Revealing Results

There is a lot of discussion lately on blogs about the reveal study. I was planning on writing about this as a continuation of yesterday’s post. Today David Fitch has written an extensive post questioning if it is possible for a mega-church to change.

While I think it is beneficial to examine these systems and structures, what I would like to talk about is the trickle-down effect that occurs at the local level.

Watching the Bono/Hybels video and hearing from those who attended the leadership seminar this year, it seems that Bill has had a genuine change of heart concerning the focus of ministry. I see him as sincerely desiring to use his influence to steer his church and others toward more of an outward focus.

The trickle-down effect in our church is the first attempt that I have seen from a pastor in this community to encourage and inspire a mentality of service outside of the church beyond one-time special events. The broader conversation within the small groups reflects their desire to find avenues of service. People are brainstorming about programs and projects.

What I see is a national pastor with a desire to see the church have a more outward expression of service, a local pastor attempting to communicate that message, and sincerely good-hearted people seeking a vehicle to fulfill that expression.

I believe that individuals are being encouraged toward missional engagement. In fact, those who are already engaged are being noticed for and supported in their service within the community.

Let me take a few minutes here to comment on a couple of the points that David addressed:

1. Consumer mentality –

If this is mentality being taught, it should not be a surprise that members are passive. It has been said, “What you win them with, you win them to.” Passivity is a big problem in congregational-style churches. Training people to be consumers simply makes it even harder to overcome the strong tendencies toward passivity.

2. Institutional sustenance –

David said:

“The fact is it is incredibly difficult to make any change to the mammoth machine that might disrupt its ongoing capital performance.”

This pretty clearly reflects the dilemma between sacrificial giving and the priority of maintaining the institution. It is likely that the needs of the organization will always have highest priority.

In his saga of all things missional, Brother Maynard explained,

“The shift toward missional engagement entails a reconnection of the church with God’s mission and with his Kingdom, not as a single doctrine, idea, or value among many, but as fundamentally at the core of it’s being, connected inseparably with its raison d’être.”

My expectation is that the mega-church will continue to be an attractional evangelistic organization with potentially fruitful mission programs and projects.

While they perpetuate the problems inherent in the attractional/institutional model, there is no denying that the mega-church holds vast resources in terms of both money and manpower that have potential to be directed in amazingly beneficial ways.

15 thoughts on “Revealing Results

  1. Indirectly related, I had reason today to visit the website of our CLB for the first time in a over a year. What struck me is that in 3+ years since we left, nothing has changed. The programs and ministries are the same, the leadership is the same, it’s all the same. I could plug into the same roles in the same ministries with the same people at the same times and in the same places today as if I had never left (well, logistically speaking, not spiritually speaking)….and I wonder what kind of “organic” thing doesn’t change at all in 3 years?

  2. I’d love to see what the survey was like. Any chance of posting a blank form?

    I just find it humorous that the exact same approach that birthed Willow to start with (market research and surveys) is being used to repeat…er… I mean …resolve…the error.

    Don’t preach the Gospel–find out what people want and give it to them!

  3. Erin,
    I’m not a big fan of church websites. For the most part, they make me kind of nauseous.

    I’ll email you the link.

  4. I think one of the interesting things (for me anyway) is that many people do not know how to live missionally, and so the best way to encourage them to do so is with a church “program”. However, the big catch is that they then become dependent on the “program” and don’t know how to serve others outside of the program.

    Why is that? Do people just not “get it” without the program to push them along? Do people prefer working through the “program” because it is easier to work in groups?

    Please note that I am guilty of this (big time). At my CLB, I truly loved serving through our outreach program that once/month went out and loved on people that lived in trailer parks or needed extra help (one of the good things about our CLB that made our decision to leave a tough one). Since landing at our new church, I have struggled a bit to find ways to help others in the same way as I used to at my CLB (our new church does not have a similar “program”).

    I know the opportunities to serve exist but I guess I became dependent on the “program” to push me along. In fact, when I think now about finding ways to serve most of them involve creating a “program” at my new church to help people to get involved – in the end is the program a bad thing if it gets people involved in loving others?

  5. Why, if such churches have a certain reach, do they need to become different kinds of churches.

    Is there room for multiple models of the church? Or must we insist on the Catholic model that suggests form is being.

    Why must everyone else be like us, or me be like them, or all alike. If the Scriptures don’t, as they don’t, systematize a certain model why must we?

    The problem, of course, is everyone likes to have their own power and authority and influence. Someone doing something differently gets in the way of that and must be heretical.

    But, to follow a tech analogy, isn’t there a place for Windows, Apple, and Linux all serving different types, and getting a computer into each home?

  6. Well said Patrick. But I think in this case it is like Bill Gates waking up one day and admitting–“Windows sucks! In fact, it sucks so bad, we have to rebuild it from the ground up.”

    Of course, as soon as he says that, the Linux and Mac users shout “Yeah! We’ve been telling you you suck for years. But don’t reinvent the wheel–make yourself just like us!”

    Of course, Microsoft has done this once, and we got NT, then again, and we got XP, and again and we have Vista. At some point you question the builder…

    “Upon this rock *I* will build my church” Hmm… what does that mean???

  7. I’m reminded of Shane Claiborne’s comments about the proposed “Chapter 2” buildings expansion project at Willow Creek — he just didn’t buy it. I value WC’s willingness to question their formula, and the probable excellence of the research they are doing on this, and will be very interested to see where it goes. I also note, from visiting there this year, that they are developing local satelite chips off the old block. This trend might become more pronounced as gas prices go up. Come back in five years et voila, a new denomination! I don’t think they want to do this, but I’m not sure it can be avoided.

  8. Loved the post. Great info there. One that I wanted to highlight is the following:

    There isn’t yet an understanding of coming alongside and loving from among, but rather still an attitude of serving down to the other.

    This is where the great power struggle comes from and why people are scared of “power”. Individuals and organizations need to learn to flip-flop this and be under people and supporting them not over them / handing down to them …

    Rambles probably .. sorry

  9. Catman:

    I think the problem with a lot of programs is that they are still 9at times) designed to promote themselves, get publicity for themselves, and hope that in the end that they (whoever the target is) will eventually make their way to our door.

    I struggle with this concept and where that line is in my life and the church life.

  10. Jeff,

    Agreed. Programs built in order to feed the ego of people or to build a bigger church (as in, get more people to come to our building on Sunday so that we can get more money from them and I can be in charge of them) would not be a good thing.

    However, while I may have my suspicions about why some people generate these programs, I cannot look into their hearts to know the true reasons for why they created the “program”. If they truly want to serve others (no strings attached) and be able to love them (and possibly help them to know God), then I think that would fit in pretty well with the instructions that Jesus left for us.

    The “program” may also help others to develop a heart for reaching out and loving others, so in the end it may be a good thing.

  11. Grace, I also applaud your statement:

    “My concern is that we don’t seem to understand how to serve apart from creating programs. There isn’t yet an understanding of coming alongside and loving from among, but rather still an attitude of serving down to the other.”

    I share the same concern, with the additional ones voiced here. I wonder sometimes if it’s just my current rebellious state that causes me to want to poo-poo all missional programming. Good things are very often done- and people participate through programs who might never develop a missional lifestyle independent of said program. But I can’t help but think we’ve gotten it all a little wonky. (don’t mind my high theological language there.)

    ah- I’ve said a lot of nothing. all to indicate my ambivalence in this area.

  12. As others have already noted, your statement that, “There isn’t yet an understanding of coming alongside and loving from among, but rather still an attitude of serving down to the other” really rings true.

    I think maybe this is just simply a pride issue. (As you mentioned before, I agree that it is sometimes a result of our colonial heritage of “empire” which affects our culture and mindset even today).

    But ultimately, I find that sometimes I’ve not just ministered down to people, but I’ve also simply talked down to them as well. Yuck. Just being real. I am at war with my flesh (in terms of the carnal nature, not my physical body), and wish to overcome all forms of pride.

    I have at times found that I can learn more from those I’m “serving” if I pay attention. This has been particularly evident in my “serving” as a mother of a 15 month old. She’s constantly teaching me about the kingdom of God. At least, when I’m paying attention… :)

    Thanks for posting, God is really speaking to so many about these issues you touched on here!

  13. catman,
    I think that a church could have effective programs and encourage missional lifestyles both. I agree that an effective program can be a good entry point to missional engagement.

    Another point worth bringing up here is that not every program has to be sponsored by the church. Finding and supporting existing programs within the community is another way to be involved in loving others.

    Those are valid questions, and they address some of the issues that I feel ambivalent about. Really it is the tension of addressing models and structures of church.

    While we don’t want to invalidate or dismiss something that God is using, we also should be able to diagnose aspects of models that are a hindrance to the church as a movement.

    I don’t believe the answer to those questions will produce a one-size-fits-all model, but rather humility and a willingness to allow necessary change to our particular model.

    The complexity of the structure makes quick maneuverability difficult. I believe it could be argued that in many ways, they are already a denomination.

    Good points. I think that purifying our motives and then learning how to express our desire to serve in ways that are truly helpful is something that must be learned and modeled, both individually and organizationally.

    I think it still feels wonky because the how-to is still kind of fuzzy. One of the things that really helped me (actually unexpectedly) is the video by Wayne Jacobsen called “Sharing the Father’s Affection.” Right near the end, he hits the issue of serving that is motivated by love versus serving that is motivated by our desire to serve. I need to listen to that one a few more times.

    Thanks for being real. I hear the same undertones (yuck) in my own writing in the last several posts. Yet at this point I feel inadequate to express myself differently.

    Even in ministry, it is easy to segregate between those who have something to give and those who are needy. It requires a changed mentality to begin to see that we could also submit ourselves to receive from the ones we might categorize as “the one with needs.”

  14. The problem is simple. You have a for-profit enterprise trying to become a non-profit service organization. This is a radical transformation of an organization. Can it be done? Possibly. But it takes the transformation of the leadership to place relationship first, and allow change to emerge from the social interaction of people.
    Maybe Willow Creek can do it, but after watching the Reveal videos, I have my doubts. The level of questioning has not gone to the issue of process, only of focus. How they approach being the church is as crucial an issue as defining what the church is.

  15. Ed,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When finding that methods and models haven’t worked, a retweaking of those methods and models isn’t necessarily the solution. As you said, it requires a deeper look into their conception of church.

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