The Advantage: 5. What Is Most Important Right Now? Part 2

We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.

Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.

One thing

Lencioni writes,

Defining objectives are the general categories of activity required to achieve the thematic goal. Like the thematic goal, defining objectives must be qualitative, temporary, and shared by the leadership team. They provide a level of specificity so that the thematic goal isn’t merely a slogan but rather a specific and understandable call to action. In most cases, there are between four and six defining objectives, depending on the nature of the goal itself.

Let’s suppose that a congregation adopts “greatly increase evangelistic effectiveness” as its thematic goal. Remember: it can’t be “be evangelistic,” because the goal must be temporary. We should always be evangelistic, but improving in our evangelism might be the emphasis for just one year. Do you see the difference?

If the thematic goal is “greatly increase evangelistic effectiveness,” then that’s not the goal for the new evangelism ministry, it’s the goal for the entire church — youth ministry included — even if the youth minister went to a seminar and got excited about inner city mission.

You see, if the teens are working on inner city missions while the adults are all about evangelism, you lose powerful synergies. The adults won’t be pushed by the teens and the teens won’t be pushed by the adults. The teens won’t get to see their parents doing the very things they are learning about in class. The adults can’t mentor the teens in inner city missions while also focusing on evangelism. Nope — it has to be just one thing, churchwide.

To be clear, that hardly means that the teens can’t be involved in inner city missions. They can and they should. But if the preacher is urging the members to be engaged in personal evangelism from the pulpit, and the teen minister is pushing benevolence and not offering any reinforcement for the pulpit minister’s message, he’ll appear to be in rebellion against the leadership. The teens will feel pulled in two directions, having to choose between two adult leaders.

It is, of course, entirely possible for the teen minister to teach the teens how to do personal evangelism in the context of inner city ministry — and that would work fine. He just has to be very careful to communicate that he and the preacher are teaching the same thing. He cannot let himself appear to disagree with the vision of the congregation’s overall leadership.

Getting concrete

Now, we elders have a bad habit of picking out great themes and then never getting specific about how to accomplish them. I guess we figure the preacher will preach a 12-part series on evangelism and it’ll just happen.

Lencioni states the obvious: to get from vision to reality, we have to consider the necessary steps. Maybe they’re something like —

* Teach evangelism in Bible class for one quarter.

* Have members who’ve been converted give testimonies about how they were converted, even publicly expressing their gratitude to those who taught them about Jesus.

* Create a team of evangelistic mentors to train others one on one.

* Have the preacher do a 12-part series.

Something like that. These become “defining objectives.” (This is not to suggest that I’m any kind of expert on how to help a church catch fire evangelistically. This is just an example.)

Finally, the leaders need to develop “standard operating objectives,” that is, some means of determining whether you’re being successful. (I really hate the terminology, but have to agree with the idea.)

In the example, we might first measure how many members attend the evangelism classes and how many are involved in being mentored. Later on, of course, we’d ask how many are being actively studied with or talked to about Jesus. Finally, we’d count conversions.

Why? Well, because if you don’t measure success, you’ll never know if you succeeded. If you wait until the end to see how many baptisms you have, you may wait a very long time because no one actually showed up for the classes or mentorships. You see, the ideas you come up with might not work. And if you don’t pay attention to how they develop, you won’t discover the problem until it’s too late to fix.

Is this one thematic goal enough? No. Obviously, a church will also want to be ready to take new converts and bring them into full discipleship — for example. But you’ve got to have some new converts first.

Once the church has caught evangelistic fire, the influx of new members may well create new problems that require a new thematic goal — such as discipleship. And you may find that you need to emphasize evangelism training every five years or so. But I don’t think you can make it your number 1 emphasis every year, because the members and leaders need to feel like they accomplished their goal and celebrate.

If you never let the church reach the carrot — if they feel like what they’re doing is never good enough — they’ll get discouraged. Just have faith in your people and realize that once you’ve help develop a spirit of evangelism, the sheer joy of evangelism will carry the momentum without the need for an annual 12-part sermon series. You can take some time off to work on other things without contradicting the importance of evangelism.

Rather, at the end of the year, announce to the church the success you’ve had and celebrate it! Offer prayers of thanksgiving. Have a potluck. Have testimonies. Take a few weeks off, and then set your next thematic goal.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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4 Responses to The Advantage: 5. What Is Most Important Right Now? Part 2

  1. Jerry says:

    “If you never let the church reach the carrot – if they never feel like what they are doing is good enough – they’ll get discouraged.”

    How true! Too many programs are so open ended that they never end or even have a break. They last untill everyone drops out without having a sense of accomplishment in which they can take great joy in what God has done in them and through them. It is far better to have time limits on some programs so there can be a sense of fulfillment in a task well done and completed – at least for now – before accepting a new challenge.

  2. To take a bit of a tangent, this post illustrates one essential flaw in the traditional religion club’s approach to getting its members to DO anything– the fundamental assumption that “if it’s important, they are too incompetent to do it right”. SO, we set ourselves (the competent) up to correct the general incompetence problem with sermons and classes and workshops and printed materials, and talk about it until we forget it’s still not really happening at all– not even among the so-called competent leaders. Then, when enthusiasm wanes, we can sit around and shake our heads about how worldly our members are.

    How much training does a club member need before he can begin to evangelize? First of all, if he does not have a basic familiarity with the gospel, how can the leaders claim any competence of their own? They are a fire station leading firemen who don’t know what a fire is. This group of leaders does not need to train others better, they themselves need to repent and retreat and submit to some basic training themselves– from other believers.

    OTOH, if the club member does have a basic familiarity with the good news which he has embraced, he does not need evangelism strategies. He needs to go make friends, and in the course of doing so, tell them about himself. Jesus will be an essential part of any such conversation. He needs to sit on the tailgate of his truck and share his lunch with somebody at work and develop an interest in that person. He needs to add some more macaroni to Tuesday’s tuna surprise and invite a neighbor to eat with him. Just develop a genuine interest in that neighbor as a friend, follow that interest, and watch what happens.

    There, how long did THAT take? GO! Get out! Lock the auditorium doors! Don’t come back into the clubhouse until you have taken enough interest in another human being out there to share a bit of your own life with him and to have him share a bit of his life with you.

    And since attendance may be sparse for a while, I would suggest that the staff needs to go out and do the exact same thing. (Really, if they weren’t already doing it, why not?) If you want to “measure” something, just have the club members email you: “Had lunch again with Bob. Salami and cheese. Found out he hates mustard, and hypocrites. More later.”

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    Can you imagine the early church at Jerusalem attempting to use the (programming the members) to communicate Christ to the world outside the assembly? Do you suppose that as the Christians were being scattered during the persecution, that they banded themselves together and developed a strategy, how to turn their persecutors into Christians?
    Maybe I need to explain my feelings another way. The communications in this lesson surely looks like mass marketing by the church, and can only be remotely successful if the world outside is open minded enough to listen. Whereas the example that Charles suggests will work in any environment in the world. Each and every individual that is involved in a communication with a long time friend or recent friend that produces a brother in Christ will not have to receive the recognition from their brethren to lift them up, they will already be on fire for the work. In fact that individual may not even desire that kind of build up, but he most likely will have a desire to create an environment that will accomplish another victory for Christ. We all can see that attitude expressed in a new convert, I want to tell someone else.

  4. Doug says:

    Charles, as usual, you are right on target. In fact, my experience has been that a new convert is actually the best person one can pick to do evangelistic work. They know freshly how much grace they have received and are so very thankful for that grace. They may not know as much New Testament scripture but neither did those 3000 1st century converts because it hadn’t been written yet.

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