Archives for : Vision

Quit Digging a Hole

It has been said, “If you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging.” That certainly sums up many other statements that could be made about a church that is no longer healthy.  Yet, all too often, that church continues to do the very things that made her unhealthy.  In The Unstuck Church, Tony Morgan says, “What got the church on life support will not make it healthy again.” There is such a need to consider prayerful evaluation of where your church is (healthy versus unhealthy), why it is unhealthy, and what needs to be done to make it healthy again. 

There is another saying that goes like this, “Hope springs eternal.”  The problem is that biblical godly hope is not just a pie in the sky dream.  It is more than just wishful thinking.  Romans 5:5 says, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  You see the hope of God will not disappoint because He acted on that hope and came to provide us a way to have a relationship with Him.  It is not enough to think that hoping things will change will actually produce healthy change.

We constantly say things like; “I sure hope someone fixes that”, “I sure hope someone shares the gospel with them”, or “I sure hope things get better.”  Hope by itself alone will not win people to Jesus, disciple new converts, plant a church, keep a church healthy, or get a dying church off life support.  The reality is that hope is not a strategy and you need a plan to quit digging and know what to do after the digging stops.  God had a strategy to deliver hope, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”  (Gal 4:4)

How do you stop digging deeper?  Begin by evaluating where you are and if you are healthy.  

First, will you develop a clear and compelling vision that all of your people can clearly articulate.  A lack of vision is one characteristic that shows up in churches that begin to drift from their mission and begin to decline. Your vision needs to specifically describe the next steps your church will take to begin getting healthy by developing healthy steps and practices for your people to take.  Mission is why you exist and is where you are headed.

Second, how will you make disciples and what does discipleship look like in your church?  Jim Putman in Real Life Discipleshipdescribes discipleship as an intentional leader, with a relational environment, and a reproducible process.  Discipleship that is complicated and confusing will not produce healthy disciples.  Chances are they will not produce disciples at all.  Do you have a reproducible process with clear steps that moves people from where they are to where God wants then to be?  These steps lead from spiritual birth to spiritual parenthood. 

Third, how will you lead your church to remain outwardly focused with a heart of generosity?  The church does not exist only for those who are already there. Tony Morgan in The Unstuck Churchsays, “It’s impossible for any church to be healthy and experience growth if nothing they do is designed to reach people who are outside the faith and outside the church.”  You must prioritize people who are outside your church by showing them the love of Christ in practical ways.  You have to quit digging the hole of only focusing on who is already there. 

The second part of this is by being a generous church.  Ask yourself whether or not your church leans toward being generous or protecting and holding on to what you have?  When we lean toward being a generous church then we lean more toward being like Christ.  When we lean toward being stingy then we lean further away from Him.  Romans 5:5 says, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  His loved was poured out to us so that we would pour that love out to others. 

This principle of generosity is stressed in Galatians 6 by telling us we should not get tired of doing good and with every opportunity we have we should labor for the good of everyone.  This biblical principle of practicing generosity should always characterize how we treat those outside the church.  We should remain generous regardless of how many times we think that people have taken advantage of our generosity.  Resist the temptation to focus on maintenance and preservation of what you already have.  God gave you what you have to invest it into His kingdom work! 

 Fourth, lead your church in these areas with strength and courage.  You must do whatever is necessary to get your church healthy and reach new people with the gospel.  Some will want to continue digging the hole deeper and deeper but you must lead them to lay down their shovels and crawl out of the hole.  There will be opposition but you cannot wait for everyone to get on board.  Pray hard and then begin to develop a plan of attack on how you will get healthy, your church leaders will be healthy, and then so your church will be healthier.  

Lead your people with a vision of making disciples who make disciples.  The time is now to become a strong leader. Until you begin to make the necessary changes to become healthy the plan has only been a conversation.  Once you begin to take the actual steps toward becoming healthy there will be opposition.  Not everyone will be happy that you have decided to stop digging the hole deeper and deeper.  Lead anyway toward biblical church health!    


Good Idea


“Is it a ‘Good’ idea or a ‘God’ idea?”

This challenge from my pastor, Todd West, caused me to consider all the decisions I do make and are they directed by the Lord?  He shared that the USA Today reported that every individual can make up to 35,000 decisions a day.  Wow, that’s a lot but when you consider how many decisions we make as second nature it does add up.  But what about the bigger decisions we are faced with?  We are faced with choices every day where we must discern God’s direction and leading in our lives correctly.

Nehemiah had a big decision as he was challenged to do something about his hometown Jerusalem.  He was passionate about his desire to see the walls rebuilt and the city restored to its former glory.  The book of Nehemiah is often used to teach excellent leadership principles and in this area of discerning between a ‘good’ idea and a “God’ idea it serves us well again.  There is a huge difference between a whim, an impulse, or a desire and knowing 100% that God is behind our thoughts and plans!

Todd then gave us 6 principles of how to discern between a ‘Good’ idea and a ‘God’ idea based on Neh 2:17-18, “But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!”  Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.  They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.” (NLT)

Principle #1:  God Ideas Start with a Burden – Nehemiah saw the condition of Jerusalem and he was greatly troubled by it.  The burden grew and he knew he had to do something.  The burden increased and it remained on his heart calling him to action.  He could not escape this “God” idea!  The King noticed his sadness and even wondered why he was depressed.

Principle #2:  God Ideas Contain Present Reality – His hometown was laying in ruins and the situation was very bad.  There are some who always want to be optimistic, no matter what, but Nehemiah admitted that something was wrong and needed to be done.  He took a step towards being a part of the solution realizing He needed God’s help and the help of others.

Principle #3:  God Ideas Can Be Clearly Stated – Nehemiah was able to articulate the vision of what needed to be done next.  “Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!”  If you cannot clearly state the next move God desires you to take then you should wait until you can.  If it is a little fuzzy to you it will be very foggy to those you are leading.

Principle #4:  God Ideas Show Evidence of God’s Approval – Nehemiah said this, “Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me.”  Have you prayed and sought His mind on the matter the same way Nehemiah did?  Has God opened doors you could not have opened on your own and you clearly see him in this idea?  You see His movement and His hand!

Principle #5:  God Ideas are Affirmed by Godly People – When Nehemiah shared the vision with them they said, “Let’s start rebuilding” and they were encouraged to do this good work!  There is wisdom in the multitude of counsel.  If Godly people you trust cannot see it you need to step back, reevaluate, and seek the face of the Lord.  Seek Godly wise counsel!

Principle #6:  God Ideas are Always Met with Opposition – The walls begin to be rebuilt but there were those who were against it from the beginning.  Those people are still with us today!  Nehemiah had to go to work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.  While he was building he also had to be prepared for battle.  If you don’t want any opposition then don’t do anything!  Oh, and then they will complain that you aren’t doing anything!

Principle #7:  God Ideas are very Unique to You! – ( I added principle #7!) There are many good things you can be involved in but God has a calling on your life and a purpose for you.  God has uniquely created you and gifted you to fulfill His purposes and bring glory to His name.  Good ideas are plentiful but God’s perfect will for your life is distinctive and requires asking His direction!

Good ideas are plentiful.  Everyone has a lot of what they think are “good” ideas but making sure it is a “God” idea takes seeking His face, being in His presence, and knowing it is what God has for you at this time and place.  When it is a God idea you are passionate about it and it consumes your thoughts and motivates you every single day.  Make sure your “good” ideas are “God” ideas!



Is your church focused on the past, the present, or the future?  When churches first begin they seem to be focused on the future and have visionary leaders who are risk-takers.  After the church begins to settle in and become comfortable they have a focus on the present congregation.  The status-quo sneaks up on them and the leadership becomes care-givers.  Some where along the life-cycle of the church the members begin talking about the good ole’ days and their focus is now on the past.  They want things to return to how they use to be but the reality is that nostalgia has sugar coated how it really was.  If this congregation is not careful the leadership will become undertakers and the church will die as the older members graduate to heaven.

First, are you focused on the future?  Visionary leaders will not trade off what is better for the future for what is easier in the present.  Visionary leaders have discerned God’s will for their church and they are fully committed to carrying it out.  They are like Joshua and Caleb who saw the obstacles in the promised just like the other ten spies but choose to believe God would help them to be overcomers.  Visionary leaders have a resolve to be true to God’s direction even though their are skeptics, naysayers, doubters, and even enemies to the vision God has given them.  They are like Paul who said in I Cor 16:9, “because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me —yet many oppose me.”  There will always be opposition but visionary leaders are determined to love people while being obedient to the vision God has given them for their church.

Churches focused on the future have a vision to impact their communities with the gospel.  Their priority is the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment.  They are not just focused on gathering but scattering to be salt and light in their neighborhoods.   They realize that every member is called to live as a missionary in their zip code.  They are not afraid to experiment and try new things as long as the gospel is presented clearly and biblically.  The church focused on the future has leadership who invest a lot of time and energy in pursuing God’s vision with an expectation that He will in fact guide them.  They practice a high-risk faith!

Second, are you focused on the present?  Things were going so well, at one time, that the temptation and desire was to freeze time.  The eventual outcome was turning innovation, in the beginning, into the traditions of tomorrow.  Habits became routines and unfortunately people began to just go through the motions.  The church of the present becomes very good at “doing church” but forgets about being the church.  The church of the “present” has a solid congregation with solid finances.  They have good programs, good staff, and very nice facilities.  Unfortunately, many become focused on their rights as members and a sense of entitlement begins to permeate though the congregation instead of a spirit of enlistment into service.  The church of the present becomes program-driven and no one is allowed to monkey with the machinery of the ministry already set in motion.

Churches focused on the present give priority to who is already there It has been said well, “In reach has its own voice, but outreach needs an advocate!”  Whenever a church begins to ignore its community it will ultimately find itself plateauing and eventually one  the backside of the life-cycle.  many times because of multiple ministries there are multiple visions and core values trying to co-exist.  The main focus becomes the programs and filling the positions needed to make sure that the machinery chugs along.  These leaders are totally committed to following God but are also committed to guarding and protecting what is “proven” and true.  They practice a low-risk faith!

Third, are you a church that is focused on the past?  This church talks about the glory days when Bro So-and-So was here.  The vision to penetrate the culture and impact their community is gone.  They have become slaves to the programs that were once effective and served a wonderful purpose in their day.  They are unwilling to change anything because that would mean admitting their mistakes and having to make some very hard decisions.  Churches focused on the past are overly fascinated with organizational charts, committee meetings, budgets, and business meetings.  Future-oriented churches are vision-driven.  Present-oriented churches are program-driven.  Past-oriented churches are structure-driven.  There is nothing “wrong” with many of the things they are doing but the structure becomes all-consuming!

These leaders desire to go back to some former time in the church.  The innovations of their former glory days became the traditions of the present day church but then became legalism.  While vision-driven churches are focused on the community and the program-driven churches are focused on the congregation the structure-driven church becomes consumed with the core.  One church consultant makes this observation, “Key influencers in this core often prove to be barriers to growth as they remain entrenched in their authority and hold the congregation hostage by means of authority and influence.”  This church practices a no-risk faith!

Healthy churches are future-focused, vision-driven, community-focused, and practice a high-risk faith!


Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Recently, I saw some dead horse strategies shared on Twitter.  I did a little investigating and found various lists on a couple of different web sites.  Honestly, I am not sure who should get the credit but this list is my compilation of what I felt were the top 21.   

One site shared Dakota tribal wisdom which says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.  Sometimes in the church we “beat dead horses” (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results).  Here are some Dead Horse Truths that will probably make you laugh but I pray will also cause us to do some soul-searching:

  • Buy a Stronger Whip.
  • Change Riders.
  • Threaten the horse with termination.
  • Name the dead horse “Paradigm Shift” and keep riding it.
  • Ride the dead horse “outside the box.”
  • Ride the dead horse “smarter” not harder.
  • Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.
  • Keep saying, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Appoint a committee to study the horse.
  • Increase the standards to ride dead horses.
  • Appoint team to revive the dead horse.
  • Create training to increase riding ability.
  • Pass a resolution stating, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Arrange visits to other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
  • Declare ‘this horse is not too dead to beat.”
  • Provide additional funding to increase dead horse’s performance.
  • Form a commission to find uses for dead horses.
  • Re-classify the dead horse as “living-impaired.”
  • Get the horse a Web site.
  • Promote the horse to a supervisory position.

I imagine that a few of these sounded familiar to you as they did to me.    Hopefully, this will cause you to do some evaluation by asking two questions:

            1.  What is God saying to you through this humorous comparison?

            2.  What are you going to do about it? 

If even a couple of these are a part of your strategy you need to consider a new strategy! 

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!