ChurchETHOS

Marketing Your Church Plant: Philosophical Foundations

Posted in church leadership, church planting by Nathan Creitz on February 17, 2010
Image courtesy of flicker user au_tiger01

Creative commons image courtesy of flickr user au_tiger01

Would Paul use modern marketing techniques if he was planting churches today?

Did Jesus need a direct mail campaign to establish the Church in the first place? The Church was established and spread through the power of the Spirit and by word of mouth so why would we waste money on telemarketing or a smokin’ website? Why should we waste time developing relationships with social media? Is it a lack of faith? Besides, even today in the Majority World the Church is spreading much in the same way that it did two thousand years ago.

With all the talk today about “viral marketing”, we can only hope (and pray) for the kind of movement that swept through the Roman Empire in the days of Jesus and Paul. In the West in general and the US in particular, it seems like the main technique is to market a worship event through mailers, calls, websites, and tweets. The church that invests the most in these techniques will be the most “successful” (at least numerically, but there are numerous churches who used these techniques and are genuinely making healthy reproducing disciples).

A Simpler Church?

Others in church leadership are calling for a simpler approach; one that rejects all the artificial means of propagating the Gospel and focuses only on personal, intentional, authentic, and meaningful relationships. If truth be told, I lean more toward this as an extreme than to the one mentioned above. But generally these aren’t extremes. In fact, I really don’t know anyone who exclusively starts churches with mailers and billboards and I don’t know anyone who exclusively starts churches with twelve people in a living room who only go deeper and deeper together while never sharing with others outside the group.

So these are the two polar extremes that pull us as we consider how to reach our neighbors. Let’s call them the Market Driven Church (MDC) and the Relationship Driven Church (RDC). Again, no one is exclusively starting an MDC or an RDC. I only mention them here because many church starters are somewhere on the continuum in between. For example, many of the church planting books talk about the ROI (return on investment) of bulk-mail campaigns and telemarketing and offer them as tools that can be used to reach the community. However, those same church planting books spend a lot of time talking about personal evangelism and small groups and preaching and teaching, etc. The relationship focused church planting books will talk a lot about building relationships but they also talk about getting the word out to others.

Developing A Marketing Plan

But is there room for both personal, relationship evangelism and developing a marketing plan that won’t be a waste of God-given resources? More importantly, as you pray about how to reach your neighbors has God made available certain marketing techniques or is He leading you a different direction?

Just like with most things, a healthy balance of both is how many of us will answer that question. As much as I think my pull is more towards the RDC, I don’t know if ethically I could discount at least some marketing ideas.

Would anyone be opposed to having a free ad in the telephone book, a free press release for the local newspaper, or a free business listing on google? The only thing that separates those free and simple marketing tools from, say, sending a bulk mailout announcing the launch of your church is money. But money isn’t the only resource we have available to us.

So, it seems to me that we should prioritize our marketing plan around the cost, the time spent, and the expected results. Let me illustrate with a few simple graphs.

Relationships are always worth it!

To begin with, it seems that there are some things that are worth ANY amount of time spent. Relationship evangelism that is focused on getting to know people and their needs, caring for them and even sacrificing for them is maybe the highest of priorities and is highly reproducible for any follower of Jesus. Jesus spent a lot of time with the Twelve but He also spent a lot of time with the crowds! Consider the different ways that Jesus made disciples.

Marketing is sometimes worth it!

Are there some things that are worth ANY amount of money spent, though? Maybe not, but there are probably things that are worth SOME money spent, right? Consider how much it costs to throw up a website with no images and very little creativity (emphasis on “throw up”). Would it make a difference in my neighborhood which is filled with young professionals who are very successful, well-educated, and technologically savvy? Who am I trying to reach with a website? Maybe you wouldn’t even bother with a website in the first place? Even if a large majority of people go to work and then come home and watch TV and surf the internet and never interact with their neighbors?

Marketing is most useful when it’s targeted and relevant!

There are some marketing ideas that cost very little money and takes very little time such as creating a facebook page or listing your church on google maps. These sorts of “techniques” create very little controversy because they are free. On the other hand, facebook ads or google ads are just as easy to create, with very little time spent, but they cost a little bit more and yet, they are more effective at getting the word out than a static facebook page. Would you consider investing in a facebook ad for your church? What if I told you that you could target that ad to only be seen by people who are searching “church” in your zip code and you only pay when someone clicks through to your church website? Does it make it more valuable?

What About ROI?

ROI (return on investment) is something else to think about. Consider the following illustrations:

Time AND money are commodities that have limits!

In this grid, relationship evangelism does take a lot of time but maybe not so much money. The ROI is high because the quality of the relationships that have been formed is high. In this case we are investing in people who will eventually be mobilized and equipped to invest in others. Growth is exponential (we pray). Again, we can’t underemphasize the importance of relationships as we consider how to reach our neighbors.

The ROI may be similar whether the main commodity used was time OR money!

But is it possible that spending less time but more money could bring about similar ROI? For example, if your church spent $5,000 on a direct mail campaign and you mailed a postcard to 5,000 homes. Assuming only 1% responds, that’s 50 people who came to your weekend gathering where you’ve just started a sermon series entitled “The Case for Christianity”. You spent 10 hours setting it up and now people in your church have a chance to follow up with 50 people. Say only 5 of them respond favorably to the Gospel and become fully mature, reproducing, followers of Jesus. Was it worth it?

Additionally, now all 5,000 households in your neighborhood know there is a church in the area! If you are advertising a practical sermon series with your direct mail campaign such as Financial Peace University where you are hoping to help your neighbors take control of their finances from a Biblical perspective isn’t the ROI even higher if people now have a more positive appreciation for your church and that you genuinely care about their needs? As a result, you now have 5,000 households that know about your church, 50 contacts for follow up, 5 new disciple-making disciples, and an increased favorability rating among your neighbors (I’m not talking about a popularity contest here, I’m talking here about your “good reputation among outsiders” – see 1 Timothy 3:7).

Final Thoughts

In my next post I want to talk about “Marketing Your Church Plant: Biblical Foundations” but I wanted to talk about philosophical foundations first to get us thinking reasonably about this issue. In other words, I’m trying to use logic to get us thinking about the issue so that we can talk about biblical principles in the next post. So, am I making sense? Do you see a way we can strike a balance between relationship-only outreach and market-driven outreach?

What sorts of marketing techniques would you consider using to broadcast your message to your neighbors?

My 9 Minute Video to Church Leaders for 9/9/09

Posted in church leadership, discipleship by Nathan Creitz on September 9, 2009

Today is September 9th, 2009 and leadnet.org is doing a great all day online conference for church leaders. They asked these globally recognized leaders the following question: “If you had 9 minutes to address thousands of church leaders what is the one issue you would want to impart to them.”

Well, I’m not a globally recognized church leader, and thousands of people won’t be watching my video, but I felt inspired to share my own thoughts. Some of it is based on my previous post about Making Disciple-Making Disciples, but it is from a passion to see us accomplish the mission Jesus set out for us to do.

The question I’m asking in my video is: “Are you as a church leader involved in making disciples?”

Please pass this video on to other church leaders if you find it helpful.

Twitter To-Do List to Make Twitter Useful Again

Posted in christian thought, social media by Nathan Creitz on May 26, 2009

failwhaleConfession: I am a church leader and I use Twitter.

Many pastors who use Twitter, for some reason want to also become a social media expert. I don’t. This will be my only post on the subject here at ChurchETHOS. I’m not writing this post to become recognized as a social media expert, I’m writing it so I can become a better leader in the church.

Why? Because I want Twitter to help and not hinder my ministry. Do I really believe Twitter has benefit to the kingdom of God? If it does, then how can I make the best use of the Twitter experience for God’s glory? If it doesn’t, then why am I wasting my time? Will my ministry get the “Fail Whale” thanks to Twitter?

I’m writing this post to develop my own theory for using Twitter. If it is helpful to you in your ministry then that’s bonus. At the end of this life I’ll be okay with a “Fail Whale” on Twitter as long as my Master has reason to say, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter your Master’s joy!” (Matthew 25:21 HCSB)

So here is my Twitter To-Do List to maximize Twitter’s usefulness for my ministry.

TWITTER TO-DO LIST

Picture 4 Determine the Value of Twitter

People use Twitter for a lot of reasons. Since I’m not trying to be an expert on social media I’m only going to list those qualities that bring value to me as one who is in ministry.

#whyitweet

It’s not helpful to me to wade through everyone’s random status updates or pleas for recognition or shameless self-promotion. So what is valuable to me?

I’ve determined that the primary qualities I desire from Twitter are:

to network with like-minded people around the world.
to share ideas and links to relevant or helpful content.
to generate discussion about ChurchETHOS content.
to seek mutual encouragement and advice with other church leaders.

I’m trying to make entertainment and procrastination take up less and less of the time I spend Twittering. Which leads me to the next item on the Twitter To-Do List:

Picture 4 Determine How Much Time to Spend on Twitter

tweetdeckI use a Twitter client called TweetDeck to deliver my Twitter content and to organize my network into groups. I don’t know what a good balance of time might be to spend on Twitter, but I try not to have TweetDeck open all day long. If I can open it in the morning, again around lunchtime, and then later in the evening (and maybe one or two more times if I’m honest) then I won’t constantly be distracted by notifications every two minutes.

I may not read every tweet from my friends. Sorry. I will, however, answer all my @replies and DM’s. I also like to quickly scan through the past 100 or so tweets and see if anything jumps out. If you engage in a conversation with me, I will reciprocate.

The users on the other end of my TweetDeck are people not “tweeps” (I’m sorry, I just can’t use some of the lingo). Therefore, I want to benefit from our mutual relationship. All of that can be done during a few 5 minute tweet breaks, IF I make sure I’m disciplined enough to be focused on other work for the rest of the day. The minute Twitter is more a distraction than a tool is when I cease to use Twitter.

Picture 4 Follow People Who Add Value

follow

So far, I’ve determined the value of Twitter (and tried to remove the extraneous), and set boundaries for myself as to how much time I will spend on Twitter. Now it’s time to actually look at who I’m following.

I want my network to be of value to my followers. I’m in the process of removing everyone that hasn’t followed me back (with a few exceptions). When I’m done with that I’ll go through and look at the profiles of my friends and fans to see if they add value to my Twitter experience.

So what am I looking for when I look at someone’s Twitter profile?

Common Interests
You can check out my bio to find out the top 4 or 5 things that are of interest to me. If you are following me just in the hopes that I’ll follow you back so that you can increase your popularity, don’t count on it.

An Expert Resource
Most of the people I follow are not experts, but there are a few people that I’ve hand-picked that provide expertise in an area that is of interest to me (and therefore, are probably of interest to my followers as well). I would rather have friends on Twitter and not fans or followers, but in some cases, I’m willing to follow someone who doesn’t follow me back simply because I respect him or her and recognize they are probably too busy to tweet me up.

Willingness to Dialogue
Other than a few “experts” who don’t follow me back I mostly want friends that are interested in dialogue. A profile that only has announcements and no @replies is a bad sign. Chances are you aren’t actually going to dialogue with me, you just want to type at me.

Opportunity for Mutual Benefit
An occasional retweet is expected among friends. I RT other’s content on maybe a 5:1 ratio before I hope someone will RT mine (I’d like that to be closer to 10:1). If we believe in what we are writing on our blogs then let’s do everything we can to help one another succeed. I assume that when a friend of mine on Twitter writes a post he believes what he’s writing. I want to give you a chance to get that message out to as large an audience as possible. I follow people who share this same value.

Thoughtful Questions
I love when someone is working on a blog post and they get the feedback or advice of their friends on Twitter before posting. Or maybe when you are working on a project or a sermon, how can we help you be the best church leader you can be? This adds valuable to my experience when I get to be a part of your research and hopefully it adds value to your experience because you get live feedback.

A Descriptive Bio and Picture
Okay, this is probably the easiest thing you can do to let people know who you are and what you are about. The 160 character limit helps clarify what you are passionate about. If we have anything in common, I’ll know it just by clicking on your name. Take the time or I won’t follow you.

If you aren’t willing to do a few of these things, then chances are I won’t follow you. Or, if I’m already following you, it might be grounds for unfollowing, which happens to be the next item on my Twitter To-Do List.

Picture 4 Unfollow People Who Don’t Add Value

unfollow

I am in the process of unfollowing the following people (or not following them in the first place):

Incessant Self-Promoters
These are the people that are only on Twitter to drive traffic to their blog or website. There’s no rule against that, but I personally won’t be following you (unless it’s a really, really good blog).

Narcissistic Exhibitionists
You don’t want me standing outside your window watching everything you are doing. So why are you telling me about it? There are some people that just think we are all waiting to hear what you are eating for breakfast or how you lost your keys. It’s silly at best, and narcissistic at worst and a waste of ministry time.

There are even several people I follow who are big church leadership gurus and they often tweet about a conversation they are having in real-time with a real person. I’ve tweeted ONCE in the presence of a live human being. Whoever you are with, be with them and make the most of that interaction. If you have to tell me about the conversation, tell me about it later!

I also don’t want to know about things when you are driving. There have been too many accidents in the Boston area alone due to texting while driving. These are all grounds for an unfollow. The daily, trivial aspects of your life, just aren’t that interesting and if that’s the majority of your content, consider yourself unfollowed.

Bible Syndicators
I have a version of the Bible that I read each day. An occasional tweet about a verse that really struck you is one thing, but for those that tweet verse after verse all day long, stop it. I’m in agreement that the Bible is the Word of God, and I spend as much time as I can studying it and living it as possible but Twitter is not my source for God’s Word.

#hashtag Enthusiasts
A tweet that already is limited to 140 characters cannot be about 5 different things. Make your tweets relevant and focused. Two or more hashtags just make your tweet hard to read. If your tweet is about church planting give it the #churchplanting hashtag. There’s no need to also add #churchplants, #churchplanters, #churches, and #christians.

Ranting Provokers
There are some who just want to get on Twitter and do drive-by tweeting. They are angry at the church. They hate small groups, church buildings, Sunday School, etc. Whatever it is, they don’t like it so they type out an angry 140 character tweet and shoot a dozen of them out there. Then, if you try and respond with a differing opinion, they suck you into a 140 character per thought debate.

There are some discussions that don’t lend themselves to only 140 characters. Don’t get frustrated with me if I can’t understand you. Writing already is divorced from tone and gesture but add to that the brevity of these thoughts coming from near strangers and you can see why some conversations are better in person or on a blog where thought can be articulated more clearly.

Now that I’ve followed and unfollowed the people that add or subtract value from my personal network it’s time to tweet.

Picture 4 Prioritize Tweets

What will be the content of my tweets? I’ve tried to arrange them in the order of what I hope my tweets will be about:

@replies 40% // My goal is to engage in dialogue with other church leaders and not just overwhelm them with my own thoughts or content.

RT 20% // My network is always producing and discovering a lot of great content…more than I can produce myself. So, I promote their content by retweeting their stuff which is usually more valuable than mine.

Questions 20% // My goal is to use Twitter to get wisdom from others. The reason I follow people is to build a network of people I trust who are thinking and talking about the issues that I am passionate about. Asking my network questions helps me in my ministry.

Blog Posts 15% // NOW I can send you a link to my own content. After all the dialogue and questions and answers and useful links and retweets I can now add my own content to the mix. Hopefully that also adds value to my network but I don’t presume that my stuff is the only thing that’s valuable.

Random 5% // Okay, so every once in a while I do tweet the occasional irrelevant tweet that has nothing to do with ministry. I’m not trying to get people to weed out everything that’s frivolous, I’m just trying to come up with some of my own guidelines so that I can be disciplined when it comes to Twitter.

Well, there’s my Twitter To-Do List. Now I need to go and unfollow some people to make my network more meaningful for your sake and mine. Meanwhile, anything you would add to the list? Anything you disagree with?

Social Languages for Transformation

Posted in book review, church leadership, ChurchETHOS by Nathan Creitz on May 11, 2009

511kjbb76klIn my last post I began a book review of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Kegan and Lahey. What an incredible book about transformation, leadership, and interpersonal relationships. This book has important implications for church leaders, which is why I decided to review it here at ChurchETHOS. Our churches are often slaves to bad habits and destructive tradition and if you’ve ever wanted to change things, this is the book you need.

Internal Languages for Transformation was the first post in this series and it described the languages that help us move from complaint to commitment, from blame to responsibility, from resolutions to competing commitments, and from Big Assumptions to assumptions we hold. Ultimately, the goal is to discover what you are commited to that needs changing, accept responsibility for that change and discover the road blocks that are keeping you from the change that is necessary. The book is written by educators and they are great at making this not just an easy read but a workshop where you can sound out your own complaints and turn them into commitments.

This post will focus on the final three languages: the social languages. These languages are external. They help you work with others to bring about change in a group or a company or a church (in our case). I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about these languages.

THE SOCIAL LANGUAGES:
From the Language of Prizes and Praising to the Language of Ongoing Regard

The authors write, “We all do better at work if we regularly have the experience that what we do matters, that it is valuable, and that our presence makes a difference to others.” Nowhere is that more necessary than in the church. As leaders in the church, we look to God to ensure we are glorifying Him and advancing His Kingdom. However, we need feedback from others too.

It’s easy to praise someone publicly. “Great job!” “You’re a value to this team!” “Let’s give Fred a round of applause for his contribution!” Those sorts of praises feel good, but they have a tendency to puff us up. Instead, the author’s encourage the language of ongoing regard. They want you to genuinely experience the value of a coworker’s behavior and then share with them why their behavior meant so much to you.

Be Direct – Don’t express your appreciation to others about someone, deliver it directly to the person.
Be Specific – “Thanks for all your hard work” isn’t enough. What was the hard work? What aspect of their role in the job was of particular note? Really be specific about what the person did to make a valuable contribution.
Be Nonattributive – Rather than characterize the person’s attributes (generosity, patience, persuasiveness), describe your experience (you learned something, you gained something, etc.). An example might be: Rather than, “Alan, I appreciate what a generous person you are.” Try, “Alan, I appreciate the way you took all that time to fill me in on what I missed. It made a real difference to me.”

When we praise people publicly it can also have some negative effects. The others in the room might be jealous. The person being praised might become prideful. Everyone might begin working for the approval of men rather than for God.

When we speak the language of ongoing regard it is an encouragement to people. It’s direct and meaninful. You are able to share with the person exactly what they did that was of value and prompts them to do more of it. Finally, ongoing regard tells the person that they are valuable to the company, mission, church, etc.

From the Language of Rules and Policies to the Language of Public Agreement

Rules and policies are to be kept and followed. Public agreement means that everyone is committed to the same thing. The language of public agreement is basically harkening back to the first language of moving from complaint to commitment. This language gets a group to discover what we are all committed to, together.

This language is not committed to a top down approach to leadership. Instead, it is “intended to create organizational integrity…from within.” In other words, it’s hard to change rules and policies that were drafted in the 50’s, but when you learn what we all agree on and then come to public agreement, when we break those we are letting ourselves down.

From the Language of Constructive Criticism to the Language of Deconstructive Criticism

The authors intentionally chose the subject of conflict for the final language. Up to this point, we’ve learned how to adopt internal languages that help us change our own behavior. We’ve also learned ways of leading group change through the language of ongoing regard and public agreement. But there are times when you need to confront someone head on.

The language of constructive criticism is common (maybe you could try improving your speaking skills), the language of destructive criticism is even more common (that sermon was irrelevant and boring). A third option is deconstructive criticism.

The problem with constructive criticism is that there is often a lack of confronting the real issue. Deconstructive criticism chooses to disassemble bad habits or behavior and help the person to reconstruct a positive habit or behavior. However, the object of attention doesn’t start with the other person’s behavior it begins with our own evaluation of that behavior.

The authors explain this language best: “The language of deconstructive criticism is about holding two simultaneous realities together: I respect myself to the extent of taking seriously that I have formed a negative evaluation, and I respect the other as an independent constructor of reality who might have quite a different picture of what is happening, a picture based on premises and assumptions that might usefully inform my own.”

Conclusion

“It must be remembered that we exercise all the languages for the purpose of making our work settings richer contexts for learning. The kinds of change we are looking for are transformational. They go to the roots. They are not about fixes at the surface.

My hope is that as we learn how to bring about change in our ministry contexts that we will, as a result, form more meaningful relationships with people and that we will begin the process of change by thinking how we might change before considering what we should do about others.

First Post in Series: Internal Languages for Transformation ::  Subscribe ::  Why Subscribe?

Internal Languages for Transformation

Posted in book review, church leadership, ChurchETHOS by Nathan Creitz on May 8, 2009
511kjbb76kl“If we want deeper understanding of the prospect of change, we must pay closer attention to our own powerful inclinations not to change.” Kegan & Lahey

I’ve mentioned before that ChurchETHOS encourages thinking Christianly about the habits and customs of the church and about our reputation with those outside the church. This review of Kegan & Lahey’s book on leadership entitled How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation, is an important book as we talk about how to change the bad habits that are often formed in the church.

Why is this book important for church leaders?

Have you ever wanted to do something but for some reason you never do it? Can you think of something that your church does that you wish were different? Or, is there some habit that you wish you could break but you just never get around to doing anything about it? This book by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey was assigned to me in a graduate level class that I took at Harvard Divinity School and I don’t know if there is a more important non-religious book for the church today.

The use of this book in the church grants us multi-faceted insight from several different perspectives. For example, both Kegan and Lahey work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education but their book is about leadership and business management. If that weren’t enough I’m reviewing it here in light of church leadership and personal transformation. From the world of education, business, and church leadership, this book has significant contributions to make in the way we change our organizations for the better.

The authors have written this book “for people interested in the possibility of their own transformational learning, as well as for people interested in supporting the transformational learning of others. Their theory is that we are all leaders so these “languages for transformation” are readily applicable whether you are a business owner, a church planter, an education minister, or a parent.

In this post, I will briefly outline the first four languages, referred to in the book as “Internal Languages”. In a follow up post I will describe the “Social Languages”. The first four languages are meant to be an exercise in personal transformation. These are the internal languages. The last three languages are meant to be an exercise in bringing about transformation in a culture or a group. These are the social languages. So let’s get started with the internal languages.

THE INTERNAL LANGUAGES:
From the Language of Complaint to the Language of Commitment

“I wish our church spent more time together!”

The author’s write, “The language of complaining, wishing, and hoping is a highly frequented conversational form, but it is assuredly not one of our seven languages for personal learning and reflective leadership.” However, “we would not complain about anything if we did not care about something.” That is an important statement. The authors do a great job of helping you dig deep to the commitment that ‘s behind the complaint.

To help us change from the language of complaint to the language of commitment, the author’s suggest completing this sentence: “I am committed to the value or importance of…”

The answer might be “…God’s love being displayed through each of us as we fellowship with and care for one another.”

Complaining accomplishes nothing, but commitments put us on the path to internal transformation. Later we will see how it can even change others as well. When we analyze our complaints from the angle of the underlying commitment we move from being disappointed in the circumstances to recognizing that we are deeply committed individuals.

From the Language of Blame to the Language of Personal Responsibility

When we complain, we are primarily focusing our frustration at other people. Now that we’ve moved from complaint to commitment we recognize our commitment to fellowship might, in some small or large part be our responsibility as well. This language helps you discover what role you might play in keeping your commitment from becoming a reality.

A great question to ask at this point is, “What are you doing, or not doing, that is keeping your commitment from being more fully realized?”

You might answer, “I have a difficult time sharing my personal needs, struggles, or hopes with other people, so I tend to stay at surface level with my friends at church” or, “I tend to procrastinate throughout the week and then when church members call me up I don’t have any time for them.”

The potential in the language of personal responsibility is that it draws on the momentum from the language of commitment. Rather than blaming others for what should be, you realize that with some personal responsibility it could be, at least as far as it concerns you.

It should also be pointed out that this doesn’t remove blame from others. At this point, it is enough to work on your own commitments. A couple of quotes (not in the book) that are helpful would be from Tolstoy, who said,”Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Remember, we are focusing on internal languages, not social languages, so far.

From the Language of New Year’s Resolutions to the Language of Competing Commitments

This language is intended to help diagnose our own immunity to change. We know how powerful a New Year’s resolution is, right? Wrong. New Year’s resolutions are mere wishes and hopes. Without understanding what is holding us back from keeping our commitments, we will never see transformation in our lives.

The first language was easy. Anyone will confess that they value time spent with others. This third language will be harder because it helps you find the raw truth about what’s keeping you personally from changing.

Keeping in mind your original commitment of safety and courtesy, complete this sentence, “But I may also be committed to…”

“…not being seen as needy or dependent on other people.”

This language is powerful because it “paradoxically increases the possibility of significant change by making clear the immune system that makes change so difficult.” The ability to see the system that is keeping us from change is powerful, but simply looking at it won’t change much. We have to actually do something about it, which leads us to the fourth language.

From the Language of Big Assumptions That Hold Us to the Language of Assumptions We Hold

To the authors, a “big assumption” is an assumption that we take as absolute truth. Assumptions could be true or could be false but “big assumptions” are not questioned, we believe them to be, and act like they are, the truth. These “are not so much the assumptions we have as they are the assumptions that have us.”

The authors write, “You have probably met or worked with people whom you see operating dysfunctionally, destructively, or self-destructively. We are suggesting that if you could accurately discern the Big Assumptions under which these people are operating…you might even say, “If I held those same Big Assumptions, I might very well be acting in just these destructive ways myself.” We all have Big Assumptions that have power over us. The first three languages are helping to expose this Big Assumption but there is still some work to do.

The problem with a Big Assumption is that once we figure out how the world should work, it doesn’t make any sense to us to look for anything different. We are certain we are right and those who don’t think that way are wrong.

So, how does this work with our example. The authors guide the reader to take the third language and change it to the following: “I assume that if…then…”

“I assume that if I am seen as needy or dependent on other people, then people won’t want to spend time with me. As much as I want fellowship with other believers, I would probably be kept out of the loop while other people experience Christian community together without me.”

The Big Assumption ties all four of the languages together. The commitment to fellowship is being held up by our own procrastination or inability to share our lives with others. Further, we have a competing commitment that we don’t want to come across as needy and are assuming that if people perceive that we are needy then we won’t achieve authentic fellowship which is our original commitment.

The Big Assumptions are produced unintentionally, but the “Assumptions that we hold” are produced with great difficulty. It requires opening up with someone to let them see your Big Assumption and letting them work with you to change your thinking and behavior. Once you’ve worked through it, though, you gain mastery over your assumptions and begin taking them for what they really are: assumptions. The Big Assumption “anchors and sustains our immune system [to change]” but the “assumptions that we hold…creates a pivotal lever for disturbing our immunity to change. By beginning to “speak” this fourth language we begin to gain new perspective on our world and we are able to change our destructive behavior and begin realizing our healthy commitments.

Now What?

The more we practice these languages, the more transformed we become and the people around us become. But there are three more languages that deal specifically with helping others change. Make sure you check out the next post in this series: Social Languages for Transformation.

Meanwhile, use these languages to discover your own Big Assumptions. Do you mind sharing them with us? Once you get it out in the open it will be easier for you to work on them. Feel free to walk us through all four languages. What are you committed to? In what ways are you responsible for that not happening? What competing commitments do you hold? What is your Big Assumption?

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A Going Church

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits, discipleship, missiology by Nathan Creitz on April 28, 2009
image courtesy of txd

image courtesy of txd

Most Christians in America are overwhelmed.

The typical Christian in America works 50+ hours per week and sleeps about 50 hours per week. That leaves about 68 hours to spend on everything else: family, friends, hobbies, exercise, cooking, eating, housework, watching TV, playing video games, homework, lectures, and – oh yeah – God.

Our culture is on the move. A typical church attending Christian doesn’t want to spend more than an hour on Sunday spending time with other believers. In fact, many Christians have the perception that they go to church instead of recognizing that they are the church. As a result, church has become a place rather than a people, an hour rather than an identity, and an obligation rather than a privilege. The Christian begins to view their responsibility to church as the minimum set of requirements necessary to be considered a “regular”.

There are a lot of ways we can simplify our lives so that we can spend more time with other members of the church. I want to explore that in more detail in a forthcoming post entitled A Gathering Church. Meanwhile, how are we to perceive our role in the world?
#Should there be a secular vs. sacred dichotomy in our minds?
#Should we feel guilty if 95% of our time is spent in the world and only 5% is spent in “sacred” activities?
#How can we move from “regular attender” to become a faithful follower of Jesus (regardless of how much or how little time we spend in a church building)?

#How can we be the church when we aren’t with the church?

I’m Glad You Asked

Too many Christians are not asking those questions. If you are one of the few who is genuinely asking questions like these then you are on the path of a disciple. You are learning what it takes to truly follow Jesus. Keep asking those questions and others like them. Now let me see if I can provide some thoughts on the matter.

A church that merely packs out a church building for an hour each Sunday with regular attenders may look successful but is in fact disobedient to Christ. If the leadership of a church isn’t calling its members to costly discipleship then it is ignoring one of the most central teachings of Christ. We aren’t called make converts or church attenders, we are called to make disciples. But where do we look for new recruits (so to speak)?

A Church on the Move

In the Matthean Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus tells his followers, “As you are going, make disciples…” Every pastor has pointed out this nuance that “Go” is not the command because it is a participle and it means “as you are going”. In other words, this isn’t new stuff but it is a very important point: “Make disciples” is the command. Jesus commands his church to be on the move. It’s hard to escape from the busy pace of the American lifestyle, so let’s take advantage of the fact that much of our day is spent with unbelievers.

We are on the move because we are Americans and we are the church because we are Christians. So, as we go about our daily activities, let’s keep in mind that we are ambassadors for the kingdom of God. It’s kind of silly to think that we would try and be ambassadors only when we are in the walls of a church building during “holy hour”. America doesn’t send out ambassadors to America, they send ambassadors to places and people that need to hear the message we have to communicate. In the kingdom of God, our role in the world is to go to the people that need to hear God’s message of love and truth. We are going anyway (job, gym, restaurant, store, etc), so why not fulfill Christ’s commands “as you are going”?

Following Jesus 9 to 5

I once waded through every single verse in the gospel of Mark to determine where Jesus spent his time. Jesus spent most of his time on the seashore and in the marketplace with business people. Coming in as second to spending time with business people, Jesus spent his time with his disciples. Then, Jesus spent time in homes, and finally he spent time in the temple complex. So, in order of importance Jesus spent most of his time in the marketplace, then with his disciples, then in homes, and finally in the temple complex. Jesus made disciples as he was going.

We are called to be the church, not just when we are with other believers, but significantly we are called to be the church when we are not with other believers. It’s easy being the church with like-minded friends, but discipleship wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for Jesus’ original Twelve was it? We don’t just choose to be disciples when it’s easy for us. Peter and John said they considered it a privilege to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41) Suffering was one of the core values of the early church. We will never experience the kind of suffering of the first disciples, so can we not have enough boldness to share with a co-worker or a friend about our relationship with Jesus?

We freely talk about our spouse, our children, our pets, our hobbies, and our interests, but not about our God?!

Misplaced Priorities

The reason God never comes up in conversation is because we have misplaced priorities. Our job is something that is of absolute necessity so that we can pay the bills and eat meals. We forget that we are a child of the King. He is the source of our needs and He has placed us in our jobs and in our circles of friends to share God’s love with others. That is why we are employed: not to make money but to make disciples. Rather than view the workplace as a mission field for making disciples, too many Christians just try to get through the day so they can collect their paycheck and go home, never thinking about what “as you are going, make disciples…” might mean for their lives.

The church needs to develop the habit of calling its members to follow Jesus. Our leaders are often not willing to challenge the church to go beyond regular attendance at worship gatherings. Success for a church is not in filling a building on a weekly basis. Success is determined by how many lives are being transformed. It’s about quality not quantity, depth not width. Followers of Jesus recognize that church gatherings are pointless if the church is never going. But when the church is a going church, the church gatherings are that much better!

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Related Post: My Top Concerns for the Local Church