Auxano's creative team gave me an early Christmas present: a new blog and switch-over from Typepad to Wordpress. Thanks to Cheryl Marting our chief connections officer and James Bethany our creative director.
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Before engaging this post, please know that I want you to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus for the Glory of God. The challenge is simply a matter of how.
Here is the Tribes quote I would like you to consider:
Almost all growth that’s available to you exists when you aren’t like “most people” and when you work hard to appeal to folks who aren’t “most people.”
We often talk about the downside of trying to be "all things to all people" through an organizational approach to ministry that leaves us "nothing to anybody."
Seth Godin introduces another way of looking at the
same tension, by using the phrase "most people." In a nutshell he
shares that tribes have dramatic results when stop trying to reach "most
people" and can focus on their strength, their niche and their unique
Even strategic church leaders can slip into a subtle
desperation of wanting to reach "most people" and miss the
opportunity to leverage their strengths to reach more people.
Again we run into
the dynamic, counter-intuitive principle that focus expands.
Its that simple- do you want to reach "most
people" or more people?
How are the people in the community God has given you
to reach not like "most people?
How are you and your team not like "most
How does your ________________ limit you from
reaching "most people?" Insert in blank: Church building (or
lack of), programs, worship style, denomination, etc.
Look at the ministry of Jesus. Was he always trying
to reach "most people?"
Consider the four Gospels. Why are there four? Was
each one written to "most people?"
How would you summarize the people you are best at
reaching with five words?
Note: Some of these question are not easy and may lead to
very robust conversations. Engage the dialogue and work through to clarity.
Seth Godin writes with a dash
of bravado and his overstatements are both playful and insightful. But on
the topic of communication, he delivers what he calls "the essential
lesson" and it's not exaggerated.
"The essential lesson is that every day it gets
easier to tighten the relationship you have with the people who choose to
If you have even dipped your toes in the world of
social media, you know that this is true. The question is what are you doing
Consider some interesting facts from my last week
regarding twitter alone:
While at Chilis, my 16-year old son showed me people
tweeting close by on Google maps from a new app.
Todd Wilson of Exponential, personally invites
speakers to tweet about the conference 7 months in advance with 70 pre-written
Last night I watched the pre-recorded service video of
Matt Chandler because a friend tweeted it. I saw this the same day his
congregation did as I continue to praying for him.
While at my home church yesterday, I tweeted two of
my favorite quotes from the service.
I talk to dozens of people every week who tweet about the book Church Unique.
Twitter "lists" is a new function that is
making it easier to meet and organize people to follow.
After the Houston co::Lab on Friday, two participants
initiated follow-up direct messages that I was able to reply at a convenient
The list could go on and twitter is only one of many
tools to communicate. Last night, I played team SWAT on Halo (a popular online
XBoX game by Microsoft) with 7 people at a time among the other 6,000
global game participants at that time. We could talk with one another while we
played. I also enjoyed 30 Thanksgiving photos of my nephews and nieces
sent to me via Shutterfly.
The point is that Godin's "essential
lesson" is sitting there with crystal clarity begging leaders to act.
So the big question today is:
What are you doing to tighten your connection with people
who follow you?
In this fourth post on Take Seth Godin to Church I want to focus on Tribal Movement. Consider using the questions in these posts for staff or volunteer meetings in the month of December. Use the Advent season to see Jesus as the coming founder of a redemptive tribe called The Church. The previous two posts dealt with tribal passion and tribal leadership.
In Tribes, Godin references Senator Bill Bradley who unpacks the anatomy of a movement with
narrative that tells a story about who we are and the future we are trying
connection between and among the leader and the tribe
to do- the fewer limits the better
Here are some questions for each essential:
Every church has a creation story. How clear and developed is yours? Can your team cast a shared, compelling vision based on your creation story?
What is your most important priority right now as a church? What are one or two signature stories that help people understand and own that priority?
Note: Creation stories and signature stories are discussed further in Church Unique.
Where are lines of communication being blocked right now? Who is suffering the most from broken lines of communication?
Is our greater barrier right now about tools and supports systems or about our attitudes as leaders? How would our volunteers answer this question?
Are we leaning into social media, or creating excuses and making jokes about why we don't engage it more?
Doing Without Limits
What limits have we created that are unnecessary for connecting and releasing our people?
Where have limits have been imposed or created that where never intended?
Where does our desire for control, lead to limits that really aren't necessary?
This is the third post in the Take Seth Godin to Church series. Today I want to apply Godin's perspective about leading a tribe, to Jesus. As we do, I invite you to allow the life of Jesus shape your own identity as a leader.
You may wonder why Godin's perspective is so valuable here. Although he doesn't sit in the academy of carry credentials of a theologian, he is a language artist who knows people and knows the times.
Here are four ways pastors can model Jesus. Each assertion is connected to a Godin quote and followed by some challenging questions.
"Management is about manipulating resources to get a known
job done. Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in."
2: Repent of 'organizational loves.'
"When you fall in love with the system, you loose the ability
3: Initiate something.
4: Commit before its successful.
"If your organization requires success before commitment, it
will never have either. A big part of leadership is the ability to stick with
the dream for a long time. Long enough that the critics realize that your going
to get there one way or another…so they follow."
I have ordered these quotes intentionally. Reread them again to feel the progression.
Think about Jesus' context as a religious factory. Think about how Jesus daily ordered his steps around his Father's voice and mission. Seth's definition of management can easily speak to the problems of church in America.
How are we, spiritually speaking, tempted to manipulate resources to get a known job done rather than creating change that we believe in?
Jesus created waves for people who didn't just create systems as tools but sustained systems in order to nourish their identity. What sytems do you have as a leader and what is your relationship to them? Do they serve you or do you serve them? How conscious are you of your system?
What aspects of your system, tempt you to "fall in love" with them? What personal growth as a leader is your current system holding back? What keeps you just "going through life" at the risk of "growing through life?"
There is always status quo. What is it right now for you? I love the phrase "initiative = happiness." It is certainly not a statement of truth, but an overstatement for insight's sake. Before a leaders is defined by anything, he or she is defined by initiative. Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. Now think of how that joy and the culminating event of the cross was preceded by literally thousands of moments of initiative that were bold, gutsy, and downright heretical. Start with mind-blowing act incarnation. Go to the norm-shredding engagement with the Samaritan woman. Take a boat ride for a near death experience and an indelible lesson in faith. I think pastors need a wake-up call to follow Jesus footsteps as radical initiators.
What initiative do you need to take in your leadership these days? What happiness are you forfeiting as long as you shrink back from taking it?
The final Godin quote above rocks me to the core when I think of the church. We miss dreaming large, risking big and unleashing our imaginations because we want success before commitment. Maybe the best next step to fixing this dynamic in our organizations is to name it and identify it in our own lives.
What does the church you are leading express commitment toward? Albeit subtle, how does the problem of wanting success before commitment manifest itself in your life? What dream do you want to pursue that you have failed to give yourself permission to pursue because it is too bold for your current context?
Let's follow Jesus with greater clarity, conviction and courage. Let's keep moving away from church as program factory toward church as redemptive tribe.
Here are my three favorite Seth Godin quotes pertaining to tribal passion:
"Do you believe in what you do?Every day?It
turns out that belief happens to be a brilliant strategy. Can you imagine Steve
Jobs showing up for the paycheck? It’s nice to get paid, its essential to
"Caring is the key emotion at the center of the tribe… Many
organizations are unable to answer the question, “Who cares?" because in fact,
no one really does.If you don’t
care - really and deeply care - then you can’t possibly lead."
"The organizations of the future are filled with smart, fast,
flexible people on mission. The thing is, that requires leadership."
Because every leader in your church can be placed on a continuum of
emotional ownership, consider these questions for team discussion:
Who are most passionate in our ministry? How
did they get that way? How do we help more people catch the passion?
What is keeping me from caring more?When did I care about my mission
the most? Why then?
How can we make creating enthusiasm a part of our
leadership development strategy?
What can I do today to encourage a leader down the continuum from common interest to passionate mission? How can I use Thanksgiving week to leverage this encouragement?
Am I as a leader spending adequate time with other leaders so that passion can rub off?
You've probably been exposed to Seth Godin's book, Tribes. But have you integrated his ideas into your thinking and leadership at church?
Integrating new learning for me always happens in stages. For example:
Exposure to and awareness of new ideas
Understanding (distillation and re-articulation) of the idea's essence as it pertains to my leadership today
Experimentation and practice of the new idea
Continued refinement of my understanding of the idea over time
Re-articulation and communication of the idea with others
I share these thoughts regarding Seth Godin's book because it is easy to get stuck in the emotional satisfaction of having been exposed to the idea without applying it. For example, when I met Seth hanging out backstage at Catalyst in 2008, I could proudly talk about the ideas in his book, but I had not read it. It took me another six months before I did.
The bottom line: I think Tribes is a book worth engaging as church leaders. And I would love to help you get past a surface exposure. In fact you may want to grab a free audio copy or a free copy of his companion tool.
To help you I have prepared some future posts with my favorite quotes from the book and questions for team discussion.
My dominant thought in this series is "How are you managing a program factory (whether overtly or sub-consciously) in the name of church, rather than leading a redemptive tribe in the name of Jesus?"
As promised last month,the November issue of Auxano Insights focuses on Developing Leaders - one of the five categories of the Integration Model as unpacked in Church Unique. What good is clear vision without a cascading movement of leaders who carry it?
There is an ever present crisis in the church. The crisis is not the absence of leaders, but the absence of a leadership development process. While God is in the business of providing things like leaders, we often get stuck in patterns of under-utilization that begin with failing to see the emerging leaders around us. (Check out Exodus 18 for the crown jewel biblical example of this mistake.) This idea is so big, that Aubrey Malphurs invited me to co-author Building Leaders with him to provide practical steps in designing your own leadership pipeline. Another leader who sounds the trumpet is Mac Lake at Seacoast, a passionate advocate and great source for leadership development stuff.
In this month's Insights, we introduce a great picture of what leadership development can look like in your church. What if every leader in your church kept a campfire burning where his or her people sat? And what if those people were then sent to start their own campfires? When you look out over the landscape of your church, how many campfires do you see? Imagine a hillside of growing fires representing the mini-tribes that are a part of your larger tribe. Do you see multiplying campfires? Are they burning bright? Read this month's Insights to learn more about how to develop leaders in your ministry - and the difference it can make. If you are not subscribed yet, you can do so here.