Monday, December 15, 2008

Give Me Something To Believe In

Last week, I blogged about accountability. I said that I'd be working with our leaders to establish goals for 2009, and once the goals are set, they would become the benchmarks, the standards, the scoreboard by which their leadership and their teams will be evaluated. And our leaders will be held accountable for achieving their goals. Accountability provides a clear measuring stick of what is expected. It provides a scoreboard that will tell us if we're winning or losing. It raises the stakes for our ministries and our leaders, and if we pick the right standards, it will be self-evident that these endeavors are well worth our best efforts.

It's this last idea that I want to explore a little bit more this week: Inspiring goals generate our best efforts.

You don't have to be around churches long before you hear somebody lament about a lack of commitment, a lack of people, a lack of workers, or some other version of the same thing. Churches are notorious for being long on need and short on supply. Part of that has to do with the enormity of the mission that each local church is engaged in ("Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation"--Mk. 16:15)--you're never going to have enough people for a job that colossal.

On the other hand, you'd think that we could at least staff the nursery, or find some people to be in a skit, or listen to kids recite their verses, or help out at VBS. That's the reality of most churches--they struggle to keep their basic programs and ministries operational.

But here's what I've observed: Churches that are effective in accomplishing their mission have people that are totally committed to the ministries they're involved in. I've seen churches where members would rip off their own arms and legs if they thought it could advance the mission of the church, and these churches are located right down the street from other churches that are busy lamenting their lack of committed workers on a weekly basis.

What's the difference? It's not the area, it's not the culture, it's not the gospel, it's not Jesus, it's not their kids' sports schedules. All that stuff's the same. The difference is in churches that communicate a compelling vision for service. I believe people are ready to commit... as long as they know that their commitment, their involvement, their investment of time, talent, and energy, is not going to be wasted.

I believe that churches too often simply assume that everything they do is worthwhile. It might even be true (although, usually it's not), but I guarantee that the average person in the pew does not make that same assumption. The average person wants to know, "OK, if I give my time to this thing, what difference is that going to make? What's the impact that my contribution is going to have?" And if we can answer that question satisfactorily, we'll find people lining up to serve because every single one of us has an innate, God-given desire to make a real difference with our lives.

Part of answering that question satisfactorily, however, lies in our ability to own up to the fact that we have in fact wasted people's time and efforts in the past. We have invested them in places that really didn't make any difference. We have created ministries that were not strategic, that were not well-planned or excellently executed. We have mis-shepherded the hearts and lives of our people and put them in positions where they were destined to fail, usually due to no fault of their own.

So we must commit to not doing that anymore. We must solemnly promise (and then, of course, follow through on that promise) to do our part in developing ministries that matter--ministries that really allow those serving to make an impact or an investment in the lives of other people, ministries that tangibly bring glory to God, instead of simply supporting our structure. And the best way to do that is to set clearly defined, concrete goals that spell out plainly what will be accomplished through any particular ministry.

One of my goals is to personally invite at least one unchurched person to an event or worship service at our church each month. Another goal is that our church would contribute to at least six adult conversions in 2009. These are inspiring goals to me, and they motivate me to give my best effort in a focused and concentrated way on what I have determined to be the most important facets of my leadership and ministry for the coming year.

As I work with other leaders, we'll be setting goals for each area of our church, and those goals will become our promise to each of you: If you invest yourself in this ministry, we're going to work together to do everything possible to achieve these outcomes. What outcomes? That will differ according to the various ministries of our church. But between all of them, we'll be working to produce:

  • Concrete expressions of God's love demonstrated to those who have given up on God;
  • More opportunities for people to begin a relationship with Jesus;
  • Excellent worship services that inspire, inform, and interact with Northwest Nick's daily life;
  • A relationship-centered faith community that is easy to penetrate and connect with others;
  • Growing trust in God, resulting from a personal knowledge of his purpose and his person;
  • Safe, fun, and faith-building environments for kids to come to know Jesus and grow in him.

In short, every single ministry in our church will strategically, specifically, and intentionally spell out exactly how it contributes to and advances the mission of our church--"To meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus." By defining a clear vision, we'll give you something worth investing in, something worth giving your life for, something worth our very best efforts.

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