04 Jan, 2016 Mission – movement – model – monument
A friend recently recounted the typical journey of all organisations – including our churches and para-church organisation. It is an interesting reflection.
1. Mission – A mission is recognised and believed in
2. Movement – A group of people gather behind the mission
3. Model (Mechanism) – Their activity becomes a model for replication
4. Monument – The activity continues, but the movement has shifted itself downwards to serve the model rather than the mission. The form of ministry has taken precedence over and above the purpose for which that form was originally innovated in its given context and time.
The question for us is, how do we avoid the slide?
The question for many churches and older organisations is, how do you restore the movement so it stands behind the mission rather than the model?
How to you maintain the integrity of your ministry?
In short, the answer is to continually reflect upon the mission and one’s cultural environment, so there is integrity in the mission. Some key dynamics in this are the maintaining of a culture of risk and vulnerability. Having developed something it is natural that we want to protect it. The protection mentality stands in opposition to a groups devotion and ability to serve their mission! As the ability to adapt and evolve is lost, the mission falls into second place, subservient to the model of ministry. (Our ability to stay ‘current’ through continual adaption is hindered by the ‘blinkers’ that the protection mentality creates around our eyes).
For pastors reflecting on their church, freely stop reading here to reflect on what you are leading.
- Is your local church a movement of people rallied behind Christ’s mission – or are they rallied behind the past cultural expression of that mission that may have become ‘enshrined’ as a culture within your church? (Do they see the mission or the program?)
- What would it take to move the hearts of the people back to fresh vision of their mission, and back to innovative and fresh thinking regarding how they would pursue it?
For those interested to hear my reflections own on what we are leading/doing through the Shining Lights Trust, freely read on.
What is the place of para-Church?
Regarding para-church and inter-church organisations, my view is that para-Church ministries exist to do/facilitate/create things that local churches cannot. If local churches do not have vibrant high school outreach ministries then community and school-based outreach initiatives are needed. However, if local churches recognise the importance of youth work, and value it – therefore investing in it, the need for the para-church activity in that area is gone. (I would note regarding this example that churches unfortunately ‘come and go’ in their outreach focus among youth. I believe there is still a great need for inter-church / para-church ministries that seek to work with young people. Many work with the children/youth of church people – but what about the other 95% of our nation’s young people?).
Reflections for the Shining Lights Trust at the start of a new year: Do we need to continue to exist?
For us at the Shining Lights Trust, the above are things we’ve thought about a lot! As a true idealist I originally sought to give away practically everything we are currently doing. My ideal back in 2010 and 2011 (when setting this work up) was that the efforts, strategies, approaches and resources we created could be owned by existing organizations and churches, because their purpose is to strengthen the work they were doing. The Trust’s catch phrase is ‘helping the Church see afresh what it has’. The mission I felt a call to was to help to strengthen the outreach activities of churches and para-Churches. We are filling gaps that have been vacant in the area of ‘evangelism’ – though with a rigid commitment to the values of clarify, gentleness and respect. I saw great potential in helping half a dozen organizations to go to their next level. It didn’t work!
The Shining Lights Trust only exists because we could not find any existing para-Church organisations who were willing to embrace the new initiatives we had a vision and heart to pioneer. No doubt there were a few factors involved, but the possibility that some have become ‘monuments’ serving a model (rather than movements serving a mission) cannot but be noted. The risks of the new initiatives were too great! As Jesus put it, you can’t put new wine in a new wineskin. Giving away fresh strategies and resources (along with our commitment to serve them without pay) didn’t work.
- So the Shining Lights Trust came into existence – overseeing the Hope Project, All Together Consulting, and a range of pioneer resources that are very successfully helping many pastors/church leaders to go to their next level in the mobilisation of their members to outreach actively, in a way that is appropriate within our society. The original vision of helping Churches better achieve their mission is being achieved!
- So Big Book Publishing also came into existence – because we could also find no organisation willing to embrace the risk of producing the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated history series. (B.B.P. was first started to produce gospel booklets and other resources, for the same reason. Past disappointments seem to have left few who are willing to invest in new outreach initiatives).
Now we are looking to the future, and we have new initiatives in mind. The question is what will we do? After 20 years of idealism in the way I’ve operated, I’ve reluctantly and sadly accepted that we (the Shining Lights Trust) needs to exist. The ideal of giving things away doesn’t work – because ‘new wine needs new wineskins’.
Our challenge in this decision will be clear: To remain authentic in the purpose for which we exist. We are here to help the Church see afresh what it has. We are here to pioneer strategies and resources that can help the Church to better achieve its mission.
- When we cease to achieve this, we must close.
- If we reach a point where momentum is moderate at best – and where other organisations could continue things we have initiated, we must boldly give these resources and tools away.
However, if we are to continue to pioneer in the way that we have a heart to, we need a vehicle for this that is not scared of risk, and can adapt quickly. This culture of risk and vulnerability is what I believe is needed to enable our churches and organisations to be movements who serve a mission – rather than movements who serve a model (that reflected a good application of the mission at some point in the past).
Is your movement serving a model – or it’s mission? It’s a powerful and important question.
Thanks for reading.
If you are interested in our intentions for 2016 (all God-willing):
For the Shining Lights Trust in 2016
- There is the third and final phase of the Hope Project.
- There are the beginning of investigating the replication of this model overseas (with above reflections considered). Part of this will include our overseeing of the ‘Global Outreach Day’ in NZ (and Australia and the Pacific) as a connection point with churches, to help them in outreach.
- The efforts of ‘All Together Consulting’ will continue, which seeks to reveal to churches how different results could be attained if we could embrace a different approach to outreach mobilisation. Our results come from our actions, and our actions come from our thinking. If we want different results – could it be that we need to think differently
- ‘The 3 legs of the stool’ is a youth resource that seeks to achieve the same with youth and young adult leaders/pastors. This will be introduced to denominational leaders in 2016, ready for a soft-launch in 2017.
- And we will seek to resurrect a national evangelism conference (planned for Friday 2 to Saturday 3 September – ‘Engage Conference’) because we feel the time is right for this. There has not been a conference like this in NZ since the year 2000
In addition, Big Book Publishing is working on a Treaty series (of illustrated history stories) that we hope will one day be used in schools throughout the nation. As a historical resource (not a ‘Christian’ one), this hold potential to educate many on a range of positive stories from our history that are directly connected to the Christian faith, which most New Zealanders do not know about.
We live in a world of possibilities!