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Part II Leader’s Need Clarity:

As I’ve sought clarity in my own pastoral ministry I’ve found its far easier to create a vision statement, support it with a purpose statement, and share with star-step vision layout than it is to actually live with it day by day. Ideas are easier than implimentation, period.

Because of my own spiritual journey and conversion out of Scientology having a theological philosophy behind what I’m doing and why I’m doing it comes first. This doesn’t mean that if someone from a different tradition than my own, or even someone inside my tradition does things differently than I do that I start to deconstruct all that they do because they have a different starting point. The truth is that we all re-evaluate our starting points and philosophies while we do mission. Nor does it mean that my philosophy for ministry is driven only by my theological commitments, rather there is an interaction between my theological a priori’s and the missiological and ecclesial contexts I find myself within. Clarity for me means answering questions about the substance of the Christian faith, the story behind the immediate and wider community ethos I’m within, and the particularities of the mission’s context that the faith and community ethos’s have to be embodied within.

How do Stanley and Willits address leaders need for clarity? Glad you asked, here we go…

Clarify The Goal 04

S&W recall a time when they drove into the arena their church plant was meeting in (yes an arena even at planting stage) and saw their road signage say “No Point Church” because the sign couldn’t hold enough letters on it for their full name. It provided them with a humorous opening that night but it also made them ask themselves – what’s the point of our church? Every pastor should ask themselves this, frequently. North Point had a unique meeting schedule their first season as a startup church that kept them from the Tyranny of the Urgent. They meet every other week, which meant a great deal of time to strategize and plan and dream together AS A TEAM. As a team is an important aspect to how they found clarity, how churches ought to maintain clarity, AS A TEAM. In these early meetings they encountered three big questions, they didn’t encounter the answers to them right away but they did get a clear sense of what questions would be important to them: 1) What do we want people to become?-chapter 4; 2) What do we want people to do?-chapter 5; and 3) where do we want people to go?-chapter 6.

What do we want people to become? S&W say that this is where they had to begin, they had to ask this in order to clarify their mission. They say most churches fall into one of two categories on this question: The Skill-Based Church & The Bible-Knowledge Church. Both of these options fail due to over-emphasis in each of them; not all skills are equally important to develop and not all books of the bible are equally applicable to peoples lives. Over against these two choices S&W say that our mission has already been defined for us in scripture in Matthew 28, the mandate to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have comanded you. S&W say that their purpose “is to relationally connect with people in such a way that it encourages them to follow Christ…We’re not concerned if people are not at the same place on their spiritual journeys. We simply want to influence people in such a way that they keep making progress on their journeys…Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Define Spiritual Maturity 05

Having answered the first question – what do we want people to become? – with discipleship; S&W ask the second one – what do we want people to do?. In order to answer this question they said they had to clarify how they understood spiritual maturity. One things for sure for S&W, spiritual maturity is not the accomplishment of a plan or program, its more. What’s the more? Right question, lets see what they say…

S&W turned to Matthew 22 to answer this second question. Spiritual maturity is a process, its not a point in time; its a lifetime journey. “Maturity is measured by demonstrative growth in our love for God and for others. It is not a completed program or the aquisition of a skill, but a continual expression of love in our relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with one anotherAt North Point we have defined “loving our neighbor” into two categories: those in the faith and those outside the faith. So we have defined spiritual maturity as continual progress in three vital relationships: a person’s relationship with God, with other believers, and with unbelievers.” S&W want believers “to grow in their intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.”

Intimacy with God is something that needs to be pursued, intamcy doesn’t just happen it requires relational deposits according to S&W. Community with other believers doesn’t just happen either, there is a tendency to drift and we all need the accountability and depth of relationship others can offer. To influence outsiders S&W have coined an approach called “Invest and Invite”: “We encourage people to invest in the lives of their unbelieving friends and then invite them at the appropriate time to one of our relevant environments, where the gues will be encouraged in their spiritual journey.”

Journey is an important theme for S&W, it kind of makes you wonder WHERE do they want people to go? See the next chapter for this…

Decide Where People Go 06

Answering the where question helps you answer the win question for your ministry say S&W. Some churches have multiple home plates and others have one home place. People are going to go somewhere, the question is where, and how are you going to be involved in sojourning with them there?

What are some of the where’s/home plates that churches create to move people toward?

  • A CLASS – “For many churches, a class is the ultimate destination in their strategy.”
  • SERVICE – “They ultimately want people moving in the direction of a ministry or service group impacting the community or an area inside the church.”
  • NEW MEMBERS SEMINAR – “There are churches where the preferred destination is a doctrinal seminar for new members. They want to make sure that everyone is on the same page theologically…”
  • SMALL GROUPS – Other churches define small groups as the goal of their church, as people move to them they grow in maturity and in commitment to their local churches. North Point has the “Foyer to the Kitchen” model, the place of least intimacy in the house to the place of greatest intimacy.

From children to adults North Point wants people inside small groups, period.

Leaders need clarity and for S&W clarity comes by answering these three questions:

  1. What do you want people to become?
  2. What do you want them to do?
  3. Where do you want them to go?

After Thoughts:

In chapter four I ran into some areas that left me with some questions, the first being S&W’s starting point for their church – what do we want people to become? A great question but is it the best or most effective question to build a church off from? I’m not so sure it is, rather I think the question has to be what did Christ seek to fulfill by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension? Otherwise Church can quickly become an people-development-driven environment and less holistic and Christ-centered. Now do I think that has happened at North Point? Well I’ve never gotten to visit them yet but my assumption is NO, I think they are very solid through and through. Nevertheless I would state the question differently, if you answer the nature of Christ’s mission question solidly then you have an answer for their question as well.

The other thing that stood out to me in chaper four was th matter of progress, what is it? What does it look like, is it measurable and if so how? These are things that Stanley and Willits fill out in chapters 5 and 6 but I was left wanting a fuller answer to this question. How does the sin nature and the indwelling Spirit relate to the progress question, or for that matter the already/not yet aspect of eschatology? 

I got a lot out of chapter 5, not the least of which in the way they answered the progress/process question of spiritual maturity as growing in our intimacy with God, community with believers, and influence with outsiders. I would just add that maturity may also be defined by how well we’re sustained not just influence but community with outsiders as well.

In chatper 6 S&W’s pastoral wisdom shined through for me, multiple homeplates are confusing and complex. The Simple Church ideal of Rainer and Geigger is a good book to read to fill this chapter’s main point out well. my only concern is that sometimes you’ve got multiple games being played inside the church and home plate for some players looks different than for others. Nevertheless I think they are right, if leaders are going to have clarity they need to know where they value people landing the most…maybe the where could be defined personally rather than programingly, ie them landing on Christ. They do this and for them small groups is are the best place to land on Him in a deep and accountable fashion.