, Outreach, Assimilation, Worship Service Planning, Spiritual Growth, Pastoral Care, Ministry Placement, and Financial. If you desire to see your team become more effective then you must be committed to giving them the tools they need.
  4. Work ON your ministry not just in the ministry. It has been said before but is worth repeating – Plan your Work and then Work your Plan! Over the next several weeks we will try to unpack what each of these systems might look like and how you can get them up and running. Values determine practices and then your practices determine results. Your values determine your priorities. Remember, people will lose their way if they lose their why!

THE ARMY WAY

“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

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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!