Some years ago the London Transit Authority was receiving a lot of complaints because their buses were driving past customers who were standing at the bus stops. The Transit Authority put an explanation in the paper that has become infamous with public relations departments. The explanation said, “It is impossible for us to maintain our schedule if we are always having to stop and pick up passengers.” Clearly, that company had forgotten its purpose.
Of the five thousand new companies that are started each year, only one thousand remain two years later. After five years, only two hundred are left. Corporate consultants say that the common denominator among all those failed companies is that they have no clear purpose; they lack a specific goal and direction. Steven Covey, famous for the Franklin Covey time management system once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Today, I want to remind you, as well as myself, that the main thing in any church is to reach people for Jesus Christ. The mission of the church is given to us by our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20. We are to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them grow spiritually. Evangelism (sharing the gospel) and discipleship (bringing people along in the gospel) should be the driving force behind everything we do.
Andy Stanley wrote a book not too long ago called “The Seven Practices of Ministry.” The basic outline and summary has been posted in my office since we started Paragon. Here are the seven.
1. Clarify the Win. When all is said and done, what is it that we want to look back on and celebrate? What is the goal to be accomplished?
2. Think Steps, Not Programs. Your programs should take people somewhere, not simply fill up their time. Ask yourself, “Where do we want our people to be? What do we want them to become? Is our programming designed to take them there?
3. Narrow The Focus. Focus is the key to achieving excellence and making an impact. Each ministry environment should be designed to do no more than one or two things well. (DO A FEW THINGS WELL)
4. Teach More For Less. The less you say, the more you will communicate. Learn to say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.
5. Listen To Outsiders. The needs and interests of insiders have a tendency to determine the agenda for the organization. Focus your efforts on those you’re trying to reach, rather than those you’re trying to keep.
6. Replace Yourself. One day someone else will be doing what you are doing. Embrace the inevitable and prepare now for the future.
7. Work On It. To maintain your relevance, your sanity, and your effectiveness, you must carve out time in your schedule to step back and evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it.
I must admit, in the last three years, that piece of paper has become white noise in my office. It is something that I forgot was there, even though it is posted right over my desk.
Since our family meeting back in June, I began to think over these seven and I really began to think a lot about them. Clarify the win… why do we do what we do? Think steps on how to achieve that win. Focus on the win and keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t settle for what has happened, but evaluate it and make sure your target win is up front and center.
Our win at Paragon, our main thing, like I said earlier, it to reach people for Christ and see them become fully devoted followers of Him. As I “work on it” I have seen that we can improve in these areas. You see, we minister in a city with 85,000 people living in it and that doesn’t even include the many we can “reach” in west ABQ. In the three years we have been in existence, we have see 80 people get baptized. While I am excited for the 80 and what God has done and is doing in their lives, there are a lot more that need to be reached.
As I have evaluated, I have seen myself and others become a little too focused on the upcoming services and less focused on the gospel and taking it out. That has to change. As a church, we have never been called to get people to come to us, we have been called to go out to all of them. When Jesus says in the book of Acts to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, that does not exist inside the walls of the church, it just starts there.
That is why the leadership of the church, and many spiritual leaders outside of the church, have been praying for God’s direction for Paragon. We want to make sure we are staying on mission and doing what we originally set out to do… not to become just another church in Rio Rancho, but to reach Rio Rancho and the surrounding communities for Christ. We desire to make a difference in this world by responsibly using what God has given us in the ways of our time, our treasure, and our talents.
Through these two months of prayer, we feel God is leading us to make some changes at Paragon. In the very near future, we will be making changes to our worship services, our kids ministry, our adult ministry, how we “make disciples,” and even where we meet.
While change is rarely easy, I am excited about what is to come and how God will use these transitions to glorify Himself. I cannot wait to see how God will use us to reach this community in a whole new way.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I cannot promise that I have all of the answers, but I can tell you that we have sought God’s direction in this and have not made any of these decisions out of haste or desperation.
We want to reach more people for Christ and believe this will be a great new start in the process of seeing that take place.