Good to see you guys back. At least half of you came back. I'm sure the rest ... Tim just totally torpedoed me. Right in the middle of the session he just starts dropping wisdom and, you know, marketing his upcoming class right in the middle of mine.
We are going to pick up where we left off and again, if you missed this morning you can kind of catch a little bit of this ... We kind of threw up a framework earlier for thinking about organizational strategy that's rooted in theological vision. that leads to congregational health. And this is kind of the basic framework that I've operated out of.
Just a helpful ... Again it's not in the Bible specifically anywhere. But the principles are definitely there. And, in this last one we kind of begin to talk about as you're assessing awareness, who am I, who is God, who am I, and where am I, leading to vision and burden. That leads us to action. Strategy being that how we then take the vision God's given us and begin to, with open hands, test ... I think of, like, strategies ... R&D ... S
Strategy we do with an open hand. Vision is kind of a closed hand. Strategy is an open hand. Here, we're just trying stuff. If we're honest, we're trying stuff, seeing what works, seeing what's helpful, what's fruitful. Asking questions. Kind of like testing assumptions against reality. Courage. We begin to have a bias to action and start to move out into the community and off the white board. And, fear not. And then assessment, with humility, we kind of step back and say "How's it going, how's it working?"
And then pivot ... Inflection points and transitions. And that's really what I want to kind of pick up with here. I mentioned this book last time. Chuck Adisez has written quite a bit on the management side of organizational life cycles. I think it's ... He's kind of the guru on corporate life cycles, seasons of life ... And so he's kind of studied and said basically when you think about organizational strategy, organizational leadership ... We'd said strategy is a combination of system structures, strategies, culture, and outcomes that support, sustain, and assess the implementation of the theological vision. We kind of use the analogy of a body. Your body has 11 different systems that help support the flourishing and the unity and the coordination of the body. And so, in a similar way that's what organizational strategy does.
Adisez came along and said "You know, if organizational life feels very chaotic but it's actually very predictable when you look at it and you study it across different cultures, across different ethnic groups, across different industries, there's actually a fairly predictable process. In each one of these phases, which we will just go through here quickly, there's things that are normal, there's things that are abnormal. Those things that are normal are kind of just universal. They typically happen. You may move faster through some of those, but you're going to see the basics there.
Abnormal becomes things that require some kind of intervention, like when your own expertise ... When you kind of bump against, you know, those times when you just kind of hit up a bump ... Bump up against your personal ceiling or capacity and you realize we don't have what it takes to push through to the next season. This conversation is just too complex. The scale is too big, the ideas are too complicated, or we are just too immersed like fish in the proverbial water. We need outside intervention. We need a consultant, or a coach, or a doctor to come in and help diagnose.
And then each one also has pathologies. Those things that can be body killers. If you are not careful with those things, what's normal can become pathological and kind of undermine your vision.
So just going about one-on-one, I mean, you kind of get the gist by the words. But I'll just bring some of Adizes' ideas here to help us. Courtship is, as it sounds, kind of the dating phase of organizational life cycles. Courtship is when you have a founder or a group of co-founders who come together around an idea.
Typical characteristics of courtship ... It's a season of when you're kind of beginning to test commitment. So, you have an idea, you have this vision, you have this dream ... I've always wanted to do this, I've always wanted to see this happen, a ministry idea. And you begin to date it. You begin to kind of dream about it and think about it and maybe begin to talk about it with people. It becomes that thing that's always kind of on your mind and your heart. You dream about it.
And, you're testing commitment. So, commitment is growing, risk is growing. You're kind of in the courtship phase when you leave a job, when you sign up for something, when there's kind of skin in the game. That's really what courtship's all about. Courtship is about the founder essentially saying "I have an idea. Am I willing to risk? Am I willing to suffer? Am I willing to bleed to see this idea come to fruition?"
A lot of passion in that phase. Lots of romantic ideas and to use Bonhoeffer's word "wish dreams." You know, most of that's naïve and overly optimistic, but that's part of dating, right?
Abnormal things that can become pathological in the courtship phase. Adizes talks about the idea of when commitment gets tested against reality and it doesn't lead to actual real commitment or implementation. Then he says what you essentially have is an affair. So it fizzles out. This kind of like promise, commitment, fizzles out into an affair and there's never an actualization there. It just essentially kind of stays in the air as a fantasy. It never gets beyond the courtship phase.
Courtship. Very normal in an organization. You're dreaming about something. This would be, we were talking earlier, a guy who is really excited about church planting but has not actually moved his family or taken that next step.
Infancy. When you give birth to an idea. Infancy. Just like when you have a baby ... Those of you who are parents, you know, infants require a ton of attention. They require lots of nurture and care. And it's a messy season. Lot's of, you know, poopie diapers. It's a season of action. It's a season of unpredictability. Lot's of uncertainty, lot's of things that could happen but we really don't know what's going to happen.
Adizes talks about how in these different seasons they require different kinds of leadership. And so he says different seasons or different cycles call forth different things in leaders or require different styles of leadership. And one of the things he says in the infancy stage is actually a little bit counter intuitive. It may be off putting for some of us. He says you really need to be ... You need a lot of directive leadership in the infancy stage.
So if you're a parent, you don't go to your three year old and say, "Hey. Would you like to eat dinner today?" You say, "No. You need to eat dinner. This is good for you." And he says, in the infancy stage, while the organization is kind of learning to walk so to speak, learning to talk, learning the difference between what's right, what's wrong, what's helpful, what's hurtful, you need autocratic leadership essentially.
Which we always ... It's kind of like a bad word in our world. But, like it can actually be helpful. If you think about directive leadership in times of crisis. So I think the tendency where some of us maybe have seen this gone wrong is when you try to empower too quickly.
When you empower in infancy, you empower immaturity. You empower lack of wisdom. You can say this is like "Octo-Mom." You multiply like crazy and things go badly, right? That's like reality TV. Or some version of reality TV. Multiply immaturity, you empower a bunch of 20 year olds who have figured out how the world works. And the we have, you know, messy multiplication. We have conflict. We have all kinds of mutant creatures, subterranean mutant creatures that emerge. And then we have whole networks full of angry, confused 20 somethings who have all been empowered way beyond their character and their capacity.
You have blow-ups and break-ups happening in different ... But that's characteristic of infancy. So infancy needs strong but loving and benevolent leadership.
The pathology here, the abnormality that can turn to pathology, he calls it infant mortality. You either have smothering, you try to structure too quickly in the infancy stage. Kids need some structure but you know, like, too much structure, too much rigidity ... There's always been a big debate with pediatricians ... Like if you did Baby-Wise. If you're a doctor, you hate Baby-Wise because people have malnourished their children. They are like "It's not been 25.6 minutes yet." They're not ready to feed. It's like they're turning blue. Use common sense.
And that can happen when you smother something and you try to build too much structure too quickly. You come in, and you plant a church, and you've got your manuals, and you've got all your algorithms, and you've got all of your policies and procedures. And, you don't even have any people yet. That can be problematic, right? You can smother something that needs to be kind of organic and need to be grassroots, and needs some oxygen, not more structure. So smothering or malnutrition. You don't give it enough attention. You just assume the best. You assume, "Hey, we're all Christians, we all love Jesus." This is kind of like your classic co-founders. Two or three guys come together. We love Jesus. We'll figure it out. And that works for about five years. And then you have, again, break-ups, blow-ups. Bad things tend to happen. You have Frankensteins that get release in our organizations.
Infancy, then, if you can survive and continue to adapt, infancy then moves to childhood and what he calls the "go-go years." This phase is characterized by curiosity. So think of a five-year old, a six-year old, a seven-year old. There's a sense of awe. There's a sense of wonder. The world is your oyster. There's lots of experimentation in the growth phase. Your R&D ... You're trying things.
You ask for forgiveness rather than permission, which is one of the key contrasts when you get to aging and decline. You ask for permission rather than forgiveness. It's one of the tell-tale signs that your organization is dying. Everybody is constantly asking for permission to do things. It's like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption. He gets out of prison. And he's been so institutionalized. And he says ... He has to go to the guy and say "Permission to pee, Sir." That's essentially the characteristics of a church that's gotten institutionalized.
But in the growth phase, we experiment. It's messy. It's usually characterized by a lot of over confidence. Lot's of declarations. When your church is growing, you had this mentality of just like abundance. And when you experience ... success in a small measure. So think like, I'm not talking your church is growing necessarily 100% a year but, just think like, the average church has plateaued or declining. So if you're even growing five or ten percent a year that would be considered really healthy, robust growth as a church plant or an established church, right?
So, what happens is you get a little success over here, and you start to extrapolate that experience across every domain of your life. And you think, I'm really good here. So I'm going to be awesome at everything. So, this phase is characterized by over-extension. You try everything. Every opportunity is a good opportunity. Every person to reach is a good person to reach. Every ministry initiative is a green light. If you can do it, you should do it. That's kind of the mantra of the go-go years.
You're typically ... There's a lot of ambiguity. You're very people-oriented rather than systems-oriented. You're very undisciplined and what you say yes to and what you go behind. You tend to be more reactive than proactive. So think sales rather than marketing, if you're kind of in the business world. You're selling and you're closing, but you have no strategy for, you know, what's good, best, and better.
The pathology there, obviously, is an interesting one. What he calls the founders' dilemma, the founders' trap. The founders, as the organization begins to grow, run into a trap where they know that they need to decentralize power away from themselves but they get confused because they're used to operating in a very, kind of, run and gun style. And so ... low policy. Just again, like high entrepreneur. And yet, you find that you need to empower people around you.
And so what begins to happen is you give power away. And then you realize, "Oh crap. I don't like the way they're doing it." And so you take power back and it becomes this power struggle where you're constantly feeling the need to give it away and yet you're having a hard time. And so the founders' dilemma, the founders' trap, becomes usually the thing in the go-go phase that kills a lot of organizations. When they can't make the transition from childhood to adolescence. Where you have to lead through policy. Where you have to lead through a lot more of a disciplined approach. Move from being an entrepreneur to being more of a manager, which is really the key there.
Adizes also says, interestingly enough, he says the worst thing that can happen to any organization is that you experience rapid growth. He says that is the number one cause of death for organizations. When you have a meteoric rise, he says ... When you rise all the way up and you go into the clouds, where's the only place you can go? Down.
And some of us have been in those organizations where it rises fast, and it's exciting. And everything's good. You don't need policy until you need policy. You don't need a conflict resolution policy on your elder team until you need a conflict resolution. Then when it goes bad, it's like "Whoa." Wish we were doing Robert's Rules of Order. Even though we all hate Robert's Rules of Order when we're a young, you know, infancy growing church. It's like, "Man, we really need somebody in here to like adjudicate crazy here."
So, that's childhood. Childhood then gives way to adolescence. And if we know anything about adolescence is its a season of conflict. It's a season of challenge. It's a season characterized by lot's of refining. The key in adolescence, and I actually have it on here, here we go, the key to adolescence ... So conflict ... The way through adolescence is a couple of things. The delegation of authority is a huge issue. Who has power? Who is in control? There's a wrestling again as that founders' dilemma begins to resolve itself between ... Typically, what a founder will do is hire a Board of Directors or hire a Management and Administrative Team to come in and begin to bring some order to the chaos.
And what begins to happen again is that power struggle between the founder or the co-founders. It's kind of an "us versus" them mentality. Who are the stakeholders? Who are the constituents? Who has control? Delegation of authority is huge. The need to lead through management and policy as opposed to the, kind of, whimsical nature of the founder. Learning to say "No" to good things, to say "Yes" to the best things, is a really important piece there in that season.
The pathology ... Eventually what can happen in this phase is all of the "us versus them" can give way to anxiety, and fear, and suspicion, and control struggles. A break-down in trust. And typically what happens in adolescence is organizations can break-up. And co-founders can break-up.
If you make it through adolescence, you're the to prime. Prime is a season that very few organizations reach. In prime, it's a season of clarity. Things that were fuzzy are becoming clear. It's a season of integration, where you're taking things that seem disparate and you're bringing them together. Integrating them. There's lots of creativity because now you're leading through policy. There's predictability. There's a sense of like, "Here's who we are and here's what we're doing." And, "Here's how we offer excellent, predictable services." There's still that entrepreneurial creative impulse. You've kind of learned to live into and manage the tension between self-control and flexibility, which again in the early years are very difficult.
The pathology here is that prime tends to be a very short season. And, it's hard to stay in prime. He kind of describes prime as early prime and late prime. And then you go to what he calls the fall. And the fall then leads us into aging and decay and death. So complacency, self-satisfaction, loss of a sense of urgency, decreased creativity. Opportunities in the aging, and decline, and death stage. Opportunities become problems instead of opportunities. There's a focus on technique. "This is how we do things." You're talking way more about the how than the why or the what.
Again, everything is forbidden unless you ask for permission. You're cash rich. This is typically what they call a "lifestyle company." You've moved from a start-up to a lifestyle company where you have lots of money. And ... becomes about sustainability and personal preference and the kind of the co-founders cashing out, essentially.
You're risk avoidant. You disempower people. There's no longer an environment of empowerment and freedom and creativity. You're in survival mode. Eventually, the bureaucracy is built. Institutionalization begins to kind of set in. Rigor mortis happens. And organization goes towards decline.
And again, you can stay in this and live in this for a really long time. I mean, look around our neighborhoods, right? They're full of churches that have been in decline and decay and aging for generations. And so, then you have to find alternative revenue streams. That's kind of when you tend to start, like, schools. You cash in on millennials moving back into the city looking for good educational options. And you start all kinds of alternative institutions that function as non-business related income to keep your organization afloat. But there's no real life. There's no real vibrancy. There's no entrepreneurialism happening.
So, that's these different inflection points. The first step in this process is just diagnosing. Where are we? Beginning to ask yourself the question, "Where are we as an organization?" And stepping back and beginning to look at it and say, "Hey. What are some of the symptoms? What are some of the signs? What are we seeing?"
And again you may not, you know, neatly fit into one of these categories. But I think just the first step of awareness in this case, is just being able to kind of plot yourself. And, maybe a good exercise is to take your team through this and say, "Hey. Where do you guys see?" Don't assume that you see everything correctly. So take this and say, "Hey. Let's have a conversation with our deacons. Let's have a conversation with our elders. Let's have a conversation with the key stakeholders in our community." And begin to ask, "Where are we? Where would you say we are?" And, maybe that will stir up some awareness conversations.
So, for us, what that's looked like so [inaudible 00:18:51] is ... We are, as I mentioned earlier, kind of coming out of a season of childhood to have planted it six years ago. Parachuted in and didn't know anybody. Started the church from scratch. Had a very slow kind of like first couple of years which is just ... mega-church world. And then about year three we kind of rocketed, just for no particular reason. Had a season of rapid growth. Went quickly from courtship and infancy into just the throes of childhood. We were empowering. We were starting new ministries. We launched a million undisciplined, unsustainable initiatives. We at one point were ... an eclectic counseling center. We were doing faith and were ... We were going to do everything, right? We were going to be a, you know, whatever like ... mini-Redeemer in two years. Not recognizing that it took Keller like, you know, 25 or 30 years to do that.
So, we were doing all that. We were in that kind of go-go phase, and in the process, planted five churches. Which sounds really awesome. But it's kind of like if you're a Mom, like, having five kids in five years. My wife had four in five years. We adopted one. Not a very smart thing to do.
And so, we come to this season now of really adolescence. Tired, trying to figure out what it looks like for us to grow up and to lead less off of like shooting from the hip and more established, you know, kind of policy-driven. Still visionary but much more settled season of life. And so we have been asking a lot of these questions [inaudible 00:20:30].
We've planted five churches. Three of those are within kind of our umbrella under our 501-C-3. So we are a multi-church or multi-site or whatever you want to call it. And then, two of those are autonomous, but we kind of roll together as a family so we meet together every month and we strategize on church planting and hang and spend a lot of time together. They're [inaudible 00:20:51] network as well so all five of us are [inaudible 00:20:53] network churches.
And so about nine months ago our elders came to me and said, "Hey. We've got to start thinking ahead. We've got to start looking towards prime and asking hard questions because we're about to enter into a season of pain." We were also looking around. Several of my friends were in some hard times, some turbulence with multi-site. You know, going to mention the complexities of an interdependent plurality and then an interdependent movement of churches. It just exponential complexity and speed and difficulty and pain. And so, multi-site is like multi-pain.
Not to say you shouldn't do it, but just, you know, circumspect. We're going to talk about it on our panel here in a little bit. It was rough. So we were empowering, again essentially, empowering these young congregations full of young people with lots of enthusiasm. Lot's of thrust but very little vector. If you're a pilot.
And so, it's been a challenging season trying to figure out, you know, control, authority, decision-making, finances, you know, power. These are all conversations that we were kind of discussing. My elders said, "Hey. We want you to take three months, or however long you need. Three months, four months, five months. We want you to spend some time just praying, reflecting, researching. Go travel. We'll give you a budget." We want you on ... Step back and really being to like help lead us forward into the future in terms of building on our organizational structure. Give us an organizational strategy that is still rooted in a robust theology but it's going to lead us toward health.
And as much as we can control that ... Obviously there's lots of things we can't control, but we have no idea what we're doing and we want you to help us go there. And so, I'm really thankful they initiated that. It was a frightening thing to think about stepping away from the organization that you planted for three months wondering if it's still going to be there.
So, what I'm sharing with you, I ended up writing about a 50 page paper and am happy to just give it to you guys if you want to see it. There's a bibliographies in there. So essentially, I took about a month to pray. I started in February 1 of this year. Took a month to pray, journal, just kind of ask God, you know, where have we been, where we going.
I think a lot of me ... We've been so ... If you've planted a church you know it is so missionary, missional, outwardly focused. Then my wife and I think we just needed some space, to step back together, and say, "God. What do we want to do? What are you doing in us and what's going to keep us here over the long haul because we've only been thinking about what's best for our community, which is great." But we've got some desires. We've got things that we want to see happen in the future. We have kids. We have four kids who are also stakeholders in this. And we want to have those critical conversations.
And so we began the process. Step one is kind of like diagnosis, discernment. Step two is what I would just call differentiation. Differentiation is a season where you begin to just ask like, you know, questions about desire and what do you want, you know. There's a great passage is Mark chapter 10. So that's what we were kind of doing in February. So, a month of asking and praying and questioning, kind of on a personal level with my family. Then a month of traveling and researching. I did four case studies. New Life Church in Chicago, which is 25 neighborhood churches, parishes around the city of Chicago in working class, multi-ethnic neighborhoods. Summit Church in Naples. Village Church in Dallas, which actually just broke-up their multi-site into autonomous churches. They are in the process of doing that. Then Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, which J.D. will be here tomorrow and talking about partnership.
So, looked at the and then phone calls to a number of other churches around the country so that we got in all about a dozen churches. Researched, studied, asked questions about not only what they were doing but why. What was motivating it? Trying to get kind of a psychographic look at the landscape of church planting.
I've personally been in multi-site for my whole life. For my whole adult life. I've never not been in a multi-site church. I started ... I became a Christian in a multi-site church. I cam one staff at a multi-site church with seven campuses back in the late '90s when I think only John [inaudible 00:04:03] at Second Baptist Church was even doing multi-site, one church many locations. It's kind of the mantra back then.
Moved to south Florida and was part of a network of churches there that's now nine campuses spread around Palm Beach County. About 5,000 people. I was kind of the Executive Pastor, essentially there. And then, what we're doing here. So I seen a lot, but I think I had never really had the space to process what did I want. I kind of just assumed that's like normal reality. And realizing how weird that is, you know. But that's kind of the world I was coming out of.
So [inaudible 00:25:43] I think Jesus kind of comes to the disciples here in Mark 10 and he says to James and John, which, you know, they're two of his inner circle, "What do you want me to do for you?" That's an interesting passage. It's an interesting question, that Jesus would come and ask. "What do you want me to do for you?"
He's given us a theology of desire. And, he begins to kind of just invite them to name, and to own their desires. To be honest about what it is they want. Well we know that their Mom actually steps in and answers the question for them. Salome, who is probably Jesus' aunt. And she says, "Grant it that my sons would sit at your right hand and your left when you come into your Kingdom. You know, for your glory, Jesus."
You know, over-spiritualizing. Invoking the name of Jesus. Over-spiritualizing. So what does the Mom ask for? What do they ask for? Status. They want status. Clearly, the wrong answer. Right? But, it's interesting that in the passage Jesus doesn't rebuke their desire. He redeems their desire. He says, "You've seen it done among the gentiles this way. It's not to be so among you, as one whose come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom. This is how it is to be among my disciples."
So, he takes this desire, which in itself is actually a good desire. Just a few chapters earlier Jesus said, "Ask anything in my name and I'll give it to you." He said, "When I come in my glory, you're going to be given 12 thrones of power. Twelve tribes of Israel. So like Jesus is talking about getting them all geeked up about power and authority and ruling and reining alongside of him. Then they ask the question ... Then he asks them the question, "What do you want?"
So I think that should be part of the question we're asking ourselves. What do we want? What do we want? What are we ambitious for? What is God inviting ... What is ... What has God wired us? What do we want to happen in our city for the glory of God and the Kingdom of Jesus?
And for me it was a season that was nice to be able to kind of ... The elders essentially created space for me to slow down, to kind of back out of doing work in the church and to begin to work on the church a little bit. To create some space for honesty about things I was feeling, things I was processing, things that I was hating. Like, the weird thing about church planting is that you can actually create a church that everybody hates, including you.
And so being honest about those things that, kind of for me, like weren't really working or weren't sustainable for us. Just to be honest about my limitations. And say, "God, you know all my life I've wanted to be this. And I've had in my mind this mental map for what ministry should look like, and I've kind of borrowed this template from some of my mentors." That's unhealthy. I've idolized that. That's really not good. I need to set some limitations. I need to think about who God has made me and who he has not made me. And just be honest about those things.
I shared those things with my elders and my leaders. To say, "Hey. I'm not this kind of person." You know, gifts, limitations, shadows, desires. That's all part of the space that we're creating. So differentiation. Kind of declaring yourself. Your desires, your values, your culture. Collaboration, it's something we do together. So, in this space of differentiation, desire, collaboration. How do we get there together? This is not just a selfish pursuit. Not a narcissistic pursuit for me, where I then come back to the team and say, "Well, here's what we're doing." I'm Moses coming off the mountain and delivering the tablets and saying, "You know, here's what we're doing."
I'm bringing these things back as fruits of reflection and prayer for me. And then saying to the guys, "Here's what I'm seeing. What are you guys seeing? Speak into this. Let's talk together. It's not just about my desires. What are your desires."
One of the most interesting conversations that I had in the research leave was with Kevin Peck from Austin Stone. Kevin said to me, "So Brennan, we don't have a model at the Austin Stone. We have a thing. This thing works for us. We believe it's rooted in a theological vision but it's something that works for us. And so we have a thing that like everybody around the table..."
They have 15 guys in their executive team, which is like twice as big as you're supposed to have in an executive team. They've defied like [inaudible 00:04:03] rules about how you build an executive team. Keep it small. You know small ... big conversations. They have 15 guys in there that are like the co-founders of the Austin Stone.
And they've all been together for a really long time. They've been there since the beginning. Since Austin Stone was started. Very diverse backgrounds. I mean Kevin Peck was like in acquisitions and mergers in the business world. Matt Carter, who started the church, got brain cancer early on and had to hand the church over to Kevin Peck because he almost died and then miraculously God healed him.
So a real interesting story, but he said, "We had to come to a place where we just thought that the church structure that we were going to embrace needed to be something that everybody hated a little bit and everybody loved a little bit. And so everybody's kind of compromising and giving up things that they would love to see happen for the sake of us staying together as a team. And what we've got now works."
That's the idea of collaboration. That all of us need to create space and room for each other to declare who we are, who we're not. The limitations God's placed on us. The things that lead to flourishing and don't lead to flourishing.
I told you guys earlier that one of our pastors, his son was recently diagnosed autism. That changes how we think about our community the way that we need to love him and serve him, and the pace and the scope and the scale of the different things we are doing as a team. And so, that's all part of that process.
So communication obviously is involved with collaboration. So desire, collaboration, communication. Communicating amongst the team. So I got back from that two months of research, six weeks of research. We had conversations with out elder team multiple times a week. We then rolled out, a cascading roll-out to the church, and we began to have conversations with our deacon teams, their key leaders. Eventually brought it to the entire church and said, "Hey. Here's what we're doing, here's where we think God is taking us." We had them affirm it, and then this fall we've actually just been spending time preaching through it. And, it's been a really beautiful, sweet season.
And so the three kind of big ... I guess is what I am getting at here. Or four. And then I'll just share some of the specifics that we came away with. Diagnosis, leading an organization through transition. Diagnosis. Where are we? Where are the pain points? Where are we suffering? Where are we desiring to go? Differentiation.
And another thing on the different ... It's really important for us to pay attention to differentiation. It's easy in an organization to lose yourself. The me can get swallowed up in the we. And particularly what I found in this SURJA network, and I think in young Reformed churches in general, is we love community. We love the idea of community and many of us grew up in broken families. And so the community that comes essentially for many of us is a projection of our longings for, like, a true family.
And so what happens in that process is we get lost in the herd. Irvin Freedman, who is a Jewish psychologist wrote a great book called "The Failure of Nerve." He wrote another one called "Generation to Generation." And he talks about this herding instinct. That human beings tend to, by nature, going back to hunter-gatherer phase, have always kind of clustered together in herds. And what happens when you begin to herd together is you have the we, but there's no me.
Think about like cellular biology. Every healthy organism has a nucleus that's surrounded by a permeable but yet differentiated core. And he said, "In order for you to be a healthy organization essentially, you have to learn to differentiate the me from the we."
And so in some organization cultures there's lots of me. Too much me and not enough we. I think our network, if we err anywhere, its probably too much we at the expense of me. And so we can get lost in the herd. And there's all kinds of anxiety in the organization. I mean just think of this as just anxiety. And when there's too many like gaps here, and we've not been honest and we're not differentiated, the anxiety begins to get in our own souls and wipe us out.
And so differentiation, Freeman says, is actually one of the key leadership competencies. Being able to declare yourself. Freedman is another name that you should probably know if you're looking to read some stuff.
Roberta Gilbert has also picked up and run with a lot of ... This is all rooted in what's called family systems theory. Murray Bowen, back in the 20th century wrote quite a bit and then Gilbert and Freedman and others picked it up and applied it to organizational structures and leadership.
So diagnosis, differentiation, and then design. Yeah. So three. Sorry.
Once you've had the conversations, you gotta just go. You gotta begin to build. And so I think the key with design ... A good designer builds their way forward. They ask questions. They build their way forward. They don't think their way forward. So again, just you're not going to get this right if you're a person that has a high need to get things right and have it orderly and good and perfect. You're going to be paralyzed in organizational leadership.
Good designers know that you do what's called prototyping. Rapid prototyping, right? Good enough on time. You create a prototype, you test assumptions, you put it out there. You put the product out there. This is like Apple right? They put out a phone. It's got all kinds of bugs ... 1.0, 1.1, 1.11, 1.111. And you being to test it. And you work the bugs out in real time as people are using and interacting with it.
And so design is just kind of this idea that once we've diagnosed and differentiated, we've got to put together a prototype and just get it out there and begin to live in it for a little while. Because you're not going to know what assumptions and biases are, and what the blind spots are, until you actually get the product out there.
So for us, practically what this has meant is a complete restructuring of our organization that is very comprehensive and thorough-going. It's rooted in a realistic understanding of where we are, they differentiation of our team both together and as individuals, asking hard questions, having hard conversations, loving each other while listening to each other, documenting each other's hopes, dreams, desires and have a whole document of just like ... stuff for our whole team.
Just beautiful conversations. Opportunities to pray over each other. Love each other. Even inviting our wives into this process to say, "Hey. This isn't just about the dudes. What do the ladies want to see? What do our kids want to see as we think about the future of the church." The church is not just for our people it's also ... We're also members of our churches. They should be places where we find life as well as give life to others.
So, I'll just share some of this with you guys and maybe it'll be helpful. Maybe it won't. So this touched on a number of different areas for us. We developed what Tim Belt calls ... Out of the season of differentiation, we developed a strategic framework. I'll just quickly for us, that looks like our vision statement, our mission as a church which we've had from the beginning but we brought a lot more clarity and definition to it.
Again, sometimes as pastors we use really robust, flowery language that nobody else understands and is not really accessible in the real world. So for us we've always had this statement that we exist to see the gospel change everything. But when we begin to say, "How do we assess that? How do we know for seeing the gospel change everything?"
We didn't really have any ideas. So we came up with the "Five Outcomes." When we are on mission, out of these conversations with some outside help, we expect measurable growth in the following areas. We want to see the gospel transform disciples. And for us, disciples are everyday people who are doing life ... Hang on. Let me reset this here. How did we say this? It's not in my notes. Everyday people essentially walking with Jesus. Becoming like Jesus. Doing what Jesus did. Some iteration of that. We've got definitions and things. But that's that first piece. Transform disciples.
Transform leaders. Self-aware servants influencing their church's community and world. Using their power, sharing their power for the good of others. Transform communities. Healthy life-giving reconciled family. That's transformed community for us. Transform churches. Maturing and multiplying local churches and leaders. And then flourishing, which I defined earlier as to just chew away. We want to see Acts 8, much joy in our city because of what the Holy Spirit's doing in and through us.
So those become our outcomes. Then we build our metrics around those instead of tenants, buildings, cash. Kind of your traditional measures.
Shared culture. We expect to see cultures ... This idea of beliefs made visible. What does it look like for our beliefs, our doctrine, to go public? To IPO our beliefs, so to speak. So for us, we expect to see our beliefs made visible in every area of our community. Every environment of our community. For us that means humility, family, authenticity. And not authenticity as emotional disclosure or transparency but authenticity as substance, as reality is both our brokenness and the beauty of God's redemption in us. Strength and weakness would be how we define authenticity. Empowerment. We want to use the power that we have and the authority that God's given us for the flourishing of others.
Everything we do as leaders exists to help others flourish. And then renewal. We are going to leave our neighborhood better than we found it.
And then that led to a vision for the next five years because we felt like, "Hey. We're only five years old." We probably don't know anything more than the next five years, if we know anything. So let's not do a bee hag 30 year ... I mean we could all be dead in 30 years in a nuclear war, you know, in ten years. So let's take five years and dream a little about five years.
So for us, that led us to this statement. We want to catalyze a movement of a thousand live-giving disciples who scheme together. So this idea of kind of Kingdom scheming with a specific burden to bring God's renewing presence to their neighborhoods, networks, and the nations. And then we begin to build some metrics around that.
And then we identified our key strategies. Our key strategies are Sunday gatherings, missional communities, and discipleship groups, a family of neighborhood churches, and equipping ministries. And those become the kind of key organizing ministry strategies that get us towards our outcomes and the culture we want to see God bring.
We also then identified desires in our teams. Again, we ... A number of things. We kind of uncovered in our research but just created some space for that for guys to be honest and talk about that. One of the interesting things again in research was seeing how many church leadership structures were formed just by the unique imprint and story that God's brought that church through. So if you look at the Village Church and you think about the way they're structured, so much of that's rooted in Chandler story. The cancer. His preaching gifts. And be honest about that. We tend to think, you know, like, what's Mark Dever going to think about this church structure? Whatever your hero gonna think about this church structure? But the reality is so many church structures of healthy churches that you would want to attend with your family are just rooted in healthy self-awareness, the story, the personality, the gifts, the desires, the limitations, the honesty of the founders of the churches asking good questions. What's going to energize us? What's going to sustain us? What's going to work for us?
So obviously leaning into desire too much can lead to unhealthy self-obsessions and preoccupation. But ignoring desire can also minimize our humanity in a way that undermines long-term flourishing.
We also overhauled our polity. So we embrace what Brett House calls it, Redemptive Polity, which is kind of trying to strike a third way between ... Typically, the way we think about polity, or the way we create polity, is what I would say is either identic polity, which is this pollyannish view, like again we're all Christians, we're all good, we'll figure this out. We assume the best about others not recognizing that total depravity is a reality in the church as well as outside the church.
And then, the other kind of polity that I've seen in reaction to identic polity, when things go bad, is what I call police state polity. We lock down everybody. We call in the ... We declare a state of emergency. And it's like there's so much bureaucracy and so much intrusive and invasive accountability that probably goes way well beyond what the Bible even calls for in terms of accountability in the church. It handcuffs leaders from using their God-given powers and life-giving ways to create and multiply flourishing for other people.
We created some design principles for how we're going to operate. We kind of set limitations and governors that are going to guide us in the future. So, things like the goal of multi-site for us is not multi-site. When multi-site becomes an end instead of a means to an end, instead of a strategy and it becomes the vision, things go bad. Just like when you make any good thing the ultimate thing. Things go really badly.
When multi-site, when control ... Let's just call it what it is, when control becomes the end game, then we begin to move into spaces Andy Crouch calls exploitation. I don't know if you've guys have seen his book. And excellent book. The Strong and the Weak. He talked about flourishing leadership. This is authority. This is vulnerability. Where you have high authority and low vulnerability, you have control or exploitation. Or you have low authority, low vulnerability you have withdrawal or apathy. He actually says this is the worst quadrant to be in. Makes you think about how many young people are in this quadrant with their leadership, power, and authority. And then you have suffering over here. High vulnerability, low authority.
And so we want to be in this space, or at least moving up as much as we can towards that quadrant. To say anything we do as a church, the goal of our multi-congregational model which we're booting off ... and we'll talk about this in the panel shortly, the cooperative model, probably moving more towards a network model in the future. So we have lean structure. We pool our resources together to do a very few small things together that we can do better together. But we give lots of decision-making power and authority to the local congregational elders.
But we do that because we want to see healthy multiplying leaders and local churches. This is the mandate and the measure of an effective central team. So central team only exists to see the flourishing of local congregations and pastors. Anything beyond that we feel like is a ... or at least for us would be a temptation to grasp after power and control.
So my congregation should look like Soma in their context under their leadership in the stage of life that they're in. Kind of acknowledging those realities of cycles and seasons of life. Mission, prayer, and relationships must trump systems and structures. Doesn't mean that they're not important. It just means that's the lead foot for us.
Lean central structures enable long-term agility and sustainability. Healthy decentralization requires good systems of organizational control. And then we defined our multi-congregational boundaries as our culture, our doctrine, our practices, our relationships, and our standards.
So, those are just things that we kind of came out of that season of differentiation with. So that changed out polity. We're in the process of re-writing by-laws and kind of looking at a number of different things like ... We have a whole list of things. We're beginning to see, "Wow. If we want to do church like this over the long-run, we better be policy led" [inaudible 00:46:23] in leading leaders. There's kind of different approaches to how you think about an elder team. For us, we're moving more towards a policy-driven elder team that sets broad policy for the church as a whole, but doesn't micromanage the churches.
Man, we seriously lack policy. So in this adolescence phase, we have got to make sure that ... We have no policy for like succession planning. We have no policies for conflict management, so we're forming a leadership advocacy team to help buffer and monitor and promote the flourishing of relationships between the dual roles of staff when you have a lead pastor, overseeing elders who also sit then overseeing him. You have all these weird dynamics that are happening and that. So we're creating leadership advocacy teams to help be like shock absorbers in those kind of potentially awkward spaces.
Yeah. So kind of a re-write of our polity, our by-laws, new organizational structure. And then what was cool then at the end, I was sharing that earlier, you've got the theological vision, the organizational vision. And then what we came up with at the end was actually kind of a last second ah-ha moment. We said, "Hey. Let's take all this stuff that we're doing and let's figure out how do we then take this to the church. And we created what we called a congregational alignment plan. To then say "Okay. How do we build capacity and get our congregation on board with this vision? How do we help them visualize their role in this structure?
Because this isn't just about bringing clarity for our organization. This is about fulfilling the vision that God's given us as a church. And so we came up with a three-year congregational alignment plan to help our church begin to step towards these organizational strategies.
And what was cool, I was preaching this downtown. I was preaching this alignment plan. I was kind of unpacking it for our downtown church. And a girl who attends our downtown congregation works for a grant writing organization in ND. And she said, "What you guys are doing we can fund that." So we got a $15,000 on a matching grant from our city to begin to implement all of this stuff that we walked through as a result of this.
So again, vision always leads to the multiplication of resources. And it was just cool to see now what we were already going to do anyways, now we have some resources to be able to come alongside and do that.
I'm happy to unpack any more of that in detail. It's a lot in 45 minutes. But, yeah. What questions do you guys have, or thoughts, or pushback? I mean, again, like there's lots of books you can read on organizational change, congregational change, and every situation's going to be unique. There's an old book called "Leading Congregational Change" which has been probably one of my favorites. Cotter, in the business world, has written quite a bit about leading change.
None of these principles are new. What I think has been awesome for us is the leadership dynamics and how that was led by our elder team for our elder team, and how that's come spilling the banks into our congregation in really healthy, life-giving ways. We have much more ownership of the vision that God has called us toward in the organizational strategy. And a much clearer picture for how we're going to pursue organizational health in the future.