September 22, 2015

Stop “Making Disciples:” 10 Ways Church Mission Statements Backfire

Church Mission Statements BackfireThe idea of mission is simple: Do you and those who you lead know what you are ultimately supposed to be doing? While most pastors think they are clear on mission, most church attenders are not. And in some ways, how we use the default language of “making disciples” is to blame, even though these words represent a very important biblical passage.

To say it a different way, how church leaders cut and paste Matthew 28:19-20 as a crown-jewel text of the Great Commission is actually working against their accomplishment of it. Our church mission statements backfire on us!

Here are ten quirky realities about church mission statements that illuminate how they backfire. Which one is most applicable to your current situation?

Quirky Reality #1: No Process

Even though the Bible records many examples of leaders articulating the mission of God’s people, we fixate on Matthew’s version of it. Rather than going through a process to articulate the Jesus-given mission for our specific time and place, we parrot the words of one particular gospel over the others.

Quirky Reality #2: No Definition

By photocopying Matthew’s version of the church’s mission, we traffic in words like “make disciples” with little to no definition or context and in some cases very little actual experience. Because we get it from the Bible and preach with biblical intent, we don’t think we need to.

Quirky Reality #3: Anything Goes

It is easy for church attenders  to reinterpret their experience of church—whatever it may be—as a “making disciples” experience because there is little to no definition or context for these words. This creates a vicious cycle within the church of assuming we know what we mean as the church continues to make decisions, spend money and add ministries. A church can be anything it wants to anybody. It can do anything it wants to do with perfect justification underneath its undefined mission statement.

Quirky Reality #4: Missing Scorecard

Pastors validate the mission of “make disciples” with a scorecard that has nothing to do with whether or not a disciple has been made; that is with the scorecard of attendance and giving only. Concerts and circuses have great attendance and giving too.

Quirky Reality #5: Incomplete Competence

Because we can name “make disciples” as the “right answer” for the mission of the church, we think we know how to lead with mission. When it fact, we are substituting “a knowledge about” mission with the lifelong competency development of “leading from” mission.

Quirky Reality #6: False Assurance 

Because of the notion of “mission as statement,” the written statement in our membership class or website creates a false sense of completion. Stating the mission one time becomes a “been there, done that” step.” Since it is stated somewhere, we think the work of leading with mission is done, when it has hardly begun.

Quirky Reality #7: Reinforced Consumerism

In the process of articulating a “make disciples” mission, 95% of churches reinforce consumerism without knowing it. This happens because most statements imply to the church attender that they, as the disciple, are the beneficiaries of services and groups provided by the fulltime pastors. The pastors and staff, they assume, do “the making.”

Why does this occur? Simply put, the language of “making a disciple” is not accessible enough to the mindset of our culture. People don’t get out of bed and think to themselves, “I get to make disciples today.” They leave that to “the professionals” and to the “place they go” to attend church.

Quirky Reality #8: Misdirected Energy

The primary growth challenge of any church is having culture of mission. By focusing on a thousand things to grow our church, we miss the first and most important step to healthy multiplication and dynamic growth. All growth and renewal in a church comes from the process of re-founding the mission with the leadership core, which is hopefully a growing leadership core.

Quirky Reality #9: Little Transference

When a church is in its most entrepreneurial form, a culture of mission is “in the atmosphere” and little intention is necessary for people to “feel it.” The start and the big bang of the church itself substantiates the mission whether it is thoughtfully articulated or not. But once the church grows past 75 people, how you articulate the mission is critical to its transference.

Quirky Reality #10: Shadow Mission

In addition to your stated mission, every organization has a functional mission or “shadow mission.” Think of the functional mission as the unstated driver or notion of “success” that most naturally tempts us to drift off the Jesus-given mission of the church. For example a functional mission of many churches would be something like to “have more people attend worship services” or “to sustain enough giving to keep our current staff” or “to not make anyone unhappy.”

One Application: Your Own Words

Perhaps the best way to summarize this post is to recall one of the fundamental exercises of learning: “putting it in your own words.” Your second grade English teacher asked you to read something. And when she wanted to know if you understood what you were reading, she asked you to restate it in your own words.

Likewise, our people won’t understand the mission of Jesus until they can put in in their own words.

July 4, 2015

The Nine Forms of Generic Church Vision that Stifle Practically Every Church

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Most pastors are visionaries. But to fully realize the vision of a church, a pastor needs more than a generic sense of the future.

When it comes to vision, the biggest challenge to success is not your obstacles. The biggest challenge to overcome is settling for a lesser vision and not knowing it. If you grab on to a faulty tool—in this case the tool of vision—everything you to try to build with that tool will be limited.

Once you move past a generic sense to a vivid vision, you will still have many obstacles to overcome, but those are the natural challenges of implementation. You still have the hard work to do. But every action and every point of communication is more powerful with the vivid and compelling picture of the future in view.

If you are living with generic vision, and I believe most pastors are, more of your implementation challenges have to do with clarity than you realize. In the last week alone, I have seen issues like staff hiring decisions, children’s programming decisions, and campus launch decisions all present major dilemmas only because of unclear vision. Yet the lead pastor didn’t recognize it as such.

How then, can we apprehend the generic church vision that plagues our churches? In my forthcoming book, God Dreams, I have identified nine forms generic vision to help you name it in your church. The nine stem from three healthy biases. That is to say, we empower generic vision with good motives most of the time. We do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a good motive taken a little too far in application.

The three healthy biases are: accuracy, growth and efficiency. I will briefly describe each bias with the three forms of generic vision they create. Also, I will invite you to receive free God Dreams resources when they are available at the link below. The next resource is a worksheet to help your team identify its specific form of generic vision.


A healthy bias toward accuracy can lead us to confuse Biblical statements with Biblically informed vision.

 The story of church vision in the last two decades could be described as the great misuse of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Most people have heard some variation of the following as a vision statement for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to love God and love others.” (Love God vision)
  •  “Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Make disciples vision)
  • “Our vision is to glorify God.” (Glorify God vision) 

These are biblical imperatives that should apply to all churches, but not as a vision statement. Why? When Jesus summarized the law, He was not giving churches a vision statement. This is a meaningful summary of the law, but it’s not an answer to the question: if we’re a church, what should our vision be for the next three to twenty years?

To summarize the problem, in our efforts to be biblical we fail to be imaginative, by cut-n-pasting verses as vision.


A healthy bias toward growth can lead us to substitute a grow-only vision for a growth-minded vision. 

Some church leaders equate growth with vision. “If we experience momentum, we must have vision,” they reason. Here are three examples of how growth becomes an end in itself as generic kinds of vision statements for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to reach more people for Christ.” (Reach more vision)
  • “Our vision is to build a bigger facility or launch more campuses in order to take the gospel to more places.” (Build more vision)
  • “Our vision is to change world.” (More change vision)

Every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And an increased response can certainly lead to more facilities and more campuses.

A healthy bias for growth might undergird a vision, but statements like these are weak by themselves. “Reaching more” and “changing the world” are too vague. And buildings and campuses might be important tools, but they are means to something greater, not an end in themselves.


A healthy bias toward efficiency can lead to a done-for-you vision that neglects adequate do-it-yourself vision ownership. 

Church leaders across the centuries have been drawn to learn from other churches where good things seem to be happening. Often this happens with the best of motives: they suspect God is at work and they want to be part of it. They appreciate the encouragement, the ideas, the tools, and the training from the other churches’ leadership. They follow the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1 where the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A noble intent for sure.

But the passion that says, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” while wisely seeking to improve efficiency, can lead to a debilitating blockage of the imagination. Who wants to leverage the learning of others to the point of sacrificing the thrill of having a God-given, handcrafted vision?

This bias shows up in several approaches to vision. But unlike the accuracy bias and the growth bias, the efficiency bias doesn’t usually express itself in a written vision statement, but in the mindset of the leaders. I would label three expressions of this intent as follows:

  •  Serve as a franchise vision
  • Offer the most vision (i.e., more programs)
  • Be the best vision (model church, top 10, etc.) 

Of course I have much more to say about these nine forms of generic vision in God Dreams. But I bet this is enough to begin a meaningful conversation with your team.

The post will be unpacked in greater detail in God Dreams, my fourth book. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.  I invite you to sign up for pre-release specials before the book is published in 2016 (link below). The biggest one will be a free visual summary that you won’t want to miss! The next tool I am providing is a generic vision worksheet.

Get on the list for pre-release specials for God Dreams here.

June 3, 2015

46 Ways to Use Periscope in Local Church Ministry

A guest post from Bryan Rose, one of Auxano’s Lead Navigators.

As the social media app Periscope continues to grow in popularity, an ever-increasing number of church leaders are leaning in to this emerging tool as an opportunity to connect and transfer vision.

Periscope videos are public broadcasts viewable by anyone, with notifications that are sent to your followers and to your Twitter feed when you “go live.” However, there is also a private broadcasting feature which allows the user to limit potential viewers to a select group of followers.

Given this functionality, the ability to interact with viewers, and the 24-hour lifespan of each video saved, here are 46 examples of how leaders might use Periscope in Church Ministry…

For the Vision-Dripping Senior Pastor…

1. Deliver daily devotions during a season of campaigning

2. Share vision-soaked highlights of the day on Sunday evenings

3. Reveal a Thursday afternoon sermon preview with handles on how to invite to Sunday services

4. Broadcast business meetings during those hard-to-quorum summer months

5. Lead sermon-based small group leaders by reviewing main points and potential applications

6. Share weekly prayer moments – taking requests and praying

7. Poll member’s feelings about a topic while preparing a sermon

8. Host regular “Bible answer man” / tough questions sessions

9. Give live tours and updates during a building or renovation project

10. Moderate monthly roundtables with area pastors to discern community needs and promote unity

For the Mission-Multiplying MultiSite Campus Pastor…

11. Connect the core team to vision during pre-launch phase

12. Bring updates to the entire church before, during or after campus services

13. Host community round tables anchoring campus to geographic location

14. Moderate real-time chat with the teaching pastor, connecting them personally to the context

15. Broadcast set-up/tear-down as it happens, capturing the heart for vision behind the hard work of the volunteers

16. View the central campus live feed with onscreen notes for campus leaders as they happen

17. Engage live Q&A with teaching pastor, fed from stage at each campus

For the Deep-Connecting Christian Education Director…

18. Conduct weekly training for leaders highlighting vision-fueled application questions

19. Create regular input sessions with group leaders receiving feedback and sharing stories of discipleship

20. Highlight a small group each week and live stream from their meeting

21. Reinforce the vision of connection and community by sharing stories from groups

22. Invite invested leaders into real-time thinking and get input before decisions are made

For the Snapchatting-Before-It-Was-Cool Youth Leader…

23. Share nightly updates on what God is doing among the youth at camp or on a mission trip

24. Preview youth group worship topics for students with an inviting hook for students to use at school

25. Prep youth volunteers on their role in upcoming big events

26. Create fun, interactive video segments during youth group

27. Push real-time helps for parents in response to a community crisis or cultural event

28. Blow up a student’s big game, performance or life event, letting everyone celebrate with them

29. Host a live “ask me anything” night for the teenagers, if you dare

For the People-Empowering Children’s Minister…

30. Build VBS anticipation with a walk thru of environments theming

31. Deliver weekly volunteer preparation for the lesson or craft that will be used that week

32. Broadcast VBS rec/craft/worship with real-time look-ins

33. Host monthly parent forums with Q&A on a particular topic

34. Give a Sunday night recap of the morning with questions for parent/child interaction around the lesson

35. Settle once and for all how much more fun volunteering with kids really is

For the Always-Analyzing Executive Pastor..

36. Produce training updates on one of your boring policies or procedures

37. Live stream mandatory annual health insurance meetings – the staff can fake interest by sending hearts

38. Realize, that – who are we kidding – you bristle at the thought of another social media channel to have to police

For the Cause-Mobilizing Missions Pastor…

39. Transmit updates from teams as they reflect on the work of God that day

40. Host “Missions Weekend” interviews with missionaries in the field

41. Give progress reports on construction projects or evangelistic initiatives

42. Live stream back home from worship environments around the world

43. Produce time-zone transcending monthly updates to partners in the field, with feedback and prayer request avenues built-in

44. Keep track of the “church has left the building” projects as they are happening

45. Connect groups meeting in prisons or missions centers to the larger church body

For the Hard-Working Church Custodian…

46. Show everyone how wrecked the church is after a youth meeting

Read more from Bryan.

May 28, 2015

12 Startling Reasons to Practice Long Term Thinking in Ministry

I have never been more excited to put a tool in the hand of church leaders. God Dreams is my fourth book and I’m currently in the writing home stretch with Warren Bird, who’s been an amazing collaborator. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.

Here is the first of many peeks into the book. I invite you to sign up for pre-release specials before the book is published in 2016 (link below). The biggest one will be a free visual summary that you won’t want to miss!

One of the chapters in God Dreams is focused on recovering the long view of visionary planning. I unpack the benefits of “thinking long” in a world obsessed with now. The long term vision tool that I debut in the book is called the Horizon Storyline. It’s a visionary planning method that snaps right into the Vision Frame.

For more than a few reasons, the practice of long term thinking is hard to come by these days. Steward Brand, who is working on an interesting project called the 10,000-year clock project writes:

Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span.The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next election perspective of democracies or the distractions of personal multitasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective is needed.

What are the 12 startling reasons to practice long term thinking in ministry?

  1. Think long because, most likely, you will lead for a long time.
  2. Think long to love people beyond your lifetime.
  3. Think long because that’s how God reveals himself.
  4.  Think long because God thinks generationally.
  5.  Think long because you will live forever.
  6.  Think long because how big you think guides how much you accomplish.
  7.  Think long to build a ministry that will endure.
  8.  Think long because it costs you nothing.
  9.  Think long to master plan your disciple-making impact.
  10.  Think long to connect people to God’s big story of redemptive history.
  11.  Think long to focus a broader resource base.
  12.  Think long so that God can do more than you think.

Get on the list for pre-release specials for God Dreams here.

May 23, 2015

7 Reasons Why Every Church Leader Should Consider Periscope, the New Social Tool

It’s only been eleven days since I heard about Periscope from one of Auxano’s newest navigators, Chris Rivers. We were doing a leadership training event at Elmbrook Church with 500 leaders discussing their new mission and values. In seconds,  Chris started live streaming the event and over 40 people joined in. Since then, I have broadcast 11 live events, averaging one per day. Yesterday, anyone could have watched 15 minutes of Auxano’s virtual team training. Last night anyone could have chatted with me about book writing, while I hosted a 15 minutes Q&A at 11 o’clock at night trying to stay awake for another few hours. (I have 14 days left to finish God Dreams, my fourth book.)

What is Periscope? It’a an insanely simple, live streaming tool that connects with your twitter account. (Twitter bought it for $100 million.) Whatever you live stream, people can comment on, and “heart” showing realtime interaction and engagement. Best of all, it archives your live streaming event for 24 hours so that you followers can watch later if they weren’t available.   Read more at Wired or TechCrunch.

So why should every church leader jump on the band wagon?

Let me say up front that I am not a tech guy and I don’t really pay close attention to all of the new stuff that comes out. I am an opportunistic guy, who sees patterns fast and far.  What periscope will become is actually mind numbing when you consider the possibilities.  I won’t unpack it in this post.

But I do want to urge you to get on this tool and start experimenting.  Here are at least seven reason why every church leader should consider periscope, the new social media tool. 


 #1 Every new social tool is a new opportunity to learn as a leader.

I know you are busy and you can’t get distracted by everything. But the benefits of this opportunity are huge. If you keep the perspective of periscope as a leadership tool and a learning tool it will help. Think of is this way— It’s more efficient and probably more fun than reading another leadership book.

#2 Your influence may dramatically increase if you are an early adopter with a tool that will be widespread.

You want to be in the know when the odometer turns and everyone is reset to zero. That’s right, everyone is at the starting line. And the first ones to use it will begin to have differentiated influence. And every day you wait, you get further behind.

 #3 Periscope doesn’t start from scratch, but leverages your current twitter following. 

Fortunately you are not turning a giant flywheel with no momentum, unless of course you are not on twitter. For many of you, jumping into periscope will enable you to connect with dozens of people due to its integration with twitter. Yup, more stuff to retweet!


The most important factors, of course, have to do with the gospel and your ministry calling.

#4 Periscope removes the greatest barrier to discipleship—opportunities for life modeling that don’t require physical presence.

You can teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are. Periscope is an amazing tool for life modeling. Think about it. You might teach or preach to a crowd once a week. But who gets to see you do family devotions? Who might want to peek in for 5 minutes to see where you have your God times? What’s better than seeing the mission trip live from a handful of people on the ground?

What did Jesus due when he came to earth? He modeled his life so that he could start a life-modeling chain reaction. When he left he provided his personal presence through the Holy Spirit. He distributed his presence through the incredible nature of the Trinity himself. In some ways that is the same multipliable opportunity with Periscope. Periscope has been called “consensual voyeurism.” I would encourage you to think about it as “ever-present modeling multiplication”

#5 Periscope expands how a mobile society can stay connected to your ministry events.

My first post in 2015 became popular as I discussed why you most committed people will attend church less frequently. Here is a tool to address that challenge. Why wouldn’t you want to have a distributed workforce of people showing your ministry events, shared experiences and God moments as a church? I can’t wait to see the applications for church communicators!

 #6 Periscope creates a new horizon of innovation opportunity for the almost 8 billion in the world. 

The mind blowing begins when you think of the modeling, teaching and training opportunities leveraged across a growing global population of digitally connected people.  If you want some fuel to throw on your imagination, consider reading this post on 8 Predictions for the world in 2025.

Do you ever get tired of the church lagging far behind the innovation curve? Again, here is an new opportunity to leap ahead.

#7 There will be tons of distracting and even evil stuff on Periscope, so let’s saturate it with the gospel! 

Enough said.

Are you on Periscope yet? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh and be sure to connect with me @willmancini. Periscope up!

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