One of my colleagues frequently uses the helpful phrase, “begin with the end in mind.” These words usually cause a pause in the conversation as everyone refocuses on the desired outcome. Once we are clear about the “why” we can traces backward to see if our plan is really designed to accomplish this goal.
While these are important words in so many aspects of life, today I am thinking about that phrase in relationship to church leadership.
I dare say, every facet of our church’s ministry started by answering the underlying question, “what is the desired outcome?” Once we had that answer, we started designing ministry components and activities intended to achieve the goal. We began with the “end in mind.”
In the church’s mission statement we find a clear expression of the “end in mind.” The church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The “end in mind” for which the church works is a transformed world, a world that reflects God’s original intention. Bishop King refers to this outcome as “a Christlike world,” based on the familiar phrase in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus teaches us to pray, “… thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The church makes disciples so that the world can be transformed. Every facet of the church’s ministry is part of our effort to partner with what God is doing in our midst to make disciples so that the world will become more Christlike, more like heaven on earth.
I see many leaders and servants who clearly understand the desired outcome as I look around at local churches within our Annual Conference. Here are just a couple of examples to make the point.
Consider those who embrace invitational ministries. These persons are passionate about offering a winsome invitation to the never churched, formerly churched, and their unreached neighbors as a critical first step in making disciples for a more Christlike world. These folks invite others so that more people can enter a process wherein they become disciples who grow a more Christlike world.
Consider those who sing in the choir or on the praise team. The focus is not on selecting music for Sunday worship based on their personal musical preferences. Instead, the focus is on selecting music that will elevate the hearts of those who will be attending so that the worshipers will grow as disciples, and therein partner with God in growing a Christlike world.
Consider those who volunteer in a local or foreign mission project. These tangible acts of love, justice, and healing are all expressions of a more Christlike world. Yet, these mission volunteers are also seeking to reflect Jesus in a way so that everyone involved will develop into a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and grow a more Christlike world.
My list could include the full range of ministry that flows out our churches. Every aspect of the church’s life originates with the goal of making disciples whom God uses to transform the world.
Embracing this goal boosts each ministry act to something well beyond the perfunctory or routine task. In fact, any activity that cannot be connected to the goal of making disciples so that the world grows more Christlike is an activity unworthy of the precious human and spiritual resources of the church.
Today, I invite you to pause and consider why you invest your time and energy in each of the areas of ministry with which you and your church are involved. Does this act of ministry make disciples? Do people grow closer to God? Does it make disciples who impact the world?
While there are certainly some activities that should cease, in many cases small adjustments can transform the mundane and routine activities into life-changing experiences for all participants and become acts of partnership with God who is always at work growing a more Christlike world.
Dr. Brad Brady is the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries.