One of my greatest joys in life is being a husband and father. It is also one of the toughest jobs in life. As the leader of my family, I am responsible for the culture I develop. The same is true for anyone leading an organization. Whether it is in a Church, a non-profit or a corporation, you are developing a culture. You develop that culture through the decisions you make, the example you set, and the integrity in which you lead.
Making the Shift To Sending
Before a congregation considers shifting their ministries and mindset from their current way of doing ministry to become a church that sends people out to start new ministries they need to be prepared for the strong emotions that may be stirred up. This made me think about similar emotions generated when my pastor brought up the issue of commitment Sunday for our yearly budget cycle. “Give ‘til it hurts, the church needs your help.” Well, I had a very low pain threshold. When you tell people to give ‘til it hurts, you will lose some people. Sending people away, also hurts. It creates all kinds of questions in our mind. If we start sending people away: Won’t we have voids in our ministry? They were good givers, how can we replace those dollars? Do you know how hard is it to develop good leaders? This post is relevant because I am convinced developing a sending culture could radically change the direction of your ministry.
I discovered as we started an African Immigrant congregation that there are three tension points to work through in order to develop a sending culture.
Tension of Motives: “Here or There”
At the core of our culture is a tension deeply rooted in our definition of success. When our ministry is over, sitting in our easy chair, Bruce Springsteen reminds us in the song, “Glory Days.” “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by. Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye” The legacy of ministry, we have left behind hinges on the DNA we left the poor fellow who followed us. Was our vision limited to accumulating and growing a larger local congregation (not a bad thing mind you), or was it balanced with an equal focus and passion for sending key leaders out there? Notice I mentioned key leaders. In my ministry, there were members I would have gladly shared, but I am not sure that is the DNA I wanted to bless a new ministry with. I am talking about sending your best, your first fruits, “giving even if it hurts.” This tension is rooted in the values embedded in a church’s DNA. To move through this tension, we must embrace and become passionate about the value of multiplication. We must balance here and there.
Tension of Measures: “Grow or Send”
Another critical tension is rooted in our priority of focus. We are all busy in ministry. Our desire is to get the biggest bang for our buck. To accomplish this, we need to focus our ministry efforts. Yet, there is an on-going struggle as to where we focus our time, talent and treasure. Do we invest all of our resources growing where we are planted (here) or invest a portion of the resources in sending others out to develop new mission fields (there)? The same staff and finances that can help us grow here are the ones needed to send there. I learned the hard way that most churches adopt a “we will send after we grow a little larger and have the extra resources” approach. How is that working for your financial stewardship? Do you have a good balance between growing and sending?
Tension of Methods: “Safety or Risk”
Boy, do I love making the tough decisions NOT! However, in order to do what God calls us to do those decisions are always before us. What hard decisions will you have to make to become a sending church? Good intentions will not get you there. Where is that place God has placed on your heart to start a new ministry? If God placed that in your heart there may be others in your congregation feeling that same tug of God. It is so easy to play it safe in ministry. There is a certain comfort in taking it safe, but the mission God gave to the church was not a safe one. Jerusalem can get very comfortable, but to take the message to the ends of the earth we need to develop a sending mindset.
Whether or not you realize it, you are creating and cultivating a culture in your church. There is no stopping it, but the culture can be molded, shaped, even changed as you examine closely the tensions, rationale even fears that drive those tensions. Your ministry is not just for this generation, it is the foundation for generations to come. How you lead and maneuver through the tensions you experience might be the most significant blessing you have to shape your church’s culture and DNA.