Three Places to Uncover Values in Your Culture

While serving alongside the Auxano team, I learned the important distinction between vision, mission, strategy, and values. Well-intentioned leaders can confuse those and mix and match them in a way that actually harms clarity.

  • Mission is the what. Your mission is what your organization or ministry is on the planet to do.
  • Strategy is the how. Your strategy is how you accomplish the mission.
  • Vision is what you are pursuing now – the major goals in front of your team that are in alignment with your mission.
  • And your values impact everything you do because your values form the culture of your ministry organization.

Because it is the shared values and beliefs that form the culture, it is critically important for leaders to understand the values beneath the surface. Wise leaders don’t declare values; they uncover the values that are already there. In your organization, you can learn the values that are beneath the surface by looking in a few places. Doing so will help you understand the culture, and understanding the culture is more important than understanding the strategy because strategy is much more flexible than culture. So where do you look? To uncover the values in your culture, look in these three places:

1. The Heroes and Stories

The leaders in the culture that are spoken of as the epitome of the ministry or organization are good examples of the values on display. Listen to the stories that describe the heroes in the culture and you can learn what is valued. As I interviewed and onboarded into my new role at Mariners Church, I heard numerous stories of God’s people at Mariners serving the poor and marginalized in our community and around the world. The stories are beautiful and amazing. By listening, you can learn a lot about what is valued.

2. The Celebrations

Plato famously declared, “What is celebrated in a country is cultivated.” The same is true in any ministry or organization. Whatever has been celebrated has formed the culture. If a ministry celebrates tangible impact in a local community, you know local engagement is in the culture. If a ministry celebrates volunteers who are equipped for ministry, you know that leadership development is in the culture. If you pay attention to what is celebrated you will you learn what is valued. If you want to add a value to a culture, you will need to find ways to celebrate and cultivate that value. You won’t be able to merely speak a value into existence. You may be the leader, but you are not God.

3. The Language

As the new senior pastor of Mariners, I knew one of my first tasks was to understand the culture beneath the surface at Mariners. Thankfully there was language and history for me to study.

I have been fortunate and blessed to follow an exceptional leader in Kenton Beshore. He has, infused the church with values that have created the culture. When he became the senior pastor 35 years ago, he brought the church a list of five values to the church:

  • We teach God’s Word.
  • Be God’s loving family.
  • Every believer is a minister with a ministry.
  • Be innovative in our ministry and relevant in our community.
  • Be contagious in sharing Jesus Christ

Those values have been crystalized over time. I am leading our team through those values again. We are spending one staff meeting a month, with our whole team, walking through the importance and the implications of each value. It is helping me learn the culture, and I hope and pray it is helping us all renew our commitment to and unify around values that have formed the church we are honored to serve.

I love strategy. I have a tendency to go there first. Strategy is important, but culture is more so. Peter Drucker wisely quipped that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” My friend Will Mancini has provided helpful tools, such as this one, to help leaders articulate values through demonstration of those values.

If you are a ministry leader who would like some strategic outside eyes to help you and your team uncover your unique identity, not only your values but also your mission and your strategy, I highly recommend Auxano. I have learned a great deal from the team and believe wholeheartedly they would serve you and your team well. To reach out to the team, click here.

> Read more from Eric.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has 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, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

A Purpose-Full People. Part 2: Where Purpose Leads

God created you with one-of-a-kind potential and placed you on earth for a specific purpose. Due to the busyness of life, you’ve likely never identified your unique calling in a way that brings life-changing clarity. Most haven’t and like a distinct echo, the promise of a vision-guided life remains illusive, drowning under the demands of life.

Your divine design—God’s design for your life—is more knowable than you realize. You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has prepared in advance, that you should walk in them. With the right tools, you can discover your life vision and align your life vocation. You can and should know your Life Younique—your God-given identity and your God-inspired dreams. Most importantly, you can discern and design the practical next steps to get there.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visioneering, by Andy Stanley

Everybody ends up somewhere in life.
Wouldn’t you like to end up somewhere on purpose?

What breaks your heart?
What keeps you up at night?
What could be that should be?

Andy Stanley believes these questions are breadcrumbs that lead to the discovery of personal vision. With down-to-earth practicality, Andy extracts principles from the story of Nehemiah to help you discover your purpose in life.

Visioneering includes helpful exercises and time-tested ideas for visionary decision-making, personal growth, and leadership at home and at work. Catch a glimpse of God’s incredible vision for your life, relationships, and business—and discover the passion to follow it.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

What is clarity really about? How can pursuing clarity help us discover our purpose in life?

The concept of clarity means being free from anything that obscures, blocs, pollutes, or darkens. If you have clarity, you see things simply in an understandable and precise way.

Clarity will help you make your life direction unquestionable.

Honoring God involves discovering his picture or vision of what our lives could and should be. Glorifying God involves discovering what we could and should accomplish.

We were created and re-created with his purposes in mind. And until we discover his purpose – and follow through – there will always be a hole in our soul.

As Christians, we do not have the right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities, and education and run off in any direction we please. We lost that right at Calvary. But then, why would we dream of such a thing? God has a vision for your life. What could possibly be more fulfilling than that?

At the same time, we have no right to live visionless lives either. If God – think about it – if God has a vision for what you are to do with your allotment of years, you had better get on with it. What a tragedy to miss it. Missing out on God’s plan for our lives must be the greatest tragedy this side of eternity.

Your uniqueness and individuality will reach its pinnacle in the context of your pursuit of God’s plan for your life. Manmade visions all begin to look alike after a while. Unless you discover God’s unique vision for your future, your life may very well be a rerun.

Andy Stanley, Visioneering

A NEXT STEP

Andy Stanly, in “Visioneering,” says that “Vision gives significance to the otherwise meaningless details of our lives.” To further develop this thought, he wants you to realize how vision weaves four things into the fabric of our daily lives.

Reflect on each of the areas below.

Passion – vision is always accompanied by strong emotion; the clearer the vision, the stronger the emotion. How is your vision being expressed in powerful and compelling emotions?

Motivation – vision provides motivation. In what areas of your life is vision providing motivation on a regular basis?

Direction – vision sets a direction for our lives. How is your vision prioritizing your values and providing direction to your life?

Purpose – vision gives you a reason to get up and show up. How is your vision providing purpose in your daily life?

Network with 2-3 other staff members who live in close geographic proximity. Ask them these questions around their calling and process together how God might call you into greater collaboration together to reach your community for Christ.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #75-3, issued September 2017.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

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. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Meeting God at the Finish Line

Before Saddleback moved to its present location, we bought a big chunk of land. While I thought at the time it was a dream come true, it turned out there were giants in the land.

The county began heaping on ridiculous requirements. First they wanted to allow us to build on only nine acres of the property.

Then they instructed us to build a berm — an eight foot ridge of dirt — along the front of the property to hide the building.

Then they decided we’d need to move 150 trees from the back of the property to the front of the property and plant them on that berm.

Next, they told us we couldn’t build a 7,000-seat worship center. Instead, we could build a 1,000-seat worship center and have seven services.

Then they demanded that we put in a charcoal filtration water system so that the water that ran off the parking lot would be nice and pure as it went into the gutter.

Then they told us we couldn’t build a parking lot. We’d have to build a parking garage.

Finally, they decided we couldn’t build a preschool because “that’s not a legitimate church ministry.” We said, “Since when did the government start deciding what is and what isn’t legitimate church ministry?”

We battled for four years. Some 25 articles appeared in The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register during that time with headlines like, “Church Project Delayed” and “Church Project Delayed Again.”

I asked our people to write to the county supervisors. Shortly after, this headline came out: “Pro Canyon Church Project Letters Flood the County Offices.” Letters were coming in at the rate of 400 a day. Finally the county supervisors called me and said, “Please stop. You’re clogging up our mail system.”

The Orange County Register published an editorial supporting Saddleback Church called “A Church Beset, A Church Under Siege.” It said, “The church’s congregation has grown in 9 1⁄2 years from nothing to 7,500, but still meets in a high school gym. What this really amounts to is county bureaucrats trying to force and control their use of property along a pre-determined path. What gives people the arrogance to presume they have the right to do such a thing?”

Finally I took our church directory to our county supervisor. I laid it in front of that supervisor and said, “There are 18,000 names in this directory. They all vote and they’re all in your district.”

And that’s how we swapped for the piece of property we now own. We paid $3.5 million for the first piece of land. During the four-year battle it went up in value to $6.5 million, and we traded it evenly for a piece worth $9 million. We walked onto our Lake Forest property with $6 million in equity. That is so God!

The new land had more visibility, more usable space, more accessibility, a six-lane road on one side, a six-lane road on another side, and a toll road that goes up and down the entire county, putting one third of Orange County — or a million people — within a 20-minute drive of this church. God knew what he was doing.

Were the risks and the battles and delay worth it? Absolutely. Because what God starts he finishes.

Some in our congregation have said, “I really regret missing some of those early exciting tests of faith that Saddleback was in on. I wasn’t here during that time.” But the most exciting part of any race is not the start of the race. It’s the end.

Good things are ahead not just for your congregation, but for all of God’s people. We’re all in a battle, but we already know we’re going to win it because the Bible tells us. I don’t know a more exciting time to be alive.

As a pastor, there are many things you don’t have control over. You didn’t choose when or where you’d be born or what your natural talents would be. God, in his sovereignty, chose those things for you. But there is one thing you do have control over and that’s the most important thing: It’s how much you choose to believe God.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns”(NLT).

You can trust him. Whatever he starts, he finishes — and finishes well.

> Read more from Rick.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How 30 Seconds Can Change the World

There are often crucial moments when we have an opportunity to be vision-casters with people, one-on-one. It may be a car ride making a visit, coffee with a fellow member, or a staff meeting with five extra minutes at the end. It begs the question, could I state my vision for my church if I only had a few floors to travel in an elevator with someone?

You see, vision is great, but it needs to be transferrable. Members of a church should be able to share their church’s vision with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors, but they can only share a vision that has been concisely articulated from their leadership. And a vision isn’t “reaching people” or “glorifying God.” Those are eternal purposes, universal to every church. A vision (in an elevator speech format) would be more like…

We’re going to be a church that wraps our arms around the broken with an abundance of both truth and grace. We’ll have a multiplying network of small groups where people can really bear each other’s burdens. And we’ll gather in the middle of the marketplace for passionate worship and relevant teaching each week. The community will be better because we’re here – marriages will be fixed, education will improve, and people with all kinds of hurts, habits, and hang-ups will find healing and recovery in a new life with Jesus.

That’s my elevator pitch. What’s yours?

Read more from Brandon.


Learn more about Auxano’s Vision Clarity Process.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Don’t Settle for a “Lesser Than” Vision

I was talking to our church staff recently about a counterintuitive idea. At least, it’s counterintuitive to many: the higher the standards, the stronger the team.

Why is that counterintuitive? Because we tend to think that raising our standards will thin the ranks and weaken what we have. We feel the need to accommodate people, not challenge them.

So here we are, attempting to cast the vision for Christ’s mission in our deeply fallen world, to live lives individually and collectively that serve the least and reach the lost, to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight…

… and what do we do?

We lower the bar on all things related to the cause of Christ and, as a result, we train people to minimize the significance of it or blow it off entirely.

Consider the following comparison:

A youth soccer team coach tells a parent that if their child misses practice before a game, they won’t play that week. Period. And if their child misses more than three practices, they are off the team.

The effect on the parent?

They move heaven and earth to never miss a practice.

Let’s say that same parent is a volunteer with their church’s children’s ministry. They consistently arrive late, cancel at the last minute or, if they do show up, are unprepared.

The response of the children’s ministry leader?

There often isn’t one. The idea is that every volunteer is doing them a favor by even feigning to serve.

The effect on the parent?

They continue to treat volunteering as unimportant and inconsequential.

Here’s our fear: if we raise our standards and enforce them, we will lose people. And, no doubt, that is true. But did you really ever “have” them to begin with? No. You will lose the ones who were already demonstrating a lack of commitment. But the people you do “have” who are open to the challenge will begin to take the cause of Christ more seriously. And they should. The church is the hope of the world; youth soccer is not. Yet we treat soccer like it is and the church like recreation.

That must change.

We must remember that there is no greater cause than the cause of Christ. We must cast the vision of that reality to those we lead. We must hold them, and ourselves, to the highest standards of commitment and excellence.

Which means the goal cannot be to accommodate,

… but to disciple.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn how to not “settle” for a lesser vision.

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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

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Busting Myths of Church Vision

Vision isn’t a moment on a Sunday – Vision is a movement happening everyday.

Vision isn’t a one-time event – Vision is an ongoing eventuality.

Vision isn’t a statement on a wall – Vision is a state of mind led by a call.

Vision isn’t a leader’s style – Vision is the substance of all leadership.

Vision isn’t a featured project to reveal – Vision is a future projection in which to revel.

Vision isn’t a upcoming program to launch – Vision is an ongoing picture to paint.

Vision isn’t a building for a church’s function – Vision is a framework for God’s future.

Vision isn’t a crystal-ball prognostication – Vision is a bent-knee revelation.

Vision isn’t a good idea for that one-day – Vision is God’s idea for your every-day.

Vision isn’t a realm for envied conference speaking preachers – Vision is the reality for every congregation serving pastor.

Vision isn’t a contemplative mountaintop excursion – Vision is a collaborative group discovery.

Read more from Bryan.


Want to learn more about clarifying vision for your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Keys to Listening and Leading with Vision

How does a church discern its call to ministry–creating ministry space that lines up with its mission and vision?

Often believers and churches seem to be waiting for God to strike them with a lightning bolt, to reveal what he wants them to do through some spectacular event. But God isn’t a genie who pops out of a bottle. A church that waits passively finds itself beset with ministry paralysis.

Then there are the churches that show a degree of life and energy and have significant percentages of the local body engaged in ministry, yet what they do is routine and ineffective. Call it “ministry calcification.” Maybe what they are doing was effective five years ago or even last year, but communities can change rapidly. Many churches are ministering to people who have long ago left the community. The missional church constantly assesses what God is doing in a community and what needs are emerging–and adjusts its ministries accordingly.

Do I believe God reveals himself and gives us direction in life? Yes, absolutely. But I also believe he reveals himself more specifically as we obey the commands he has already given us. In other words, God will show us how he wants our church to minister to the community when we act on the directives he has already given us.

Four of the last things Jesus said to his disciples in his final days on earth are a good place for his followers and his churches to seek direction:

  1. Jesus reminded his followers they have been sent just like he was: “As the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Now, if he stopped there, it could still be pretty confusing. He didn’t specifically tell them where to go, what to do, what to say, or what to accomplish. He just told them they were being shipped out to serve in his spiritual army.
  2. Jesus continues to clarify the vision and mission he has for his followers and churches: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Going out to all the world and proclaiming the Good News was to result in new disciples among all people groups. After that, Christ’s followers are supposed to baptize new disciples and teach them to follow everything he commanded.
  3. Jesus isn’t finished yet. Before he ascends, he tells them: “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high” (Luke 24:46-49). This clarifies the Good News they are to announce: Jesus died in our place so we could repent and be forgiven of our sins, and he rose from the dead so we could live a victorious life. In order to be witnesses about these things, however, they needed one more thing: the power from on high promised by the Father.
  4. The last thing Jesus communicated to his disciples picked up where his previous instructions ended. He laid out a strategy for things to move forward: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A good place for his followers and churches to start is to be witnesses in their own communities and then move out from there, as he leads and opens doors for ministry.

As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision that God has already given us, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving and witnessing to your community. Instead of sitting around, waiting to be hit by lightning, here are some practical ways you and your church can begin to discern your ministry call.

Pray together for great boldness. The early believers followed Jesus’ instructions and actively waited and prayed for what the Father promised. Assemble a group of people regularly and pray for your church to be filled and anointed with the Spirit. The believers joining constantly in prayer led to the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost.

Most people remember that prayer preceded Pentecost, but they may not remember that Jesus’ followers kept praying after Pentecost. Acts 4:23-31 records believers gathering and raising their voices in prayer. They stood in prayer against the people who were persecuting them and the forces of evil, right? Wrong! They asked the Lord to enable them to speak his word with great boldness and prayed he would do wonderful things through the name of his holy servant, Jesus.

What does the current prayer environment of our church look like? Are we praying those kinds of prayers? What steps will we take to change the environment?

Explore multiple ministry options in your community. As you pray, take action by serving your community and finding ways to be his witnesses. God will give your people new passion and direction for ministry as they engage their community. Jesus himself “saw the crowds” and “felt compassion for them” (Matt. 9:36). Try some or all of these practical ideas:

  • Set up a time each month to conduct servant evangelism projects like giving away free drinks (water, hot chocolate, coffee, pop, etc.) at a traffic intersection, cleaning local parks, raking leaves or mowing grass for elderly folks, giving away coupons for free stuff, etc.
  • Involve your small groups or Sunday school classes in community service projects at least once a quarter so they aren’t just fellowshipping and learning stuff.
  • Start ongoing ministries by getting some of your members involved in things like Release Time (for public school kids), Hospice, Big Brother Big Sister, and City Mission. Intentionally train people to be better witnesses with evangelism training like Two Ways to Live, I Am Second, and others. I discuss tools more here, but I’d also love to hear what you are using in the comments. So much good stuff out there.
  • Ask three people in your congregation to set up interviews with leaders of local service agencies to discover unmet needs your church family might be able to address.

Trust God to open specific doors of ministry. As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision God has given you, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving your community. God will show you “persons of peace” who will unlock doors of opportunity you didn’t even know existed. As we act in faith, God will provide unique opportunities to serve and witness–and people will get excited about joining God in what he is opening before them.

I believe that Jesus opens doors of ministry for us to walk through as we pray and engage the needs in our communities. He also shuts other doors. See Revelation 3:7. We really don’t know which doors are open and which ones are shut until we start trying doorknobs. As we seek the Lord with all our hearts–and act in faith–he directs our steps.

So, what is it going to take for your church to discern its ministry call? Pray fervently together for the Spirit’s filling. Engage the people and needs in your community. And trust that God will open ministry doors for your church.


Learn more listening and leading with visionconnect with an Auxano Navigator today.


> More from Ed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Lessons for the Church from the Collapse of Xerox

“I need a Xerox of this.”

“Xerox this for me, will you?”

“We’ll just Xerox off a copy.”

It was a verb as ubiquitous as “google” in its day. To “Xerox” was to make a copy on a copier. That’s how strong the brand was, akin to how “Google it” is used to describe a search on the web or “ask Siri” is for your smartphone. And when it was introduced in 1959, Xerox was considered as cutting-edge as the 2007 announcement of the iPhone.

“But just as Xerox made carbon paper obsolete,” notes the New York Times, “the iPhone, Google Docs and the cloud made Xerox a company of the past.” So earlier this month, after 115 years as an independent business, Xerox combined operations with Fujifilm Holdings of Japan, signaling the end of a company that was once an American icon.

Consider the verb past tense.

What happened?

“Xerox is a poster child for monopoly technology businesses that cannot make the transition to a new generation of technology,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. Xerox isn’t alone. It joins fellow tech companies like Kodak and BlackBerry that “lost the innovation footrace.” Or, more to the point, Xerox fell into the “competency trap,” where an organization “becomes so good at one thing, it can’t learn to do anything new.”

“Can’t” or “won’t?” The distinction is important as we apply this example to the church.

For a short period of time following my graduate studies, I worked for the Baptist Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as its Leadership Consultant for Preaching and Worship. The “Board” was the catchall agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination for all things local church—preaching, worship, church growth, discipleship and, of course, Sunday School. But did you notice something odd about that list? All were aspects of the mission of the church, but only one – Sunday School – was a program or method. And yet it was the very name of the agency.

Why?

Because it was a method/program that had become enshrined to the level of orthodoxy.

Yet my job was to study the fastest-growing and most effective churches and then to teach about my findings to other churches. I used to joke that it was the seminary education nobody gets in seminary. During my short tenure, I published a book on my findings titled Opening the Front Door: Worship and Church Growth. It was a controversial book at the time, endorsed by renegade outsiders few had heard of [Rick Warren wrote the foreword; Bill Hybels and (ironically) future head of the BSSB, Thom Rainer, wrote endorsements].

And it was controversial for a reason.

The premise was simple: weekend worship services had eclipsed traditional age-graded Sunday School in terms of weekend attendance (and had since 1971), and was now the “front door” of the church. As a result, the worship service needed fresh attention in terms of ensuring it was an open door to the unchurched. Sunday School was not the wave of the future nor what fueled the fastest-growing churches; weekend services were.

Today? A tame and mainstream idea.

Then? Oh my.

The mindset, even in the early nineties, was simple: Want to grow your church? Sunday School. Want to disciple believers? Sunday School. Want to increase stewardship? Sunday School. Want to end global warming? Sunday School. Again, even the name of the catchall agency for all things local church was called the Sunday School Board.

My ideas were deeply resisted. Turf wars reigned. Programs and curriculum and jobs had to be protected. “Doing church” a certain way became more important than doing church the most effective way. Those who knew how to do church through a Sunday School-centric method became threatened by any other “centric.”

Make no mistake. The Sunday School Board had a monopoly on Sunday School. It was beyond competent at doing it. It made a lot of money – most of it on Sunday School curriculum.

Just like Xerox.

Today, the Baptist Sunday School Board does not exist. They wisely changed their name away from a particular program to something more mainstream (LifeWay Christian Resources). But the lessons remain:

1. Just because you are comfortable with doing something a particular way, and competent at it, doesn’t mean you are being effective with it. Always strive for effectiveness, even at the cost of comfort or learning curves related to competence.

2. Never confuse a method with the message, or tradition with orthodoxy. In other words, don’t protect a program as if you are protecting the Gospel. The message is timeless, but our methods must be ruthlessly evaluated in light of their effectiveness at fulfilling our mission.

3. Constantly innovate. Try new things. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been. For most of us, that’s not good.

All to say, when it comes to Xerox and the church,

… don’t Xerox Xerox.

> Read more from James Emery White 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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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Six Responses to Mission Resistance

Every great movement of God invites a challenge from sinful people. I wrote about this recently in a post entitled How to Stop a Church from Growing, and Pastor Titus S. Olorunnisola, who is planting Bethel Gospel Centre near Melbourne, Australia, asked the magic question in the comments – how, then, do we handle the legalists?

In the case of the early Jerusalem church, the problem was complex. Non-Jewish people all over the region were coming to know Christ, but some very legalistic Jews known as the Judaizers were demanding that all of these new believers go through the rite of circumcision and keep the ceremonial law in order to be both Jewish and Christian.

Paul, Peter, James, and others were of the viewpoint that salvation for these newcomers was by grace alone through faith alone, but the vocal minority raised enough of an issue that the elders had to gather for a closed discussion. They finally emerged from this first church council with some wisdom for churches everywhere.

Their decision was rendered as follows:

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. (Acts 15:19-22 NLT)

As I walk through this passage, I think there is some key wisdom to be applied all these centuries later in a more modern context.

We are charged to defend not only the faith of the gospel, but also its fruit. That is, we must uphold the content of the gospel as well as protect its ability to reach new people. To claim to hold to an orthodox view of Scripture while allowing non-scriptural viewpoints to be interposed in our doctrine, resulting in the alienation of those who need Jesus most, isn’t faithfulness to the gospel.

Let me put it more practically. Our role as pastors is to protect the flock from wolves and from false teachers. But it’s also to remind our flock that there are sheep who haven’t joined the fold yet and we must do everything in our power to take the gospel to every last one of them.

There are battles that aren’t worth fighting. When it comes to our preferences over style and approach, we are called to make allowance for differences of opinion.

And then there are battles that absolutely are worth fighting. In fact, there are battles worth risking everything over. The vision, the mission, and the purposes of God for his people are worth being stubborn about. The cause of evangelism and the pathway to discipleship are well worth working for and defending from error.

But how? How do we handle the Judaizers and joysuckers and complainers who would rather keep their preferred religious systems to the detriment of evangelism? I think we handle people the way the early apostles did.

  1. Get godly counsel. The elders consult with one another. James probably could have handled it himself, but he chose to invite input from other godly leaders.
  2. Be bold in your calling. The elders stand with confidence, believing God had called them to lead through this particular moment with clarity and conviction.
  3. Stand with and for the lost. They made it clear that we should not make it any more difficult than it already naturally was for non-Jewish people to come to know Jesus.
  4. Show them what grace is like. Nobody got kicked out. Everyone was still welcome and the apostles set an example of grace for everyone to observe.
  5. Fight against anything that competes with discipleship. They kept the pathway clear and asked people to make voluntary sacrifices for the benefit of others.
  6. Point to Jesus. The pointed people back to the gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ alone saves by grace alone through faith alone.

So, when confronting legalists and traditionalists who would ultimately stand in the way of lost people coming into God’s family to protect their own preferences, always choose to stand on the side of the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

I often pray for God to give me the boldness of a lion. Granted, sometimes I choose to have the boldness of an angry chinchilla, but I’m a work in progress. I’m still learning to love everyone – even the legalists and traditionalists – while being mean about the vision.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about dealing with resistance to your vision and mission.


> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

180 Seconds of Vision

Dear Pastors, Campus Pastors and/or whomever is on the rotation this Sunday…

Please do not just stand up on the platform for 3 minutes and “make announcements.”

We already know the announcements.

They were on the screens before the service.

They were the bulletin we read during the sermon.

They were definitely handed to me on the card by those well-meaning, but intense, women in matching t-shirts when we came in the door.

They were the same announcements about this time last year.

Instead, show me how these activities fulfill our mission as a church.

Connect my spiritual growth to this sign-up, and if you cannot, why are we doing it? 

Create a conversation and inspire me to learn more than dates, deadlines and catch phrases. Because I do.

Thanks for taking a few extra minutes of prep time to paint the bigger picture for us.

180 seconds of vision beats 3 minutes of announcements every Sunday.


Want to learn more about how your communication can paint the bigger picture for your congregation? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Christinah Facing the dilema in church planting has just given me sleepless nights with headache in this small town in Swaziland Southern Africa. The model we used is not working. People around are shunning our services. I do not feel like quitting, but some of my team members are discouraged now.
 
— Tau Kutloano Christinah
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I have found out more. I guess it's all about backing? ReNew doesn't have that. We are a mission church, in a small downtown area. We are a wonderful church though. I guess we also needed everyone to attend and possibly be of service all the time. If I could have it all over to again, I'd participate more, open my mouth more,....IDK, I still am holding onto God's intervention somehow. We have until Sept. 30th.
 
— Linda Speaks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> We are experiencing our church closing at the end of the month. We are all heart broken and agree that this is the best church family we've ever had. I personally can say I am not used to my attendance weekly being so important. I have never been to a start up church. We needed 3 things, an associate pastor, everyone's involvement and money. I cannot believe that the best church for so many people is closing. Being g a forever optimist, I can't help but think God will intervene somehow.
 
— Linda
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.