redesigning church

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.

The 6 Major Areas of Church Recovery

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Sometimes a church, through moral failure, neglect of appropriate leadership or the absence of vision, finds themselves in a “ground zero” condition.  The damage done is so destructive that recovery seems insurmountable. Even when new leadership comes in with recovery as the immediate vision, it is not automatic nor guaranteed. Everything is on the line and it is a complicated endeavour. 

The recovery process can be broken down into 6 major areas:

1. Legal Requirements

Each church is registered with the government as a charity and therefore has to abide by bylaws and constitutions. In an emergency situation, the constitution states a process that must be followed as to who is responsible for what and how the next leader is to be selected. It also covers the process for removing the senior leader, should it come to that.

All of these processes must be followed and documented. This protects the church from any legal backlash and makes clear who is responsible for what.

Document everything. It is important that each church board review their bylaws and constitution at least annually. They must then either abide by them or follow the proper procedure to change the bylaws that are outdated or encumbering.  

2. Financial Requirements

Start with planning. No one likes to plan for the worst-case scenarios, but it is absolutely vital. The board must have a plan in place to protect itself against an emergency that could destroy the church.

Financially, this might mean setting aside a portion of your monthly income into savings until you have at least three months of expenses in your savings account for those emergency situations.

Some might argue that they can't afford that, but the truth is, I don’t think you can afford not to. It starts with a discussion at the board level as to what the emergency backup plan is.

3. Spiritual Basics

Spiritually, I think it is important for every church to have a mature team in place that knows how to handle spiritual warfare. Make no mistake, the devil is active and loves nothing more than to destroy churches. 

Put into place a mature prayer team. I look for individuals who know how to pray, who can grab onto something in prayer and not let go until the answer presents itself. I look for people who are discreet and honour people with a high level of confidentiality. I want someone who will, in private, wrestle something to the ground in prayer.

In emergencies, our team knows that our first call is to the prayer team to get them on it. Prayer is key in every move we take in the recovery process. 

4. Cultural Transformation 

Culture trumps vision every time. It is important for the pastor – the outgoing one and especially the incoming one – along with the board to know, understand, and implement the desired culture.

If you are looking for a new pastor, it is vital to first understand what your culture is and then find someone who matches that culture. Do not hire someone who is gifted but has a different culture. They will destroy what you have built faster than you could ever imagine. I would highly recommend Dr. Sam Chand’s book “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” to learn more about the culture of a church.

5. Succession Plan

I think one of the most important essentials is an emergency succession plan. As John Maxwell says, everything rises and falls on leadership, and I believe he is absolutely right. A church can be thrown into major crisis if something happens to their leader. It is crucial that the current pastor and board have a discussion on succession. Who will replace the current leader? We break it down into 3 categories:

  1. What is the emergency succession plan?
  2. What is the 5-10 year succession plan?
  3. What is the 15-20 year succession plan?

It’s all about being prepared.

6. Emotional Health and Well Being

Through it all, the pastor must also maintain the emotional stability and health of the church body in the turbulence of recovery. Often times as pastors we are asked to comfort and lead in situations in which we are hurting too. Many are unable to carry that weight. It becomes too much and they make irreconcilable mistakes that damage the organization and put it into a more vulnerable position than it already is.

So what’s the answer? I think King David gave us the greatest example of how a leader should lead through a crisis in 1 Samuel 30. In verse 6, in the midst of his pain, it says “He strengthened himself in the Lord.” That’s the key. As leaders, we need to draw our strength from God and lead, even when we are hurting. From that strength, we can lead others to strengthen and maintain the emotional stability within the whole organization.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Church recovery from a ground zero situation can seem like a minefield of explosive issues. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Think through every possible scenario and have a plan in place. If you prepare and nothing happens, great! But if you don’t prepare and something does happen, you will be left scrambling.

While I think this preparation must be done by the lead pastor, even more importantly it must be done by the board of directors. Write it down and make sure everyone is aware of where it is. 

Often times a crisis will distract us from our mission and vision. But the best and fastest way to recover is to get back to the mission. We need to stay the course and show the world that Jesus is the answer and that the church is the hope of the world, and we’re 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.

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

Six Anchors: 40 Days of Hope (Part 2)

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We have been hearing amazing feedback since the release of the Six Anchors devotional. It has been encouraging for those currently facing trials and a great reminder for others on where to locate their hope. This is exactly why I wrote this book and I am excited to see results in people's lives because of it. Today, Pastor Gene and I are discussing the last three anchors.

Anchor #4 - The Holy Spirit

While researching hope in the Scriptures, I noticed that the Holy Spirit seemed to be a central figure. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our hope in Heaven. In John 14, Jesus encouraged His disciples to hope in the Word and said the Holy Spirit would remind them all of what God said. In John 16, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would not draw attention to Himself but would make sense of what is about to happen and out of all that Jesus had done and said.

We can see that the Holy Spirit is the rope that connects us to each of the first three anchors. Just like an anchor is only as effective as the chain attached to it, so are our anchors of hope only effective because of the Holy Spirit.

However, I learned in Acts 2 is that He is not just the rope, but also an anchor Himself. Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When we get filled with the Holy Spirit, we can overflow with hope.

Anchor #5 - Wisdom

Proverbs 24:14 in the Amplified Bible says this, "Know that [skillful and godly] wisdom is [so very good] for your life and soul; If you find wisdom, then there will be a future and a reward, and your hope and expectation will not be cut off." Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, tells us that wisdom allows us to have eternal hope.

However, wisdom is something we acquire through discipline. It is not simply given to us. There are three initiatives to pursuing wisdom:

  1. Seek Knowledge.
  2. Gain Understanding.
  3. Trust God.

By practicing daily disciplines, we are able to gain knowledge. When knowledge is applied, wisdom is activated.

We can make wise decisions in our daily lives by simply asking a few questions:

  1. Based on my past experiences, what is the wise thing to do?
  2. Based on my current circumstances and responsibilities, what is the wise thing to do?
  3. Based on my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

Anchor #6 - The Church

The church becomes the hope of the world when it's central purpose is to join people to Jesus. The natural pull of every local church is to become insider focused. But the church was not intended to exist for itself; it was created to exist for the community it is in - to become the centre of hope by leading people to the hope that is Jesus. When it ceases to be outward focused, it ceases to be an anchor of hope.

Ultimately, each anchor must point back to Jesus. The Word is written to direct people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit connects people to Jesus. Solomon said, "a wise man will win souls," so wisdom points people to Jesus as well. The church must do the same because we are the hope of the world and we are on our God-given 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.

Get your copy of the 6 Anchors devotional today! It is available on Kindle and as a paperback. Find it here.

 

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.

The Outside Focused Church Part 4

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In our shift to becoming an outside focused church, we received amazing results, but also some pushback. Today, Pastor Ralph Molyneux, our Lethbridge Campus Pastor, shares his experiences throughout the shift.

Pastor Ralph was on staff in Lethbridge when I first arrived over 6 years ago. In fact, he was one of the people that encouraged me the most in my move to the city. He shared the same heart and passion for the church and the unchurched as I did. He too was tired of keeping insiders happy and craved change.

Today, we have Pastor Ralph on the podcast to discuss the shift to becoming an outside focused church. Although it wasn't always easy, he passionately pursued the vision along with me. Listen in as he explains how to manage complaints, the changes the church went through, and much more.

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