6 Lessons from What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

whats best nextI recently finished reading What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, who runs a blog by the same name. The book’s subtitle is “How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.” It’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.

I have read and benefited from a number of productivity-related books (Getting Things Done, Rework, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Making Ideas Happen, The Power of Full Engagement, and Do The Work). Perman draws on many of these excellent books, references their best ideas and, in the end, surpasses them.

What’s Best Next is better than these other books for two important reasons:

  1. Perman unpacks a robust exploration of how the gospel re-shapes our approach to productivity.
  2. He delivers a highly practical approach that simplifies many of the overwhelming systems these other books espouse.

I learned a lot from the book. Here are the 6 most significant lessons I took away (the first is the longest):

1. The gospel makes productivity about love.

The most surprising sections of the book were the first two, reframing productivity through the lens of the gospel. I honestly didn’t expect to get much out of them and thought they would be a kind of Christian veneer applied thinly over practical advice. I could not have been more wrong, as these sections demonstrated valuable theological thinking applied to a real-world issue.

Perman argues that God cares deeply about productivity because God wants lots of good to happen in the world. Sadly, however, many people — Christians included — view productivity mostly in self-centered ways: How can I get a lot done? How can I get through my list? How can I achieve peace and contentment by getting organized? How can I feel good about myself because I’m so productive?

But the gospel transforms our productivity in two key ways. First, it makes Jesus our identity rather than our works. Instead of achieving a sense of value by how productive we are, we are free to be productive because we already have value in Jesus. Second, the gospel puts our attention on others so that we seek to love and serve them through our work, rather than serve ourselves.

This was a game-changer for me. I often think of people being in the way of me getting done what I really want and need to do. Instead, people should be a key factor and motivator in deciding what to do and how to do it.

Additionally, loving others means we should seek to be organized and effective in how we get things done. As Perman writes:

“If we are about serving others, then we need to be competent in serving them because incompetence does not serve people.”

2. Everyday life provides many opportunities for good works that honor God.

I loved the “all of life” aspect of this book. One terrific example is when Perman talks about “good works.” He says:

“According to the Scriptures, good works are not simply the rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do. Rather, they are anything we do in faith…When you are answering emails, you aren’t just answering emails. You are doing good works. When you attend meetings, you aren’t just attending meetings. You are doing good works. When you make supper for your family, you aren’t just making supper for your family. You are doing good works. When you put the kids to bed, you aren’t just putting the kids to bed. You are doing a good work.”

Isn’t that encouraging? Every day you have countless opportunities to do good works in the name of Jesus.

3. Know what’s most important and put it first.

Perman argues that this is the core principle of productivity. He quotes some other leaders who say the same thing:

Rick Warren: “The secret of effectiveness is to know what really counts, then do what really counts, and not worry about the rest.”

Peter Drucker: “If there is any one ‘secret’ of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.”

Stephen Covey: “The key . . . is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

I appreciated this principle because it forces me to intentionally think about what’s most important. Rather than just being reactive, this principle thrusts you into proactively doing what is important rather than just what’s urgent.

This is what’s behind the middle word in the title What’s Best Next. It’s not about what’s next, but what’s best next. Perman says:

“More important than efficiency is effectiveness — getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done.”

4. Systems trump intentions.

This was a short but profound point in the book, one that I’ve noted before. Perman writes:

“Systems trump intentions. You can have great intentions, but if your life is set up in a way that is not in alignment with them, you will be frustrated. The structure of your life will win out every time.”

This is why leaders need a plan. Without a plan, you will not get done what you want and need to get done.

More than that, you need a simple plan. For instance, like Perman, I found the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach overwhelming. It felt like my job became keeping up with my system. I was serving the system instead of the system serving me. Perman offers some simple, practical ideas that felt like a doable breath of fresh air.

5. Weekly planning is crucial.

One of the crucial systems to establish is weekly planning. This is something I’ve read about in the past but it always sounded too complicated to make it a normal part of my routine. Perman offers a detailed approach to weekly planning, but he also provides a simplified pair of questions that, if done, would provide incredible clarity:

  1. What do I need to do this week?
  2. What would I like to do this week?

Think through those questions and put those things on a list or calendar somewhere. If you just asked those two questions, you’d probably gain some ground, especially if part of your thinking involved how you could plan to do intentional good for others.

6. Plan your day.

This almost feels ridiculous to say but — upon reflection — it’s discouraging for me to think about how rarely I plan my day. Too often I just react to whatever’s next on the calendar or whatever email just came in. But recently I’ve been planning my day and it’s amazing how much more effective I am.

Here’s Perman’s simple way to plan the day:

  1. Write down the three most important tasks you can accomplish today, in light of your calendar and priorities.
  2. Review your calendar and list any actions this generates.
  3. Review your priority list for the week and actions list to ensure it is current and identify any other priorities you need to have.
  4. Write down any other things you need to do in light of upcoming meetings, appointments, and just generally other stuff you want to get done.

Isaiah 32:8 says, “he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” Planning your week and day gives you a chance to plan noble things that will serve others and achieve much good.

Conclusion

Buy and read this book. If you already feel like you have good productivity systems, the first few parts will still be valuable in reframing your approach through a gospel lens. If you feel like your systems could use an improvement, the entire book will be helpful.

Would I Want to Go to This?

boredThis is a question every leader should ask seriously when planning anything — an event, worship service, training, or meeting. Would I want to go to this?

If you wouldn’t want to go, there’s a good chance that others won’t either. And if you go but you don’t really want to, everyone will feel it.

Sometimes we plan things because we think we should. Other times we schedule meetings or trainings because it’s something we want but, if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we wouldn’t want to come either. Too many times I’ve seen leaders subject their followers to meetings that they wouldn’t want to attend either.

If you ask this question and the honest answer is, “No, I wouldn’t want to go to this,” then three options remain:

  1. Cancel it — nobody else probably wants to go either.
  2. Improve it until it’s something you’d want to attend.
  3. Keep it.

The only time that #3 makes sense is if you are so outside of the mainstream in your particular preferences related to the idea. (For example, I’m not big on food trucks but I realize that I’m outside-the-norm on this and therefore am OK with events that have food trucks.) These #3 moments are rare.

Have the honesty to ask this hard question and make courageous and creative decisions to ensure that nobody is subjected to things that you — and they — don’t want to participate in.

Podcasts Worth Listening To

One of the marks of the best leaders I know is that they are eager to keep learning. One of the blessings of technology today is having so many fantastic resources so readily available (sometimes too many). I learn best by listening, so podcasts have been a God-send for my life and leadership.

I thought it might be helpful to share the podcasts I listen to. Also, I’d love to hear about your favorite podcasts, so please leave your recommendations in the comments.

[Note: if you subscribe by email and can’t see the following charts, click here.]

Podcasts That I Listen to Every Episode

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Podcasts That I Listen to Some Episodes

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Reflections on ‘Noah’ Movie

noah movieMy in-laws are in town from Ohio and my daughters have been dying to show their grandma their newest passion in life, Frozen. So, faced with hearing “Let it Go” for the 6 millionth time, I opted to go with the guys to check out this movie you might have heard of…Noah.

Here are some reflections:

1. I’m glad I didn’t go in with any expectations of biblical fidelity. I had heard enough about the Noah movie to know that it wasn’t going to be a very accurate portrayal of the historic events described in Genesis 6-10 (I most appreciated reviews by Joe Carter and Greg Thornbury). This allowed me to watch the film (almost) as if it wasn’t a biblically-based movie at all and instead just to watch and evaluate it as I would with any film, trying to understand and engage with what the director (Darren Aronofsky) was saying and working to figure out what could be received, rejected or redeemed.

2. You can make a trailer look any way you want. It was interesting how within five minutes of the movie, you had a very clear sense that this didn’t follow the biblical text very closely. But the trailer — designed particularly to appeal to Christian audiences — made you think it would. One of the most glaring examples is in this trailer (at 1:18), when Noah boldly declares “I’m not alone.” The trailer made you think he was talking about God being with him. Instead, the movie reveals that he’s referring to the Watchers, the fallen-angel-rock-creatures that provide his security and help build the ark. Perhaps this is a good lesson to all of us who can easily get swept up in the hype of a movie based on a trailer — good editing easily manipulates.

3. I appreciated the depiction of the sinfulness of sin. Most movies seem to reflect the dominant worldview of the culture that man is basically good. Not Noah. There are no heroes in the film. There are very few semi-likable characters. This is a world dominated by sin, selfishness, pride. I think there is more common grace in the world than Noah depicted, but I appreciated a bold statement that, since the Garden of Eden, man is seriously sinful.

4. The film (ironically?) undercuts its argument that creation is good and innocent except man. Environmentalism shines brightly in Noah and one gets the idea that the world would be best without people at all since animals are innocent. Noah becomes obsessed with ridding the world of all people (including his family and descendants), as this seems to be what God wants. Ironically, the more obsessed Noah gets with this idea, the more he is horribly unlikable — a seemingly intentional choice by Aronofsky. Additionally, the Creator eventually provides a way for Noah’s family to live, showing that his intention was to re-create rather than annihilate. This was the most confusing part of the film for me. On one hand, the “man-is-the-problem-because-he’s-ruining-the-environment” argument was on display fully. On the other, the story itself undercut this massive theme.

5. I’ll take the God of Scripture any day over the Creator in Noah. The Creator is silent, distant and seemingly only angry. There is no mercy and little love. Noah imitates this Creator’s attitude toward people and he becomes a monster. Now, one could argue that a God who would drown the world is a monster (this film should make Christians wrestle with a vivid depiction of God’s wrath against sinners, even children). However, the God of Scripture is not silent or distant. He is not speaking through code and making you discern what you could from a dream. He is both a God of justice and mercy. In the biblical account, even his purposes in the flood are mixed with mercy and sorrow — not just fury.

6. A world without God’s mercy is a sad, hopeless world. Noah is a big-time downer. You will not feel good at the end. Despite a shallow attempt to end with some hope, it’s a hopeless film depicting a hopeless world. This is what happens when God is distant and thought of as only wrathful. Perhaps this is why many Christians remain so unfortunately hopeless and shine such dim light into the world. Perhaps, despite saying they believe the gospel of grace, they have continued to think of God only as a distant God who is angry at them and eager to crush them. Perhaps they have forgotten to live in light of the gospel, where in Christ God is for you and nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8:31-39).

In the end, I’m glad I saw Noah. It wasn’t a great film — or even a particularly good film. But a lot of people are talking about it, and I wanted to interact directly with the messages of the film rather than just read reviews. And it isn’t often that films are made with such obvious theological statements. I always find it worthwhile to listen to what the culture is saying about God, whether in Louis CK’s SNL monologue or in a big-budget film like Noah.

Did you see the film? If so, what’d you think? If not, will you see it?

Top 5 Posts from March

Top5-Drobo

This month has been the most active month ever on Faithful and Fruitful in terms of readers. To close out the month, I thought I’d share the top 5 posts people were reading here in March.

1. What I Learned from 10 Churches in 4 Days.

2. How Our Multi-Congregational Church Model Works.

3. 5 Reasons Why Multi-Congregational Church is Better Than Video Multi-Site.

4. 38 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Parents.

5. This Will Make You a Better Preacher.

Thanks for dropping by and reading. I know that people mostly vote with their clicks, but if you have other ideas for topics you think would be valuable to cover, let me know.

Do You Really Know Who’s at Your Church? (and How to Find Out)

What’s the makeup of your church? Mostly young families? Singles? Seniors? Church people? Unchurched people? Diverse? Homogenous?

How well are people getting connected? To what degree are they embracing your vision? Do they serve? Invite people?

Because good pastors are shepherds who know the sheep, they typically have some idea about these things. But I would bet that most pastors don’t know some of the answers to the questions above as well as they think (I know I didn’t).

church survey

Borrowing largely from a questionnaire described in Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide, we recently took a few moments in a Sunday service for people to fill out a brief church survey (here is a PDF of the survey).

We did this survey two years ago and will do it every year from here on out. This process is fascinating and enlightening. And it allows you to make some needed adjustments based on what you learn.

For instance, here are some things we learned from our most recent church survey:

1. We are continuing to reach a significant number of unchurched people. 19% of our regulars and 21% of our guests did not attend church in the three years prior to coming. Additionally, 68% of our regulars invited at least one unchurched person to church in the last year and 27% invited three or more unchurched people. These are encouraging numbers.

2. We are growing in diversity. Unfortunately, we didn’t track ethnicity information in 2012. But more people are coming who aren’t married and/or don’t have kids than we expected (45% don’t have children under 18 years old). Additionally, 39% of the non-white people have been at our church less than a year. This is a good trend.

3. About 40% of people seem to have come from either out-of-town or small, lesser-known churches. Almost 20% of our church were unchurched. About 25% came from our original sending church. About 15% came from five other area churches. We are not getting that many people from other big local churches.

4. Involvement percentages are down across the board. Compared to our 2012 survey, we had lower percentages of people who participated in Inviting, Small Groups, Serving, Classes, and Membership. This is not surprising considering our numerical growth. As the church has grown and ministry options have expanded, I’ve expected those numbers to drop. However, we do need to take this to heart, remember who is to blame for the 80/20 rule, and work to close the gap.

5. People who serve seem more likely to be in community than people in community are likely to serve. 81% of those who have served have also been in a small group, while 65% of those in small groups have served. Might this mean that serving is a more effective “next step” for people to eventually own the ministry? This is something we’re exploring.

6. Unchurched new people really like the church but don’t know how to take next steps. 77% of our unchurched guests said they would “definitely” invite an unchurched friend to come. Additionally, 62% of our unchurched guests said they would like to take a next step with their involvement but don’t know how. Put these together and you realize they like the church a lot, but we need to get much more intentional and obvious about helping them take next steps.

We learned a lot of other interesting things, but I’ll leave it here.

The bottom line is — without this kind of information — leaders are mostly guessing about who is in their church, where they came from, how involved they are, and what to do about it.

So, rip of these questions or make your own — but taking the time to use a church survey to gather this kind of information will really help you.

A Simple Plan for Daddy Dates

Every good dad I know intentionally spends time with his kids. Most dads also think about how to spend good one-on-one time with each kid. But many dads I know want to do daddy dates more often, with more intentionality. They need a plan.

daddy dates

Here’s the plan that I’ve been using with my two daughters: We do something special every month on the day of their birthday.

Abby’s birthday is July 11 and Caitlin’s is October 25. So on the 11th of each month I do something special with Abby and on the 25th of each month I do something special with Caitlin.

“Something special” doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be intentional. Sometimes I make the plans and sometimes I let them pick. We’ve gone to FlipSide to play $5 worth of arcade games, we’ve gone to a park for a homemade picnic, we’ve gone to the movies. Today (the 25th), Caitlin and I will go to breakfast — she’s hoping it’s McDonalds.

This plan has a few advantages:

1. It’s scheduled automatically. Instead of having to think about when to do a date, I can just think about what we’ll do.

2. The regularity gives the girls (and me) something to look forward to. They know their day is coming and they begin to build anticipation even a week or two in advance.

3. It’s a sustainable tradition. It might be great to do a date more often, but this is something could last as long as they’re in my home (my hope).

Now, I know that this plan may not be as helpful for people with lots more kids, especially if their birth “days” all line up in the same week. We’re expecting our third child this summer, due on Abby’s birthday, so I’ll get a chance to see how it goes.

The point really is this: Have a plan. It may not need to be this one. Perhaps you can think of something better. But have a plan.

Your kids — and your long term relationship with them — are worth it.

Toolbox: Church Service Evaluation Form

Last weekend I took our five Pastoral Residents on a church tour where we visited six different worship services. While our goal wasn’t to be negatively critical, I wanted the guys to pay attention to what they were experiencing.Church Service Evaluation Form

Through an experience like that you begin to notice a lot of little things. This is good, especially for pastors-in-training who will be responsible for creating the environments and systems that make a weekend service run smoothly.

To help them, I put together a Church Service Evaluation Form with a bunch of questions that explicitly identify things I intuitively notice when I go to a new church. These are the kinds of questions that church leaders should be paying attention to and building systems to answer.

EXTERIOR FACILITIES

1. How easy was the location to find?
2. How is the curb appeal of the facility?
3. How was the parking?

SIGNAGE

1. How was the exterior signage?
2. How was the interior signage?

HOSPITALITY

1. How were you greeted prior to the service?
2. How was the appearance of the greeters?
3. How many people greeted you who were not “official” greeters or staff?
4. Were there refreshments? If so, how were they?
5. Was there a “welcome/info center” for guests? If so, how was it?
6. How comfortable did you feel prior to the service?

KIDS MINISTRY

1. How clear was the signage to kids ministry?
2. How was the appearance of the kids environment? (clean, fun, safe, etc.)
3. How simple was the check-in system?
4. How secure did the kids ministry seem?
5. When you arrived, was there a teacher present in an organized environment?
6. Did a teacher introduce him/herself to you?
7. How was the child welcomed?
8. How were the take-home materials?
9. Did your child have fun?

RESTROOMS

1. How easy was it to find the restroom?
2. How did the restroom smell?
3. How was the appearance of the restroom?

WORSHIP SERVICE LOGISTICS

1. How was the appearance of the auditorium?
2. How visible and effective were the screens?
3. How was the flow of the service order?
4. How was the length of the service?
5. How was the lighting for the auditorium and stage?
6. How clearly communicated were the next steps for guests?
7. Was anything about the service confusing?

MUSIC

1. How well did the leader lead?
2. Was the sound mix balanced?
3. How were the transitions between songs?
4. How good was the musical presentation?
5. How sing-able were the songs?
6. How did the songs fit within the service focus?
7. How engaged did people seem with the music?

PREACHING

1. How likeable was the preacher?
2. How clear was the sermon?
3. How well did the illustrations help with the preacher’s main point?
3. How biblically accurate was the sermon? (i.e. preacher faithful to author’s meaning)
4. Was humor used appropriately and effectively?
5. How was the preacher’s body language?
6. How much would you want to bring a non-Christian to hear this sermon?
7. How much did the preacher have the material mastered?
8. Did the preacher clearly communicate the gospel?

VISION, BRAND, COMMUNICATIONS

1. How effective was the printed bulletin?
2. How were the other brochures and print information (about ministries, initiatives, etc)?
3. How clearly did you understand the church’s vision or focus?
4. How effectively were graphics and media used?

BEST AND WORST

1. What was the best part of this church experience? Why?
2. What was the worst part of this church experience? Why?
3. What is one thing that this church could do to significantly improve the experience?

BOTTOM LINE

1. Would you want to come back to this church?
2. Would you recommend this church to a non-Christian friend?

Feel free to download this printable Church Service Evaluation Form. Even better, recruit or hire somebody to come be a “secret shopper” at your church using this form. It would be wonderful (and scary) to see what you’d learn.

Which question is your favorite from this list?
What is another question you’d add to the list?

 

What I Learned from 10 Churches in 4 Days

This past week was crazy. I took our five Pastoral Residents on our first annual “church tour.” We decided to stay close to home and see what we could learn from the Church (or part of it) in Phoenix.

We interacted with 10 churches, met with 7 leaders, participated in 6 worship services, heard 2 sermons on Galatians 3:15-26 (at different churches!) and drove 339 miles — all in 4 days.

The first two days (Thursday-Friday), we arranged seven meetings with church and ministry leaders. Then over the weekend, we visited six different services.

I took many pages of notes, especially in our meetings, so for this post I want to share the single biggest lesson I took away from each of the seven meetings and then share some general lessons from visiting all the church services.

INTERVIEWS

Randy Thomas

1. Randy Thomas, Executive Pastor of Mercy, Mission Community Church

It was a treat to spend time with Randy and his assistant Shelly. Randy was humble, gracious and remarkably transparent with a group of guys he didn’t really know well. Made me excited for Mission’s future.

BIGGEST LESSON: The church is not a counseling center — it’s much more. When it comes to people in pain and crisis, the church can offer something that nobody else can: a Christ-centered community.

Terry Crist2. Terry Crist, Lead Pastor, City of Grace

Terry and his team were remarkably hospitable, serving us a nice, catered lunch and going out of their way to welcome us.

BIGGEST LESSON: Never lose the smell of sheep. As a church grows, it’s crucial to continue to work hard to know, care for, and invest in people. And don’t be a hireling. 

Bill Borinstein3. Bill Borinstein, Lead Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel North Phoenix

Bill has been a wonderful blessing to me and our staff for a number of years. This is the second or third time I’ve taken folks to learn from him and it’s been wonderful each time.

BIGGEST LESSON: If your leadership isn’t fueled by closeness to Jesus, you have nothing to say and nowhere to go. Don’t trade intimacy with Jesus for leading others into intimacy with Jesus.

Jeff Gokee4. Jeff Gokee, Executive Director, PhoenixONE

Jeff’s ministry is unique in that he doesn’t lead a church, but leads a ministry that works to connect 20-somethings with local churches.

BIGGEST LESSON: If we’re honest, most churches are geared to young families. So churches need to work hard to acknowledge 20-somethings and intentionally create environments to connect them with older people who will love–not criticize–them.

Brian Kruckenberg5. Brian Kruckenberg, Lead Pastor, New City Church

It’s been fun to watch Brian’s ministry grow rapidly in the last few years, from a small church re-plant to now over 900 people in the heart of the city.

BIGGEST LESSON: Because you’re the leader you often think you know best. But everything is stronger if you let artists create, let writers write, and let all the people do what they are better than you at doing.

Neil Pitchel6. Neil Pitchel, Pastor of Administration, Redemption Church

Neil’s leadership and financial expertise is a big reason why Redemption has been able to be so strong in the midst of expanding.

BIGGEST LESSON: One of the biggest mistake a pastor can make is not knowing how money works and ignoring the financial aspects of church leadership.

Scott Maxwell7. Scott Maxwell, Elder of Preaching, Grace Bible Church

Grace has a reputation for training men and developing people, and spending time with Scott made it clear why this is such a strength.

BIGGEST LESSON: Don’t leapfrog over your heart. You can’t assume that you or the people you are training have hearts that are close to God. So focus on the heart before you focus on the head and the hands.

LESSONS FROM 6 CHURCH SERVICES

We visited Mission and Sun Valley on Saturday night and then went to New City, Church of the Cross, Mars Hill and Impact on Sunday. Here’s what I learned:

1. Preaching really matters a lot. The sermon is the longest part of any service and, as a result, plays a huge role in the effectiveness of the service. The services I enjoyed the most had the best, most engaging, most gospel-centered preaching and the services I enjoyed least had the weakest preaching.

2. Worship leaders need to lead. Everywhere we went had music. None of it was awful. Some of it was tremendous. But the best places were places where the worship leaders actually led. They prayed, they exhorted, they helped you engage. Anyone can play a gig. But we need worship leaders to lead.

3. Every church as a vibe that communicates strongly. As we would debrief each place, you could tell that much of how each guy interpreted his experience was through the “vibe” of the church. You could call the “vibe” culture, feel, or something else. You can write whatever you want on a website, but the vibe more strongly communicates who you really are.

4. I will hire some secret shoppers. Having this experience convinced me that I need to hire/recruit some secret shoppers who will intentionally visit our church and give us feedback on key elements of the experience. When you’re in it every week, you just get blind to so much.

I had a blast with the guys on our trip. And I’m encouraged by how different the body of Christ can be.

It’s Not (Just) About the Model

My last few posts have dealt in depth with multi-site models. First I shared how we do it at Redemption, then I argued that our model is stronger than video multi-site, and finally I offered some advantages that video multi-site has.

Throughout those posts, there was a lot of discussion about models. How things are done. Systems, structures, etc.

Models matter. Each model has inherent strengths and weaknesses.

But models aren’t everything. Culture is much more important.

NotAboutTheModel

You see, Redemption Church isn’t thriving primarily because of our model, as strong as I think the model is. So in this post I want to share the fuel — the culture — that allows our model to work.

1. We take God seriously, but not ourselves.

This is a phrase you hear quite a bit among the leadership. And it’s not just wishful thinking or an aspiration. It’s actually lived out. Our pastors and elders at every congregation are serious about God. They love him, read his word, pray, fast, repent, and strive to know him. But they don’t take themselves very seriously. They make fun of themselves and each other. They laugh. A lot.

As a result, there’s not striving or jockeying for position or attention — rather, there’s humility.

2. We have strong relationships among leadership.

The model of multi-congregational church only works when the leaders have strong relationships. With relationship comes trust and this trust enables us to work together in unity while celebrating the differences that each leader and congregation has.

Our leaders like being together. They are friends. They believe the best about each other.

I can’t imagine doing ministry in an environment without these kinds of relationships.

3. We really believe the gospel (most of the time).

That may sound pretentious to say “We really believe the gospel” as if other people don’t. That’s not my point.

The gospel is hard to believe. It’s especially hard to believe at a functional level when temptations for power, security, control, and approval lurk nearby.

Through the gospel, we have nothing to prove and nobody to impress.

I think our church is healthy and strong because we have many pastors and people who are doing the hard heart-work of believing this good news. As a result, we’re free to celebrate one other, love one another, rejoice with one another, and care for one another.

4. We value the little guy.

Because of the things above, we really esteem the little guy. We are thrilled to invest in people and places that are often overlooked or forgotten.

This is why we can have congregations of various size with leaders of various giftedness without jealousy, unhealthy competition, or infighting. In our leadership, the pastors of congregations over 1,000 people genuinely love and appreciate the pastors of congregations under 200 people (and vice versa). I love that.

5. We develop leaders and give them opportunities to lead.

One time I heard John Bryson say that he often has churches come to him and ask where they can find young, godly, mature, gifted, courageous leaders for their churches. His response: “They’re out there with Bigfoot, the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny.” He said that everyone wants these leaders but few people make them.

We are committed to making them.

We train leaders formally and informally. I think it flows out of our commitment to disciple-making and also out of the freedom from needing to build your own kingdom. If you’re trying to build your brand or your name, you won’t develop leaders. Or you’ll do it only for them to serve you. Some of our greatest joys are when we’ve sent out a young leader who we’ve had a chance to develop and grow.

I could do a long post on the things we could improve. My point is not to toot our own horn as much as it is that culture trumps model all the time. As Peter Drucker has said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Now, strategy and model can reinforce or undermine your culture, but the core of what has made our ministry a blessing to be part of is this culture.

Thank you, Jesus.