In this edition of Exploring Hope, Keith Whitfield talks with Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church and professor of preaching at Southeastern, about the church: why does it matter for the Christian, especially the seminarian? Why does it matter for salvation?
In this final posting of my series on five phases through which a church must move in order to experience and maintain strong health, I want to share the fifth and final phase. As a reminder, please read back through the first four. I have shared about Assessment, Identification, Vision Development and Adjustment. Now, the capstone to the process: Implementation.
Once the church assesses the past, the present, and the possibilities of the future, it can create a new profile of identity for both itself and the surrounding community. Then leaders are better equipped to develop the contextual vision plan by which the church will fulfill God’s mission. Before that plan can kick in specific adjustments must be made based upon this research and planning. These adjustments can be made with much more intelligence and biblical support because of the good work done in this process. Then it is time to implement the adjusted plan.
Leadership training and education will be a must in this phase. As the new vision is put into action, everyone needs to be on the same page and using the same vocabulary. The discipline of not only asking why some aspect of the vision is present but knowing the answers to the why will be significant. People in the church will need examples as well as exposition as they watch leaders moving forward in new ways with confidence and conviction. Lay people will also need additional equipping as the message and method of the new plan are enacted. They will also need excitement and enthusiasm as they are inspired by the leadership.
Also, be prepared to deal with any significant opposition to the new vision. It is one thing to discuss adjustment and its impact and quite another when the reality of it begins to sink in. Leaders may have to decide whether moving forward in a right and biblical way is worth losing some who may refuse to get on board. This is why it is so important that each phase of the process is explained and communicated well. The way implementation takes place should not be a surprise to the church if the foundational work has been carried out effectively.
As the train begins to move down the track in synergy remember it takes a while for that train to reach full speed. Reinforcement of the vision with clear messages full of relevant and redundant language will prove helpful. Explain, explain, and explain again.
And almost immediately the phase loop must be formed. As soon as implementation occurs, it is time to reintroduce assessment again and begin to weave through the phases as tweaking constantly takes place. If regular assessment and adjustment take place along the way there should hopefully not need to be radical change again for a while.
Remember the church is more than an institution. It is a living organism. Life is intended to be dynamic not static. Keep moving forward. Keep working this loop. God blesses intentionality. Let’s grow intentional churches.
I am continuing a series of posts concerning five phases a church needs to learn and experience in order to either move toward or remain in a state of growth and health. These phases form a never-ending loop that should be repeated over and over again. The more intentional church leaders are at working through these five, the more intentional the focus and coordination of their ministry will be.
I have already introduced the first two phases. Churches need to work through Assessment and Identification. Next, based on the study and reaffirmation of the biblical standards for the church, the data and observations from the Assessment conducted, and the new profile of Identification developed, it is time for the third phase: Vision Development.
In a series of previous posts I shared several critical abilities for missional church leaders. I recommend you go back and read them. These abilities are actually key strategies and steps for Vision Development. In the way of a reminder, I wrote about the need to: Understand the Mission, Establish a Biblical Vision, Build Bridges of Leadership, Handle Change and Conflict Well, and Pray with a Missional Heart. Let me add to those discussions here.
It is vital to not only recognize the difference between the mission and a vision as a leader, but to help the average member in the pew to get it also. In this discussion, the mission is the unchanging purpose of God for His church while the vision is the specific, contextual plan to fulfill that mission. Think of train tracks (predetermined, unchanging pathway to a predetermined destination) versus the actual building of a train. What specific “train” needs to be built in order to run on the rails in your context?
Through Assessment and Identification, the church defines the biblical principles by which the church should operate as well as an understanding of who the church actually is and how removed from that scriptural ideal it actually is. This plumb line provides the end goal for the current vision.
Then through backward planning, church leaders can map out the necessary programs and even special projects that will move them down the tracks. These vision components must be based upon the discovered biblical foundations and evaluated by whether they lead to the proper quantitative, and more importantly, qualitative, goals that ultimately lead to the end goal.
For example, we are not always certain whether large numbers alone are pleasing to the Lord. We can be certain, however, that personal transformation leading to fruit and producing discipleship, brings glory to God (the ultimate end goal). Church leaders, therefore, should define what personal transformation means, how to identify it and what it looks like. Then, a plan of what needs to be taught and practiced in order for that to occur can be determined. Finally, the needed programming and event schedule and curriculum can be established. This process not only provides the parameters for planning but the criteria for further assessment as well. Train building, not bumper car collisions!
Once the leadership is on board and the train is ready to roll, phase four kicks in. This is often the most difficult phase. It is called Adjustment. Next time!