Creating Missional Alignment

Creating Alignment

Hans / Pixabay

I read an interesting post on Fast Company’s website today called “Popularity Means Nothing–The Missing Step to Startup Success.”  In the article Bhavin Parikh and Aaron Schwartz make a convincing claim that alignemnt is a key factor for success.  They share five ways of creating alignment.  In this post I’d like to apply these ideas to creating missional alignment in a Christian community.

  1. Set Your Vision — Parikh and Schwartz begin by saying that a company should be able to say why it exists in one sentence.  I believe that a Christian community should be able to as well.  Why does your community meet?  What are y’all about?  Here’s an example: “Together, we want to connect with God, foster authentic community, and serve our neighbors.”  Pretty simple to write…but the challenge would be aligning all you do around that one statement.  Doing so would necessitate saying “no” to things that fall outside of the vision!
  2. Define Your Values — In order for a company to succeed, the people working there need to be able to make decisions.  How do they do that?  One way is by having clearly-defined values that help folks choose what might be best.  The same thing holds true for a missional community.  The community needs some core values or it will begin to drift from its vision.  Those values might look something like this: Inclusivity, diversity, honesty, sharing, incarnation, and proclamation.  Thus, when push comes to shove, any member of your community can call to mind your core values and make a decision in support of them!
  3. Identify your BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) — Parikh and Schwartz label the BHAG as a goal 1-3 years out on the horizon that should be a stretch.  It’s important to have a BHAG because it lets everyone know what is the company is driving toward.  This can absolutely apply to a missional community.  But a word of warning: many of us followers of Jesus will make a way-too out of reach BHAG.  For instance, we might make it a goal that within the next three years we’ll eradicate homelessness in our neighborhood.  This is just ludicrous!  A better goal is more specific, measurable, and do-able (though a stretch).  So perhaps something like this: We will multiply our missional community three times in the next three years.  That’s a big goal that will help create alignment!
  4. Set Department Goals — Having a clear and inspiring BHAG is good but by setting department goals actual progress toward the BHAG can be tracked.  So, for a missional community that might look like this: We’ll have more people at our communal worship times, we’ll have 85% involvement in intentional communities, and we’ll average 2 hours of community service a person a month.  If those goals are met, alignment will be forged and progress toward the BHAG (multiplying) will come!
  5. Track Key Metrics — Measuring stuff is important.  Duh.  But what we measure might be even more important than the measuring itself.  Parikh and Schwartz write: “At the end, though, you need to make sure that the metrics you track and the targets you pursue on a daily basis will help you hit your BHAG and thus fulfill your greater vision.”  Thus, for a business to succeed it needs to track the right things well.  How does this apply to a missional community?  We need to track some stuff.  Traditionally Christians in the West have tracked butts, buildings, and budgets (AKA attendance, physical space, and money).  And while each of these things is important, so are intentional community involvement and community service.  It’s been said that what you measure tends to grow and this is, for the most part, true.  Why?  Because the things we measure are things that we pay attention to and celebrate publically.  Thus, we could possibly see significant positive change if we paid attention to and celebrated publicly intentional community and service!

Doing these five things can certainly build alignment into a missional community.  If we did each of them better, then  it would create a greater buy-in from everyone, thus helping us fulfill the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission!

What do you think?  What other sorts of things might create missioanl alingment?

Football or Going to Church?

I ran across an amazing quote from Hugh Halter the other day.  It’s from his book entitled AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, which is co-written by Matt Smay.  Here it is:

If the vision of the church is not scary, if it doesn’t require everyone to pitch in, if faith is not needed, then folks will stay home and watch the football game.” (139)

This one is particularly interesting to me since it is Monday morning, the day after which Tony Romo led the Cowboys, my favorite football team, to a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback!  And, to be honest, my wife and I decided not to go to church yesterday at all.  Instead, we went hiking and then we watched some football.  Before you get too worried about us, we did go to church on Saturday night, and our normal Sunday-morning responsibilities were canceled this week.

Hans / Pixabay

So even though it was “okay” for us not to be at church yesterday, it sure did feel funny!  But I wonder if it felt funny because it broke our deeply-ingrained habits, or was it because we are truly connected to a church with vision where we feel needed.  Honestly, it’s probably a little bit of both.

This leads naturally to another question for me: If lifers like Alida and I sometimes feel disconnected from the vision of gathered worship, what do folks who don’t have the same level of history think?  My guess is that they don’t think much about church at all on Sunday mornings, and that if they do, they probably just think it’s cute and quaint.  Sure, there will be a few who hate church and decry it for one reason or another.  But my guess is that for most people, gathering together at a building called a “church” to sing songs, sit and stand, listen to a sermon, and give money never comes up.

And when it does come up, I wonder how often hiking, football, sleeping in, having brunch, etc. trumps gathering with believers to worship God?

Who knows.  Provably a lot.  But here’s a better question: Why are people choosing to gather less and less these days?  Why aren’t people coming, including people who profess to believe in Jesus?

I think Hugh is right, our vision isn’t all that compelling.  We aren’t all that attractive relative to other choices.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Jesus’ vision for those who follow him would involve going out and coming together (Matthew 28.19-20).  But it seems that we’ve simplified Jesus’ mission into activities that revolve around gathering together.  Sure, we’ll throw in a few scattering things here and there: we’ll pack a shoebox full of inexpensive toys at Christmas, and we’ll gather school supplies for those sad public school kids, and we’ll write a check to support missionaries.  But that’s pretty much the extent of our participation in the scattering of the church.

Not long ago I was convinced missionaries, evangelists, and their sort were the ones who were goers.  The rest of us were people who went to church.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who had envisioned the professionalization of scattering that way.

So we’ve limited Jesus’ mission for us by half.  We’ve more or less eliminated the scattering and just focused on the gathering.  But our vision for gathering together seems very different from what Jesus had in mind.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) there are several things to learn about gathering together: 1) It should enable disciple-making; 2) It should involve folding people fully into the family of God through baptism; and 3) It should involve instruction to obey all that Jesus commanded his disciples.

Let’s start with #3.  Our gatherings in most Evangelical churches are almost solely about teaching.  We’ll have one person stand in front of many people and teach for 20, 30, 40 minutes, or longer.  I hope that our teaching revolves around what Jesus taught his disciples, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t always.  Besides, Jesus taught about some crazy stuff like loving your enemies, prioritizing God above family, caring for those in the most need, and praying for God’s future reality to become real in the present.

Now to #2.  We have baptisms in our gatherings, which is awesome!  It’s always one of my favorite things!  However, since so few of us ever actually go out to make new disciples, our baptisms are few and far between, even at large churches.  (Caveat: there are some churches who are baptizing folks like crazy, which is awesome!  My guess: they’ve fostered a better sense of missionality in all of their people.)

#1. When we gather it should be about disciple-making.  “So are you saying that every sermon should be about deciding between Jesus and hell?”  No, not necessarily.  What I am saying is that when we gather one of the chief purposes should be for us all to grow in our discipleship.  So new believers should be learning and old believers should be learning.  All of us should be helping one another, in the power of the Spirit, to figure out how to follow Jesus better.

And following Jesus leads us to gather together and to go out into the world on mission with him.

So if our vision for church is about buildings, budgets, and butts, we’re not going to inspire many people to gather and scatter.  And if our vision is to tell people what we think they want to hear, we’re not going to inspire many people to gather and scatter.  And if our vision is really about our personal, financial security (“There’s a mortgage to pay…”), then we’re not going to inspire many people to gather and scatter.

It’s time we catch Jesus’ vision, namely that we get to participate with God as he reconciles all things to himself through Christ (2 Corinthians 5.19).  That’s a scary vision.  That’s a vision that needs all of us to pitch in.  That’s a vision that requires faith.  That’s a vision that will inspire people to skip out on sleeping in, hiking, watching football, etc.  That’s a vision that will transform our lives, our communities, and our world!

Failing at the Elevator Pitch

Nemo / Pixabay

Nemo / Pixabay

So yesterday was a big day!  My wife and I were hosting a team of six folks at our place to chat about the mid-sized community that we all help lead.  My goal at this meeting was to cast the missional/incarnational vision very clearly so that the six of us could dream together about how to shift our group from away from being attractional.

So I had been praying and preparing for several days.  I had a solid feel for what I would say and how I would say it.  Then I checked my email and I noticed a message from the Michael Hyatt newsletter.  If you don’t know, Michael Hyatt is a publisher, author, blogger, and leadership coach and consultant.  There’s a bunch of stuff on his blog about leadership, personal development, developing your brand, etc.  He’s really great!

Well the email from his newsletter linked to a really interesting article called “Why You Need an Elevator Pitch (and How to Create One)”  An elevator pitch is a short but effective way to tell someone about your idea in a limited amount of time, say the amount of time you have in an elevator with someone.  Michael Hyatt gave four pieces of advice:

  1. Describe your idea.
  2. Talk about the problem.
  3. How can your idea help solve the problem.
  4. What’s the key benefit of your idea.

I wrote these four phrases on a piece of paper and stuck it in my pocket.  My plan was that all throughout the day I would use the elevator pitch idea to think more carefully about how to cast vision with the team that evening.  I practiced while driving, in my mind while hanging out with friends, while in the shower, before leading a devotional, while at an immigration-reform rally, and then while cleaning the house.

I had honed the pitch down to two sentences: “My hope is for us to view ourselves as missionaries where we work, play, and live because the “if you build it, they will come” version of church just isn’t working anymore.  We can accomplish this by being more intentional about our up (connection with God), our in (community), and our out (service) and in so doing we can begin to express tangibly God’s love in our world.”

Saying those two sentences takes no more than thirty seconds.  That’s it.  Thirty seconds.

Why, then, in the moment with the team in our living room, did I spend twenty minutes explaining the vision!  Ugh.  I really blew it.  Luckily the team knows me pretty well and each of them has extended grace to me before.  And, despite my inadequacies, they all seemed to understand what I was talking about to some degree.

It wasn’t a total loss.  But as an elevator pitch it was an epic failure!

Has something like this ever happened to you?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Here’s book I recommend by Michael Hyatt about developing your brand: Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.