Implement a Three-Rhythm Process for Effective Execution

Is it harder to stay focused and make timely decisions the more people you reach?

Congratulations – your church has just completed its third year in a row of growth! Weekend worship attendance is growing at 20% per year; your offerings are ahead of budget; and participation in small groups has increased steadily toward your goal of 75% of worship attendance.These are only the leading indicators of a successful growth curve.

While your church may not fall exactly into one or more of those growth indicators, success is likely happening in some area of ministry.

But beware – success brings its own new problems everyday. What were once easy decisions in your church four years ago now have now become complicated, cumbersome, and confusing. Your leadership team has likely grown, and chances are, your leadership in terms of group dynamics and interpersonal communication has not kept pace.

It is time to stretch your personal development and lead your church to stay focused and make timely decisions. If you are experiencing success and feeling the resulting complexity, consider implementing a three-rhythm process for effective execution.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Rhythm, by Patrick Thean

All growing companies encounter ceilings of complexity, usually when they hit certain employee or revenue milestones. In order to burst through ceiling after ceiling and innovate with growth, a company must develop a reliable system that prompts leaders to be proactive and pivot when the need arises.

Drawing on his experience as a successful serial entrepreneurial and speaker, Rhythm author Patrick Thean demonstrates how to identify the signs of setbacks before they occur, track those signs, and make adjustments to keep your plan on track and accelerate growth. Thean introduces a simple system to empower everyone in your company to be focused, aligned, and accountable–a three-rhythm process for effective execution.


A church with a successful growth pattern soon realizes how difficult of a task it is to keep everything balanced.

What if the pursuit of “balance” was the wrong choice?

Take a look around you in the natural world – do you see balance? Life is not static, linear,
or uniform. It moves, oscillates, vibrates, and pulsates. From different seasons that seem to come early (or begin late) to weather that is unpredictable to a backyard garden that one year is bountiful and the next sparse, nature doesn’t follow a balanced ow but instead moves in rhythms.

Paul, with the inspired wisdom of our Creator, called the church a “body” – a living organization. A growing, healthy church will find ways to harmonize with created and providential rhythms. Churches, like all organisms and organizations, develop through stages, experience seasons, and live in the cycles of creation.These cycles may last just a few weeks – or may extend into many years.

As pastor Bruce Miller said, “We can learn how to dance church to the God-shaped rhythms of life.”

The right rhythms give you focus, alignment, and accountability.

Rhythms help organizations continually identify the right things to review and discuss in order to stay focused on the future and avoid being blindsided. Once discovered, rhythms can help propel you forward, past ceiling after ceiling of complexity.

Think Rhythm: A rhythm of strategic thinking to create focus for the future of your organization.

Plan Rhythm: A rhythm of execution planning to let all teams and individuals know what they are supposed to be doing.

Do Rhythm: A rhythm of doing the work to keep the plan on track.

The best thing about having Think, Plan, and Do Rhythms is that they make you and your organization continuously ready to deal with ceilings of complexity when you meet them. When you hit a ceiling of complexity, you should not have to start up new processes and new habits to help your teams deal with change. In fact, making smart adjustments in your organization as a part of the three rhythms helps you avoid hitting those ceilings completely. Your rhythms should ensure that your teams are ready to respond, learn, and improve as you grow.

– Patrick Thean, Rhythm


Rhythm is a process, not an event. It takes time to improve in small steps. Utilizing the Think, Plan, and Do Rhythms will help your team become focused, aligned, and accountable.

Apply the concepts of Rhythm to your organization by practicing these following actions:

Think Rhythm Actions

  1. Make “think time” a priority in your personal schedule, and lead your team in monthly, quarterly, and annual “think” sessions.
  2. Be proactive about scheduling time to work on the strategy and continued growth of your organization by scheduling a monthly lunch meeting with your team and focusing only on strategy.
  3. Spend time refining and communicating the core strategy of your organization so ministry teams can make the right execution decisions with purpose.

Plan Rhythm Actions

  1. Separate execution planning from strategic thinking. Execution planning is figuring out how you will get your ministry initiatives accomplished to move your church forward steadily, month after month, year after year. 
  2. Create an annual plan that is both inspiring and practical – one that people connect to with their hearts and their heads.


Do Rhythm Actions

  1. To make sure that planning becomes doing, spend 30 minutes each week reviewing the week that just ended and setting your priorities for the coming week. Model this for the rest of your team.
  2. Use the collective intelligence of your team to encourage members to share when they are stuck or off track early, allowing everyone to contribute possible solutions and adjustments.
  3. Utilize two types of adjustments: corrective actions for goals not met or falling behind; and scaling the bright spots – actions that are working well – across the entire organization.

Don’t be discouraged by your success – as Auxano Founder Will Mancini writes in Church Unique:

Every leader must contend with clarity gaps and complexity factors. Clarity gaps are the logical areas where obscurity and confusion enter the leader’s communication world. Complexity factors literally wage war against the leader’s practice of clarity by making it difficult to maintain focus. When it comes to clarity, new levels bring new devils.The higher the leader goes, the harder the leader must work to stay clear.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 23-3 published September 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

To Improve Your Personal Productivity, You’ve Got to Change Your Habits

Does your team need practical help with personal productivity?

You have a pretty good sense that most of your team has too much to handle and not enough time to get it done – you may not have a sense of how much you are contributing to the problem.

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. Why not show them how by modeling effectiveness in your leadership?

By its very nature ministry makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Solution: Change Your Habits

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.


Following habits is an important part of our personal routine, whether at home, work, or play. When you get up in the morning, you go through a routine to get ready for your day. When you arrive at work, you go through a routine for the day. When you arrive at home after work, you go through a routine for the evening. When tomorrow arrives, you begin it all over again.

Most habits are benign, but even some habits you maintain – at work, for instance – can be ineffective at best and detrimental to your job at worst.

If you desire to be more productive, you need to understand more about habits – and how to change them.

Research has documented that habits are a three-step loop in our brains. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward – becomes more and more automatic. You become locked in to the habits to the point that you no longer think about it. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.

While many of your habits are positive and productive, there are probably a few or more that could be improved. The problem is, habits are hard to change.

Unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

Changing a habit might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.

Here’s the framework for changing habits:

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with rewards
  • Isolate the cue
  • Have a plan

Step One: Identify the Routine

Researchers at MIT discovered a simple, neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behavior, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines. The first step is to identify the routine – the behavior you want to change.

Step Two – Experiment with Rewards

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the craving that drives our behaviors. Most cravings are obvious in retrospect, but incredibly hard to see when we are under their sway. To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving.

Step Three: Isolate the Cue

To identify a cue, identify categories of behaviors ahead of time to scrutinize in order to see patterns. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action

Step Four: Have a Plan

Once you’ve figured out your habit loop – you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself – you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving.

– Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit


Set aside two hours to examine your typical ministry weekday schedule. Identify at least three habits in your schedule that are not effective in helping you be as effective for the gospel as you could be. Of the three, choose the one habit that, if changed, will benefit you the most.

Using Steps Two – Four from the framework above, begin the process of changing that habit. Follow each of the steps, spending time each day for two weeks on building personal effectiveness into this part of your schedule.

After two weeks of your experiment in modifying the change of habit, evaluate your progress with the following questions:

  • How easy was it to first identify habits that needed to be changed and then select just one?
  • How many rewards did you experiment with changing? What was the key to finding the most successful one?
  • How easy was it to isolate the cue among all the noise of your daily activity? Which of the five categories was the clear leader in the cue?
  • How easy was it for you to begin making choices again in changing your behavior?

Make a calendar reminder for three months to determine if you are still following your changed habit. Once you feel some momentum, lead your team to walk through this process.

Becoming effective in your own work habits will serve as both an inspiration and guide for your team. By demonstrating an effective, balanced role model, you are leading your team to effectiveness of vision, not just managing their output of activity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 16-1, published June 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Strive for One-Kingdom Living

Is your congregation stuck seeing generosity as what they cannot give rather than why or how they give?

Generosity is a way of living that involves one’s daily activities, values, and goals for life, and the use of all possessions. It begins with recognition of God as Creator of all things, and our position as steward of some things.

As stewards, we are in charge of the possessions God has given us – an authority that is real, but secondary to God’s ultimate ownership.

When we get these two ownerships mixed up, problems follow.

Solution: Strive for One Kingdom Living


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Development 101, by John R. Frank and R. Scott Rodin

In our 60 years of combined experience with faith-based non-profits we have seen a lack of a comprehensive, biblically based, fundamentally sound, development strategy.

We see at least four main reasons for this situation. First, far too few ministries have taken the time to think through and create a theology of development that serves as a rule and guide for all of their work in raising kingdom resources. The result is that the demands for money, rather than Scripture, dictate the techniques used for fundraising. Second, many organizations set unrealistic goals and expectations for their development team. When they are not reached, the ministry makes a change and tries again. Third, we see a serious lack of integration in development work. Ministries take a shotgun approach, trying all sorts of different ways to reach income goals, but far too seldom take a comprehensive, strategic approach that serves the giving partners not just the organization. Finally, we experience consistent misunderstanding and confusion over the board’s role in development work, compounded by an inability by the board to develop metrics for measuring effectiveness and success in raising funds based on kingdom principles.

This book is our attempt to address these concerns and provide development professionals with a tool that can help them build robust, God-honoring development programs.


Generosity success is 100% impossible without embracing this valuable principle: God owns everything. We are stewards of a small few things that God owns. God owns your life, your salvation, your uniqueness, your calling, your job, your body, your car, your bank account, your cash, and your television.

It is God’s responsibility to provide for you, your church and family, not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to release ownership and be an obedient steward.

We were created to be one-kingdom people. That is, God created and redeemed us to be children in His kingdom where He and He alone is Lord.

 As one-kingdom people, we know that everything belongs to God, and we respond by living as faithful stewards. The problem of sin is that it tempts us to build a second kingdom where we play the lord over the things we believe we own and control. It could be said that the entire cosmic battle between good and evil is played out in this arena of two-kingdom living. When we submit to the temptation to believe we are in control of our own kingdom, we treat money as something that we ultimately own. When we do this, we cannot be faithful, generous stewards.

Jesus summed it up with razor precision: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

As we go about our development work, we must realize that every one of our giving partners struggles with this two-kingdom temptation. Our work as Christian development professionals is to be used by God to help our giving partners recommit themselves to being one-kingdom people. This may sound like a huge responsibility, and indeed it is. For this reason we believe strongly that development work is ministry. Let us say that again. Rather than seeing your development work as a means for raising the resources necessary for ministry to happen, we want you to reconsider that your development work is ministry. You have a wonderful opportunity to watch God use you in powerful ways in the lives of your giving partners. Once you make this commitment, it will affect everything you do in this field: your messaging, your planning, your budgeting, your writing, your strategy, your metrics, and your prayer life.

Does your organization operate from a two-kingdom or one-kingdom worldview?

John R. Frank and Scott Rodin, Development 101: Building a Comprehensive Development Program on Biblical Values


Think of yourself as the manager of a trust. You have been given a key role and a great responsibility, so make the most of it. God Himself has trusted you with time, money, material things, and great opportunities. Your objective is to maximize the investment of all that has been put into your hands. Take some time to examine the three gauges of how you are managing God’s investment: your calendar, your bank account, and your spiritual gifts.

In light of the one-kingdom principle, how would you grade yourself in each area? What is one thing you can do in the next few weeks to better your One-Kingdom GPA one point?

In the final analysis, the hallmark of stewardship is administration not acquisition. Only by pursuing the goal of pleasing God do we find true pleasure and satisfaction for ourselves.


Because a giving God expects a giving people, the generous Christian should be a joyous giver. We give as an expression of our new nature and life in Christ.

When our focus strays from this truth, a resentful attitude will not be far behind. You serve a generous God; remember to strive for one-kingdom living.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 30-1 published December 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

It’s Time to Elevate Your Leadership Game

How do you cultivate long-term commitment within your team?

Many teams today are not really teams at all – organizationally, structurally, and motivationally they are not set up to work as individual parts of a larger, unified whole. Often they reflect outdated organizational charts that have little to do with current reality. There are times when a leader realizes their team is actually a collection of individuals who are looking out for themselves. Left in this state, a team can actually become a divisive and damaging cancer to the organization.

Is it little wonder, then, that leaders seek help in cultivating commitment within their teams? The problem isn’t necessarily with the team members or leaders themselves, but what the team is being asked to do: work together without any larger sense of organizational direction or purpose.

Solution: It’s Time to Elevate Your Leadership Game


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Chess, Not Checkers, by Mark Miller

As organizations grow in volume and complexity, the demands on leadership change. The same old moves won’t cut it any more.

The early days of an organization are like checkers: a quickly played game with mostly interchangeable pieces. Everyone, the leader included, does a little bit of everything; the pace is frenetic. But as the organization expands, you can’t just keep jumping from activity to activity. You must think strategically, plan ahead, and leverage every employee’s specific talents—that’s chess. Leaders who continue to play checkers when the name of the game is chess lose.

Chess Not Checkers, by Mark Miller, delivers four essential strategies from the game of chess that will transform leadership and organizations.


In Chess Not Checkers, Mark Miller uses a business fable to demonstrate that leaders who elevate their leadership game will in turn make their teams and organizations stronger.

According to Miller, the game of chess contains four specific parallels that can inform and transform teams and organizations seeking new levels of performance. Miller uses the simplicity, repetitiveness, and reactions found in the game of checkers to set up the game of chess as in instructive lesson for leaders in any organization.

 People want to be valued; they want to be useful; they want to contribute. When you make the right moves, people show up in a whole new way.

Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary.

The game today for most leaders can be better compared to chess – a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.

Bet on Leadership – Growing leaders grow organizations

  • Leadership growth precedes organizational growth
  • Capacity to grow determines capacity to lead
  • Identify emerging leaders and invest in them early
  • Strengthen your leadership team to become source of additional leadership capacity

Act as One – Alignment multiplies impact

  • Define your win
  • Get agreement from leadership team
  • Cascade and reinforce the win throughout the organization
  • Keep your organization aligned on what matters most

Win the Heart – Engagement energizes effort

  • Leverage unique capabilities of each person
  • Help people find and fulfill their dreams
  • Give people real responsibility
  • Show people you care

Excel at Execution – Greatness hinges on execution

  • Measure what matters most
  • Build your organization on systems, not personality
  • Communicate performance visually
  • Narrow your focus

Mark Miller, Chess Not Checkers 


You may have begun your leadership path using actions similar to the game of chess – basic, repetitive moves, often carried through at a fast pace with little strategy.

Today you find yourself in a whole new game – one in which strategy matters, individual pieces matter, and intense concentration and focus is required.

At your next team meeting, list the four moves developed by Mark Miller on a white board or flip-chart. For each of the four moves, start where you are – discuss how your organization defines the move. If necessary, modify the definition until your team is in agreement.

Over a period of two weeks, arrange a series of four meetings in which your team will be tackling one of the four moves at each meeting.

Discuss the three biggest challenges facing your team in the area of “Bet on Leadership.” Develop action plans to meet, and overcome each of these challenges. Set a timeline for the action plans, and report on it monthly until it is accomplished.

Discuss your organization’s missional mandate and missional marks of success in this mandate. What are the current gaps between your stated intention and the reality facing your team in the area of “Act as One”?

Ask your team members to define your organization in terms of The Lone Ranger (every man for himself) or The Three Musketeers (all for one and one for all). Brainstorm ideas that could help your team “Win the Heart” and move toward all for one.

Discuss with your team how to “Excel at Execution.” List three action steps your team will take in the next month to accomplish excellence, including who needs to do what to make your vision a reality.

While all too often teams are “teams” in name only, individual commitment to a larger whole is an integral part of the success of any organization.

By elevating their leadership game, leaders can help their teams maintain commitment and accomplish their Great Commission call.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 12-2, published April 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Your Discipleship Strategy Starts with Your Definition of a Disciple

Are you looking for a discipleship strategy, but don’t know where to begin?

How do churches make disciples?

It is perhaps the central question churches face, and only some of them actually have a well-defined answer. As Mike Breen says, “The problem is that most of us have been educated and trained to build, serve, and lead the organization of the church. Most of us have actually never been trained to make disciples.”

Do we now define disciple as someone who attends worship somewhat regularly, gives to us financially, and engages in acts of evangelism and kindness every once in a while?

Solution: Define clearly and biblically what a disciple is.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – DiscipleShift by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington

Making disciples is the church’s God-given mandate, but too often our churches fall short of their mission. We fill our pews, but fail to create committed disciples.

Discipleshift walks you through five key “shifts” that your church must make to refocus on the biblical mission of discipleship. These changes will attract the world and empower your church members to be salt and light in their communities.


 One of the marks of any successful team – from the sports world, business, and yes, even churches – is that all players need to be operating from the same playbook. The team must understand and operate with a basic understanding of the task set before them.

For the church, that task is making disciples. But even when churches come to some acceptance of this task, defining just exactly what “disciple” means is all together different.

Any church wanting to implement a successful discipleship strategy must first begin by defining what a disciple is.

A church must agree on the definition of its most important function, discipleship. Therefore, there must be agreement on behalf of all the church’s leaders regarding this simple, yet incredibly vital foundational question: what is a disciple?

There are two practical criteria that must guide any proposed definition of a disciple. First, the definition needs to be biblical (as Jesus defined it), and second, it needs to be clear. What we’re aiming for is a definition that every leader in your church understands and operates by.

If we dig into Matthew 4:19 as a framework and model for understanding discipleship, we find three important attributes of a disciple.

Follow Me

The first two words of Jesus are a simple invitation. This invitation indicates our acceptance of Jesus – his authority and his truth – at the head level.

 And I Will Make You

The next five words in this verse speak of a process of transformation. This tells us that discipleship involves Jesus molding our hearts to become more like his.

Fishers of Men

The final three words in this verse indicate a response of action, something that affects what we live for and do.

Putting all three attributes together, we see that a disciple is a person who:

– Is following Christ (head);

 – Is being changed by Christ (heart);

 – Is committed to the mission Christ (hands).

– Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, Discipleshift


At your next team meeting, ask each member to write a definition of “disciple” on a blank piece of paper and turn it in. Compile the definitions onto a single sheet of paper and distribute them to the team.

Before the next meeting, ask all of your team members to provide Scripture verses to support all of the definitions. The scriptures do not need to fully support the definition, but must speak to it in some way.

At your next team meeting, write the definitions and scripture verses that everyone brings on a white board or chart tablet. Work through the entire list, arriving at a single definition of “disciple” that is fully supported by Scripture.


The journey to a successful discipleship strategy, like all journeys, will be most successful when you know where you are starting from. Like any journey, you have to start from somewhere, and formulate a baseline definition of a disciple is the best place from which you can launch a successful discipleship strategy.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 10-1, published March 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Impact Your Community by Adopting an Incarnational Posture

Has the community around your church has changed, but you are not sure how to respond?

Some say that we live in the age of the “selfie” and are raising a generation aware of how they look, and at the same time they are growing more and more unaware of the world around them. What about your church? If you took a “congregational selfie” and then compared it to a “neighborhood selfie” of the community around your church, what would you find?

For many churches, especially established congregations with years of ministry impact, there will be a significant difference.

In the beginning, the church was a reflection of the community where it was located. There was probably significant and steady growth – as the community grew, the church naturally grew. Many churches might even have been seen as their “community center.”

However, over time, every community begins to change. It may be as simple as the community aging – or as complex as an ethnic, racial, or other socioeconomic change. Whatever the case, the community around the church probably changed…

…but the church didn’t change.

Over time, most churches resist, and even fear change.

The growing disparity between a church and its community was probably subtle – maybe even occurring over several generations. It starts with a few people beginning to move into other parts of the town and no longer making the drive back to their old community. Other events beyond the church’s control take place, like key industry moving out of town and the workforce following. Whatever the cause, the end result is that the church begins to no longer look like the community around it and many leaders are not sure how to respond.

Solution: Adopt an incarnational posture.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, by Michael Frost

The story of Christianity is a story of incarnation:

  • God taking on flesh and dwelling among the people He created.
  • God appointing and sending people as His body, His hands and feet.
  • Disciples of Jesus bearing the good news even as they bear the marks of His passion.

Whatever Christianity is, it is at least a matter of flesh and blood and the ends of the earth.

And yet so much of contemporary Christian culture is rooted not in incarnation but in escape―escape from the earth to heaven, escape from the suffering of this world, escape even from one another. Christianity is increasingly understood as something personal, conceptual, interior, private, and neighborless. If Jesus was God incarnate, the church is in danger of being excarnate.

In Incarnate, Michael Frost expertly and prophetically exposes the gap between the faith we profess and the faith we practice. And he offers new hope for how the church can fulfill its vocation: to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another and to our neighbors, to the ends of the earth and to the end of the age.


In a previous Remix, the possibility of a physical exodus of your church’s community was introduced. It may have taken place over several generations, or it could have happened almost overnight.

Even if there has been little physical “leaving” in your community, today’s technology allows anyone to disconnect from reality and be transported almost anywhere in the world, in any time frame, to escape their reality.

How can you lead your church to fight this impulse (both in reality and virtually) and be present in your community?

What are the implications of Christians wishing to countermand the excarnational impulses that pull us up and out of our neighborhoods?

Here are four suggestions for us to adopt the posture, thinking, behavior, and practices of an incarnational body and engage our communities meaningfully and for God’s glory.

Anthropologically (move in). What can we do to become more embedded in our communities, to appreciate their needs, hopes, and yearnings? Moving into the neighborhood is essential. Being able to walk to church isn’t some magical missional practice, but it does ensure that congregations will be an enfleshed presence in their immediate community.

Empathically (listen to them). The church must adopt a posture of active listening, of attentiveness to the disenchantment of our neighbors, in order to know how to offer something more than the deathly, heartless, hedonistic world of secularism.

Collaboratively (partner with them). Who else is invested in meeting the needs of the community and committed to working together in a multidisciplinary manner to meet those needs? If we truly take a kingdom approach to restoring our cities, we should be willing to partner with other churches, businesses, city officials, and social organizations to meet the needs of the city.

Sustainability (stay with them – for a long time). Many church planters or leaders are around long enough to close out their vision before moving on to the next venture. Perception is reality, until we change it. Like a marriage, church leadership should be for the longest time, wedded to a community through thick and thin, come what may.

– Michael Frost, Incarnate


At your next staff meeting, copy and display a map of your church and its community, or draw a simple one on a chart tablet. With the church in the center, draw rings around your church at a 1, 3, and 5-mile diameter. Indicate the location of each member of your team’s house on the map.

After all house locations have been added, reflect on their location in relation to the church. What does where your leadership lives say to you regarding the concept of “move in” or being embedded in the community in which your church is located?

Do you as in individual, or on behalf of the church, participate in any practices that would be categorized as “listen to them”? If so, describe these to the rest of the team. If not, how could you begin to practice active listening in your neighborhood and in your church’s community?

Do you have personal connections with neighborhood or community leaders – do you “partner with them”? Are these connections because they are more related to you as a person or you as a leader in your church? How often do you participate in neighborhood or community gatherings in which local concerns are a topic of discussion? If you regularly participate in such meetings, what do you do with the information you heard? Does any of it filter back to team meetings, ultimately becoming a part of the discussion of fulfilling your church’s mission?

On the same map you drew earlier with staff houses, write a number next to each house indicating the number of years you have lived there. If this number is different than the number of years you have served at the church, write this number in parentheses. After looking at all the information on the map, discuss how this impacts the mission of your church. Are you prepared to “stay with them – for a long time?”

After having these incarnational discussions, create an action plan for strengthening what is working and list the possible next steps toward remedying what isn’t. Plan to revisit this discussion every three months and mark progress on incarnational impact in your community.

Vibrant churches look after the interests of others – starting with their neighbors across the street and around the block. They are involved in community concerns by supporting, if not actually leading, initiatives.

Thriving churches have open doors – open to each and every segment of their community.

If your church is going to remain a vital ministry center in your community, you need to adopt an incarnational posture.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 22-2, published September 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.


Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler


Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:


I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?