How to Know Your Vision is Clear

If you are a leader, you might wonder if your vision as a church is clear. How do you know if you are accomplishing it? Often, leaders can be so hard charging they never stop to ask the question of whether they are hitting their target. Or, they are so complacent that they don’t care.

Here’s a simple way to know if your vision is clear: Are people coming to your church and leaving your church because of it. 

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Is anyone attending your church because of your vision?

You will know this is true by talking to new people at your church. What drew them to your church? What excites them the most about your church? Why did they get plugged into a missional community, small group or serving team?

Listen to the stories people tell about your church, what they say when they baptized.

Are you seeing new people attend? New people stick?

If what people say is not part of your vision, you either have the wrong vision or it is not very clear.

Has anyone left your church because of your vision?

This will sound unloving and I understand.

As a pastor, you want as many people as possible to attend your church. I want everyone in Tucson to come to Revolution Church, love it and stay. I want them to be on board with our vision, our target and what we feel like God has called us to.

Everyone won’t though.

As much as that hurts, it is okay.

Every city needs lots of churches to reach all of the people in it.

Recently, I talked with two families that left our church and as I talked with them about the reasons why one of them articulated, “We just don’t agree with the vision.” When I asked him to clarify. He told me, “Revolution focuses too much on people who don’t know Jesus.”

He’s right. That is our vision.

If no one has left your church in the past year because they don’t agree with the vision of your church, it is either not clear, not bold enough or you aren’t actually doing your vision.

People don’t leave passive churches because of the vision.

People don’t leave visionless churches because of the vision.

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Is It Biblical for a Church to have a Target?

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Recently, I did a series of posts on why a church should have a target, why every church has a target and how to make choices to reach that target (you can read them here). After the series, I got some questions about whether or not it was biblical to have a target. After all, are we told anywhere in the bible that a church should have a target.

The answer is yes.

In the book of Acts, we see how Paul had a target of the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:17) and how Peter had a target of the Jews (Galatians 2:17). Jesus in the great commission even gave the disciples a road map of who they were to reach and the order in which to do it (Matthew 28:18 – 20).

As you look at the New Testament, you see that certain people were better suited to reach certain people. Their backgrounds, the way they talked, how they understood certain world views, enabled them to be more effective in taking the gospel to places. The courage of some allowed them to plant churches others never would.

Does this mean that Paul never shared the gospel with a Jew? Or Peter with a Gentile? No, in fact we have evidence of them doing that. It means they were focused though and knew who their primary target was.

Churches are the same. The style of preaching lends itself to reaching a certain person. The pastors who have effective ministries are largely effective because of where they are located. That isn’t an accident. Instead of fighting against this, churches need to be clear about this. And, they need to support church planters who go to places they don’t.

Let’s admit a tension here: it sounds unloving to say we are better suited to reach a certain kind of person as a church. This is a reality though. Dress, style of music, age of the people on stage, how programmed or organic a church is. All of these go into who a church is best suited to reach. A church will reach people outside of the norm, but by and large, they will reach a certain kind of person more easily. When we fight against this, our effectiveness goes down. This is one reason that church planting is so important. It enables a church to reach different kinds of people within a city.

I think that is one reason God blessed Peter and Paul’s efforts. They led from their natural gifts, didn’t fight with each other about it (at least after Acts 15, so you can see what happens when we look down on each other) and they then encouraged each other by planting more churches in a variety of places with a variety of leaders.

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How to Determine the Target of Your Church

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So far in this blog series, we’ve looked why every church has a target (defined or not) and why every church needs to have a target (and the benefits of a target).

The question then, if you believe me so far (and I hope you do as a strong leader who reads this blog) is: how do I determine the target of my church?

This can come from a variety of places:

  1. Who lives around the church you pastor.
  2. Who already attends the church you pastor.
  3. A group of people or segment of the population God has placed on your heart.

For Revolution, we looked at a couple of things to determine our target:

  1. Who is the least likely person to attend church on a Sunday morning?
  2. What is the average age of the person in Tucson?
  3. Who are we best suited to reach?

The least likely person to attend church is a 20-40 year old man. The average age of a person in Tucson is 33.

We felt we could best reach that person.

The next question a leader or a church must answer is: Are we willing to do whatever it takes to reach this person?

This might mean some changes are made to the church, new things are started, old things are buried and not used anymore. This also means that you don’t alienate others. This is one of the reasons many churches shy away from being clear about who they are best suited to reach. This is important. You want to reach everyone, but you as a person, you as a church are best suited to reach a specific person.

For us, here is what it means to reach a 20-40 year old man in no particular order:

  • Sing songs men will sing. Men don’t want to sing a love song to Jesus and they don’t want to sing high. Men also don’t usually like to clap and sing (they will only do one). Most of our songs are low, mid-tempo and about the greatness and power of God. Men resonate with these themes.
  • Portable church. Being portable is hard work and tiring. Set up and tear down is also where the majority of men serve. Most men don’t want to teach, lead a class or greet, but they will move stuff.
  • MC’s and classes have end dates. Men like end dates and our culture is set around end dates. Too many churches have groups and classes that meet until Jesus returns. Men don’t sign up for that.
  • Simple church. We don’t do a lot, we aren’t complex.
  • No women’s ministry (or men’s for that matter). I’ve written about this before so I won’t belabor this point, but if you want to reach men, a women’s ministry will unintentionally stand in the way of that. You can disagree with that, and some people do, but we’ve found this to be an inhibitor to reaching men that we don’t have one.
  • Logical sermons. Men are logical. Yes, they like stories and they like to be moved emotionally, but not as much as they want to figure things out logically. Preaching emotional sermons to women is easier, which is why many pastors do it. It is why most pastors preach from the gospels instead of a NT letter. Yet, logic wins men.
  • Preach through books of the bible. Men want to see how something fits together. That doesn’t happen in a topical sermon, but it does when you preach through a book of the Bible. It also causes you to have to preach on everything. Men want you to hit the hard topics. They want you to man up and preach tough things and answer difficult questions and wrestle with them through doubts.
  • Resources to help men lead their families. One of the reasons men don’t lead their families or read their bibles is they don’t know how to. Men will not do things they don’t think they will succeed in. So help them. Give them resources to accomplish what God has called them to accomplish.
  • Male leadership. This will sound sexist and I’m not saying it isn’t: men follow men. It is a simple truth. This doesn’t mean a church should have no female leadership. In fact, if you don’t have female leaders in your church, you will be missing out on some great ideas and balance as a church. If you want to reach men though, you need to have male leaders that are worth following, men that other men want to be like. Here are some examples of a vision that we give to men for their lives: http://www.tucsonrevolution.com/fight/ and http://www.tucsonrevolution.com/versus/.
  • Always take a next step. Men are action oriented, they want steps and they want to take them, as long as they are clear. Every week, we challenge our church to take some kind of next step. It might be to come back, to follow Jesus, get baptized, forgive someone. It is always an obvious one (or three) from the sermon.

Is this a lot to do? Yes.

When we unpack for someone new at our church, who we target and why. If they don’t like it, they almost always say, “But I appreciate it that it is clear and you thought through it.”

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Why You Aren’t a Leader

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I meet a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s who are really smart. The reason I know they are smart is because they tell me. Typically, in your 20’s, you are always the smartest person in the room, especially as it relates to churches. I get it. I was the same way. I’ve had to since apologize to some people I worked under for my arrogance.

If you are in your 20’s and 30’s, there is also a sense of people should just hand things to you.

I remember a couple of years ago being asked by some people at Revolution why we weren’t supporting a church plant in Tucson (sadly, this church plant no longer exists). My response was, “they never asked.” Now, the people asking knew the planter and asked why we didn’t just give money to them without them asking.

Answer: leaders cast a vision. Leaders make the ask. Leaders make it known what is needed. Leaders sit across the table from influencers, givers, and others leaders, cast a vision and say, “I want you to be involved and here’s how _____.”

Leaders do not wait for someone to give them something.

If you are a church planter or pastor and don’t have the volunteers you need, the money you need, the people you need. You have either not asked or you are not casting a compelling vision for people to join.

Don’t miss this: people are not looking for something else to give to or something else to do. 

They are looking for something worth their time, money and effort.

This is hard to do and this one reason is why so few dreamers ever reach their full potential. Here are 3 ways to ask:

  1. Don’t say no for someone. You have a need and you know the perfect person to fill that need, except they are really busy. Many pastors will not ask that person, they will ask someone less qualified. Don’t. Don’t say no for someone. Let them say no for themselves. They might be too busy. They might cut something out of their life to do what you ask them to do.
  2. Know what you are asking for. If you are asking them to give to something, know how much you are asking for. If it is serving, know for how long and how much time it will take. The more specific you are in what you are asking for, the higher the chance they will say yes.
  3. Know why you are asking. This is where many leaders miss the boat. They know “what” and “how” for their church plant, team, ministry, etc. but they don’t know why. Why should this person do this? What will it gain? Why is it worth their time or money? I once talked to a campus minister and all he told me in our hour meeting was what he would do on campus. I already knew that. I wanted to know why, I wanted to hear his heart, I wanted to hear his passion and why it drove him to give his life to it.

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Money and the Vision of a Church

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Most pastors hate to talk about money. People also don’t like to hear pastors talk about money. Yet, money is a huge issue in people’s lives. They mismanage it, get divorced because of it and it often ruins their lives.

The reality for churches and pastors is:

There is a direct correlation between giving in a church and vision.

I was talking with some pastor’s the other day and the question of how to increase giving in a church came up.

Now, if you aren’t a pastor you may think this a coarse conversation to have. Why would a pastor want giving to go up? The reason is simple:

  • Giving is a heart issue. Jesus said as much in Matthew 6:21. If giving goes down, it shows that the heart of the people in the church aren’t there, their passion and worship is somewhere else besides Jesus. 
  • It shows that they might need to hear solid, biblical teaching on the topic.
  • It shows buy-in.

It was this last reason that struck me as I thought about.

While churches can increase giving and generosity by having a giving challenge (you can listen to me here giving our last giving challenge), or teaching on giving (which many pastors need to start doing).

What many churches need do a better job at is communicating a compelling vision. When the giving at Revolution has gone down it has been during the seasons where our vision was cloudy or if felt like our vision wasn’t going anywhere.

Tell stories. Show how your church is winning. Talk about how your vision is happening. Make videos, show people it is happening.

People want to be generous, they want to be part of something that is winning, something that is going somewhere.

Leading & Living in the In-Between Times

As a leader, you will often find yourself in the in-between times of life and leadership. What I mean by the in-between is that you know where you are going personally, your dreams, goals, or with your church or organization, you see the vision, the place. But you can’t go there yet. It might be timing, it might be that you need more finances, more leaders, maybe you are needing to allow people time to train or get used to the idea.

Whatever it is, the in-between time is tough to not only live in, but lead in.

This past year I felt this. I knew where Revolution was headed as we made some changes to strengthen our missional communities but I had to wait for the rhythm of the year to make those changes. I had to make sure our leaders understood them and were on board. We made some staffing changes to prepare us for the road ahead. We had to wait for the right time, for the right person, the finances. We had to move as a church and we knew that we were moving to Magee and moving to Sunday morning for a couple of months before talking about it with the whole church.

The in-between.

In the in-between, you know where you are going, but you can’t talk about it with everyone. You need to wait for more information, for things to fall into place before you let people know and clarify things. A leader lacks influence when he says, “In 8 months this change will happen. So, we’ll just wait until then, but it’s coming.”

In the in-between,  you can get antsy, frustrated because it isn’t getting here. The frustration also comes from seeing things as they are when you know what they will be like and you have to wait for it. That’s not easy. It means biting your tongue, grinning and bearing some things until its time.

The in-between is also a time that your faith is stretched, you learn about your impatience, your lack of belief in the power and control of God as you wonder why He is taking so long, as if His timing is not perfect.

Leadership in this time is difficult because momentum is easily lost. The reason it can be lost is because you as the leader have moved into the future, but you can’t talk about it yet. Consequently, you are running out of steam on where things are. You have to stay mentally engaged in the present, where God has you and your church.

The in-between time is also the time that grows us the most. That’s the blessing of it. Without it, we can never get to the place God wants us to be. It is easy to despair in the in-between, but if we do, we miss the point of it.

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3 Distinctives to a Vision Based on Building God’s Kingdom

I’m reading through It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting by Brian Bloye. Before sharing all my thoughts on the book in a review, I wanted to share a few things that jumped out to me that I thought needed an entire post.

He shares some great insights into how you know if you have a compelling vision from God for your church and life:

  1. You’ll know that the vision is truly from God, because it’s all about him.
  2. It will be a vision that is too much for you to handle in your own abilities or wisdom.
  3. God will bring the right people to your team, and he’ll keep them there long enough for you to make significant progress toward your goals.

The Circle Maker

I started The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams & Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson the other night and have not been able to put it down.

I told Katie this morning that she needs to stop reading whatever she’s reading and read this book. It was that good and challenging. There were a few things that jumped out to me from the book.

The first was the idea of drawing circles around prayer. Praying specific prayers. I’ve preached before on this idea and find that praying specific prayers stretches my faith and I see God move in powerful ways because of it. But I like the idea of circling something. For me, I’ve begun circling places I believe God wants us to plant Revolution Churches in Tucson. So this was a great reminder.

Another point was having a vision beyond your resources. I’ve already blogged on this idea, so I won’t belabor it, but suffice to say, if you can afford or pull off your prayers or dreams, they are too small. Another was the question Mark asked, “Is there a limit to God’s power?” All Christians would say no, yet we pray as if there is. We pray small prayers, believe possible things. This is the foundational question of prayer. Is there a limit to what God can do.

By far, the most life changing idea from this book was when he said, “Stop praying for something and start praying/praising through something.” God has already given us the promise of answered prayers and power in Scripture. Start praising God for what he will do. For me, I started to think about our adoptions and that God has already chosen children for our family, so instead of asking him to complete the adoption, I’ve begun thanking him for these children and praising through it. I believe God has put on my heart the prayer of planting a movement of churches around Tucson so that everyone is within a 10 mile drive of a Revolution Church and that 1 million people will enter the kingdom through Revolution (in my lifetime or beyond), so I’m beginning to pray as if that promise has already happened and giving God the glory for it.

While all of this is good, it is easy for this idea and the way Mark communicates it for someone to walk away and think of God as a vending machine. Pray this and you’ll get more than what you prayed for. Give this and God will give you 10 times what you gave. This is a tough line to walk when it comes to faith. Mark handles it well by bringing us back to the glory of God and how that needs to be the heart of our prayers and asking. He handled this well by comparing it to John the Baptist. One of Jesus’ closest friends, John is beheaded, while others are being healed, raised from the dead, walking after years of being lame and John does not get rescued. It’s a tough place to be, it is a dark place to be, but it is also a place that pushes our faith and asks if we truly believe in God and his sovereignty and his plan. The other reality is that sometimes God tells us no and doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want them. Sometimes he doesn’t bring healing like we hoped.

Here are a few other things that jumped out to me:

  • Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention.
  • Prayers are prophecies. They are the best predictors of your spiritual future. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life.
  • The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.
  • “God does not answer vague prayers.”
  • We usually focus on what we’re doing or where we’re going, but God’s primary concern is who we’re becoming in the process. We talk about “doing” the will of God, but the will of God has much more to do with “being” than “doing.”
  • Faith is the willingness to look foolish.
  • If you aren’t willing to be perplexed, you’ll never be amazed.
  • Many of us pray as if our problems are bigger than God. Our biggest problem is our small view of God.
  • God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is great because nothing is too small for Him.
  • All of us love miracles. We just don’t like being in a situation that necessitates one.
  • Show me your vision, and I’ll show you your future.
  • The degree of satisfaction is directly proportional to the degree of difficulty.

If you are looking for a book that will stretch your faith and prayer life, this is a great book to start with.

Vision Beyond Your Resources

I’m reading through Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker. I’ll blog some thoughts after I’m done, but something jumped out at me in chapter 6. He made the comment that we are to have “vision beyond our resources.”

Often it is easy for my prayers, dreams for my life, my family, our church. It is easy for them to be things we can afford.

I still remember the first time I said out loud my dream for Revolution. That everyone in the city of Tucson would within a 10 mile drive of a Revolution Church. I said that for the first time to a room of 30 people. I still sounds crazy, but I believe it will happen.

I resonate with this idea as my life has felt like a series of steps to live out this principle. Moving to Tucson did not make any sense. Starting Revolution didn’t make any sense. Adopting 2 kids makes very little financial sense.

I was reminded this morning while reading this book that if you don’t have a vision beyond your resources, you don’t have a vision. You simply have some thoughts that you don’t need God for.

Do you have a vision beyond your resources or can you accomplish everything in your head? Can you pay for all the dreams and hopes floating around in your spirit? If so, go back and ask God for bigger dreams.

This Weekend @ Revolution: Uprising Kicks off in 2 Days

Ever since we put the series Uprising on the calendar, I’ve been excited to kick it off. This series really begin in the hearts and minds of our leaders over a year ago. I’ve talked about it in other places, so I won’t rehash it now.

I believe this series is going to be one of the most pivotal and defining series we’ve ever done at Revolution. The transition we are in as a church to be more intentional about mission, community, gospel, discipleship and leadership development will shape us and the city of Tucson for years to come.

In this series, we will answer one of the questions many people ask when they walk through the doors of Revolution, “What is different about Revolution? Where is Revolution going and what part do I play in that journey?” Whether you have been attending Revolution since we started or just started coming, this series will lay out who we are as a church, where we are going, what that means for you and how you can be a part of it.

This week we will look at the point of the gospel. We talk a lot about the gospel and how it is bigger than just how one gets to heaven, but has the power over sin and death, but also has a purpose. If you are a follower of Jesus, what does that mean besides going to heaven? Does that mean anything for right now? If so, what? Many people live in such a way that they miss what God set them free from sin for, consequently, they live boring, mundane, adventureless lives. Which leads them to think that faith is simple, boring, riskless and that following Jesus is as interesting and exciting as watching grass grow.

What if, wrapped up in the gospel was not only the opportunity for freedom from sin, freedom to spend eternity with Jesus, but also freedom to live a life, have a faith that you never even thought possible.

As if that wasn’t enough, we are also celebrating baptism this week. When you strip everything away at Revolution, the stories of lives being changed, rescued and transformed by the gospel is what it is all about. If you want to be baptized, please contact Mike Miller.

So, do whatever you have to do to be at Revolution this week (and bring someone with you, you never know how a simple invite can make an eternal difference). An easy way to invite someone is to send them an e-vite.

Remember, we meet at 4:15 & 6pm at 6620 E 22nd St.

See you Saturday.