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Can You Share Your Vision in An Elevator Speech?

ElevatorThere are often crucial moments when we have an opportunity to be vision-casters with people, one-on-one. It may be a car ride making a visit, coffee with a fellow member, or a staff meeting with five extra minutes at the end. It begs the question, could I state my vision for my church if I only had a few floors to travel in an elevator with someone?

You see, vision is great, but it needs to be transferrable. Members of a church should be able to share their church’s vision with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors, but they can only share a vision that has been concisely articulated from their leadership. And a vision isn’t “reaching people” or “glorifying God.” Those are eternal purposes, universal to every church. A vision (in an elevator speech format) would be more like…

We’re going to be a church that wraps our arms around the broken with an abundance of both truth and grace. We’ll have a multiplying network of small groups where people can really bear each other’s burdens. And we’ll gather in the middle of the marketplace for passionate worship and relevant teaching each week. The community will be better because we’re here – marriages will be fixed, education will improve, and people with all kinds of hurts, habits, and hang-ups will find healing and recovery in a new life with Jesus.

That’s my elevator pitch. What’s yours?

photo credit: nycbone

Dream Bigger – Ask More

“You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2 ESV)

James the Apostle had the spiritual gift of bluntness. We’ve received the benefit of his brutally honest thoughts, such as when he answers a common question with such a common sense answer. Why don’t I have? Because I didn’t ask. And he goes on to point out that often when we ask, we’re doing so for selfish reasons.

I want to challenge you today to do some pretty important things.

Dream Bigger

Whatever it is you feel is God’s will for your life, think bigger. It’s a virtual guarantee that God is already thinking bigger. His vision trumps ours every time, so it’s a good challenge to try to keep up with Him.

Consider God’s Glory

As you dream, dream for His glory. The purest motive possible is the motive of the nations being made glad in the light of the glory of God. Why are you dreaming what you’re dreaming? For a nicer home? A bigger reputation? Or the glory of God?

Sometimes when our dreams don’t align with God’s will, we expect Him to adjust His will to our desires. We ought to be thinking just the opposite – how can we adjust our desires to His will?

Ask

The most common word for “pray” in the New Testament literally means “ask.” In fact, the word ask is a more literal translation, but pray came to us from old English and we’ve hung on to it as a religious word. So dream in a way that is aligned with God’s will, then ask Him to bring it to pass in your life.

Do

Ever heard that phrase, “Plan your work, then work your plan?” I believe that we should join God in what He wants to do in, around, and through us. We have the privilege, by grace, of cooperating with the actions of God.

So get started.

Pastor, What’s Your Timeline for the Next Year?

When we started the work of planting Grace Hills, we developed a timeline to established what we hoped to be doing for the first six months – our “pre-launch” process. It looked like this (except it included July and August – couldn’t find that version):

Grace Hills Timeline

Lately, we’ve grown and I’ve been quite excited about what God is up to. But when someone asks me what our vision is, I struggle to answer. This isn’t because I don’t have a vision. I can very quickly and in a passionate voice tell you the people we hope to reach, how we hope to reach them, and what we aim to do for the kingdom. But in terms of actual growth – numerical, physical, and otherwise – I have a hard time articulating specifics about the future. I think part of the reason is that I haven’t had a timeline. I risked moving away from the entrepreneurial spirit that drove me week after week in the good ole’ days.

So last week, during a coaching session (which have been absolutely indispensable as we have moved forward), Danny asked me what my timeline looked like now? What timeline? That was just a launch thing. Then it hit me… there was tremendous synergy and excitement during those six months because we were aiming for the last dot on that timeline – LAUNCH! There is incredible power in building momentum toward what is “next.” So if we can’t articulate what is next, we’re probably in trouble already.

We worked through what should be some faith-based but realistic expectations about our growth. If our attendance has grown by an average of 100 in the last eight months (141 to 243), and that growth continues at that pace, we will be out of space at the theater by April or May of 2015. So it’s time to prepare. At the end of the coaching hour, I had scribbled away a full page of notes about all that we want to implement and accomplish in the next twelve months…

  • Implement our “next steps” series of one-time classes introducing people to Maturity, Ministry, and Mission.
  • Formalize a team of advisors with both spiritual- and business-savvy to offer input and, more importantly, prayer for our future.
  • Double the number of small groups we currently have by “spontaneous generation.”
  • Take the church through a fall campaign to go deeper and put down “roots,” which we hope to do in 2015 in a physical sense.
  • Take an offering of money, but also commitments, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to prepare us for our next space.
  • Secure a new location by January and start the work of preparing it for weekly services.
  • Launch into the new location on Easter of 2015.
  • Watch Journey Church in Siloam Springs launch on Easter as well (our daughter church led by our Planting Resident, Michael Smith).

Will it all happen, just as we’ve charted out? Who knows? We faithfully proclaim the gospel and leave the results to the Holy Spirit, so while we prep the soil, plant the seeds, and water the crops, it’s God alone who gives real growth. But I’d rather count on a wisely-derived estimate than nothing at all, believing that God wants to bless us in this way. And I’d rather make adjustments as we go than arrive at that place where we need to do something by tomorrow but can’t possibly pull it off in time.

I’m excited about what the future holds for Grace Hills. I’m even more excited about what’s happening in the Kingdom of God at large. While many churches are struggling, some of whom are suffering from the self-inflicted disease of inward focus and others who have abandoned a biblical gospel for a cultural one, I also see a wave of healthy churches being planted and others being revitalized. I’m optimistic.

If you’re a Pastor, let me ask you, what’s your timeline? What do you want to accomplish in the next year and how are you leading your people through the process? Share below. Share elsewhere. Or just go get pen and paper and get started!

10 Ways to Raise the Spiritual Temperature of Your Church

ThermostatThere is a cold, hard fact I remind myself of often as a Pastor. No one does more to determine the spiritual temperature of my church than me, the Pastor. It’s part of shepherding. I’m the lid. I’m the limit.

I define passion as the heated desire with us to do or to be something. Paul talked about being on fire (ready is prothumos or “on heat”) to preach (Romans 1:17) and told Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God within him” (2 Timothy 1:6). I believe Pastors are the primary thermostat when it comes to the spiritual temperature of the church.

That doesn’t always mean a lukewarm church is led by a lukewarm Pastor. There are always exceptions. Sometimes passionate leaders lead apathetic people – just ask Moses. And sometimes apathetic leaders have passionate followers – but usually not for long. But since I’m writing to Pastors and leaders, I’ll simply say that if you’re frustrated that people don’t seem passionate and driven enough, you must start with a check of your own temperature.

When you find yourself in a spot where you’re leading a lukewarm body of people in a mission that demands passion, there are some things you must do to change the game. Fair warning – preaching at people out of your frustration isn’t one of them.

  1. Get alone with God. Absolutely nothing kindles passion within you like time with Jesus. He loves the church far more than you do – enough that He gave His life for it in a way that you never could. HE is the ultimate source of passion for ministry.
  2. When you get alone with God, repent of sin in your life. What I mean is, do a soul-searching, dark-dusty-corner-sweeping inventory of what might be distracting you from the main business of your calling. Whatever you find, repent of it.
  3. Pray more often, longer, and more personally than ever. I don’t believe God is offended by passionate praying. He is offended by flippant prayer that fails to recognize His supreme power and authority over all things. Go boldly and often!
  4. Talk to a mentor or coach. I’ve been encouraged through some of the darkest moments of my life in leadership by some of my greatest heroes on earth. Everybody needs models, mentors, and friends.
  5. Share your vision again… and again. Remember, vision leaks and the tank runs empty every six weeks or so. So cast your vision to key leaders individually, to teams collectively, and speak the language of your vision to the whole body regularly.
  6. Love people. If you don’t love people, you’ll get angry with them for letting you down and failing to help you accomplish your goals. But if you love them, it’s no longer about what they can do for you – you’re suddenly concerned for their own lack of joy and growth.
  7. Diagnose and remove leadership lids. One of the most important laws of leadership that John Maxwell has ever spoken about is the law of the lid. If you’re an 8 on a scale of 10, you’ll never lead others beyond a 7. So grow. Don’t be the lid.
  8. Go first. If you want people to have a servant’s heart, serve. If you want them to be people of prayer, pray. If you want bold evangelists, share Jesus. Never expect others to do what you as the leader have an unwillingness to go first in.
  9. Change the game. Change forces people out of their comfort zones and often provokes new growth, even when it’s painful. The moments when I’ve grown the most in my life have always been times of transition.
  10. Empower other leaders. Moses led well, but his leadership really took off when Jethro helped him get organized. Good churches are led by passionate leaders, but great churches are led by passionate teams of leaders.

It always starts with something spiritual – worship. Nothing stirs the fire of God in our hearts more than worship, praise, and prayer. The best place to start raising the temperature of your church is in your own heart, and the best place to start doing that is on your knees.

photo credit: Lars Plougmann

Why is 2013 Going to Rock at Grace Hills?

2013

2012 was an awesome year for Grace Hills! Angie and I arrived in northwest Arkansas with a big dream and have continued to be amazed at the great things God has done this year. We launched on January 15 with 176 people in attendance, far exceeding our goals and expectations. And in the last year, we’ve baptized 30 people, launched more than a half dozen Grace Groups, and have performed hundreds of hours of service to the northwest Arkansas community in partnership with local organizations. It’s been a good year – a year to celebrate – so glory to God!!

What’s coming in 2013? I don’t know. If that sounds strange, understand that I always approach the issue of “long range planning” with hesitancy because of the unpredictable variables. We don’t know who will come to be part of us in the next year, what will happen in our economy, or what unforeseen opportunities will arise. That’s why one of our core values is to “stay fast, fluid, and flexible. There are no sacred cows. We embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meeting Jesus.”

While we remain flexible, we also believe strongly in vision, so we do plan, but we hold those plans with a loose grip. So here are a few of my intentions for 2013 based on the vision I believe God has given me as Grace Hills’ Lead Pastor…

  • Grow a GREAT Children’s Ministry! We’re welcoming a new staff member on January 1 – Meredith Chapuis – who has a big vision for what God wants to do in Grace Hills’ kids. We’re going to create a better environment, improve on an already great teaching system, and reach more kids and families.
  • Launch more Grace Groups, and get everyone into a group that we possibly can. We hope to have 12 groups going strong as soon as possible. We have a loose group structure. There may be men’s groups, women’s groups, singles’ groups, etc. but there will also be groups mixed with all kinds of people. If you’re part of Grace Hills, pray about hosting!
  • Discover the purpose of life as we take February and March to go through a major, church-wide spiritual growth campaign called What On Earth Am I Here For? It’s based on the tenth anniversary re-release of the best-selling nonfiction book in American history outside the Bible, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, and thousands of other churches will be doing the same study at the same time.
  • We currently offer a Newcomers’ Lunch, which has been very effective and successful at introducing people to Grace Hills, our vision, our values, and what it means to be a member. In 2013, we’ll launch two follow-up classes: Maturity Matters (an introduction to the basic habits for growing spiritually) and Ministry Matters (where people can explore how God shaped them to serve Him).
  • We would love to launch a full-blown Celebrate Recovery. Grace Hills has already become a place where people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups feel accepted and welcomed. But we need to go further and offer solutions for healing in community.
  • We keep doing some things we’ve done well – serving the community outside the theater walls, creating an environment where unchurched people feel comfortable investigating the faith and connecting with believers, and getting involved in messy lives in hands-on ways.
  • We hope to plant another church, or at least be heavily involved in the planning phase. We always intended for Grace Hills to be “born pregnant” and be a teaching hospital for multiplying new churches for the Kingdom, and we want to stick to that vision.
  • We may just move, physically. The movie theater has been a great place to start, for plenty of reasons, but we’re also testing its limits in terms of housing all that we do on the weekend and all that we wish to do during the week. I see a possible new, leased facility as a place to start and launch new groups and ministries. We will remain committed to both gathering and scattering, and a better space would be a great tool for doing both.

As I wrote before, I don’t know all of the unplanned and unpredictable opportunities that God will open before us in the upcoming year. What I do know is that I’m ready to see God move in a fresh and powerful way in the northwest Arkansas community to awaken people to the reality and the life-changing power of the gospel.

If you’re part of Grace Hills, I want to challenge you to adopt this vision as your own. As you give your time, talent, and treasure to see the dream become a reality, God is going to show up and do powerful things so that God ultimately gets the glory and the credit. Let’s spread the fame of Jesus so that the least, the last, and the lost can come to know Him!

2013 is gonna rock!