Who’s the Guy in the Bear Suit?

Ok, you’ve got to follow me on this one. This has a point, in the direction of building transformational church ministry, just follow me. My church this morning was discussing the Reveal survey from Willow Resources that I highlighted earlier. The church leadership has learned a huge amount about the spiritual life habits of our church members. Consequently, the teaching team has brought a series on the factors which most significantly create real, measurable spiritual growth in the congregation. A by product gleaned from Reveal is that the focus of the church leadership is as much a factor in creating transformational ministry as the programs, music, sermons, budgets, etc.

My past few posts have been built toward this same underlying question. What is your ministry focus? What is working? What isn’t? Is your focus and your leadership bringing forth effective transformational ministry? I am not posing these questions judgmentally. As a laborer in the field with you, am I creating real change in the lives of those I am responsible to lead?

The teaching this AM included this video. Eight college students are in a small area. Four are dressed in white, four in black. The students have 2 basketballs, one belonging to each team. When the video clip starts, your task is to count the number of times the white team members pass the ball among themselves. OK? Simple task, right? On the word ‘GO’ the kids randomly move amongst themselves. Weaving in and out, the white team and the black team members pass the ball, dribble, pass, spin, pass . . .

You can watch the video here:

The movement’s leisurely, not like the guy at the carnival who is trying to trick you into guessing which cup has the ball underneath it. Slow, steady, one – two – three passes . . . there goes another one. At the end, our congregation agrees that there were 13, maybe 14 passes. Now here is your second assignment. Run the same video, and this time, watch the movement globally. Don’t focus on the black team or white. Just watch the video. Take a minute. View the video again.

Did you see him this time? Did you see the guy in the bear suit? I didn’t either. As a matter of fact, when the pastor asked the congregation if we thought he has run a different video the second time, we unanimously agreed we had been hustled.

The Point

In any organization, effectively reaching the organization’s goals is the result of measuring those factors which most significantly affect the organization’s movement toward the goal. Every organization has a unique goal, around which the entire organization should pivot. This goal is the sole purpose for that organization’s existence. As a ministry, our goal is easily defined.

We are charged with the task of making disciples that will influence the world for Jesus Christ. Our goal is summarized by Paul in 2 Cor 5 17-20, and he outlines 5 strategies for accomplishing the goal of the Great Commission:

  1. Win: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation,

  2. Build: Old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new

  3. Equip: And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

  4. Release: To know, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . and has committed unto us the world of reconciliation.

  5. Duplicate: Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.

We could break each of these five strategies down into measurable tasks, but this article isn’t about making the plan. It’s about seeing the factors in your organization which affect transformation. We are talking about seeing the guy in the guerilla suit, in order to make the plan that works for your community.

In your day to day activities, what are the factors which directly influence/affect these 5 strategies? How much of your time, and how much of your personal and organizational resources are dedicated to these 5 strategies each week? Are you counting the # of times the team passes the ball, or do you see the guy in the bear suit?


Questions, Cultures, Models and Assumptions

When you consider a ministry’s effectiveness, the questions you ask will be of more importance than any other factor.  Your questions must zero in on the heart of the matter, and not measure the outward appearances.  An example from scripture is Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler.  The man’s outward status wasn’t the issue. Neither was the amount of money he could give to the local church. Jesus put his finger on the pulse when he asked the man to give up everything to follow Him.  The amount wasn’t important. What was important was that the influential ruler abandon that which was his source of status in order to identify himself with Christ.

An example from the world outside of the church – If I were wearing rose colored glasses and you asked me what color the sky was on a given day, my answer would be affected by my point of view, those issues (in this example my glasses) to which I am attached. In this case, my answer would not be an accurate reflection of the sky’s true color.

All of this is to say – If you are engaged building a transformational church, ministry, or para-church organization, being able and willing to detach yourself from what is important to you, and ask questions that reach for the heart of a matter is central to the success of building a biblical, transformational, prevailing ministry.

I don’t believe that size or the amount of a church’s budget is the issue, or the measuring stick that is important to heaven.  I don’t believe that the particular denomination, or the worship style or theological paradigm is central to the Jesus’ goals. Yet how often do we read about these measuring sticks in contemporary Christian publications.  Like Christ, I believe we must look beyond those measuring sticks which are easily quantified, and like his interaction with the rich ruler we must abandon those things which identify us, and reach for the heart of the matter.

Here is the Heart of the Matter: A growing, transformational, prevailing ministry is Christ-centric, and is teaching, modeling, equipping and releasing its people to be Christ-centric influencers of their world.

When we look at Christ’s example, his encounter with different individuals was taylored to the person, and was meant to create in intimate encounter with Him.  He treated the rich ruler differently than the Pharisees, and Nicodemus who came to him at night seeking differently than the woman dragged to his feet in broad daylight.  Yet each encounter moved the person to engage Himself – personally, intimately, and uniquely based on the person’s own needs.

Over the next few weeks, I will be interviewing a number of ministries which are exercising unique levels of influence in their own communities.  These ministries have been chosen because they fit the descriptions of “transformational, culturally influential, and Christ-centric.” They have not been chosen because they are unique, emergent, contemporary, traditional or matching any other easily defined measurement.

The Heart at Home:  Our call is to be Christ-centric, to engage the culture, and see it transformed into his image. (Matt 5.13-16) This process can only begin if we are transformed ourselves into His image, likeness, character, personality, taking his priorities on as our own.  (It may be in your ministry that this is your starting point) However, lessons on discipleship and holiness will be left for another day, and other blogs.

The next few interviews here in Ministry in Motion will be with ministries which have accepted this call, and having been transformed themselves are seeking to affect transformation of their members, and the community around them.  Stay tuned.  This conversation will get interesting.  And as always, I invite your feedback.

We are called to change the world. (Matt 28.18-20)

How effective is your ministry carrying out that goal? (2 Cor 5.17-21)

Ask this question of our Lord, and let him honestly reply with conviction, encouragement and instruction into your heart. (2 Tim 3.16-17)

Together, let’s look at others who are prevailing, and learn from their faithfulness. (Prov 14.18-20)

Tim Burns

Measuring Transformation

In a recent interview at the Hillsong Conference (June 5,2008), in Sydney Australia, pastor Bill Hybels discussed church growth. One of the golden nuggets from this discussion w/ Pastor Brian Houston was the idea that sometimes ministers confuse church size with spiritual growth of our church members. According to Hybels, a transformational church’s success is measured by its effectiveness of the latter, not the former.

How long has it been since you stepped back and asked “What do I use to measure the effectiveness of my church / ministry?” A successful church will grow. Pursuing Christ’s command to make disciples must intrinsically include increasing numbers of members. However, increasing numbers does not mean that people are becoming disciples, being transformed and released into ministry. Yet the church’s call is to form the life of Christ within another life . . . to see individuals transformed.

So how do you measure your effectiveness of your church? Being and becoming a Christ centered, transformational, spiritual maturing church is a matter of being focused on the right goal, using the right measuring stick, asking the right questions.

Willow Creek Church and Willow Resources have recently published “Reveal:” an online study in which your church can participate. Reveal measures the spiritual temperature within your ministry. This cutting edge study was built over 4 years, on the contributions of 200 churches, and 80,000 participants. The Reveal study zeros in on spiritual continuum of a church, and identifies these 4 unique kinds of people at different stages of spiritual development.

1. Exploring Christ
2. Growing in Christ
3. Close to Christ
4. Christ-Centered.

According to the Reveal website (http://www.revealnow.com/index.asp), each of these groups have uniquely defining characteristics. Therefore measuring the success of your church, measuring the Kingdom Impact that your ministry is having is a matter of getting a hold of, and measuring these internally transcendent personal characteristics.

We will talk more about this concept, and the Reveal study in the next few posts.

For more information, click http://www.revealnow.com/index.asp

Timothy Burns, Associate Editor Ministry in Motion Blog
Author, Forged in the Fire – Shaped by the Master