November 28, 2015

Introducing 100 Movements: A Brand New Church Multiplication Training Opportunity with Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole and Dave Rhodes

100 MovementsOver the last 2 years, I have been delighted to work with a unique group of movement-minded practitioners and thinkers about the next chapter of the missional conversation. The outcome of those gatherings is a brand new non-profit consultative training organization named 100 Movements. 

The big idea of 100 Movements is to shift from conversation to competency; from paradigm to practice. It is building on Leadership Network’s and Exponential’s multisite learning community and programs like Future Travelers where the basic ideas of the missional reorientation were explored from the view point of the megachurch and early expressions of the multisite form of multiplication.

The conclusion of many is that multisite church expressions have not become multiplication movements. We are still figuring out what real movement and rapid church multiplication looks like in the North American context. Research’s Warren Bird and Ed Stetzer attest to this in their book, Viral Church. In response,  Todd Wilson, the leader of the Exponential conference, is dedicating an e-book and the 2016 conference theme to the “Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church.” Everyone agrees that we have a  long way to go to really embed the “forgotten ways”  into tangible results in our “leading churches.” In fact, Exponential will unveil a provocative assessment and show that our most celebrated churches are operating as an “addition only” model that will be dubbed as “level 3” (and hopefully on their way to “level 5.”)  In the end, no one argues that less than 0.5% of churches in North America are multiplying. 

What is happening with 100 Movements (100M)? 

Dave Rhodes, the former national team leader of 3dM and myself have worked with Alan Hirsch and Neil Cole to design a developmental pathway around six movement competencies. My role is helping to build the toolbox and understand deep process change in existing churches. Dave is an amazing toolmaker, trainer and coach himself. Alan and Neil have written more on the subject than anyone over several decades. We are building the 6 Movement Competencies from the apostolic genius model from Alan’s seminal work, “The Forgotten Ways.” Neil Cole has perhaps led a multiplication movement more than any single practitioner in the United States. To top off the design team, we invited Jessie Cruikshank, a Harvard trained learning expert to help us. I think God has assembled an amazing team.

100M's six movement competencies

Why Am I Blogging About 100M?

The foundational Movement Competency is “Identity Declaring” — that is each church will articulate it’s radical minimum standard for disciple-making and its’ “Jesus is Lord” conviction. We will be using Church Unique’s Vision Frame and Auxano’s Vision Framing Process to deliver tools and training for this competency. But the thing I am most excited about is that 100M is designed for break-thru practice with leadership teams, not just more conferences, speakers, books and collaborative hang outs.

 Your Invited – How to Take a Next Step

If you are interest in more information, grab this digital brochure:  100_Movements_Introduction.

You can also register to get updates at 

Finally, if you want to sign-up to be one of the first 100 churches in our starter track called, Leap Year, which starts in late Spring of 2016, you can download,  fill in and send back our Good Faith Agreement: 100M_GFA.

November 2, 2015

5 Ways Your Church Mission Loses Power

church mission is powerfulThe mission of the church is powerful. It guided the everyday ministry of Jesus on planet earth.  It guides Jesus as he build his church today, through us. It’s recorded variously in all of the gospels but most commonly referenced in Matthew chapter 28:

 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

Yet, while the mission of the church was given to every church by Jesus, the culture of every church doesn’t always take its cue from our Savior’s command. Somehow in the mechanics of ministry the church mission may unintentionally lose steam. 

How does this happen?

Church leaders never willingly or knowingly turn their back on the mission of making disciples and taking the gospel to the four corners of the earth. The big idea of the church is preached and taught over and over again.

In the end, the problem is not that the Savior’s intent is found missing; it is found diminished. It is present but but not bright, having been eclipsed by something more important.

What could be more important? How does your church mission lose its power over time?

#1 The church’s mission is disabled

Sometimes the mission of the organized church does not transmit to the individual. Rather it stays compartmentalized to the clergy. That is, individual attenders never embrace the mission as their own.

Think of the mission as a steam engine on a train. What happens if the engine decouples from the entirety of the train cars behind it? The train goes nowhere! In the church, the people are the train cars. Every individual is supposed to be empowered by and moving on mission with Jesus. But pastors can easily uncouple their people from the mission—the steam engine— without knowing it.

Do a quick scan of your church’s mission again. Does it sound like something the staff does or the big church building does? How accessible is your language to the everyday member? Can they get out of bed each day and “put on” the mission?

#2 The church’s mission is relegated

Sometimes the work of evangelism or missional living or global responsibility is limited to one ministry area. Jesus didn’t command the the church to have a missions department, he commanded it to be on mission. He didn’t ask us to preach the mission as much as he modeled for us the life-on-life transmission of it. If only one part of your ministry is focused on those outside of the church, the entire church will drift over time and the mission will loose it’s power.

How does each leader and ministry area in your church convey the importance of mission in their area? One example is modeled by Pat Conner, when she led the children’s ministry at Sagemont Church. She translated the church’s mission for the kids. Sagemont’s mission is “to be living proof of God’s love to watching world.” Knowing that kids wouldn’t get this poetic phrase, she trained them “to be a real life picture of Jesus love to my family and friends.

#3 The church’s mission is depreciated

You have heard it said that what gets rewarded gets repeated. Every church culture rewards some behavior. Stories are told, celebrations are made—formal and informal; planned or unplanned. Everyone on the team has some mental scorecard of success.

In many church’s the unspoken script of success is not based on the mission. Staff count “butts in seats in my ministry area.” People talk about feeling cared for or not. Pastors are commended for the style of their teaching not the effectiveness of their training. 

When is the last time you really celebrated the mission? How would your people know that it was the mission that was celebrated?

#4 The church’s mission is negated

The church is a group of forgiven people not a collection of perfect ones. In fact, a mission that involves life transformation is going to be messy. There will be plenty of problems, hurts and arguments to go around. Fortunately, Jesus showed the way to forgive, to restore and to heal. 

Nevertheless, some church cultures empower divisiveness in a way that cancels the ability of reaching those outside of the church. Scripture reminds us that the unity of brothers and sisters in Christ a powerful part of demonstrating the mission of Jesus. John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

A church that is not continually restoring the unity of the faith will not be reaching new people for the faith. By allowing unresolved conflict to live in the church, spiritual leaders short-circuit the mission without knowing it.

#5 The church’s mission is abbreviated

One dramatic irony when handling the sacred text, is that our assent to the words of Scripture can sometimes inhibit a breakthrough of understanding it. To say it another way, sometimes leaders acknowledge the Great Commission without personally experiencing it.  When this happens, a  leader may continually reinterpret the activity of ministry to fit his or her own paradigm of mission. The idea of the mission itself is abbreviated; that is, it becomes a shorter, smaller version of the real thing.

For example, imagine someone during the worship service professes faith for the first time, because they wandered in after driving by the church. That would be a special moment for sure. However, that would not be an example of a church attender personally investing in disciple-making because the mission has been personally translated to them. Even if the pastor has not personally been investing in the mission of Jesus, he may consider this “freebie” salvation as “the church on mission.” The church’s ministry continues as a faint shadow of a people of God on mission, without sensing that the mission has been redefined. In essence the church’s mission become truncated, it is only partially experienced because it is only partially understood.

How then can a church leader avoid abbreviating the mission?

Vince Lombardi was considered a legendary football coach. He challenged his players to master the basics as he symbolically asserted “Gentlemen, this is a football” at the beginning of every season.

Pastors can do the same. Don’t take the basics for granted for yourself or your members. When was the last time you said to your church, “Brothers and sisters, this is the mission Jesus gave us!

October 13, 2015

12 Fun Facts About the Vision Frame for Church Leaders

Vision Frame in action by church leaderWhat is the Vision Frame? I’m glad you asked. It is a simple napkin sketch or whiteboard drawing that is used to represent the five irreducible questions of any ministry. It pictures mission, values, strategy, measures and vision and relates them in a way that is more meaningful and memorable. Read the complete overview.

For now here are some fun facts about the Vision Frame which debuted in print in the book Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision Capture Culture and Create Movement.

1- BIRTHPLACE: The Vision Frame was born on a napkin sketch in 2001, in Clear Lake, Texas when I was playing and doodling at my desk. It is now 14 years old and sometimes wakes up with pimples.

2- CHEAP LABOR: When the Vision Frame first hit the road consulting, I was simply begging my seminary buddies to bring me in for staff retreats. I would come as long as they paid my airfare and bought lunch.

3- BILINGUAL: The Vision Frame speaks two languages— it can enter a meeting on classic planning and hangout in the missional conversation. This language roughly corresponds to leaders over 40 years of age (classic lingo) and leaders under 40 (missional lingo). In other words, the Vision Frame is proud to be multigenerational tool.

4- PERSONALITY: The Vision Frame is notoriously hard to get to know and even comes across square at first. But once you get to know it, it becomes a best friend that you will always want around.

5- NO FAVORITES: Since the Vision Frame is truly model neutral, its works for any faith tribe, ministry model or philosophy. It loves church planters, turnaround leaders, and megachurch pastors just the same. It truly has no favorites!

6- HAPPIEST DAY: Anytime a church leaders go up to a white board and shares the five irreducible questions of clarity around a box, square or anything that remotely looks like a Vision Frame.

7- SADDEST DAY: When the Vision Frame read Tim Keller’s Center Church and it was never mentioned.  It’s feelings were hurt since so many books in the missional conversation where mentioned both good and bad. After all, how can you talk about “theological vision” without a Vision Frame?

8- TRACK RECORD: Church leaders search for “Vision Frame” 400 times per month on the internet; it sells the same number of books per month after 8 years.

9- TRAVEL: The Vision Frame has spent the most of its travel time all over South America, Korea, Germany and Switzerland. The Spanish version is Iglessia Unica. The Korean version of Church Unique is literally translated, “Your Church in 10 Years.”

10- SECRETS: The Vision Frame secretly believes that when Jesus was drawing something in the sand, it was probably looked like a frame.

11- STYLE: The Vision Frame is the only organizational approach to clarity that actually uses a picture to transmit the key ideas. Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins and Peter Drucker have similar irreducible questions but never made them visual or fashionable. Further more the Vision Frame has icons decorating it and a 52-page gorgeously designed visual overview dedicated to it. Get it here—requires e-mail.

12- KISSIN COUSIN: The Vision Frame has a related tool, the Horizon Storyline, which debuts on January 1st of 2016:  God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates to Find and Focus Your Church’s Future. While the Vision Frame will be a little jealous there are many shout outs to it in the book.

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

Screen Shot 2012-05-08 at 1.52.04 PM

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.

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