The Time and Place for the Authentic Church

I have spent my life looking for the biblical, authentic church.

  • When I attended VBS at a small Lutheran church in 1st grade, I was thrilled to get the little silver Bible sticker in my pocket Bible.; the kind with Jesus pictures. I always wanted to go back to that church, but we never did.
  • When I attended catechism at a Presbyterian church in Augusta, GA.  I memorized lot’s of God statements. It felt like the right thing to do.
  • When I attended Young Life meetings in high school. It was cool. It was spiritual.
  • When I attended a EFCA church at Penn State and carried around Desiring God (by John Piper) like a sacred text.
  • When I church hopped in Midland, TX working in the oil field.  While exploring the black gold of the Permian Basin, I searched  for the true expression of God’s church.
  • At seminary I found a church in the black and hispanic area in which I lived. It wasn’t what I was used to so it was better.
  • And still I combed the spiritual classics of centuries gone-by, searching for the hidden keys to walking with God.
  • Finally, I found the best model of all. I joined the staff of a church that started south of Houston. We reached unchurched people like that big Chicago seeker church that had all of the answers. I got to be a part of a team that grew one of America’s finest megachurches. This had to be the model, the authentic church.

 

My guess is that you have been pursuing the authentic church as well. And we should. God has put the desire within in us.

How is your search going?

Fifteen years ago, my search ended. I found it. No, I really did find it this time. A friend and consulting colleague, Rich Kannwischer just sent these words, written by Eugene Peterson. They capture perfectly what I found:

Churches are not franchises to be reproduced as exactly as possible wherever and whenever—in Rome and Moscow and London and Baltimore—the only thing changed being the translation of the menu. But if we don’t acquire a narrative sense, a story sense, with the expectation that we are each one of us uniquely ourselves—participants in the unique place and time and weather of where we live and worship—we will always be looking somewhere else or to a different century for a model by which we can be an authentic and biblical church. The usefulness of Acts as a story, and not a prescription or admonition, is that it keeps us faithful to the plot, Jesus, and at the same time free to respond out of our own circumstances and obedience.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2011). The Pastor: A Memoir (p. 119). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

In light of Peterson’s words, I ask again, “How is it going?” Or maybe the better question to ask is “Where have you been looking?”

It’s my dream that each pastor find the time and place for the authentic church.  And the amazing answer is “It’s right now, right where you are.”

You may want to consider a book I wrote about discovering the authentic church for your time and place. I called the book Church Unique to highlight what Eugene Peterson is talking about here. It’s really about entering more deeply into the context that God has placed you to develop your own model of ministry. It’s about faithfulness to The Plot rather than mimicking another person’s story.


To learn more about discovering your authentic church, connect with one of Auxano’s Navigators.


Read more from Will here.

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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 God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Signs That You Are Coasting on Original Vision

I was recently dialoguing with a very successful pastor about the ten-year vision horizon of the large church he pastors.

He made a striking comment.

“I don’t want to coast on original vision.”

It made me wonder, how do you know if you might be coasting on a vision that “used to be?”

  1. You use adjectives that position the vision as historical: original, founding, previous, last season, former chapter, etc.
  2. You have increasing realization of how far you God has taken your ministry in the last five or ten years.
  3. You actually feel less excited about a the ideals, aspirations, or pictures of the future you used to have.
  4. People around you express ask more questions about the future and show increasing curiosity for things like clarity.
  5. You don’t hear younger generations say anything that resembles the vision as it was previously expressed.
  6. You have updated your campus or changed your key players once or twice without revisiting the vision.
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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 God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Vision Casting for Children’s Ministry – 7 Golden Principles

Before my transition to coach-consulting in 2001, I led several different ministry areas at Clear Creek Community Church. An unexpected season of leading the children’s area engaged my love for vision around the importance of serving children. What I learned through this season has changed my life forever. I believe that children’s ministry is THE golden opportunity for these seven reasons:

#1 The Golden Heart: Children model the ideal kingdom participant. Each of the gospel writers record that stunning moment when Jesus rebukes the disciples and tenderly engages some young children (Luke 18:17). In the face of self-importance, Jesus shockingly points to a child as the model for how to enter the kingdom. Maybe serving children holds unexpected benefit for Christian maturity?

#2 The Golden Years: Childhood is the most effective window for responding to the gospel. Eighty percent of people receive Christ between the ages of 4 and 14. Enough said.

#3 The Golden Glow: Children have a longer life to serve Christ and accomplish more for God’s glory. If you had a candle to burn for a nice romantic evening, would you choose the one that’s three-quarters used up, or would you choose a brand new candle? (It makes you wonder why generally speaking,  our children get so little attention in ministry leadership!)

#4 The Golden Baton: Serving children plants the gospel into the next generation. Yes, the gospel is always one generation from extinction. You choose if the race is all about your short window to live or the enduring story of global redemption.

#5 The Golden Gate: Winning a child is a gateway to winning the whole family. I can’t tell you how many redeemed families I have seen on the beachhead of a child’s testimony. And yes, the more our culture idolizes their children, the more we can leverage this negative tendency for the gospel.

#6 The Golden Moment: Children’s lives are moldable and full of teachable moments. There is nothing like the moment of awe and insight, when  child learns or asks a genuine question. Play and plant in the rich soil!

#7 The Golden Crown: Serving children has a unique significance which leads to special blessing. In Matthew 25-31-46, Jesus shares the parable about serving, “the least of these.” It’s apparent that “the least” include people of some status or need where they cannot repay if they are served (hungry, sick, imprisoned, estranged, poor) Children, though not listed explicitly, certainly fit this list by virtue of their inability. I believe that serving children brings an unexpected treasure of blessing.

This post is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Romina Andreotti Mancini, who spent a year serving 12, 2-year old children at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Those kids are the most fortunate kids on the planet and I am grateful for her model of love and service that nourishes my own spirit.

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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 God Dreams and Church Unique.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Clarity of Vision: The Difference Between Status Quo and Achieving Your Vision

Successful leaders have one trait in common: clarity about what they want out of their organization, what kind of team they want to work with and what they want to accomplish. It’s that laser focus that helps them determine what actions to take and where to spend their energy on a daily basis.

The Magnetic Quality of Clarity

Simply put, clarity is what allows you to communicate your vision. Without it, it’s hard to answer even the most basic of questions, like “What does your organization do?” and “Why are you doing what you do?” And, if you can’t articulate your vision, why should you expect anyone to jump on your bandwagon?

What is clarity really about? A synthesis of definitions brings clarity to the concept of clarity: it means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes, or darkens. Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: current reality and future possibility, what God says about it and what we need to do about it.

There’s a certain magical, magnetic quality about people that communicate their vision well. They inspire and attract people – even better, they attract help. If you can articulate your organization’s vision with passion and conviction, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to enlist people into helping you build your organization. That translates into the ability to launch your initiatives faster and with greater success.

It’s important to note that achieving clarity of purpose is a continual process; it’s not something you do only in the launching phase. Organizations evolve and leaders must continually evaluate and evolve their vision as the organization changes and grows.

  • Clarifying the vision is about looking to the past as much as the future
  • Clarifying the vision requires careful consideration of strengths and limitations
  • Clarifying the vision is as much about identity as it is methodology
  • Clarifying the vision is always about what God is already doing

Not only does clarity prepare you to take action, it enhances motivation…one of those critical challenges every leader faces. When you clearly visualize the outcome you want in vivid detail and really feel how it feels, it’s hard not to get excited about taking action.

Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.


 

Would you like to learn more about clarity for your organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Avoiding the Danger of Mission Drift

There is a tendency in any organization, in any ministry, toward wandering. For a season, people might be focused and motivated to move in a single direction, but then something happens. Things catch their attention. Other priorities come up. The urgency that was once so acutely felt fades to the background. Slowly the organization drifts toward giving time, energy, and resources to ancillary matters. The mission is no longer central; the focus is no longer intense.

That’s why one of the duties of leadership is saying the same thing over and over again. A wise leader is a repetitive one.

Church leaders must not only be aware of their core convictions and mission but must also articulate them plainly before people over and over again. Church leaders must constantly be reminding.

Wise leaders look for the wandering, and quickly move to address it.

Maybe you’re sensing that right now. Perhaps something seems off. In many cases, that “something” is a deep-rooted understanding of who you are as a church, a deeply shared commitment to the theology and doctrine that undergirds all your church does. What’s missing is that sense of identity that galvanizes, motivates, and focuses your people on your God-given mission. In many cases, the “core values” or the “mission” are merely words on the back of a bulletin that lose meaning because the people aren’t reminded of the heart behind the phrases. So if something just doesn’t seem right, it’s often because the majority of members have not fully ingested the stated mission and values of the church.

So how do leaders communicate the church’s mission and values?

1) Live the mission and values.

John Kotter stated, “Behavior from important people in the organization that is contrary to the mission overwhelms all other forms of communication.” In other words, if leaders do NOT live the mission, the slogans and communication pieces are an absolute waste of time and money. Living is deeper than “modeling.” One can “model” mission because it is in his/her job profile without authentically living it.

2) Teach the mission and values.

Wise pastors look for appropriate opportunities in their messages to remind the people “this is who we are” and “this is our mission.” But teaching goes beyond the sermon. Wise leaders look for other environments, from leadership meetings to small group gatherings, to remind people of the church’s identity.

Because wandering and drift happens, leaders are necessary. And it is necessary for leaders to both live and remind the people of the mission and values that are beneath the surface of everything the church does.

Many church leaders are finding that small groups are an excellent environment for instilling core values into the people of the church. Think about it as you enter this Fall season of ministry. You have a chance to refocus your people, to bring them back to the core of who you are as an individual church. Your small groups can be an environment where those values and mission are imbedded deep into the hearts and minds of your people.


In the division I lead at LifeWay, we have a team of custom content creators who are creating studies for churches, based on the church’s unique mission and values. If that would serve you well, then I encourage you to check out discipleshipincontext.com. Be it with a study aligned to your weekly messages, or through studies that stand on their own, LifeWay can partner with you to create custom studies that perfectly reflect your core values and help you create the unique culture you are praying for and striving for.

>> Interested in customized studies for your groups? Check out discipleshipincontext.com.

>> Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Elements of an Essential Vision Cast

Getting an opportunity to cast a God-given vision is a weighty privilege. Having spent time with God, you’ve heard the heart of God and are called to lead toward a preferred future for your church, organization or community.  Before you even speak your first word your audience’s mind is like a canvas. The words you speak can paint a picture of a new reality, move people to action, enthuse commitment and even drive them to make personal sacrifice for the cause. 

Others belief in and willingness to contribute to the vision is essential for the dream to translate into reality. The moment you finished casting your vision every listener will make up their mind whether they’ll take a next step with you or walk away.  Whether they’ll be a contributor or a curious onlooker. This is why it’s critical for every vision caster to understand the essential ingredients of an effective vision cast.

  • It must include evidence of God’s leading
  • It must be big enough to inspire
  • It must be delivered with passion
  • It must solve a meaningful problem.
  • It must include a request to contribute.

Often times you get one chance to cast vision to a potential partner so pray hard and speak wisely.  What would you add to this “essentials” list?

Read more from Mac here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mac Lake

Mac Lake

I am the Chief Launch Officer of The Launch Network, a new church planting network based out of West Ridge Church in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area. My role is to get The Launch Network up and running, networking with churches and planters to establish healthy church starts across the U.S. and the world. Our goal is to plant 1000 churches in the next 10 years. My passion is growing leaders for the local church. Every time I hear Bill Hybels say “The local church is the hope of the world” my heart comes out of my chest and it increases my sense of urgency for developing leaders who produce leaders.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Church Renaming: A New Coat of Paint or a Re-Envisioning?

What’s in a name?

It’s an old adage.

It flows from Shakespeare’s famed play, “Romeo and Juliet.”  The actual line is,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Most are familiar with Shakespeare’s tale of “star-cross’d” lovers.  Though members of two warring families, Juliet tells Romeo that names are meaningless, and shouldn’t stand in the way of their love.  After all, she loves the man who is Romeo Montague – not the Montague name.  Such titles are irrelevant.  It is the substance of the person that matters.

Apparently some church leaders aren’t so sure.

I’ve noticed a growing trend, at least in my own city, of churches renaming themselves in an apparent effort to invigorate a plateaued or even declining situation.  Usually it is a church start that has been going at it for a few years, hasn’t caught fire, so the thinking is that it’s best to reboot.

Two churches in our area are on their third name.

I wish them well.  I really do.  There’s not a snarky bone in my body toward their situation.

But I hope they are doing more than rebranding.  I hope they are doing more than a new logo, new website, or new location.  I hope they are not simply renaming the church, but rethinking it.  Because a new name – actually, any name – is not substantive.

Why?

That’s easy.

No one goes to a church for its name! 

A bad name might work against you, but that’s not usually the case in the church renaming phenomenon I’m observing.  Nor is a bout of bad publicity that makes you want to distance yourself from a public relations disaster usually at hand.

No, the trend I see is oriented to jumpstarting a dead battery.  The goal is a quick fix, an “easy” button, to reverse an adverse situation.

But that’s not what is going to happen.

It’s like putting a new coat of paint on a house that just won’t sell.  The paint may freshen up a drive-by, but that’s about all.  The house is still…well, the house it was.  It has the same square footage, the same floor plan, and the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Even if you switch neighborhoods (translation: change the location of your church), it’s still the same house.  Either it has appeal, or it does not.

The truth is that many of these renamed churches need more than a new name.  They need a new…well, lots of things.  Let’s assume they are praying diligently and presenting the gospel faithfully.  That still might leave room for:

  • A new leadership style or level of leadership ability
  • A new communicator or level of teaching/communication in terms of gifting
  • A new emphasis on outreach and/or bridge-building to the unchurched, or a new strategy
  • A new approach to musical style or worship
  • A new emphasis on excellence in children’s ministry and service to marriage and family
  • A new commitment toward learning how to effectively explain the gospel to a “nones” world
  • A new…

Well, you get my point.

What’s in a name?”

The answer will always remain the same:

“Not much.”

But what’s in the substance of a person…or a church?

Everything.

Just ask Juliet.

Or better yet, ask the person who tried your church and never came back.

Read more from James here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why You Should Listen to Your Congregation When They Vote with Their Feet

It’s an old phrase, but one that I find extremely helpful as a leader.

It’s “voting with their feet.”

So many times we wonder about the validity or value of something when the answer is patently clear: people have voted with their feet. Meaning they aren’t coming, supporting, inviting…you fill in the quantitative blank.

The point is that they have given you the feedback you need.

I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders over the years about the value of this or that, and in the end, it comes back to a simple assessment: people have voted with their feet. They don’t want it, need it, or care about it. It doesn’t matter how good the idea was on paper, how passionate a particular individual might have been for the enterprise, or even the handful of “fruit” stories that might have emerged from its efforts.

Now, let me qualify this in two important ways.

First, this does not mean you only give people what they want. That is a consumer-driven church, and that leads to heresy. Or at least a superficial faith.

So I’m not talking about doctrine, disciplines or anything else that would be put on a “doesn’t matter whether it’s popular it’s essential” list.

But I am talking about programs and ministries that are in the “good” but “non-essential” camp that people “vote” on in a way that good leaders should pay very close attention to.

Here’s why:

You have a limited amount of energy, resources, finances, volunteers, square footage and time. You are called to fulfill the Great Commission with both tenacity and wisdom. As a result, it would be foolish to allocate anything to a non-strategic path.

Now the second qualifier applies to the above-mentioned “handful of fruit stories” comment. Jesus was very clear in the parable of the talents that we are to be shrewd investors of time, talent, treasure…anything that is ours to be managed. Of course I can mobilize 100 people to fan out across a city for door-to-door visitation and witnessing and get one or two stories of receptivity.

But what if I took that same mobilizing energy and used it in a way that resulted in over 1,000 lives changed for Christ? Isn’t that what we should be wrestling with? The Holy Spirit will honor Himself as the Word is proclaimed in whatever fashion (at least, I believe He will), but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t honor even more those efforts that seek to maximize His witness to the world in ways that are most effective.

So here’s the leadership question:

Where aren’t you paying attention to the vote?

Read more from James here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Do Your Homework: 9 Questions to Ask BEFORE Leading a Church Revitalization Effort

I am excited about the increased interest in church revitalization. I am heartened to hear from a number of Millennials who are sensing God’s call in this direction. As this emphasis grows alongside the great interest in church planting, I have more reasons to remain an obnoxious optimist about our congregations.

But let me state the obvious. Leading a church revitalization is difficult. Indeed, it can’t be done outside of God’s power. While I wish to discourage no one from moving forward in this direction, we must do so with our eyes wide open.

With that in mind I offer a checklist to consider. Here are nine questions you should ask before leading a church revitalization.

  1. Will I pray daily for my church and my leadership? I know. The question seems so obvious. But many leaders get so busy doing the work, they fail to take time to pray for God’s strength and wisdom to do the work.
  2. Will I see this opportunity as a mission field? In the recent past, leading an established church was typically leading a culture that aligned well with the leader. No more. Many churches in need of revitalization are acting like they live in the culture of 1985. Moving them to present realities is a culture shock to many of the congregants. Thus both the church and the community are mission fields. We need to approach these opportunities much like an international missionary in his or her new culture.
  3. Will I make a commitment for the long haul? While we can’t presume upon God’s timing in our lives, we do not need to enter the leadership of church revitalization as a stepping stone assignment. Change is often painfully slow, three steps forward and two steps backward. Some of the fruit of change often does not manifest until after the leader has been on the field for five years or more.
  4. Will I love my critics? Genuine leaders of churches in need of revitalization will have their critics. Let me say it again: you will be criticized. But how will you respond to those critics? Will you respond with the love of Christ? Will you pray for your critics?
  5. Will I be persistent? Leading a church to revitalization is difficult work. Sometimes, the only thing you know to do is to get out of bed and go to work each day. Because progress is not always noticeable on a day-by-day basis, it is easy to get discouraged. Stay with it. Stay the course. Be faithful.
  6. Will I be an incarnational example in my community? Will I be present and involved in the community where the church is located? Will I show my love to those in the community? Will I demonstrate Christ in deed and words in my community? Will I be an example for the church members to follow?
  7. Will I be a continuous learner about church revitalization? I am so encouraged about the new information coming forth about church revitalization every month. It reminds me of earlier years when we were getting good data and case studies of new church plants. You now have an opportunity to be a continuous learner in this field. Though I am certainly not the only source of information, I am committed to providing you ongoing information on church revitalization at this site.
  8. Will I be content? The Apostle Paul learned to be content in all situations, including shipwrecks and prisons. Will you be content in the Lord to move forward with church revitalization?
  9. Will I be a positive example and encourager for my family? If you are taking a family with you on this journey, they will need your support and encouragement too. Will you be there for them?

We may be entering a new era of church revitalization. Some of the signs are certainly positive.

>> Read more from Thom Rainer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Your Church is Probably Operating at Less Than 50% Effectiveness

Most of you will disagree with what I am about to suggest. Nevertheless, I will try my best to share with you what I’ve learned over the last 13 years. Keep in mind that this post title is not a theory; it comes from a front row seat watching real transformation of senior pastors, their staff, their lay leaders, and eventually their entire congregation.

First, I’ll share the problem and give some quick illustrations of churches in the transformation process. Secondly, I will give two analogies to reinforce my point.

THE PROBLEM
The problem is that most churches have a general sense of their mission rather than clearly defined and contextually crafted mission.  What does it mean to be working with a general sense of mission? Let’s illustrate. I just surveyed the top 10 staff at a large church (and by most standards a successful church) running over 1,000 in weekend attendance. When asked to state their mission, the answers included:

  • Extending the joy of following Christ to all people
  • To make disciples and serve the community
  • Reach people and growing disciples
  • Being God’s agent in world to make a difference in the world, everywhere we go.
  • To provide worship, small group and service opportunities

These statements of mission illustrate “leading from a general sense” for two reasons. First, they are not articulating the same words. Second, they are general re-articulations of the great commission. Any nuance among them is due to the bias and experience of the individual. One sounds operational while another sounds missional. One is a follower of John Piper, and one just read, “The Externally Focused Church.” You get the idea.

Now, some may object and suggest that these generic restatements aren’t a problem at all. Isn’t having a general orientation toward a disciple-making mission enough? I don’t think so.

REAL MISSION
In the last 4 years, I have worked with three churches all within a 10 minutes drive from one another in Dallas, Texas. All of these churches run over 1,000 in weekend attendance. Below is the new articulated mission of each church. Keep in mind that when I started working with them, the key leaders only had a general sense of mission.

Church #1: Inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependence on Jesus.
Church #2: Rescuing one another from cultural Christianity to follow Jesus every day.
Church #3: Calling the Christian-ish to become passionate servants of Christ.

Each one of these churches has a mission that reflects:

  • Aspects of denominational heritage (Bible, Baptist & Methodist, respectively)
  • Clues to their corporate strengths and passion as a congregation
  • Nuances guided by their location and facility assets within Dallas
  • An outward posture based on engaging the Dallas culture

Last week I had a follow-up visit with two of the churches. Here are exact quotes from their staff:

  • We are not the same church we used to be.”
  • “Everyone in our church ‘gets it.’  They know who we are and what we are about, and this creates powerful synergy.”
  • “As a result of our focus with leaders in the body, we gave $550,000 more than we ever have to a one-time missions offering (50% increase in giving).”
  • “Our greatest challenge is a willing readiness of our people to do more!”

More energy. Greater resources. Better synergy.  Would you like to have that right now at your church? Sure you would. Would you have guessed that the first step toward this “more” is defining for the first time what your specific mission is as a church? Probably not. And that’s my point. As a result of your generic mission you are most likely operating at less than 50% of what you could be. If you don’t know your mission, you certainly don’t have a culture of mission. And if you don’t have a culture of mission, than what are people in your church really doing? Why are they there?

TWO ANALOGIES
The first analogy is a restaurant start-up. Imagine that we were excited to start a new restaurant and believed it had the potential to be a successful franchise. To get off the ground we want to attract investors and a few talented people to join our ambitious dream. How successful do you think we would be if our mission were to “make food and serve the community?” You guessed it— not very. Why? The language of mission does nothing to differentiate us from the thousands of restaurants that already exist. Nor does it guide our thinking, synergy, planning and communication for practical next steps. We really need to decide whether we are a fast-casual Italian or fine-dining seafood? Right!?

Consider another very different example. My wife Romy is a very talented artist. Sometimes she paints a random scene or an image that inspired her. Sometime she paints with a purpose, selecting a pre-determined location for a painting with a specific objective that guides the content, color and emotion of the work. What might look like the same act to an unknowing observer—Romy painting two similar paintings—is actually very different. One painting requires no pre-thought or preparation. The other work of art is very calculated; she paints with a completely intensity and focus. Purpose changes everything!

So now it’s up to you. If this post means anything to you, conduct a litmus test: do your people know your mission? Is it meaningfully articulated based on your understanding of what your church can do better than 10,000 others? If not, then I think you are operating at a capacity less than 50% of what you should be. And that’s not an exaggeration. And, if you want to talk about it just let me know in the comments below.

If you already do run with a clear, concise, compelling and contextual mission, I would love to know about it and share it with the world. Let me know your mission in the comments section below.

Life if short and ministry is hard. So let’s lead with stunning clarity!

Read more from Will here.


Would you like to learn more about leading with stunning clarity? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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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 God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.