growth

How Do You March Off a Map?

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Marching Off the Map - Part 1

The truth is, our modern school system simply isn't as effective as it could be. Students are disengaged and disinterested in learning. How can we as leaders, educators, pastors, and communicators better influence the generation we are trying to lead?

Welcome to the first episode of our Marching Off the Map series. For the next five weeks, Pastor Gene and I will be breaking down this insightful book written by Tim Elmore. We have found this book to be a much-needed roadmap for 21st-century educators, parents, coaches, and youth leaders. We would encourage all of our listeners to pick up a copy! You can order one here.

In Chapter 2, Elmore writes about three societies that anthropologist Margaret Mead describes in her works.

1. The Post-Figurative Society

Mead described this era as one that lasted for many centuries. Adults had already determined how life would be for their children, often deciding who they would marry, where they would work, what they would do and even how their children would continue the customs within their society.  This perpetuated the customs of the past resulting in very little change or innovation.

Careers were largely agriculturally based with many people farming crops or livestock. The critical element that differentiated you within this society was physical strength so the youth were heavily relied upon.

2. The Co-Figurative Society

This society was created during the Renaissance, otherwise known as the Age of Enlightenment. As a whole, society began to question its traditions, customs, and way of life. Reason ruled the day as opposed to physical strength. This levelled the playing field between the young and old.

Parents and their children were involved in making the decision of who the child would marry, where they would live, and what their career would be. Everyone had to adjust to change and new innovations, communications, and traditions.

The Renaissance birthed the Industrial Revolution during which new inventions were created to improve efficiency. Science and industry began to control society and access to machinery is what set people apart.

3. The Pre-Figurative Society

The Pre-Figurative Society is what Mead suggests we are living in now. Change is happening so rapidly that adults have almost nothing to offer the next generation in terms of how to deal with new realities. The youth often understand the changes sooner than most adults; they adapt to new technology and innovations far before we do. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for adults to lead the young and can cause leaders to feel irrelevant.

The critical element that differentiates individuals in our society is our minds. That's how most of us make our living and get things done. Mead wrote in her book People and Places: A Book for Young Readers, "In the modern world we have invented ways of speeding up invention, and people’s lives change so fast that a person is born into one kind of world, grows up in another, and by the time his children are growing up, lives in still a different world.

Our Schooling System

In my opinion, we need a new system for educating our students. The evidence for this need is everywhere yet we as a society are too slow in making those changes.

Horace Mann developed the school system we base our current system off of, however, he did so in the 1830's! His design was meant to prepare children for their factory careers. For example, the stereotypical school bell that we have all listened to at some point was first created to mimic a bell meant for shift work in a factory. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a bell, it is a good illustration to show how archaic our education system presently is. Maybe we could look at redesigning the system to better prepare our students for today's world?

6 Radical Ideas for Redesign

At the end of the second chapter, Elmore suggests six radical ideas for redesigning the system:

  1. Experience instead of test scores.
  2. Homework during the day rather than at night.
  3. Open book tests.
  4. Use of images to help retention.
  5. Creativity over compliance.
  6. Teachers in the role of interpreter rather than informer.

These ideas allow us to think differently, to alter our methods by focusing on our results. What if we started with a clean slate and asked ourselves, "If Horace Mann was alive today, what would he do to revamp the current failing school system?"

This is not just an educational issue but a problem we have in churches as well. We are in the education and communication business and our message is the most important one that the world needs to hear.

The message never changes but the methods must be constantly evolving. It may be uncomfortable but it is a necessity in order to keep moving the church forward. Why? Because for every generation, we know that the church is the hope of the world and we are 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 that unchurched people love to attend.

Episode Resources

If you are interested in diving deeper into Marching Off the Map, buy your own copy here! We highly recommend it.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 3

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Holy Discontent, Leaving Your Comfort Zone, and Blazing New Trails

With a new generation upon us, we need to step up and lead them like never before. How do we prepare ourselves to reach them? Tune in to today's podcast as we take a look at the next three factors of a pioneer.

Hi Victory Nation! We are continuing our discussion about pioneers and if you've missed the last two, you can find them under the "Inside MyVictory Podcasts" tab above. Here is a quick recap of the first five characteristics:

  1. The pioneer is about risk. The settler is about routine.
  2. Pioneers often don't fit in.
  3. Pioneers are dreamers.
  4. Pioneers are willing to go where they have never been, to do what they have never done.
  5. Pioneers are willing to put up with what is less than ideal.

Now, let's get started with the next few!

6. Pioneers always want to go further.

Pioneers always have a holy discontent, a term Bill Hybels describes as an "experience of an uneasy spirit about the brokenness of this world which aligns with the heart of God that spurs us to take positive action to change the world." It's not a discontent about personal gain, but rather a discontent on behalf of God and His kingdom.

Too many people quit just before the breakthrough. Either they stop because it just became too difficult to press on, or because they lost that factor of holy discontent. Pioneers must always desire to go further in taking the hope of Jesus to a broken world.

7. Pioneers are resilient, resourceful, and tenacious.

Pioneers are a tough breed of people who simply refuse to quit. They would rather die than go back to their old, dull way of life. These people are constantly pushing themselves to grow. John Maxwell aptly stated, "If we are growing we are always going to be outside our comfort zone."

To test your limits, pursue your personal best daily. Constantly strive to improve, becoming better with each successive day. This attitude requires that you learn to be comfortable living outside of your comfort zone.

8. Pioneers cultivate the tough land.

Each generation of pioneers must plow a way for the next. We don't have to reinvent the wheel - we can take off where other pioneers have left off.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He didn't stick around forever to oversee the most important work on the planet. No, He ascended into heaven and delegated that responsibility to His disciples and every successive generation.

I think the church needs to pioneer more so today than ever before. In Marching Off the Map, Tim Elmore says, "Settlers will be left in the dust as the young people we lead disconnect from us and find others they can follow to new places. Or, they will forge ahead with no mentors at all." If the world pioneers and the church doesn't, the next generation will begin pursuing the world or simply nothing at all.

Pastor George Hill says, "We dream, we live the dream, and in living the dream we dream again." We have to constantly re-evaluate and re-invent our methods. The message we need to portray is too powerful for us to settle. The church is the hope of the world and we are 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 that unchurched people love to attend.

Episode Resources

If you are interested in learning more about pioneers, we would encourage you to grab a copy of Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore. You can find it here.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 2

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Abraham - The Original Pioneer

Are you missing your destiny by choosing to remain comfortable? Do you dream about possibilities or simply live within your current circumstances? In the second instalment of our pioneering series, Pastor Gene and I take a look at the life of Abraham and how God led him to become the "Father of Faith."

If you missed last week's podcast, you can get all caught up here. Let's get started!

3. Pioneers are dreamers.

Before God could use Abraham, He had to get him dreaming. God led Abraham outside and showed him the stars, telling him that one day, his descendants would one day be as vast as the night sky. He was giving Abraham a visual to dream about.

God likes us to dream big, in fact, He encourages it. The limitation in our lives is not God's lack of ability to fulfill our dreams, but often our inability to visualize them.

Dreaming big starts by giving yourself time to dream. Our schedules can often be laden with responsibilities, causing us to neglect time to think or dream. Don't just work in the church, work on the church. Don't just work in your business, work on your business.

When I dream, I begin by reading my Bible and praying. My faith is strengthened when I read about God utilizing ordinary people for incredible projects. In prayer, I find that the Holy Spirit pushes me to think beyond my own limitations and dares me to believe for more.

4. Pioneers are willing to go where they have never been, to do what they have never done.

Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham "obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." Because of his obedience, Abraham has been deemed the "Father of Faith"; a true pioneer. Pastor George Hill put it best when he said, "Today's breakthroughs are the result of yesterday's obedience and tomorrow's breakthroughs are the result of today's obedience."

5. Pioneers are willing to put up with what is less than ideal.

If Abraham would have chosen to remain comfortable, he would have missed his destiny. Hebrews 11:9 says, "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise." Abraham was willing to put up with what was less than ideal to obey God and pioneer. If he hadn't done so, he would have never been known as "Father Abraham."

Pioneers are not afraid of hard work and sacrifice because they know that both will be rewarded in the end. They are more focused on the future and end results than they are on today's comforts.

Pioneers live in what Pastor George likes to call the "happily terrified zone." To many on the outside, the risks they take look haphazard and reckless. Why would someone move to an unknown location to plant a church? Why would someone leave their comfort zone to reach out to the lost in missions work? Well, because the church is 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 that unchurched people love to attend.

Episode Resources

If you are interested in learning more about pioneers, we would encourage you to grab a copy of Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore. You can find it here.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 1

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Taking Risks and Stepping Out of the Mold.

Do you value routine over risk? Fitting in over stepping out? Maybe you have settled somewhere in your leadership. Tune in to the first part of our Pioneering series to discover how to get out of your rut.

One of my most recent reads was Marching off the Map by Tim Elmore. It was a phenomenal book that gave great insight into where we are today as a society and how we can connect with the next generation more effectively. I would highly recommend every leader, pastor, communicator, or educator pick up a copy. It certainly has us talking about what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Last week, we gathered as a staff for our monthly training and I discussed the difference between pioneers and settlers. Pioneers march off the map whereas settlers are not so willing to leave comfort behind. For the next four weeks, Pastor Gene and I will be discussing 10 characteristics of a pioneer. 

1. The pioneer is about risk. The settler is about routine.

There are no guarantees of success when you march off the map. But at the same time, there is a guarantee of failure if you don’t and remain a settler. Elmore made a powerful statement when he said, “Settlers will be left in the dust as the young people we lead disconnect from us and find others they can follow to new places. Or, they will forge ahead with no mentors at all.

Pioneers are usually the one with arrows in their back. They are shot at by settlers that have no understanding of their strange new tactics. Being a pioneer is not a comfortable place to be, yet settling is not a chance we should take. We have to bravely march off the map!

2. Pioneers often don’t fit in.

Pioneers have the tendency to feel out of place, especially in a room full of settlers. Instead of just going with the flow, pioneers create their own. They are not conformists, they are reformers, therefore, setting themselves apart from the crowd. They are leaders like Caleb in the Old Testament whom God noted as having a “different spirit.” Caleb went on to inherit the promise while the others didn’t.

Our goal as pioneers is to adapt, not adopt. We need to shift, not drift. We can either resist change until we no longer can, or we can adapt and harness that change powerfully.

Pioneering within the Church

As leaders, we must realize what is permanent and what is temporary. Our mission and vision to make disciples are permanent whereas our methods and programs to do such are temporary. We never compromise what the Bible teaches, but we may change the ways we present those truths.

We must also be constantly focused on our why. We can adapt our what or how to achieve our why, but the why never changes. This is about being focused on our outcomes.

I became passionate about the church at an early age but I fell madly in love with its purpose and vision when Pastor George taught me the Book of Acts in Bible College. It was there that I discovered that the church is God’s original plan and there is no backup. It was there that I saw the difference between our mission and vision and the methods we use to get those things done. It was there that I learned that the church is 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:

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

Good to Great

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The book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, explores why good companies do not make the leap to great. Today, we are going to take a look at what moves a good church to become a great church.

A Good Church vs. A Great Church

Collins defines a great company as one that has a “financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period.” I think a great church the would be one that has sustained numerical growth, namely through the attraction of unchurched people, better than the average in the same area.

Looking at the evidence and observations of churches that have moved from just being good to becoming great, there are two variables; qualitative and quantitative analysis. By qualitative, we are looking at the quality of ministry, while by quantitative we are measuring the quantity of their effectiveness in numerous areas.

I agree with Collins when it comes to the number one contributing factor to the greats. He said it all starts with leadership. John Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership” and I absolutely believe that to be true. So, the great churches usually have great leaders at the helm. And, just like Collins discovered, the best leaders are the ones that have a blend of personal humility and professional will. The sustainable great churches aren’t led by the celebrity type pastors, but often by self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy leaders who build great leaders around them - but they have an insatiable drive to get better and reach their communities.

A strong leader must be surrounded by strong team members leading their ministries. I have found that it takes more than just a great preacher to grow a church; it also takes great music, great children’s ministry, great pastoral care, and great administration just to name a few. One leader is just not capable of doing all of that on their own, therefore they need a great team around them.

I also believe that great churches are not afraid to confront the brutal facts. What I mean by this is that they have an incredible faith that they will prevail and grow as well as an incredible discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality and adjust accordingly. Great churches also have a clear vision and narrow focus. They know where they are going and they refuse to clutter that vision with busyness and complex programs. 

Another differentiation of great churches is that they continually mess with the methods and move with times without compromising the message. They know that the methods are there to serve the message, not the other way around. So, they will continue to use whatever means necessary to get the gospel out to the world in an understandable way and they don’t get married to their methods. If it’s not working, they are willing to change.

I’ve noticed that churches that attract people from other churches and mainly grow through transfer growth are ones that may have a quick boost in growth, but it often isn’t sustainable. This is because if people switched churches once, they are likely to transfer again when something bigger or better comes to town. In contrast, people that grow in unchurched people and lead them to Jesus are more likely to sustain their growth because people are more likely to stay in the church where they became born again. They are also the group that is most likely to invite their unchurched friends and family to the church which keeps multiplying the growth and is much more sustainable.

Collins breaks down the transformation of companies that go from good to great into 3 broad stages; disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined actions. There is no doubt that these 3 stages translate into the church world.

Disciplined People

When it comes to disciplined people, it is important that the leader leads the way and that the leadership team follows suit; discipline has to flow from the top down. I think this is even more important because the church is largely a volunteer-led organization. Disciplined people is all about having the right people on the right bus - first who, and then what. This is so vital.

I often talk to pastors who say they just don’t have any leaders in their church. I have found that leaders don’t just show up, they are created. What I mean is that the leader (the senior pastor) has to invest in growing his team to become what the church needs. In the process of growing people, you will learn who you have on the bus and what seat they should be sitting in. This process is invaluable to the development of having disciplined people.

I have always set aside time each week and each month to train and develop my leadership team. To me, this might be the most important activity I do as a lead pastor. Paul said in Ephesians that the job of a pastor is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” Equip means skill develop. So, my role as the pastor is to skill develop people in my church to carry out the work of the ministry. It doesn’t happen by default; it happens by being very intentional about training and developing a team. When you do this intentionally, you will develop the right people on the bus, as opposed to just waiting for the right people to show up. I’ve tried that and I soon ran out of patience waiting for the right people. I’ve found it better to develop the right people from within.

Disciplined Thought

Disciplined thought is about marrying both faith for a big future and the ability to confront the brutal facts of today’s reality. That is a juggling act and requires great discipline. I have discovered that great churches do this really, really well. That is what makes them the best.

I can recall an example of when I’ve had to face the brutal facts. We were getting hundreds saved every year but we were not seeing that translate into disciples. When we studied it, we discovered that we were seeing under 5% retention on our new converts. Grossly dissatisfied, we decided to do something about it. That’s where the My Victory Starts Here book and discipleship plan came from. Last year, we were able to retain 48% of our converts. We still want to improve on that, but that was a drastic increase and greatly grew our church because we were willing to face the brutal facts.

Disciplined Action

Disciplined action is about going to work every day to create the church you envision. This is rolling up your sleeves and working hard. It’s about creating a culture within your organization that will allow the vision to move forward. It’s about being willing to mess with the methods and change what needs to be changed in order to move forward. It really is all about a dogged determination to not settle for anything less than the best.

Level 5 Leadership

In chapter 2, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as one who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said this: “You can accomplish anything in life provided you do not mind who gets the credit.” I believe this is so important to sustainability. We need to refrain from the celebrity pastor led church model. Firstly, it is not biblical, and secondly, it can be very short lived. A prime example of this happened just a couple years ago when Mark Driscoll was fired from his church in Seattle. At the time, his church average was 14,000 in attendance. Within a few short months of his leaving, the church no longer existed. It completely disappeared, which is tragic. I believe great churches are led by leaders who don’t care who gets the credit and they operate with incredible humility. In my mind, a positive example of this is Brian Houston. For years, I had no idea who the senior pastor of Hillsong Church was. All I knew was that Darlene Zchech led worship. The music team was more famous, and probably still is more famous, than the lead pastor. I think Brian has done a great job of leading in such a way that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, and Hillsong Church has truly accomplished much in the process.

Level 4 Leadership

A Level 4 Leader is described as committed to the vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision and higher performance standards. Level 5 Leaders have these Level 4 leadership qualities as well as the ones we previously discussed. I think the biggest battle for all of us “driven” types is the art of delegation and letting go. We do things ourselves because we know we will do it well and it is hard to release a task to someone who may not do as good of a job as we would. However, it is crucial to delegate and release the work to others. They will inevitably make mistakes, but that’s how they will learn. Let them have success and get the credit because what matters, in the end, is not who gets the credit but that the vision is accomplished. So, my recommendation for Level 4 Leaders is to let go and be willing to release.

Good to Great Leaders

At one point, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as “ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” The traditional mindset of a great leader often depicts a person with a high-profile image and a charismatic personality. But, Collins goes on to describe the top leadership characteristics of a leader who has taken a good company to become a great company as “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated…” There was a day when these characteristics were not true of major players in the church world, especially in North America. I think there has been a subtle transition over the past couple of decades. Churches that are built to last have been led by no-name leaders. I think this is important because if a church is built on a personality, it will only last as long as that individual lasts in ministry. But, if the church is not built solely on a personality, it can navigate the troubled waters of transition and survive generation to generation. It is amazing when that happens. I think in the next 5 to 10 years we are going to see this become more evident than ever before because most of the celebrity pastors are going to retire and then we will see what happens to their churches. Depending on the outcome, we will know whether these pastors were great leaders who built their church on a team and a vision, or if they were just good leaders who built a mega church on a personality.

Good church leaders may look for someone or something to blame for stagnate growth. They may blame the economy, community layoffs, lack of funds, inadequate facilities, their history, the list goes on. Level 5 Leaders look at similar situations and must move forward without placing blame on external factors. I often say that excuses strip you of your power to change. The moment we place blame elsewhere, we remove our ability to solve the problem. We have to be willing to confront the brutal facts, take ownership of the mistakes, and be willing to change the methods. If we can’t do these three things, we will be overcome by the obstacles to growth and will stagnate, or even disappear. It’s vital to observe and act. I think the Level 5 Leaders face just as much adversity as everyone else, however, they respond differently. They hit the realities of their situations head-on and as a result, emerge from the adversity even stronger.

The Law of Velocity

In Chapter 3, Collins made about called Practical Discipline #3 which says, “Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.” This really stood out to me when I re-read the book a couple of weeks ago. This is about the law of velocity; hitch your wagon to something that is already moving to make it move even faster, rather than trying to kickstart something that isn’t moving at all. I would love it if we in the church world could grasp this concept. The reason I say that is because there are a ton of really great pastors out there who are killing themselves trying to jumpstart a dead or dying church when they could be way more effective in the kingdom if they just attached to churches that have great momentum. There are other pastors who are leading nearly dead congregations in large beautiful buildings. At the same time, there are churches in the same community that are growing in temporary rented facilities or outgrowing their current locations and are in danger of having their lack of facilities inhibit their momentum. What if we were kingdom minded in our communities and married the great facilities with the great churches? What could happen?

Brutal Facts

I am always surprised when I hear a pastor say “numbers don’t matter,” or “it’s not just about the numbers.” When I hear that said, I know their church is struggling numerically. It think it is amazing that pastors make excuses for why their church isn’t growing, or worse yet, they refuse to ask questions as to why it has stopped growing or is declining. Numbers matter! Numbers represent souls and we are all in it for souls. Number mattered to Jesus; He counted everything. We know how many people attended almost every meeting Jesus ever had. The 5000, the 120, the 70, and so on. We need to be willing to count and observe the trends, confront the brutal facts if necessary, and then ask the hard questions to get the proper solution. It’s all about simply refusing to settle for average.

I think the major takeaway from this week's podcast is to start with the determination to push beyond "good" and "good enough". Our nation and our world have no need for good churches; they need great churches. Great churches led by leaders who are determined to make their church grow and are fixed on reaching the unchurched in their community for Jesus. We need great leaders who are determined to be great leaders, who invest in growing themselves and in growing their teams. We need great leaders who are willing to confront the brutal facts and change if necessary. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world and we’ve been given 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:

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.