andy stanley

The Outside Focused Church Part 3


We have covered a lot of ground on the Outside Focused Church in the past couple of weeks. Now, let's take a deeper look at some of the changes that can be made to create such a culture.

Today is the third part of our Outside Focused Church series. Stay tuned for next week when we will be interviewing one of our staff members that survived the transition to the “outside focused” church.

The Original Team

This week, we are going to begin with how I introduced this concept to our original Lethbridge staff. Now, I had an advantage. A few of the staff already knew me. We had met at a number of conferences and they were familiar with the way I did church because I would teach it. So, we already had kind of a head start. I came in and began casting the vision of what church could look like if we began to reach the lost. I promoted the vision of Victory Churches which was to “reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then I asked, “Are we doing this effectively?” and “What should we do differently to get better results?” We had some great discussions.

Next, I gave them books to read and took them to conferences where they could learn about other churches that were getting the results we desired. We talked about what those churches were doing, how they were doing it and how we could implement their best practices into our own church. It really was a lot of fun and the team was great in contributing to the process.

Altering the Service

I then began coaching the Service Programming Team into the cultural shift of becoming “outsider focused”. We started with our services and made immediate adjustments to the order. We inserted a welcome at the beginning, which served to welcome everyone to the service and to explain the order of everything so people knew what to expect. Following that, we altered the length of our music portion of the service. We became much more focused on the words we were singing and the excellence in which we were singing them. Music is such a great tool because it is a universal language that everyone understands. So, I felt that if we could raise the standard here, we would then begin to attract more and more people.

Further to all of that, we shortened the length of the messages and added a salvation call at the end of every service. Doing this had a number of results. Firstly, we saw people getting saved every single week. But secondly, we noticed that when we did this every week, our people became a lot more confident in inviting their unchurched friends and family to the service. This is because they knew that each and every week, there would be an opportunity for salvation and this in and of itself caused the church to start growing.

Like I discussed last week, we moved the offering to the end of the service. We felt that unchurched people had preconceived fears about the church just wanting their money. So, we moved the request until after the bulk of the service was over. This seemed to make a huge difference and in fact, we saw our giving go up almost immediately.

Streamlining and redefining the elements of a weekly Sunday service chips away at what a lot of the churched culture holds dear. As someone who grew up in the church, there were many things I had to give up that I would have preferred to keep, in order to most effectively reach the lost. I am a musician and a worshipper so cutting into that time and style was difficult for me. A lot of the complaints we received were from churched people about this, and that made it all the more difficult for me to make the changes. But, I was determined. After studying churches that were reaching the lost and those that weren’t, I saw a marked difference in how they did their services. I did not want to compromise the message or the Holy Spirit, but I did want to reach the lost. And I feel that we have found a great way to be both Spirit-filled and seeker sensitive.

Taking a New Direction

I had been pastoring for almost ten years before I really committed to being outsider focused. I was very disappointed with the results I was getting and frustrated that our church wasn’t reaching the lost or impacting our community. I had this preconceived idea that the church was for churched people. And yet, I saw church people who were not growing spiritually and were just going through the motions in their walk with Christ. In my frustration, I began seeking an answer.

Firstly, I looked through scripture. I noticed how the church in Acts was outsider focused and at the same time, growing and maturing in their walk with Christ. Then, I began studying the churches in Canada, in particular, the ones that were growing and reaching the lost. I did my best to learn everything I could and started to make some changes in my church. When I started seeing results trickle in, I was hooked. I went all in and have been all in since. There is no way I could go back to doing church like I used to.

In my experience, I didn’t really think about particular personality types or ministry gifts and their effect on the process. For me, I looked at the influencers in the church. Who were the people that everyone went to when they had a problem or complaint? When I discovered who these people were, I worked with them first; on the vision and how we were going to implement changes. Then, when we made changes and people had questions or concerns, they would go to these people naturally and the influencers would be able to explain the “why” behind it and their support of it.

We did a whole lot of research. We read some awesome books on the subject like Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights From the Unchurched and Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide. Then we did our own research by talking to our people about whether they felt comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family to church. When they answered “No”, we asked “Why?” and began making changes immediately. We constantly probe our congregation about how comfortable they are inviting the unchurched to our services. We also ask them what their friends and family thought of the service. Those answers helped us craft services that are both for the churched and the unchurched.

Vitality of Creativity

Creativity is a big part of what we do here. But, we aren't just creative for creativity's sake; we do it for a purpose. There are two main purposes of creativity in our church:

  1. Creativity creates a greater level of expectation among those that attend. I believe the greater the expectation level, the greater the anointing level. Look at Jesus’s own ministry. When the expectation level was low in his hometown, he was unable to do miracles. However, when the expectation level was high, he moved with great power. So, we always want to be aware of the expectation level and do what we can with creativity to keep it high.
  2. We are always looking for the most effective way to communicate the pure message of the Gospel so that even the most unchurched person in the room can grasp the truth. What’s relevant in communication is constantly changing. We live in a very fast paced world and with things like social media, what is relevant is always different. So, to combat this ever-moving target and to fulfill our vision, we engage every sort of demographic we can in the creative process. We use young and old, men and women, the long-time churched and newcomer, and so on. By doing this, we learn how to more effectively communicate to as many people as possible. Before I had any staff, I did this by running ideas by people in my congregation throughout the week. I would even run parts of my message by people to see if it would resonate with them like it did with me.

Creating an Atmosphere

Apart from the services, we also made changes to our facility. But these did not happen for a while. In fact, it was less than just three years ago that we did the renovations. We waited because facility renovations are expensive and we were not ready to invest in that level of change too early. When we did, we intentionally wanted to create an atmosphere that was similar to the culture we wanted to have. We met as a design team and discussed what we wanted the facility to feel like. What we settled on were ideas of a warm, inviting, and modern environment. We travelled to different churches as well as public buildings like art centres and hotels until we had the concept of what we wanted in mind.

It was amazing to see what happened in our church once the renovations were complete. Immediately after they were done, people seemed to stick around a lot longer after the service just to visit with others. Our attendance grew more rapidly in the last three years than it did in the previous four. I think it was because the facility matched the culture and people were more comfortable inviting their friends to church.

Getting People to Remain

Follow-up and discipleship were a major issue right off the bat. We were leading many people to Jesus, but the vast majority of them weren’t staying and getting plugged in. That’s why we developed the “My Victory Starts Here” course and why I wrote the book. We needed to find a way to disciple our new believers effectively and in a simple enough way that they would remain in the church.

Unchurched people can get involved in the church immediately. Obviously, we don’t give them ministry positions, but we do encourage them to serve in the coffee shops, on the setup teams, by greeting, etc. They are more likely to remain and hear the truth taught if they are engaged and volunteering somewhere.

MyCityCare is one of the most visual pieces of evidence of how we impact the churched and unchurched in our communities. It is our way to meet the needs of those around us. We have many projects that we take on within the year that allow us to do just that. It has proven to be a great way to change the community’s perception of the church. Instead of being a weird group of people who hide away in their own building on Sundays, we are a group of organized, concerned citizens who are actually impacting our community. We have had many, many people begin attending our church because of MyCityCare and it also gets our people active in our cities, keeping their focus outward.

One of the major factors that concern church boards and leadership at every level is that changing the way “it’s always been” can affect attendance and finances. We can mess with the methods all we want, but when messing with the methods negatively affects the attendance and finances, people talk, and sometimes, people walk. I read a statement from Andy Stanley in his book 7 Practices of Effective Ministry that said, “We need to focus more on who we are trying to reach than on those we are trying to keep.” That statement hit me as a pastor. I realized that most of my time, efforts, and church finances were dedicated to those we were trying to keep, instead of on those we were trying to reach.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore the insiders or their concerns. It just means that the “why” must be clearly communicated in everything that we do and that we must make sure our motives are pure and focused on reaching people for Jesus. Jesus faced a lot of criticism from the churched who complained about who He was reaching. However, He had a clear focus and said His purpose was to seek and to save those who were lost. At the same time, He took the time to work with insiders like Nicodemus and others as well.

A while back, we implemented 18-minute messages in our services. This is quite the challenge. It is a lot tougher to preach in 18 minutes as opposed to say 45 minutes. It takes me a lot longer to prepare the messages because I have to be precise and focused throughout the entire thing. But, the reaction from the churched and unchurched has been awesome. They have been very responsive and we have seen our online downloads of the messages skyrocket since shortening them.

I have received multiple hesitations from other pastors about this change though. They’ve said that change is hard and they may receive pushback from their congregations after a change of this magnitude. This is a good example of the importance of preaching the change before implementing it. You must change the heart thinking and culture before you will be able to effectively change the systems and general structure. The people need to be passionate about reaching out and need to see a future where their loved ones get saved through the church. There will always be some resistance, so it is important to have your plans settled in your heart first.

Relationship with God

Over the past couple years, I think these changes have brought me a lot closer to God personally. It is difficult to explain but I think there is a level of peace in my heart that I didn’t have for a long time as a pastor. I believe it is because I know I am fulfilling the great commission and am participating with Him in building His church. I can tell that my prayer life has changed because my prayers are a lot less “God bless me, God bless my church, God help me,” and more “God I pray for this person, God give me the words to speak to this person, God give us boldness to keep going.”

I keep pushing myself to explore every opportunity to create churches unchurched people love to attend because, quite frankly, I love the church. I wasn’t always able to say that. In fact, for most of my life, I simply tolerated the church. But, now that I have seen what the church can become and the impact that it can have in lives and communities, I am absolutely in love with the church. It has the potential to be the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.   


Episode Resources:

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Good To Great

Jim Collins is famous for saying in his book Good to Great, “Good is the enemy of great.” He follows that up with “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it’s just so easy to settle for a good life.” 

How does a leader overcome the temptation to settle for good enough? How does a leader inspire their followers to strive for consistent excellence? How does a leader who desires to do great things attract the right people? Does Good to Great work for the church as well? Why?

How to attract the very best team:

  1. ____________________ the very best.

  2. Check their____________________- ____________________.

  3. Look for people who have ____________________.

  4. Look for____________________people.

  5. Do they have a ____________________ attitude?

  6. Are they ____________________?

  7. Evaluate their ____________________ potential.

  8. Assess their ability to produce ____________________.

  9. Do they add ____________________to the team?

  10. Are they captivated by the same ____________________?

  11. Do they raise up other ____________________?

How to inspire excellence into the individuals on your team:

  1. Value the ____________________ more than the event.

  2. Set up ____________________.

  3. Seek to understand ____________________ needs.

  4. Look for ____________________ indicators.

  5. Understanding of ____________________development.


If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email

6 Catalysts for a Deeper Ministry Experience

Last week I talked about casting a compelling vision and as an example I walked through our vision as a church for the upcoming year. Our goal is to go deeper. Now, I know that seems vague and can mean a million things, but today I want to give you the specifics of how we intend to do this.

This is the teaching I gave to our team at our All Staff Meeting last week. We talked about how we intend to take our church deeper in the upcoming year. I gave Six Catalysts for a Deeper Faith Experience at My Victory.

6 Catalysts for a Deeper Ministry Experience:

  1. Personal _____________________. Questions for Reflection: How do we most effectively provide personal ministry to individuals in a corporate setting without getting weird? How do we provide personal ministry without it becoming so routine it becomes religious? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

  2. Practical _____________________. Questions for Reflection: What do we want them to know? What do we want them to do? Why do we want them to know it? Why do we want them to do it? What can we do to help them remember? What can we do to create next steps? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

  3. Pivotal _____________________. Questions for Reflection: How do we most effectively capture life change? How do we celebrate pivotal life events? baptism? baby dedication? newlyweds? communion? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

  4. Providential _____________________. Questions for Reflection: Do we connect people quickly and keep them connected? Do we have easy, obvious steps into community? Is it easy of nonbelievers to find their places? What can we do programmatically to create more relational connection opportunities? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

  5. Private _____________________. Questions for Reflection: At what age do we begin teaching the importance of private spiritual disciplines? How and how often is this value reinforced with our students? What devotional and personal Bible study resources do we make available, and how accessible are they? When is the last time we did a weekend series on the spiritual disciplines? How could we use the weekend to reinforce this value on a regular basis? What could you do to prioritize this in the mix of everything else you are doing? Are spiritual disciplines a priority in your life? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

  6. Paternal _____________________. Questions for Reflection: How easy is it for new people and nonmembers to get involved in our ministry? Does our approach to equipping and training keep people out of ministry environments longer than necessary? Are there steps we could shorten or eliminate altogether? Are there areas where nonbelievers could be encouraged to serve? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

Our bottom line: We’re in it for the  _____________________.

Episode Resources:

A Clear Structural Template

A good system will lead people in your organization to deeper levels of commitment. In short, a good system generates movement. An unhealthy system is one in which movement is impeded. In this podcast you will discover a clear structural template designed for churches on mission to win souls and make disciples.

A Clear Structural Template: 

____________ > ____________ > ____________ >____________

  1. ____________ - this answers ____________ ? (Matt. 28:19-20) How do we clearly define a disciple? (1 John 2) a. ____________ ____________ b. ____________ ____________ c. ____________ ____________ d. ____________

  2. ____________ - this answers ____________ ? A vision is a mental picture of what ____________ be fueled by a passion that it ____________ be. REACH every available ____________ by every available ____________ at every available ____________ with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  3. ____________ - this answers ____________ ? It is our ____________ or the framework that houses our mission and vision. Clearly defined… a. ____________ . b. ____________ . c. ____________ . d. ____________ . e. ____________ .

  4. ____________ - What is the best way to ____________ ?

Episode Resources

The 30 Books Every Pastor Should Read

I love to read! I try to maintain a 1-book per week pace, and because of that, I am often asked "what's the best book you've read lately?" So here you go! Here's a list of the 30 most influential books I've read to date that have helped me as a pastor and a leader. If you click on the title of the book that interests you it will take you directly to where you can order a copy of your own. Remember, leaders are readers. Enjoy!

My top 30 in alphabetical order:

  1. 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley

  2. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

  3. Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels

  4. Becoming a Coaching Leader: The Proven System for Building Your Own Team of Champions by Daniel Harkavy

  5. Church Planting: God's Plan for Transformation by George Hill

  6. Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley

  7. Covenant Relationships by George Hill

  8. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration by Dr. Sam Chand

  9. Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley

  10. Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want -- Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracey

  11. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Dr. Sam Chand

  12. Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community by Donald Clifton

  13. No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come-as-You-Are Culture in the Church by John Burke

  14. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

  15. Passing the Leadership Baton: A Winning Transition Plan for Your Ministry by Tom Mullins

  16. Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren

  17. Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger

  18. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

  19. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team And Staff On The Same Page by Larry Osborne

  20. Surprising Insights From The Unchurched And Proven Ways To Reach Them by Thom Rainer

  21. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John Maxwell

  22. The Big Idea: Aligning the Ministries of Your Church through Creative Collaboration by Dave Ferguson

  23. The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life by Robin Sharma

  24. The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently by Tony Dungy

  25. One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard

  26. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: King Solomon's Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness by Stephen K. Scott

  27. Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrows Success by John Maxwell

  28. Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision by Andy Stanley

  29. Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels

  30. Winning on Purpose: How to Organize Congregations to Succeed in Their Mission by John Kaiser