In his book, Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof states, “Churches that love their model more than their mission will die.” To support his claim he refers to the invention of the car. He writes, “When the automobile was invented, it quickly took over from the horse and buggy. Buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation actually exploded. Suddenly, average people could travel at a level they never could before. The mission is travel. The model is a buggy, or car or motorcycle or jet.
There is a great lesson in that illustration for us as God’s family. Our mission is to make disciples. At our church, we say it is to help people find faith in Christ and to develop Christ-like people. The model is worship services and life groups and Sunday school and Valentine’s Extravaganza’s and women’s bible studies and on and on. While the mission will not change because it was given to us by Jesus, the models must change, as culture and people change with it, in order for us to continue to be effective at our mission.
Consider the changes in such industries as publishing, music, and even photography, notes Nieuwhof, and you see the same trend. The mission is reading. It’s music. It’s photography. The model and methods shift, moving from things like eight-tracks, cassettes, and CD’s to MP3’s and now streaming audio and video. Can you imagine a church trying to use eight-tracks in its music ministry? While that is an extreme example, any time we are so married to the method that we aren’t willing to change in order to accomplish our mission, we make the same mistake.
Nieuwhof concludes, “Companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak).
The same is true for churches. Sometimes when I talk about this I hear people say things like, “We just need to rely on the Spirit.” I agree totally that we need to rely on the Spirit and I even agree that we need to grow in that area. I delivered an entire message series on that topic not long ago that came from deep conviction that we need to grow in that area. However, we need to recognize that a willingness to change methods in order to accomplish the mission Jesus gave us is an act of relying on the Spirit. It is very “Jesus like” to be willing to sacrifice in order to make disciples! He left heaven and became one of us not only to save us, but provide us with a missional example to follow. To change methods in order to accomplish the mission is to follow the example of Jesus.
This is just one of seven key converstions Nieuwhof initiates in his book. Each of them is designed to help the church think through ministry in a way that will lead to greater and lasting impact. It is one of the best books on leadership in the church that I have read in a long time. If you care about your church and desire it to have a greater impact, I believe you will enjoy it as well.