Dessert Time from the Soul Fast Food Menu

Today is the final day to order off the Soul Fast Food menu!

For previous orders, see these posts here and here. These thoughts are driven by my ongoing learning experience with Will Mancini’s and the Auxano presentations at Exponential 2012 Preconference.

Apple Pie “People” 

Perhaps the greatest substitute for healthy membership identity is the group of people at church – whether ten or a hundred – who “know my name.” This is not to be seen as a knock on relationships! It is identifying “community without a cause” as both unbiblical and a common source of identity for the churchgoer. Want a demonstration? Suggest a change in service times – or ask a Bible Study class or small group to multiply. People don’t want you to mess with their relationships. Our familiar friends, albeit essential to church life, have become central to the person’s identify. Relationships are critically important to community life in a church. But, like too many apple pies or anything taken to excess, they can be damaging to the overall health of the body.

Later today:  the source of real nourishment for your church – and it’s not found at your local drive-through!

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Filling the Vision Vacuum

When life around our house gets hectic, we often slip into a bad habit: fast-food for our meals. Both my wife and I enjoy cooking, especially when we can try out new recipes. But when the work day gets long, that’s one of the first things tossed aside. That usually means a quick stop at a neighborhood fast-food place for a quick meal. I’m not here to debate the health issues, but generally speaking, what we consume in a hurry is not as nutritious as what we would prepare on our own at home.

Will Mancini, author of Church Unique and founder of Auxano, makes an application to many churches by using the fast food metaphor. I’m at the Exponential Conference in Orlando this week; with Auxano being the sponsor of the Intentional Leadership Track, I thought it would be a good chance to review some of the major parts of Church Unique.

With an early start this morning, the concept of vision vacuum is fresh on my mind. Let’s take a closer look at what Mancini calls “Soul Fast Food”. To set this up, consider the following Scripture from Psalms 29:18 in The Message version:

When people can’t see what God is up to, they stumble all over themselves.

Unfortunately, most churches today are living that Scripture out. There is no clear vision of what God is up to, and the result is a vision vacuum. And when a vacuum exists, something is going to try to move in to fill it.

The Heart of the Matter – what really happens in the soul of a congregant when left in a church’s vision vacuum over time?

  • What is left to excite the heart of your church attenders?
  • What then fuels the dreams of your people?
  • What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?

The simple answer is something does, even when vision is absent. People need vision and they need hope. If visionary leaders are not providing and nourishing it, where do people find meaning?

Soul Fast Food – According to Mancini, there are four substitutes for a well-balanced diet of vision. They fuel your most faithful people; it is how they get hope for a better future. Unfortunately, they are also four sources of a malnourished membership identity. Each of these junk food categories are not bad in and of itself. They all malnourish because they are used inappropriately as a substitute for a well-balanced vision. Here’s the first:

French Fried “Places” 

The places of our encounters with God matter – but the space itself has addictive features, just like your favorite fries. There are spots where we encounter God; they are important. But in the absence of a vision that transcends our favorite nooks and crannies, the space itself becomes the vision supplement. THe primary use of the term “church” to connote place compounds the issue. The meaning of place reflects God’s design, starting with the Garden and ending with the New Jerusalem.

But space is essential, not central in the economy of vision.

Do not underestimate the gravitational pull of the physical place on both members and leaders. Is it possible that the building itself becomes a cheap substitute for real vision? If you put too much focus on the physical place, people can be robbed of the more substantial articulation of the church’s future. The result? Anorexic vision. What about your church?

Is it time to pass the salt – or pass over french fried places all together?


New Beginnings

Today I begin a new chapter in my life – as Curator of the Vision Room at Auxano.

Yeah.

No – YEAH!

To find out the scoop, take a look at the tabs above for full information.

For a trip back to the day it started, I’ve reprinted a post from November 10, 2008: reflections on the day I first met Will Mancini.

School’s Out – on Strategic Planning

As I’ve posted many times on this blog, Catalyst 2008 totally rocked my boat on a personal and business level – to the point of tipping it over! I’m still processing and talking about Catalyst, and probably will be till next year’s Catalyst (yeah – I’ve already registered for it, along with the rest of my family – but that’s another post).

My boat just turned over again.

Will Mancini, author of Church Unique and founder and Clarity Evangelist at Auxano, was kind enough to meet with me and the editor of Church Solutions magazine, Karen Butler, on the last day of WFX in Houston last week. Will was joined by Cheryl Marting, Chief Connections Officer at Auxano (already they win the award for coolest job titles). Since Will lives in Houston, the original intent was just to get to know him a little better in advance of next February’s Church Solutions Conference and Expo. Karen set the lunch up, and was very kind to include me in. As soon as the conversation started, it was obvious to me that God had set this up all along to continue the “mind expansion” He set in place at Catalyst.

Church Unique was published earlier this year by Leadership Network. I’m a huge fan of Leadership Network – I attended a Leadership Gathering in 1995 and have participated in several national training events since then (thank you Sue Mallory for all you have done for equipping ministries in the church). Anyway, when LN publishes a book, I’m all over it. So when Church Unique came out, I picked it up – and it mesmerized me from the opening pages.

My experience with strategic planning matters goes back to seminary in the early 80’s: Lyle Schaller, Aubrey Malphurs, Bobb Biehl, Kennon Callahan, Peter Drucker – these were the leaders in the field that we followed. Others have joined them in the years since, but all of these – and especially Malphurs – have influenced my own views of strategic planning in the churches I served and in the churches I work with now as a development consultant.

I had not gotten further than the introduction of Church Unique and a table contrasting strategic planning and Mancini’s Vision Pathway than I knew my views of strategic planning and its place in the church world had changed – forever.

His approach centers on the powerfully simple concept that God has created all churches as unique. While we understand that God created His world with uniqueness (think snowflakes), and His children (DNA, environment, and culture) the same way, we think that churches are mostly alike.

Do you think He would act any differently with His church?

Over the next few days, I will be posting a few of the nuggets of Church Unique. But don’t take my word for it – get a copy immediately, block out some time to dive into it, and prepare to put on a life-preserver – your boat is going to be rocked!

Here are those posts if you are interested:

Over the past four years I’ve written dozens of posts about Will, Auxano, and Church Unique.

Now I get to live it out!

That’s a God thing…

If Only Things Were Like They Used To Be

Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we’ve learned and relying on what’s worked before.

It’s also about as useful as an appendix right now.

That quote is from Fast Company Editor Robert Safian, writing the cover story “Generation Flux” for the February 2012 issue. He goes on to add:

When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seemed simpler, and we have the urge to recreate them. This impulse is as true for organizations  as for people. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved best practices may well be useless.

ChurchWorld, to a great extent, finds itself in that situation right now.

There are huge shifts occurring in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of our lives right now. That’s not new – change has always been a part of who we as humans are. But what’s different is the pace of change. It’s not just getting faster – it’s accelerating along an exponential curve.

And the response of ChurchWorld?

Put a fence around your facility and charge admission to a museum dedicated to the 1990s – or 1980s – or 1970s – or 1960s – or 1950s – or…

Oh, it’s not that blatant – but it is obvious.

It’s time to change.

My absolute favorite quote about change is from Will Rogers:

Will Rogers quote

To survive THRIVE in this age of flux, you have to claim what makes your church unique, what sets you apart from 10,000 other churches, what God has uniquely gifted your people to be and doHold onto that – and change any and every thing else that needs to be changed in order to live out God’s calling.