12 Feb '11
Ministry accelerators and anchors
Ministry accelerators are practices, commitments and culture that allow some ministries (churches, missions and otherwise) to flourish, expand and see results that are far above the norm. Alternatively these very accelerators when not present become the anchors that hold us back, create a drag on forward movement and often keep us from achieving the momentum we long for. As you look at these accelerators, think about the ministry you are a part of and ask if you have an accelerator or an anchor.
One of the most promising and scary verses in the New Testament is found in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” One ministry I work with has a guiding principle of “Intimacy before Impact.” They know that without staying close to the father, without bathing their plans and purposes in prayer, without listening to what He might be saying in return that they will never accomplish much of eternal value.
Many ministries give lip service to dependence on God but there is not much in their rhythm or strategy to back that up. After all, we can do a lot with our money, people, strategies and programs. But, if we want to have the blessing of God, if we want to know where the best strategies lie, if we want to make an eternal difference the accelerator of spiritual dependence is what we desperately need. Without Him we can do nothing of eternal value. With Him we can do amazing things!
There is a connection between spiritual dependence and clear direction because through His word and through the promptings of His Holy Spirit, we are given discernment as to where God is leading our ministries. Getting to clarity of direction (rather than a typical shot gun approach to ministry) takes concerted prayer, thinking and dialogue with other key leaders. Moses was clear about his direction, as was David and Nehemiah and Daniel, Paul and Barnabas. Why? They stayed close to God, were sensitive to His leading and were therefore able to articulate to others the direction they needed to go.
Here is something to think about. Every ministry is unique. Your direction is determined by the skills, personnel, mission and unique niche that God desires you to fill. Never simply copy the direction of another ministry. That is theirs, not yours. You may learn from them but you need to ask what God is calling you to and be able to articulate it with absolute clarity.
In the days of the judges a common observation was that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Nothing dissipates energy and missional effectiveness in ministry like staff all doing their own thing in their own way toward their own good purposes. Ministries that see significant results are those where the board, senior leader, staff and ministry teams are all on the same page and moving in the same direction. It only takes one key staff or board member to sabotage that synergy and cause an anchor that holds you back.
There are many gifted individuals who do not believe that they need to be in alignment with their leaders. They are very happy to require alignment from the team they lead but they are not committed to the same level of alignment upward. In other words, they suffer from not following well. They love to lead but resist following. No matter how gifted, these individuals will become anchors to ministry progress because they subtly and regularly undermine the power of alignment.
Healthy Boards, Personnel and teams
This goes to the issue of health. Unhealthy board members, staff and teams cannot produce healthy ministry results. Indeed, lack of health in any of these areas can be one of the heaviest anchors to pull along. Healthy individuals on the other hand get amazing things done because they are team focused, mission driven, other centered and are not building their kingdom or needing to deal with a lot of their stuff.
In the Christian world, in the name of grace, we often do not deal with unhealthy personnel. First by being honest with them and trying to help them. But if that fails by moving them out of our organization, knowing that their dishealth is hurting those around them and compromising the call of the organization. Healthy people are huge accelerators to ministry while unhealthy members are huge anchors – and it only takes one big anchor to cause a whole lot of frustration and drag.
All of the above are necessary for us to be mission focused – committed to reaching the mission of the organization in real, tangible ways with all hands on deck keeping the ship moving in the right direction. We have a clear mission, we are all aligned around that mission and everything we do is designed to help us achieve that mission.
Jesus says in John 15:5 that “If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit.” The book of Acts, was a book of spiritual fruit. The fact that the church is Christ’s bride and that not even the gates of hell will prevail against it clarifies that Jesus intends for His people to see real, tangible fruit from their ministries. We cannot control the fruit of our work but we can do those things that are likely to result in fruit as God blesses. And we ought to expect it, pray for it, work toward it and measure it.
A culture of empowerment and releasing
A key ministry accelerator is that of empowering good people in ministry and releasing them to do that ministry in line with their gifts and abilities. The more we try to control the less momentum we have. The more we truly release, the greater the momentum. As an example, in ReachGlobal, we could try to control how our churches work with our national partners. Instead we see them not as our partners but God’s partners and we willingly give away relationships between these partners and churches so that they can accomplish far more than we as a mission could. We increase our influence by giving away ministry opportunity whenever possible.
This is true in the local church as well. One of the things to consider is whether we are program centric (which depends on the church to control the program) or ministry centric (which releases the whole body to do ministry in their circles of influence). The first is often the focus because programs are tangible. The second is far more powerful because it is viral and releases the whole body to ripple on folks who will never be touched by a program.
Cooperation rather than competition
If you want to accelerate your spiritual influence, don’t go it alone! One local church may reach its community but ten local churches working toward the spread of the gospel can reach a whole county. The question here is whether we are committed to spreading our brand or His brand. I know that most churches will not choose to cooperate with churches that are not of their brand (if then) but when they do it is one of the most powerful ministry accelerators of all.
In ReachGlobal, an international mission, we decided to move from replicating our brand (EFC churches) to His Brand, (Evangelical churches whatever the name). This opened up partnerships with an amazing number of partners and movements and vastly increased the spiritual influence of ReachGlobal. It was all about cooperating with other like minded believers rather than living in our silo and competing with them.
Each of these accelerators will increase your spiritual influence. Each of them not lived out, will create an anchor and drag. Some of us need to pull up some anchors so that the wind God wants to give our sails can fill them and propel us into a fruitful season of ministry.