Once we invited a communication consultant to the church to evaluate our church presentation media. Scott Vaughn (Scott Vaughn Communications, LLC) met with our staff and gave us opinions and recommendations about our web site, newsletter, printed data, church brochure package, letters, signage, and other means of representing the church to the world around us. I remember asking which one of them was most important for projecting the mission of the church, A, B, C, D, E...or X. HIs response was Z, all of the above. The point was that each of the pieces was necessary in touching the many interests and attentions of our diverse community. We needed to concentrate on them all. The lesson for me me was that we needed to be all-terrain in our approach, navigating each communication system with excellence.
Leadership traction in this multi-faceted world is a a test of courage, strategy, vision, and common sense. It's true, none of us is the whole package, meaning that not one person or organization is going to be able to function in every specialty venue. It is a fact that each leader, and the organization that he or she leads, is uniquely prepared to accomplish a purpose within a context. One group does this and another that. One company manufactures great widgets and annother advises non-profits. One leader creates magnificant Power Point presentations while another brilliantly analyzes financial statements. Yet, in spite of the unique specialization wired into each of us there is a case for the generalist in leading and serving and producing. Often the competitive edge is about doing many things well and not just one. Check out Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and many other retailers about being too slotted.
In the church too, there is a case for providing as many of the minisrty functions as are consistent with the biblical expectations of worship, serving, mission, pastoral care, disciple-making, evangelism, community impact, and various training options. It used to trouble me when pastors and church leaders identified their congregation mission as specialists in certain areas. I remember attending a Southern Baptist Convention years ago and sharing a cup of coffee with some colleagues that had attended semainry with me. Of course we talked about church. One of them said, "Well, we're not an evangelism church. No, we are best at making disciples. So, we concentrate on that." OK, he was justifing his low baptism numbers. But, how can you make disciples and at some juncture along the way nort teach them to share their faith? It just didn't dd up.
Today, leadership and church traction are often the result of an all-terrain approach to mission. Greatly effective churches do many things well and fulfill the Scriptural requisites of misson as modeled by the first century church. Worship, Bible teaching, church discipline, the church gathered and scattered, age-group missions and ministry, community connections, fellowship, world mission, and so many internal dynamics enable the local congregation to reach the diverse populations into which the church has been commissioned. Just as the all-terrain vehicle can handle complex landscapes, the all-terrain leader can influence people across generational, gender, and interest lines. The all-terrain church will know the demographics of their area and design ministry to reach the people there.
The Apostle Paul understood this approach. He became all things to all people so that he could be positioned to reach some. In that multi-cultural world he was able to lead and minister to Greeks, Romans, Jews, pagans, philosophers, new believers, and people with widely varied geographical and regional distinctives. He wasn't indecisive or fickle and stayed on mission point because he knew the gospel intimately and shared it boldly. Mission was at the forefront and he did what was necessary to speak the truth to anyone along the way.
How can we become all-terrain leaders who are guiding all-terrain churches?
(1) Know the depths of God's provision and promises to give us what we need for life and godliness. He unleashes his people with the promise to give us what we need and create result when we are faithful in sharing his word. Often, we are only limited by our refusal to take him at his word. He put us where we are and promised to bless and guide us there.
(2) Assess the gifts and abilities of the church family and give them permission to use them. Every person has talents, strengths, and unique abilities. What is more, believers are gifted for kingdom service. If the Body of Christ image is a reality, and his promise of power is true, we can stretch the corps of mission workers beyond the paid staff and senior leadership.
(3) Know the demographics of your setting and develop mission and minsitry strategies that will reach the people around you. One pastor told me about erecting a basketball goal in the parking lot of the church and how that simple, inexpensive gesture began to reach out to dozens of young people in the community. Another told me about starting a community choir. It was a gathering point for people in their very diverse neighborhood and expanded their worship ministry greatly.
(4) Do a strengths and values assessment and build mission around your findings. All of us have things that are important to us. Even more, most of us do certain things well. Churches too. Even in a casual, unscientific way, this kind of study and thought can energize the congregation and enlist people with common interests to serve.
(5) Simplify. There's a lot of talk today about narrowing the scope of ministry and mission. How easy it is to add elements to the ministry plan, often things beyond the scope of Scripture. Yes, the Bible mandates many of our minstry organizations and plans. They are not optional. Beyond that, however, are many additions that drain our resources and are more luxury options and not all all-terrain drive. We should do what is required and do it well. Somemtimes we have to eliminate the heated seats, if you catch my drift.
Leonard Sweet, writing in Soul Tsunami (Zondervan, 1999) added this important note. He wrote, "If all four wheels are to be engaged, we will need mentors and coaches to tutor us in all-terrain driving." It's the new world. He sent us into it with a life-changing message. To get traction in it, we better learn all- terrain leadership and mission.
Driver's ed, 2015.0.