By Allen Quist & Tim Robnett
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matt. 16:18). What does that look like in the twenty-first century? We have had the privilege of traveling to scores of nations around the world in service to his church. It is easy to see that God loves variety. On many occasions, our experience has demonstrated that his church is dynamic, growing, and making a huge difference in our world. Churches, however, are not always healthy. Many churches experience a deviant form of Christianity. Nevertheless, God still works to heal and grow churches that reflect an intimate relationship with him and a caring ministry in their worlds, despite man’s skewed approaches.
Up to this point, we have been challenged to consider the heart of the issue in church health and growth—are we intimately connecting with Jesus Christ? We believe the church has often neglected or not known how to be guided by the Holy Spirit. As Christian leaders, we need God desperately, and only in vital communion with him will we hear his voice and guide his people in holiness. This dynamic relationship between God and his people cannot be overlooked in our lives or ministries. In terms of leading a church or Christian organization, this relationship includes understanding the process of organizational leadership and management.
These ingredients and principles provide a healthy and productive way to see unity and fruitfulness in the body of Christ. Human effort cannot duplicate or replace the divine and supernatural. Yet the Holy Spirit has gifted many believers with leadership and administration to lead and guide the church. As we think of what it means for the church to be Spirit driven, we cannot overlook those gifts of the Spirit given to his church for these purposes.
Christian A. Schwarz, in his book Natural Church Development, lists eight ingredients that contribute positively to growing a healthy church. One of the key ingredients in this growth process is the area of organization and administration. The church needs structure and process. The Holy Spirit has given certain believers these gifts. When administrative gifts combine with other ingredients, the church will grow. Therefore, Schwarz concludes, “a healthy environment causes churches to grow.”
You do not have to force them to grow—when the climate is right and the ingredients are well mixed, then the church naturally grows. Our life experiences have led us to write this book with an emphasis on the spiritual dimensions of leadership and management, and a view to connecting with God and living out his presence in all we do. Therefore, we have dealt with the need to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit and the process of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The guidance of the Holy Spirit comes as we listen and obey.
Now we have arrived at the major reason for writing this book: organizational leadership and management led by the Holy Spirit. In our work with the church, we have experienced extreme reactions to the ideas of organization principles. Some say that these are principles of the world and should not be a part of leadership in the church. They prefer to look at the church only as relational and familial. These individuals lead the church as if it were a family, with very little emphasis on organizational principles. Others see the church as a business. These congregations are led by those who promote a great sense of accountability, goal setting, and structure. Many of these congregations have grown to be extremely large (mega churches) and are the preferred size of church for 12 percent of adults in America. In fact, at least 59 percent of all evangelical adults attend churches with over a hundred adult members. Americans seem to prefer bigness, options for worship times, focus groups (usually geared toward age or life stages), and especially ministry for children and youth. We are consumers, and our economy and church life often show it.2
Whether the congregation is twenty or twenty thousand, everyone deals with some form of organizational management. We submit to you that the principles and processes that follow, when united with a heart for God, a dependence upon him in prayer, and an expectation that he will meet with his church and empower her to grow, will be one of the most thrilling experiences of your life. We can think of nothing more exciting than to see a healthy local church or mission organization flourishing by the power of his Spirit and the leadership of his gifted saints.
We have observed congregations who have heard the voice of God as they sought him and dared to share their dreams together. They have found a unity of vision that propels them into a season of transformation and growth. Many churches have found this same experience. Maybe you long for such an experience, yet you are frustrated, not knowing how to lead your congregation through a proven process. Please read on. A pathway leads to health and growth for our church or Christian ministry. Anyone with courage, faith, and perseverance can find it as the Spirit of God leads. We believe it is worth our time and energy—and our lives.
The secret is when gifted leaders, relying upon the Holy Spirit, apply God-given principles of leadership and management in a systematic process. This results in supernatural growth. Growth that cannot be explained by our normal experience. God causes growth as we apply his truth to our church relationships. Growth and health will make the church attractive to those with no experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. Think with me as I walk through what this systematic process would be.
STEP ONE: Purpose
Life has a purpose—God’s purpose. God’s purpose is that we know him and enjoy his presence so much that others identify us with him. We become divine agents of his life here on earth. “Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume” (2 Cor. 2:15–16 NLT).
STEP TWO: Mission
God’s purpose for us is clarified in his mission for the church. Once Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37–39). In his final days with his disciples, Jesus commissioned them with these words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). This mission has been the cry of the church for over two thousand years. Today billions of people on planet Earth know of his salvation and are followers of Jesus Christ. Many believers are diligently committed to knowing Christ and making him known. Make no mistake, Christ is building his church.
STEP THREE: Vision
Because the Holy Spirit lives in his church, unique callings of God are expressed in personal and corporate vision. Vision is highly personal. People have visions. The Spirit of God plants dreams in the minds and hearts of young and old.
One example was “Youth Alive 2005” in Beaverton, Oregon. This evangelistic endeavor brought over two thousand youths to the Sunset High campus on April 30, 2005, to hear the message of the good news about Jesus Christ. This event was the culmination of a dream started some nine months earlier at a summer camp. The dream of one young man infected dozens of his classmates. Where did this dream come from? It came from God the Holy Spirit. How did it come? It came through the preaching of a gifted evangelist at a summer camp. What was the outcome of the dream? Hundreds of high school students heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and were challenged to follow him.
We need to understand the power and process of vision. Chapter 12 will lead us closer to that ability. God’s mission needs personal and contemporary expressions. Therefore, God consistently speaks to his people about how to fulfill his mission in each generation. Visions may last for a short or long season. We feel that vision captures God’s plan for a certain people for a season of life’s journey. Vision or dreams need to be celebrated when fulfilled and renewed for the needs of each new generation.
Once vision captures your mind and heart, you need a pathway for carrying out the vision. If it is not developed, the dream will be only a passing fancy. However, when you embrace the God-ordered methods and processes for crafting your vision into a reality, you will know the power of God in a whole new dimension. The rest of this book will develop for you the steps of planning and organization. These principles reflect the very nature of God. God is the Creator. God is a designer. God is a team builder. God is a worker. “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again” (Phil. 1:6 NLT).
STEP FOUR: Pray and Plan
God is working today. God is working in us. He also desires to work through us. How? God works through us by his Spirit, by his ordained principles of leadership and management, and by the gifted Christians that he empowers.
The church is composed of people. People create the team for ministry. People are the ministry. So with planning come people. Who has God brought together as a team? The team owns the dream when they are involved in praying and planning the actions steps that will make the dream a reality. Therefore, the team should be strategically involved in praying and planning the strategies for fulfilling the dream.
STEP FIVE: Organization and Structure
Organization clarifies who is to do what, who is to work with whom, who is to report to whom, and when all of this should be done. Organization should create an environment where people feel safe and work productively. Why? As a God of order, Jesus wants his church to feel secure. He created the universe in an orderly fashion. “He sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Heb. 1:3). He used the apostles to organize the church (Titus 1:5). He commands that the church run in an orderly fashion (1 Cor. 14:40). God wants you to be happy. Happiness does not happen for long in a chaotic state. Structure and order bring peace and harmony into relationships. Form can become rigid and deadly, but when evaluation and renewal are regular parts of the leadership process, life continues for all involved.
Some churches are hyper-organized and minimize spontaneity and innovation. Other churches lack organization, and suffer from inefficiency and missed opportunities. Lack of organization creates an unsafe environment. Overorganization, though often creating a safe environment, minimizes the ability to connect with the now. Things take so long to process that the church soon exists for the church and not for the vision that gave her birth and inspiration.
STEP SIX: Implementation and Reporting
With the plan and people in place, ministry is implemented. Programs are designed and initiated. Money is raised and spent. Buildings are purchased and outfitted for services. Staff is hired.
Training sessions are conducted. Ministry of all shapes, sizes, and sounds begin to focus the church on serving our Lord.
STEP SEVEN: Evaluation and Renewal
Our lives are scarred by sin. We at best limp through life as wounded soldiers. Joy, however, is not dependent upon our condition, but our position in Christ. Therefore, everything we touch is in need of renewal. Our imperfections soon taint what we create. The ministries we create to serve others are often maintained to serve ourselves. The church cries out for renewal. The Spirit of Christ within us longs to be fresh and relevant to the issues of our day, but sin keeps building calluses on our hearts and hands. What we create today in terms of ministries for the church need review and renewing tomorrow. This is the condition of our fallen world.
Therefore, church leaders must consistently evaluate and modify their plans and programs. Why? Because we are sinners and need his grace in all we do. We must check motives and methods in order to remain holy and useful. He is sacred. We are sinners. God’s absolutes empower us to analyze all that we are and do. When we are judged and disciplined by the Lord, we will NOT be condemned with the world (see 1 Cor. 11:32).
Organizational leadership and management principles, when applied to the church, inspire people to excel in ministry. When people have a compelling vision, a clear pathway of service, a team with the same vision, a coach to clarify questions, and the Holy Spirit living within, supernatural things happen. Leaders do need to follow the ways of God in ministry. Methods are not sacred, but God does use them. Only the power of God can cause supernatural things to happen. Yet God does work through people to make them happen. The Spirit of God came upon the church in Acts 2 in a supernatural way. Yet, from that moment on, he came only through the preaching of the gospel and the laying on of hands by the apostles. God works through people, not in spite of people. Therefore, we call upon you to gain a new boldness and confidence in God and his ways with us.
Do you have a dream? Is there something you believe that God wants you to do? Are you constantly under the influence of God? Do you have a burning passion that he is calling you to serve him in a certain way? What are you going to do about it?
To do nothing about a dream or vision is to allow the fire to cool and the wind of indifference to chill our souls. Instead of indifference, faith says, “Make a plan!” Faith says, “What’s the next step?” Faith says, “Who can I connect with?” and “Who has done this before?” and “Where are others doing something like this?”
Do you have a plan and no team? Do you have a team and no resources? Has your ministry run dry and there is no power? Is your church living on past memories? Do you need a touch of God? We believe that we can be renewed in our walk with and service for God. But today we need to act. We need to take one step in the direction of obedience to him. God is reaching out to us! We need to return the favor and reach up to him! How?
Commit your life to an utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit. God will speak to you and your church today. Show your faith with a pen and paper (or computer if you like). As we read and answer the questions raised in chapters 11–16, write down your thoughts. We believe these are thoughts from the Holy Spirit of God to your spirit. God has a vision, plan, and team for you to lead or be apart of for the purposes of his kingdom. Don’t miss the opportunity to worship and serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
After you have written your notes, take time to hear from the Holy Spirit. Then, retitle your notes and set a prayer agenda. Begin a dialogue with God. Ask him, “Where’s the team? When should we start? Where should we begin?” Or “How do I start over? Who do I need to be reconciled with?”
We will work through these concepts and complete a chart on these topics in subsequent chapters and the Readers’ Guide as we discover God’s intentions for the church. See the appendix for more information.