Compelling Environments

Having designed hundreds of strategies during the last decade, I find that there are three dominant environments that every local church is attempting to create: worship environments, connecting environments, and serving environments. Each one plays a significant role in transmitting and realizing the vision. Most important, amid a missional reorientation we must acknowledge that our environments have tended to be an end and not a means to Christian mission. The missional leader must constantly show that the church gathered is actually a time of preparation for “being the church” outside its walls.

First, you need to remember that before you think you are casting vision, you already are – by how you worship.

The pattern of weekly worship and Sabbath was embedded into the fabric of early church culture. Every church has some environment for worship. The question is, How does your vision integrate into your worship? What aspects of the vision are communicated during the worship experience? How do the elements and order of worship communicate values? How does the vision itself affect the design of the worship space? The vision of raw simplicity in a Quaker meetinghouse is a stark contrast to a large downtown stained-glass sanctuary.

Worship keeps our grandest visions God-centered and Jesus focused.

Second, everything must be integrated relationally.

What would church be without relationships? Every church draws people into some kind of setting where the “one anothers” of Scripture are applied. The groups may be tight-knit, gender accountability groups of three to six, or they may be thirty to forty people in an on-campus adult Bible Fellowship. Your Kingdom Concept and your Vision Frame reflect some basic unit of community through which relationships can form and thrive.

This makes the connecting environment, in most cases, the locus of both spiritual formation and vision discovery. Group members may hear about the vision in other church venues, but the rubber must meet the road in the most time-relationship-intensive environment. If they don’t get the vision in the connecting environment, the vision won’t stick.

Third, your church must learn to serve inside out.

Because God has given spiritual gifts for the edification of the body (Ephesians 4), the church is incomplete and immature unless individual members are serving one another. Every church has environments of service: leading in worship instructing children, or welcoming guests, to name a few. The Vision Frame should guide how the church builds its serving environments.

The missional mind-set pushes the envelope on how we think about service. Do we serve people only after we somehow convince them to come onto our holy environment, or do we push out into the community and demonstrate the love of Jesus in their midst. There has been growing emphasis on two dynamics related to service. One is a shared project with other community participants. Another dynamic is what Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch call “proximity spaces,” which they define as “places or events where Christians and not-yet Christians can interacts meaningfully with one another.”

The bottom line is this: we have to get out of our church boxes if we are going to effectively model the lifestyle of Jesus, who engaged and served people who were deeply embedded in their spaces.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement.

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Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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