An apt description of what the church is to be. Would you agree?
The million dollar question: So how do we get there?
I’m learning that four things are essential (though certainly other things are also necessary).
Vision–a picture of the Kingdom. The way we ask it for our context is this: What will it mean for God to be King of North County? The way we’ve gone about answering that is to say that we want to call an entire city to God. Audacious in a metro area of 2+ million. In calling a city to God, we want to make disciples who love God, love people and serve our community.
Values–how grace works its way into the warp and woof of our relationships. It’s great to have a hill-charging, world-changing, larger-than-life vision (if you don’t, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board). But if you have that, and in the process of getting there don’t act like Jesus in the way you get there (i.e., an atmosphere of grace that pervades every interaction), are you really a Christian church? Here’s how we’ve articulated our values:
- Hospitality – There’s always room for one more.
- Kindness – How we act and interact is the basic way we express Jesus’ love to each other.
- Relationships – Investing in relationships is an investment in eternity.
- Experimentation – Everything’s an experiment.
- Excellence – We always give our best.
- Second chances – We’ll help you clean up.
- Generosity – Giving is a better way to live.
At this point, most of us stop. We make posters, have a sermon series, put the vision in slogan format on every document/brochure/t-shirt/pen we can afford to put it on and, in the words of one of my consultant friends, end up with a laminated vision. It’s in print, on the wall, laminated to keep the dirt off…but it pretty much stays there.
At the behest of Mike Breen, I’m adding the following 2 essentials that–executed with determination, courage and a deep sense of the abiding presence of Jesus woven into the fabric of our being as a leader via our daily rhythms–turn vision and values into reality.
Vocabulary. Do we have a shared way to talk about the reality of whole-life discipleship to Jesus? If so, what is it? Who keeps the language alive and how do we work it into our culture? No shared language=no shared culture. And no shared culture=no shared community and mission. If we want to make disciples, we have to have an easily learned and repeated language for doing that. If making disciples means needing a theological degree, then we’ve just limited the pool of people who are “qualified” for the job. Formal theological language is good (and important), but not a prerequisite for making disciples.
A story: While finishing my seminary degree, our final group task was the creation of an articulated statement of the purpose of the church. Fine and good. You need to know that I am well-read, reasonably intelligent and a lover of words (I could easily have become a life-long student and been perfectly happy, alas, my wife and children need to eat and cannot eat the text of Thomas Torrance’s tomes). One of our group–beholden to the “theological information equals intelligence and disciples’ school of thinking–rattled off a descriptive list that sent me to my theological dictionary. If I responded like that in that setting, do our people do the same in our settings when we talk about discipleship? Do we send them scurrying to a dictionary to understand what we just said? If so, we’ve thrown up the complexity barrier and I’ve found that most people won’t jump over it.
Vehicle. What’s the means by which people can take the Vision, Values and Vocabulary and drive them around to accomplish the mission? If there is no vehicle, there is no mission. Even if we really, really, really believe in mission. And have a stated one. And like it. A lot. And other people like it. And it reflects our most careful descriptions and distillations of the convergence of theological nuance and cultural exegesis. And people on blogs like it. A lot. Well, I think you get the point: No vehicle. No mission.
Here are the vehicles we are developing:
Up: A passionate worship experience aimed directly at people’s hearts helps them reorient their life orbit around God. We want to make it easy, in that setting, for people to love God. For a long time, we’ve been an Up Church. In other words, “Church” has defined and experienced as the weekend service.
In: I am leading the first wave of huddle. Huddle=me + 6 guys every week for 1.5 hours. They are the most important people I pour myself into. Our 2nd, 3rd & 4th huddles are launching in short order. In the huddle, using the language of LifeShapes, we learn to process life in terms of the Kingdom of God. If my guys can do that–that is, learn to frame everything that is happening in them, around them, to them and through them in terms of the fact that they are following Jesus–they are on a life-long journey of reproducible discipleship and we are smack-dab in the middle of creating a discipling culture.
Out: Missional Community. You can read a description of what missional communities are here (a definition from the folks who pioneered it), here (a definition if you are coming from Small Group world) and here/here (definitions from 2 churches doing it).
Think about it. You develop the character and competence of an unending supply of leaders via the huddle vehicle and then set them free to serve the community in the way in which they are passionate to do it, gathering to themselves people in whom they will repeat the process. You do this in a low-control, high accountability way. Haven’t you just arrived at the missional church described in the video?
Or, to be provocative, you could stop at vision and values, develop some killer programs aimed at people’s needs and have a wicked cool weekend worship service (however you choose to define it). All fine and good, but would you get the same result?