Granite Etching vs Sand Writing

This  post wraps up a quick look at a section of Will Mancini’s book “Church Unique“. I’m at the Exponential PreConference event in Orlando with part of the Auxano team, and this section has been jumping all over me!

So far, it’s been all about Soul Fast Food – but now it’s down to some “solid” stuff! The real nourishment of your people should come from the vision of your Church Unique. Only then will the enduring purpose of the church reflected locally can replace the substitutes of place, personality, programs, and people.

In his book “Built to Last“, author Jim Collins found that enduring organizations have two dominant characteristic that are complementary opposites:

  • A strong conviction about core ideals that never changes
  • A clear understanding that everything else must change in order to preserve the core

If people are nourished by unchanging vision, they are more agreeable when the rules change with tactics. It takes clarity and discipline to understand which things in the organization belong to which category. But what if our people were so captivated by the granite etching that it set us free to play with sand drawings? The leader’s role is not just to communicate in both granite and sand but to show how the two components work together. The leader should help people embrace change by nurturing an emotional connection to the unchanging core vision. The leader should preserve and champion the core vision by showing people how to constantly adapt.

Our change management problems today are vision problems first and people problems second. Many leaders want their people to run a missional marathon but unknowingly feed them junk food, leaving them malnourished and unprepared for the future. 

If you are leader in ChurchWorld, don’t be part of “feeding” your congregation junk fast food – focus on the Bread of Life, and watch your church thrive and grow! When we fail to clarify and nurture the things written in granite, our people get too attached to the things written in sand. This is how the four P’s (place, personality, programs, and people) fit in. These are sand, not granite. As the fluid and flexible stuff of the kingdom they not only should change, but must change. In the absence of vision, the stuff of sand becomes the vision. In the absence of granite, sand is all we can grasp. 

What’s on Your Menu?

The last few posts on 27gen have been a closer examination of Will Mancini’s book Church Unique. Specifically, the chapter entitled “Lost Congregations” that examines how churches adapt to a vision vacuum. Using the metaphor of Soul Fast Food, Mancini challenges the church leader to examine how their structures, programs, and ministries may have become a substitute for the real meal – what God intends for the church.

To wrap this up, I simply want to restate some of Mancini’s questions for your consideration.

  • 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 church attenders?
  • What then fuels the dreams of your people?
  • What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?

God’s people have a heart for mission; we need guidance to carry it out – vision. When a church articulates and clarifies its vision, the people of God will be released in a powerful realization of God at work in their world.

What’s on your menu?

If you are at the Exponential Conference and you resonated with the Church Unique material, I invite you to participate in the Intentional Discipleship track for your workshops. You can look at a preview here.

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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!

More Soul Fast Food

Big Mac “Personalities”

Spiritual leaders matter to our people. But most pastors do not want their personality to be the primary umbilical cord connecting their members’ identity to the church. Charisma is not vision. It is a vehicle to deliver the vision. But for many churchgoers, connection to their church is connection to the pastor. The “person” of the pastor can easily become the primary connection point so that in the absence of vision, people cling to something – or someone – even those with little capability to lead.

 

 

Supersized “Programs”

Programs are important, and good methodologies for doing ministry should come and go. Unfortunately, most of them come and stay – like sour milk, they hang around long after their expiration date! For years, church leaders have struggled with how to dismount a dead horse. When the program exists in a vision vacuum, the how of doing the program displaces the why in the heart of the program’s leaders. Mastering the how is what makes the volunteer feel important. The problem is not the volunteer but the vision. We need the vision to raise our sight to see the why behind the program to begin with. Their hearts find more meaning in working efficiently on yesterday’s methods than in working effectively into the future.

What about your church?

Does your fast food diet include Big Mac personalities and Super Sized programs?

At the Exponential Conference this week? Check out Auxano and Will Mancini: Preconference Tuesday 4/23 beginning at 1 PM in ED 315; Intentional Leadership Track Wednesday and Thursday during the workshops (8 different sessions)

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?