Engaging Members Through Transformational Innovation

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Innovation, Transformation

In a world in which the balance of power in the marketplace has shifted from seller to the customer, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for church leadership to move a Customer-centric culture at home into a more Mission-centric culture in the church. This contemporary shift in the marketplace is making the role of governing leadership in the church all the more critical.

In many churches, especially those with elder oversite, the only explicit feedback mechanisms alluded to in their constitutions are vertical. There are no explicit feedback mechanisms from the member/attendee, i.e. the people for whom the work is being done. This is not to say that members are formally excluded from sensing a “Tension” from failure to meet member needs of which they happen to become aware and then take action to resolve that “Tension”. But, it is also true that the explicit focus of many church constitutions is entirely internal to the leadership team. The ‘non-leadership team’ member or attendee is simply not in the picture.

When so much time and effort of the leadership team is spent on the micro-details of the internal decision-making mechanisms of a church and little discernible attention given to any external feedback mechanisms, one could easily get the idea that the internal mechanisms are supremely important while the member is irrelevant. Unless and until this “gap” is rectified, leadership in the local church risks being a distraction from the central organizational challenge of our times, namely, how to help the church to be more able to add value to its members.

In this highly customer-centric culture ‘transformational innovation’ becomes the current big challenge for church leadership.

Transformational innovation is difficult because it continually changes the way we live and ‘do’ church. Most churches are loath to pursue ideas that will make them change. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons that they die. The computer and entertainment electronics industries have been prime examples of this. How many of us have audio 8-track machines, cassette players, videotape cameras, recorders and players, bag phones, clunker desktop computers, etc. sitting in our basements?

I am not writing about church growth. This article is about church health and the ability of the local church to effectively equip and add value to its members so that they will accomplish the mission of the church now and in the future. Church leaders today, more than ever, must realize the need to innovate in order to to maintain and accelerate their missional efforts. They cannot rely solely on past momentum to achieve their ambitions.

Soliciting innovative ideas from various sources is a must. Discovering the best of these ideas is critical. Here are four good practices for improving idea quality for transformational innovation:

Define the problem before brainstorming solutions – Guide leaders to collectively agree on the problem first, in order to generate the most effective solutions.

Enable members to self-assess ideas to improve idea quality – Teach members to self-assess the quality of their own ideas by using simple yet objective criteria to improve the quality of the idea pool, while freeing up leadership time for prioritization decisions.

Actively manage social media to refine ideas – Use social-media platforms to allow members, attendees and other interested parties to virtually share, assess, and refine ideas.

Motivate well-connected network partners to provide their ideas for your church – ask closely partnered neighborhood churches, fellow denominational churches, partnered social-concern agencies who share vested interests, etc. to bring high-quality ideas.

These practices identify and find solutions; and, they provide a clearly defined mechanism for member involvement through a targeted inquiry system that identifies the problem and ensures participant feedback.

Leaders who are thinking innovation will provide an ongoing, time-saving feedback mechanism that allows for rapid and interim changes to ideas based on valued perspectives from members, attendees and partners. Obviously, there will be idea prioritization filters that combine internal feedback with strategic considerations such as mission statement, alignment to strategy, etc.; but, by tapping the collective wisdom of church members, attendees and partners, churches can source better ideas for transformational innovation.

Once Implemented, these innovative ideas can result in member appreciation; greater member equipment and involvement; and, raving excitement that spills out into the neighborhood in the form of contagious missional living and conversion growth.

Wouldn’t it great to see the day when all churches realize they can have a successfully missional church where their members love coming to church, are happy and engaged, who are growing in their faith, are active in their outreach and whose neighbors and communities are thankful they are there!


Training Trainers: A New Paradigm for Discipleship

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Other Authors, Scripture, Uncategorized

I could not have said it any better. A must read for anyone interested in advancing the Church as Jesus directed us.

The Asian Rough Rider

No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong, especially leaders, pastors and church planters. We’ve devoted our lives to growing the Church but have we been doing it all wrong? I hate it when I’m wrong. My pride always says that I am right. But my pride can’t argue with results.

The results say that more churches have been started in the last 50 years than in all 2,000 years of church history combined. The results say that in the last decade, God used a humble Asian-American missionary couple to launch a discipleship movement of more than 140,000 new churches and more than 2 million baptisms in one Chinese city. There are dozens more examples from all around the developing world.

For us outsiders in the West who are looking in we’re saying, “That ain’t right! How can this be? Let’s analyze this until we are blue…

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Does God Issue a Special “Calling” for Pastoral Ministry?

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts

In the January 2013 issue of “Leadership Journal,” there were two differing views over whether there is a special “calling” into pastoral ministry. Callings. What does it mean to hear God’s voice and let it fill your life and attitudes and actions with meaning? That gets about as close to the soul as it’s possible to get. This is a topic that’s as vital for church planters and church leaders as it is for everyone else. David Platt, well-known author of the book, Radical, said in the “Leadership Journal” article, aptly entitled, Radical Calling, “I think there’s a command [into ministry], which is for everyone and it’s nonnegotiable. Then there’s a call [itlaics mine].”

In an opposing viewpoint, Dan Kimball at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California wrote, “I never felt a ‘calling to ministry.’ It just happened. I respect those who have had a calling experience to be in ministry, but honestly, these stories leave me confused. Isn’t everyone who places their faith in Jesus and begins to follow him ‘called’ into ministry? For some it might be serving on a church staff. For others the calling might be serving as a full-time mom or a plumber or an engineer. Each of these is a sacred calling. We all interact with other human beings, and we all represent Jesus. We are all called into a sacred vocation. We’re all on mission.”

Following college I married. I did not start out to be a pastor. In fact, I was running from it. Let me explain. When I was a teenager I felt strongly compelled to respond to an invitation given by an evangelist who was holding revival services at our church in Upstate New York. The invitation was directed to youth who felt that God was calling them to be pastors. The tug on my mind and heart was so strong that I had to walk down the aisle to say, “Yes!” I never forgot that night. That event began a struggle in my heart. Throughout college I fought that “calling”, if that is what it was at that early age.

I also had a strong desire throughout my childhood and early adolescent years to be a police officer, the dream of many young boys (and even girls today)! I could just picture myself getting a call and jumping into my cruiser with lights turned on and siren blazing, responding to the crisis to which I had been dispatched.

I also remember while at church picnics, and other church social gatherings, listening to the men of the church sitting together and talking about what they had “wished they had done.” Careers that they would have liked to pursue, but for various reasons they were either unable able to do so, or they let them slip by. Even today I can remember a moment in time when I said to myself, “I never want that to be true of me. I never want to miss being what I really dreamed of doing.”

So, after college, I married my college sweetheart and joined the local police department. I was now, officially, a policeman! I spent the next several years developing that career path. And, I loved it! I never wanted to leave it! During those years I often remembered my decision at the end of the revival meeting, but I figured I must have gotten it wrong.

Seven years passed. We had two small children now. One night, about 3:00 in the morning, I woke my wife and said, “You know what God just told me?” She groggily asked, “What?” I responded, “God just called me to be a pastor.” She tiredly said, “Go back to sleep. You’re having a nightmare!” The next morning she asked me if I remembered waking her up in the middle of the night. I said that I did, and I reaffirmed what I had said. Her response was, “I was afraid of that!” That night God called me, or reconfirmed His calling on a 14 year old boy at a revival service in rural New York State, to be a pastor.

I know that every pastor has not experienced a calling as dramatic as what I just described, but I am confident that a pastor must be convinced that God has called him into the ministry. To serve without this sense of calling would be to reduce Jesus Christ’s gift to the Church of “Pastor” or “Pastor/Teacher” to the level of a secular career choice. The Apostle Paul deliberately set this gift (as well as prophet, apostle and evangelist) apart from other people and livelihoods. These are men called of God, distributed by Jesus Christ, to equip the Church for works of ministry. A Pastor/Teacher is God’s “called” man.

Through history God has always called out certain leaders, assigning them to positions of elevated responsbility, to lead his people. This is not new and it is not simply cultural. God gave all of these leaders a higher degree of responsbility and accountability.  A young Timothy fully understood that calling and responsbility when the Apostle Paul singled him out and gave him this charge:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure soundteaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).

This charge was not for everyone in the church. It wasn’t for the carpenter, or the sheep herder, or the tentmaker, or the housewife or the soccer mom or dad. No, this was for a man who had been raised since childhood for such a calling as this. This was for a man who was to stand out above all others in the Church at Ephesus as God’s man, as the man who was to lead, teach, preach reprove, rebuke. This was for a man who was to ‘hang in there’ through the extremely difficult challenges of ministry, to be sober-minded and to endure suffering, doing the work of an evangelist. He was charged to fulfill his ministry. Why? Because his ministry was different, and with far more accountability than that of others in the church.

Devoid of a divine calling a pastor will find it difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill this calling. Without this calling, even though he may enjoy the work, he cannot serve with the same sense of responsibility and accountability as the man who is God-called (2 Timothy 4:1-5). A God-called Pastor may sense God’s call on his life in a clear and dramatic moment or he may sense the call over a period of time through circumstances, opportunities, and an inner compulsion. Regardless, one should assess his call by examining his willingness and desire for the task, as other elders do (1 Timothy 3:1). He should also examine the spiritual qualifications of the pastor-elder (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4). He should seek the Lord’s will in prayer with confidence that God has called him and will direct him. He should also seek the counsel of godly people and the approval of his church. No man will ever feel adequate to the call (Isaiah 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:9), but the knowledge of God’s gracious and sovereign call will keep him humble and dependent upon the Lord. In the final analysis, if a man can do anything other than the work of a pastor and find contentment in it, then he should go and do it, leaving the ministry to someone else, someone “called” by God. Not someone better. Not someone superior. But, someone “called” nonetheless by God to equip the Church of Jesus Christ.

I know this is simply one man’s opinion; but, I have searched the scriptures and my heart long and hard over this question.  I believe God has a very special, unique and wonderful calling for certain men to lead His Church as pastor/teachers.  May He bless and strengthen you today if you are one of those privileged men.