December 15, 2015

God Dreams Book Releases in 15 Days: FREE Chapter Now Available

God Dreams BookAs a blog reader I wanted to make sure you got your hands on the free stuff as it roll out with God Dreams.

Download the FREE Chapter 1 from God Dreams.

God Dreams is not only a continuation of my work in Church Unique, but the debut of a Visionary Planning model that has been 15 years in the making. I am not sure if I will ever be this excited about a tool for church leaders. What makes God Dreams so unique and useful?

Here are a few reasons:

1) God Dreams will show you in a new way, why vision is deeply important for your life and ministry.

2) God Dreams will help you diagnose two pitfalls as a visionary: generic vision and obsessing with the present. Of course it will unpack why “thinking long” is critical. And I will show you how to blow-up the generic, all too common, blah-blah-blah vision that plagues our minds and our “about us” church web pages.

3) God Dreams provides a new master tool that “snaps into” the Vision Frame of Church Unique. The master tool is called the Horizon Storyline. You are going love this tool, and its five key features that make your visionary plan sticky and shareable.

4) God Dreams gives you templates to accelerate your team dialogue. Long-range vision is tough. It’s hard to get teams on the same page.  These 12 vision templates will bring new clarity to your team within hours. Before long you will be inspiring the masses with new skill and content!

5) God Dreams will help your inspirational and creative team members lock arms with your detailed and operational team members. Yes, it’s like heaven when it happens. More stuff gets done.

6) Most importantly God Dreams will help you experience greater freedom, confidence and progress for your life in ministry. You already have more busyness; now pursue more freedom  knowing that you are focused precisely on what God wants you to do.

What kind of dramatic impact will your church have in your lifetime? Don’t go into 2016 with this question unanswered.  It’s time to discern it and proclaim it for God’s glory!

> Download the FREE Chapter 1 from God Dreams.

I hope you enjoy the free chapter. Stay tuned for offer free stuff and incentives for your help in spreading the word about God Dreams.

December 14, 2015

3 Reasons People Attend Your Church for the First Time

Why People attend ChurchI was recently consulting with Lee Powell who recently joined the Auxano team. Lee is the founding pastor of CedarCreek.tv, a church he grew past 8,000 in worship attendance over a few decades. Lee knows a little bit about growing a church. Not only has Cedar Creek been considered one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the country, it has been so in Toledo, Ohio (not a giant city in Florida, California or Texas where megachurches tend to sprout up.)

Long ago, the staff at Cedar Creek noticed that people attend church for the first time for one of three reasons. I thought this was a very helpful rule of thumb for leadership conversions. In summary, people come to church when something is missing, broken or new.

Something is Missing

Through the journey of life, the voice of God whispers and the Holy Spirit reveals the emptiness of our pursuits apart from Him. People may think about God, Jesus and even your church as they drive by when that haunting empty feeling crops up. Maybe it’s a death of someone at work, a long reflective drive where life’s deeper questions are pondered, or the surprising lack of meaning after the last big job promotion. How does your church equip believers to engage people who are missing something?

Something is Broken

We live in a world of brokenness. Many churches do ministry in areas where that brokenness is deeply hidden, albeit powerfully present. Unraveling marriages, lost jobs, wayward children and haunting addictions all live beneath the radar. Of course they raise their heads when we can’t control consequences any longer. Whether people are overtly hurting or trafficking in hidden hurt, how is your church poised to connect with them? Do you have an atmosphere that is conducive to restoration and where it’s safe to be “messed up”?

Something is New

New marriages, new babies, new jobs, new locations are the big “kinds of new” that make some people more receptive to the gospel. Faith is awakened, life’s longer-term view comes into focus and the prompting to love well or excel in healthy and “well rounded” ways comes to the forefront. These new seasons are easily captured through a unique message series, training opportunities, tools and intentional relationships. What does your church do to leverage the “new zone” that people in your community are going through?

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 I 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 100Movements.com. 

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.

Read 'Church Unique'? Get the companion tools.The Auxano Store