October 29, 2008

Mortification Meets Mixed Martial Arts- A Church Unique Snapshot

Have you ever heard of Puritan theology blended with the seeker church movement? Many folks ask me about my home church these days. When I am not consulting I attend Clear Creek Community Church in League City, TX, a seeker church with a reformed Baptist twist. Our teaching pastor Yancey Arrington, just finished a series called “Tapout,” the term used for one opponent giving up in a MMA fight. His work was heavily influenced by John Owen, a puritan thinker who focused his life work and writing on sanctification. The combination of these two themes explodes with energy and defines what I love about my home church. Here are a few nuggets about our uniqueness:

A Seeker church does not have to mean a “watered down” church. This straw man has been kept alive for years. Upon closer examination, there are many theologically robust teams that have chosen to target unchurched populations. Clear Creek speaks to people far from God with a high view of sin.

Focus expands. Clear creek has always targeted 35- year old males. Does this exclude people? Absolutely not! Rather it includes everybody within the influence of a 35-year old male who begins a transformational journey of full devotion with Jesus. Clear Creek is filled with more 60 year-old men and more 20-something women than most churches, because their focus expands. This clearly defined target totally flavors their communication- before the “Tapout” series (obviously a male targeted metaphor) they did a series called “Man-up: Overcoming Male Passivity.” Do you think women liked that series?

It isn’t for everyone. Being focused and pursuing a specific God-given vision frees people to leave who do not resonate with the vision. Recently a good friend and staff member of the church announced that he was leaving. In talking with him it’s abundantly clear that God has birthed a new idea in his heart. Being clear about your Church Unique brings freedom for everyone.

I always encourage churches to discover their Kingdom Concept by answering, “What can our church do better than 10,000 others?” For Clear Creek it’s simple: They glorify God and make disciples through a culturally engaging, weekly-patterned, gospel presentation designed to capture the attention of 30-something unchurched men.


October 26, 2008

Be Absurd or Don’t Be At All

I spent four hours with ten methodist church planters on thursday morning. I started the time by asking them to articulate their most pressing challenge. Half of them were in their first eight weeks after launch. The clearest common thread was the challenge of moving guests to core. One planter mentioned that after only a couple of months he was accumulating folks but didn’t know who was really on the team and who could really be counted on.

What is the key in calling people to commitment and cultivating real stakeholders? I challenged these planters with a quote from Einstein- “If at first the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.” I asked if their vision stretched the minds and hearts of their core and even their guests when given the chance to share. I asked if the could passionately explain why their church is different and why it will make a difference. I believe a bold, extravagant, unique, God-centered vision is critical to muster heroic sacrifice and radical contribution to get a plant off the ground.

Too often, leaders ask people to do petty, trivial projects in the name of Jesus and we wonder why we get trivial commitment. Or we set up a new church initiative with no compelling differentiator- why should someone drive past a more established church with better ministries to come to the new church plant? Jack Trout, the marketing guru says, “Differentiate or die.” My parting thought to these planters was an adaptation of Einstein- If you want to move guests to core, call them to a compelling vision- be absurd or don’t be at all!

October 25, 2008

The Garage Sale Exercise

A Simple Exercise for Moving Toward Simplicity

What is true or our garage is true for other areas of clarity in our life and ministry:

“Regardless of how well organized all the stuff in our garage may be, laying everything out on tables in light of day yields a completely new perspective of it all.

This principle is articulated by Dan Roam in the The Back of the Napkin.

When Auxano helps a church assess its ministry strategy we walk the empowered leadership through an exercise that helps them see more clearly everything that the church is doing. Basically we simulate a garage sale. Without exception we surface new insight and immediate action steps when we lay all out all of the ministries “on the driveway” at once. 

What metaphorical garage sale would help you unlock critical ministry insight.  What would it look like to lay out different information in one place, and one time, in clear view:

  • What are the key responsibility areas of everyone on your team? 
  • What is the breakdown of giving units in the congregation? 
  • How may total volunteer positions as a church are we attempting to fill?

Have fun and keep in mind this simple exercise works in any area of your life, like a file drawer or closet or day-timer.

October 20, 2008

Two “Musts” for Every Church: an Ed Stetzer Interview with Perry Noble

Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research asked Perry Noble of NewSpring Church “What advice would you give to churches in America? What elements would you say are a must in any church?” Perry’s answer included two elements. The first thing is a focus on Jesus. The second element is posted below:

“Number two, don’t try to be anything except who God called you to be. Maybe God didn’t call you to go multi-site. Maybe God called you to one location. You need to be completely content with that. Maybe God called you to go plant churches instead of doing video venues. You need to do that.

Maybe God told you to do video venues and plant churches. You need to do that. You don’t ever, every need to feel pressure because another church somewhere else in America or somewhere else in the world is doing something to think, “Oh, wow, we have got do that.” Our call as a church is to do exactly what God called us to do. In the book of Revelation chapter two and chapter three Jesus gives seven different messages to seven different churches.

If he wanted every church to be the same he would have just said, “All right. Here is my message to every church and it is just the same.” But he addressed seven churches specifically and said, “Here is what is going on with you. Here is what is going on with you. Here is what is going on with you.” I just think that each church has a unique DNA that it needs to focus on. The gospel should be central, but the strategy and the structure of the church should be completely open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

To see the entire interview, click here. To see the passionate response of Kenny Corn (where I originally found the excerpt), click here.

October 18, 2008

Attention Whiteboard Addicts!

This book by Dan Roam is a fascinating read- in several hours he stretched my thinking about how people think and communicate. With a practical bent and witty style, Roam walks through how we digest the world visually and how this understanding can transform communication- from problem solving to boiling down complex ideas. The best part of the book is how Roam models the concept on each page with helpful and inspiring pictures all the way through.

I highly recommend this book to any leader or teacher, and especially anyone addicted to whiteboard like me. I have a notebook full of whiteboard drawings I use when I consult. This book messed with my mind by forcing me to reevaluate each one. Here is an example:

On page 211 of Church Unique, I show the “attunement grid”. This tool is designed to help leaders identify four kinds of people in church based on a person’s ability to see the vision and their willingness to contribute. Its uses a voyage metaphor yielding the four types as stowaways, passengers, crew, and pirates. I have always drawn this grid with words, but Roam would prefer I use picture. What do you think?

Abby, my nine year old is a wonderful drawing consultant!