Book Notes | Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches

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Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International said,

I can think of many Christian organizations that have lost their spiritual commitment. I can’t think of one secular organization that found its way to a Christian commitment. Any leader who inherits a strong Christian commitment must shepherd the culture and steward that commitment.

In a nutshell, that’s why this new book by Peter Greer and Chris Horst Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches is so important. Having just preached a vision series at Revolution and going through a process of re-clarifying the win or why of Revolution Church, this book was incredibly refreshing to read, as well as incredibly challenging as I think through the task of keeping the mission clear, putting things into place to protect this clarity and keeping everyone on the same page.

The stories they tell of organizations who less than 50-100 years ago who were Mission True and had a clear Christian identity, to now simply collecting money is scary.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission.
  • According to studies, 95% of Christian organizations said mission drift was a challenging issue for them.
  • Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.
  • Mission True organizations decide that their identity matters and then become fanatically focused on remaining faithful to this core.
  • If we aren’t entirely convinced that our Christian faith is essential to our work, then we won’t be willing to make the tough decisions to fight for it.
  • It’s often Christians who seem most likely to be the biggest critics of bold Christian distinctiveness in our organizations.
  • Mission drift is a daily battle.
  • Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.
  • The single greatest reason for mission drift is the lack of a clear mission and vision.
  • If leaders aren’t bleeding the mission, drift will always trickle down.
  • When we begin to see our priority as a growing ministry, instead of a faithful one, we sow the seeds of drift.
  • Leaders always act in accordance with their beliefs.
  • Mission True organizations find a way of stating and measuring what they believe matters most.
  • What’s not measured slowly becomes irrelevant.

Highly, highly recommend this book to any pastor or leader who works with a non-profit.

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Church Multiplication with Geoff Surratt | Session 3

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Paul and I are spending the day learning about church multiplication and multi-site with Geoff Surratt. Really excited about today as we are looking towards church planting in the future of Revolution Church.

Here are some notes from the third session:

What should a multi-site church reproduce:

  • What do you value?
  • What are you uniquely good at?
  • What is reproducible?
  • What is non-essential?
    • The more you reproduce, the harder it is and the more it costs.

Funding questions:

  • What model are we going to use?
    • The model you are going to use will determine what you will need to spend.
  • How many will we launch?
  • What are our financial expectations?

Two views of operating budgets of multi-site churches

  • Shared Purse: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
  • Capitalism: Each church lives on its own income.

Defining DNA

  • What are the irreducible minimums?
  • What is up to individual leaders?
  • Are you a high accountability church or a control church?

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What I Wish I’d Known About Energy, Family & Mistakes

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT ENERGY

Your energy—spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational—is the most important thing you can give your church, and only you can control it.

It may seem obvious, but this is crucial. Church planters tend to be the driven, entrepreneurial, take-the-hill kind of leaders. They are also usually young, which means they think they have endless amounts of energy. They eat like college freshmen and often sleep like them. It’s unsustainable.

While planting is a busy season, filled with meetings, getting stuff done, making phone calls, rallying a core group, and raising funds, you have to hit the pause button. No one can make you sleep, spend time with Jesus, exercise, or eat well. No one can make sure you have friends—and not just church planting friends, but real friends. If you miss this, the extent of the damage can be huge.

Your energy is the most important thing you can give your church, and only you control it.

Many guys who fail in ministry and sin will tell you that it goes back to not managing one of these areas. Several years ago, I did not manage my energy well and I hit a wall. It slowed our church down, demoralized our leaders, and hurt my family, and it took a year to recover as a church.

The first question I ask my leaders when I coach them is to tell me how they are doing in these four areas: spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational energy. You as the leader set the tone.

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT FAMILY

Your family has to come first. They need to know it, and so does your church.

Every pastor says their wife and kids are more important than their job, but sometimes it’s not true in practice. Though it happens occasionally, when missing time with your family is the pattern, I believe it is sin. One thing I learned from Eugene Peterson was that he started to call everything he did an “appointment.” If someone asked him to meet and he already had a date planned with his wife or an activity with his kids, he said he had an appointment. No one questions your appointments.

Talk about this up front. In your sermons, lift up your wife and kids—don’t make them sermon illustrations of what not to do. Talk about how you date and pursue your wife, and talk about spending time with your kids. You are the model to men of what it means to be a man, a father, and a husband.

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT TEAMS

Who you surround yourself with will determine your effectiveness, and the leaders you choose will determine the health and future of your church. This means you must know who you are, your gift mix, what you can and can’t do, and what you do that brings the most glory to God. Then you must look for leaders who complement your gifts.

If you are a strong visionary and can see the future, you must find someone who can think in steps and can see the map, not just the destination. If you love to shepherd people and want to make sure no one falls through the cracks, you’ll need a leader to remind you that sometimes people need hard truth and not coddling.

Your first hire is the most important. Don’t rush this. If someone isn’t working out, don’t wait around. Move quickly to help them find a new role and responsibility. If they don’t line up with your vision and DNA, have the tough conversation. Everyone you start with will not finish with you, and it is naive to think otherwise.

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH

Think twice your size. Too many planters simply want to get started, which is a good goal. As the church gets off the ground, they can quickly move into maintenance mode. They stop thinking ahead and the grind of preaching every week starts to set in.

When before you had dream sessions, now you are having counseling sessions. Before you used to talk about the future, but now you are dealing with what just happened. In this time, it is easy to stop dreaming, stop vision-casting, and just do.

But that is dangerous. At all times, as the leader, you must think twice your size. You must ask, “if we do this, will it keep us from doubling?” Or, “When we are twice our size, will we do that?”

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT MISTAKES

You will make mistakes—so learn from them. In fact, you’ll make mistakes before you have your first core group member. That’s okay. Learn from them.

When we started, we did small groups a certain way. Yet they didn’t give us the results we hoped to get: we weren’t seeing disciples made and community happen. So two years into our church plant, we scrapped what we were doing and started over. That was hard to admit, because we had 85% of our adults in a small group. But we learned.

Today, I know how to shut a ministry down. I can raise $45,000 in a month to make a big move. I know how to kill a worship service. How to start a new worship service. How to hire a leader. How to fire one. How to have tough and easy conversations. You can blow through those experiences, but I would encourage you to go through them slowly, write down what you learned, and process it with someone.

Lastly, get a coach—someone who is steps ahead of you in the journey. Get someone you respect who can speak into your leadership, give advice, and be a sounding board. It is helpful if this person is not at your church so you can be completely honest with them and not hold back.

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT COMMITMENT

Commit to outlast everyone. Put down roots and commit to one church and city. When you start a church, it is exciting. Then the hard work starts. People stop coming, someone gets angry, shepherding sets in, and it is hard work. That is why, before you start a church, commit to that church and to that city. Put down roots.

When we started our church, our prayer was that we would die in Tucson. We wanted to give our lives to one church, to one city, and to one movement. We prayed that a million people would follow Jesus because of our church. This commitment has helped when times are the darkest, because sometimes your calling is all you have. You will come back to it, question it, and wonder if you heard God correctly. If you commit to stay, it makes difficult situations a little easier. They still hurt and are painful, but when we hit rough patches, my wife and I would look at each other and say, “We decided to outlast them, so let’s push through.”

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5 Lessons I Learned from Church Planting

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Revolution Church turned 5 years old recently and it got me thinking about the last 5 years, all that God has done, his faithfulness and all that I have learned over that time. I get asked a lot by church planters what I would do differently or what I’ve learned in the process.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned in the last 5 years:

  1. Your energy (spiritual, emotional, physical, relational)  is the most important thing you can give your church and only you can control it. This may seem obvious and all of these will, but this one is crucial. Church planters tend to be driven, entrepreneurial, take the hill kind of leaders. They are also usually young which means they think they have endless amounts of energy. They eat like college freshmen and often sleep like them. The reality is, that is not sustainable. While planting is a busy season, filled with meetings, getting stuff done, making phone calls, rallying a core group, raising funds, you have to hit the pause button. No one can make you sleep. No one can make you spend time with Jesus. No one can make you exercise or eat well. No one can make sure you have friends and not just church planting friends, but real friends. If you miss this, the extent of the damage can be huge. Most guys who fail in ministry and sin will tell you that it goes back to not managing one of these areas. In 2011, I did not manage my energy well and I hit a wall. It slowed our church down, demoralized our leaders, hurt my family and it took a year to recover as a church. You as the leader set the tone. The first question I ask my leaders when I coach them is to tell me how they are doing in these 4 areas.
  2. Your family has to come first, they need to know it and so does your church. Every pastor says their wife and kids are more important than their job. We say things like, “My church can get another pastor, but my kids have one dad, my wife has one husband.” This is so prevalent that 2 recent books on pastoring: The Church Planting Wife and The Pastor’s Family actually excuse the husband’s sin in this area and say things like, “Being a pastors wife means I share my husband at night and he misses dinner or time with me.” While this happens, but when this is the pattern, it is sin. One of the things I heard Eugene Peterson say was he started to call everything he did an appointment. If someone asked him to meet and he already had a date planned with his wife, an activity with his kids, he said he had an appointment. No one questions your appointments. Talk about this from up front. In your sermons, lift up your wife and kids, don’t make them sermon illustrations of what not to do. Talk about how you date and pursue your wife, talk about spending time with your kids. You are the model to men of what it means to be a man, a father and a husband.
  3. Who you surround yourself with will determine your effectiveness. This is simple leadership, but the leaders you choose will determine the health and future of your church. This means you must know who you are, your gift mix, what you can and can’t do, what you do that brings the most glory to God. Then, you must look for leaders who complement this. If you are a strong visionary and can see the future, you must find someone who can think in steps and how to get somewhere who can see the map, not just the destination. If you love to shepherd people and want to make sure no one falls through the cracks, you’ll need a leader to remind you that sometimes people need hard gospel truth and not coddling. I read when I started Revolution that your first hire is the most important. This is so true. If you miss on your first hire, you may not make it because your church is so fragile. Don’t rush this. If someone isn’t working out, don’t wait around. Move quickly, help them find a new role, new responsibility. If they don’t like up with your vision and DNA, have the tough conversation. Everyone you start with will not finish with you and it is naive to think otherwise.
  4. Think twice your size. Too many planters simply want to get started, which is a good goal. As the church gets off the ground, they can quickly move into maintenance mode. They stop thinking ahead and the grind of preaching every week starts to set in. When before you had dream sessions, now you are having counseling sessions. Before you used to talk about the future, now you are dealing with what just happened. In this time, it is easy to stop dreaming, stop vision casting and just do. This is dangerous. At all times, as the leader, you must think twice your size. You must ask, “if we do this, will it keep us from doubling?” Or, “When we are twice our size, will we do that?”
  5. Learn from your mistakes cause you’ll make them. You’ll make mistakes. In fact, you’ll make them before you have your first core group member. That’s okay. Learn from them. When we started, we did small groups a certain way. Yet, they didn’t give us what we hoped to get, we weren’t seeing disciples made and community happen. So, 2 years into our plant, we scrapped what we were doing and started over. That was hard to admit because we had 85% of our adults in a small group. But we learned. Today, I know how to shut a ministry down. I can raise $45,000 in a month to make a big move. I know how to kill a worship service. How to start a new worship service. How to hire a leader. How to fire one. How to have tough and easy conversations. You can blow through those experiences, but I would encourage you to go through them slowly, write down what you learned and process it with someone. Lastly in this area, get a coach. Someone who is steps ahead of you in the journey. Someone you respect who can speak into your leadership and give advice and be a sounding board. It is helpful if this person is not at your church so you can be completely honest with them and not hold back.
  6. Bonus: Commit to outlast everyone, put down roots and commit to one church and city. I know I said 5, but this one is important. When you start a church it is exciting. Then the hard work starts. People stop coming, someone gets angry, shepherding sets in and it is hard work. That is why, before you start a church, commit to that church, to that city, put down roots. When we started Revolution, our prayer was and is still, that we would die in Tucson. We wanted to give our lives to one church, to one city, to one movement and out of that church, we prayed that 1 million people would follow Jesus because of it. This commitment has helped when times are the darkest, because sometimes, your calling is all you have. You will come back to it and question it and wonder if you heard God correctly. If you commit to stay, it makes difficult situations a little easier. They still hurt and are painful, but when we hit rough patches, Katie and I would look at each other and say, “We decided to outlast them, so let’s push through.”

Church planting is one of the greatest adventures you can ever take. As I look back on what God has done in the last 5 years, I am blown away. He has been faithful, protected our leaders and my family. He has made me a better husband, a better leader and a better pastor. I remember the 11 people we started with and wonder, “why did they stay?” Yet, I love all those people, even the ones who are part of other churches now (the ones who leave don’t belong to you anyway).

Today as I think towards the future and our first plant Lord willing in September 2014, I am so excited and hopeful for the future. The idea of planting our first church and seeing the beginning stages of the movement we’ve prayed for actually becoming a reality I get so excited. And I’m ready to sign up for more. On our 5th anniversary, one of our leaders who started with pulled me aside and told me, “I’m still in. I love what God has done in my life. What God is doing in the lives of others. I’m in. I’m ready, let’s take the next hill.” It is that passion that drives me and reminds me, for Revolution Church, the best is yet to come. 

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Why We Aren’t Healthy

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John is a friend in his mid-30s who works out very little. He has never had to think about his health or his eating habits. He can eat 3 cheeseburgers in a meal and not gain any weight. Each day he eats fast food for lunch. This has created a lifestyle that is not sustainable, as he gets older. He confided in me recently that for the first time in his life, he feels lethargic after eating and is starting to feel like his clothes are getting tighter.

In high school and college Daniel was in great shape as he played sports. But then he got a job, got married and his exercise habits slowed down while his eating stayed the same. He is now almost 30 and starting to long for what he used to look like and the pace that he used to live. He always feels behind at work and home and wishes he had the stamina he once had.

Heather is single, works part-time, and goes to school full-time. She wants to get married, but has always struggled with her weight. It isn’t that she eats a lot of food; she just makes poor choices about food. She wishes that she could have more time to exercise, but with school and work, it ends up being a quick bite here, a short night of sleep there, and a Friday night with friends that leaves her feeling lonely and unhappy. Whenever she sees her friends who keep their weight off, eat whatever they like (at least in her mind) and women she sees at the mall or in a magazine, she feels heavier and heavier. She wants to have time for community and church but struggles to make this happen on top of a healthy lifestyle.

Austin is overweight by about 60 pounds. He works too many hours each week, sleeps too little, and eats too much. He never exercises. He takes time to be with his family and attend church. He doesn’t have a desire to lose weight or be healthier and doesn’t really see the need as it hasn’t affected his health–yet. In fact, he would say that his weight isn’t a problem and it certainly isn’t a sin.

Lisa is married, in her mid-30s, and a mother of 2 toddlers. She spends her days chasing after her kids and picking up after them. She’s wants to get back to her pre-baby weight, but is too tired. She looks at magazines, which never help her to feel better. They only remind her of the body she used to have. Her husband doesn’t complain, but she is unhappy. She feels like a failure as a mom because of how tired she is, longing for 5 minutes of quiet, a hot shower and to know that she is making an impact on her kids. She misses the romance she and her husband used to share and laments the feelings she has whenever her husband asks her about sex because of how she feels about herself.

Any of these sound familiar?

The problem for many people is that these things are so normal and so accepted that we don’t think twice about them.

Let me ask you this. Do you find yourself eating mindlessly? You start a snack and before you know it, the bag is empty? There are leftovers on the counter or food on your spouse’s plate that you just eat? When you have a long day at work, do you find yourself eating to numb the pain or bring some comfort? If a meal you make is so good, you find yourself having seconds and then a third trip?

Answer yes to enough of these questions and you are addicted to food. If so, you are not alone. Most Americans are.

In fact, if you attend church, it is one of the addictions you can have that no one will call you out on. Think for a minute. When was the last time you heard a sermon on weight or eating habits? We talk about overindulgence, but always in relation to alcohol or money. Pastors typically stick to the really “big” sins partly because it is easier, and partly because most pastors are overweight.

It is so accepted in our culture to be overweight. It is almost expected.

Let’s Talk about You

I’ve spent some time talking about my story, so now it is time to talk about you.

Where do you fit into this? Do you have an eating disorder where you won’t eat anything or throw it up out of fear of what you look like or trying to look a specific way? This tragic thinking affects so many people, particularly women. I remember talking to a college student who couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds telling me how fat she felt. It was heartbreaking.

Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and you can’t stop eating. At the end of a long day you find yourself not eating one Oreo, but the whole box. It seems there are many foods that you can’t eat just one of.

Another is when we work out and can’t take a rest day. If you workout and enjoy it like I do, if you miss a day do you get angry? Frustrated that you will not be building the muscle that you want?

The Image of God

So how do you think about your body? Many people who attend church regularly every week and follow Jesus do not believe the truth of Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” And, 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Together, these two verses lay out a simple truth that many followers of Jesus know in their heads, but fail to live out in their lives. Why do we not connect the dots on these two key verses? If we truly believed that we were created in the image of God, we would look at our bodies with more wonder, more joy and gratitude for how we were made instead of thinking about why I can’t be thin or even lose weight. We live as if God messed up in the process of creating us and gave us the wrong body.  We often take 1 Corinthians 6 as simply a suggestion, yet rarely take it seriously and think through how we honor God with our bodies, how we treat them, and what we put into our bodies. We thank God before a meal, and then stuff thousands of calories into it, slowly destroying the body God has given us.

It’s popular in our day to think our bodies belong to us. We think, “No one can tell me what to do with my body!” In fact, in our culture nothing is more essential to our identity than the freedom to express ourselves and use our bodies as we choose. But God says our body belongs to him, not us. We are temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15). The body is no longer for self-gratification, but for God-glorification (vs. 20).

Let’s go back to Genesis 1 for a minute. If you and I are made in the image of God, then that means we are not an accident. The body, DNA, and genetics you have when it comes to how you burn through food, or not, are not an accident. They were planned. According to Ephesians 1, God planned these things before he created anything. Think about your body and what you would change. Maybe it’s your nose, love handles, legs, or arms. Those were planned and created by God, in his image.

1 Corinthians reminds us the price that God paid for us. Jesus went to the cross to redeem our bodies. They are broken; sin is real and has brought havoc to us in the form of our eating habits and how we think about our bodies.

The only time I’ve heard 1 Corinthians 6 mentioned has been in connection with why someone says a Christian shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol as we stuff chicken wings into our mouths. Our view of this verse is too small and misses the grandness of its intentions. Taken together, these verses reflect how our body is to be a reflection of God to the world around us. On top of this, we see God’s love and care for us in our body that he has created.

Self-Control

Several years ago my brother-in-law asked me when I was at my heaviest, almost 300 pounds, “How can you challenge people in your sermons to have self-control if you don’t have any?” It’s a tricky question. Why do people lack self-control? Is it just born in them (or not in some cases)? Are some people just more strong willed than others and that’s it?

The reality is that personality-wise, some people tend to be more driven and strong willed than others. As a follower of Jesus, though, self-control is something we’ve been given by God. In Galatians 5, after Paul lays out how followers of Jesus have been set free by Jesus, he tells them how to see this truth in their lives in verse 22. He says that they will have fruit, evidences in their lives of this change, in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (emphasis added).

The Holy Spirit has given followers of Jesus the power of self-control. This has enormous implications in how we eat, exercise, look at our bodies, sleep and work. Those moments of weakness when you want to eat another piece of pie or stay up and watch one more show, you have the power through the Holy Spirit to control yourself. The moments that you find your mind drifting and thinking about the body you wished you had or are trying to please in appropriate ways, you have the power through the Holy Spirit to control your thoughts and focus on how God created you. Sound impossible? But is anything that is worth doing not hard in the beginning but gets easier as you commit to it?

Do this: when you are finished reading this, go and stand in front of a mirror. I know, I know. For some of us, mirrors are our enemies, but hang with me for a minute. As you look in the mirror, look at the things you would change. Now remind yourself that God created those things for a purpose before the foundations of the world.

Then, think about what you ate today, the pace you have kept with work, and exercise and sleep in the last week. Are you honoring God with your body in those areas?

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Links of the Week

  1. Sam Rainer on The importance of vision. Vision is a leader’s friend, yet, so many pastors seem to not know where they are going or where they are taking their church.
  2. Craig Groeschel on Values and culture. Your values, culture and DNA drive everything about your church. From how you spend your time, money, programs you do and who you hire. When you experience problems, it is a culture and values problem.
  3. Perry Noble on 16 signs a leader has lost his mind and 18 signs a staff has lost their mind.
  4. Mark Batterson on Rebuke distractions.
  5. Mark Driscoll on Leadership is lonely. This is so true.
  6. Scott Williams on Activity doesn’t = productivity. This is one of the biggest traps churches and leaders fall into. He also wrote a great post on how twitter makes you a better leader. I am a big believer in leaders and pastors twittering and blogging.
  7. David Fitch on 3 myths about preaching.
  8. Scott Bellsky on How ideas happen.