Whatever It Takes (Jul 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

Whatever It Takes

by Kregg Hood
July, 1992

“Whatever It Takes!” was the 1982 theme for the North Phoenix Baptist Church, one of America’s fastest-growing churches. During the previous decade their attendance exploded from 1,800 to more than 6,000. This growth came without compromise, too. They remained committed to their conservative biblical roots. But they emphasized commitment and creative methods to focus on accomplishing God’s two most challenging goals: evangelism and discipleship.

We in Churches of Christ also have the opportunity to position ourselves for great effectiveness in God’s work. But we’re going to have to be willing to do “whatever it takes.” We can develop creativity but we have to believe there’s always a “better way.” Our methods always need refining. And sometimes they need a complete overhaul! But if we’re willing to work hard, think smart, and stay locked onto God-given missions, he will bless our efforts. Here are seven steps to get you started:

1. Focus on Your Purpose. What does God want your congregation to get done? Every church knows the Great Commission: it should evangelize lost people and bring the saved people to maturity in Christ. Is that what you are really trying to do? In reality, most churches have three other “hidden” priorities shaping the true direction of the church: to keep attendance from dropping, to break even financially, and to keep the members from griping. If people are saved or nurtured that’s just “icing on the cake.”

God forbid! Everything we think, say, and do should help accomplish God’s purpose: helping people become like Jesus. Paul said, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28,29).

For example, aggressive evangelistic efforts, first-rate Bible classes, sensitive benevolence ministries, and dynamic, God-honoring worshp help lead people to maturity in Christ. If you forget the purpose you’ll start to coast. Before long you’ll be working to maintain programs instead of producing momentum.

Be Intentional. Always know why you’re doing something. Be deliberate. If you don’t have a good reason for an activity you shouldn’t be doing it.

For example, do you know why you have a Sunday evening worship service? Most churches have one because they’ve always had one. But what specific purpose are you actually accomplishing with that service?

I’m not knocking Sunday night services; I’m knocking Sunday night services which aren’t maximizing their effectiveness.

3. Identify Your “Sacred Cows.” Recently I talked with John Maxwell, an extremely effective preacher for a llarge, fast-growing church in San Diego. I asked him about improving outreach efforts. He replied with a question: “Is your congregation willing to sacrifice its ‘sacred cows’ to help more people come to Christ?” He continued, “Let’s say you tell the people not to worry; you’re not planning to make a certain change, but, how would they feel if a certain ‘sacred cow’ were changed and it helped reach more people … would they be willing to go along?” Our most cherished programs, schedules, and approaches are probably not unscriptural, but if they hinder effectiveness they are “sacred cows.” Don’t protect them. Identify them and start to ease them gently over to the side.

4. Develop a Workable Idea. The previous three steps prepare you for step four. Need some good ideas? Bring together a group of your leaders and best idea people. Get them to imagine they had just moved to the area and were starting a new congregation. Ask them how they would handle one of the specific situations your “new” congregation should address. Find out what other effective churches have done. Make phone calls. Read a couple of books on the issue. See if one or more in the group could go to a seminar on the topic. Then meet aain, pool your ideas, and write a proposal outlining the following information: the need for this idea, the limitations of present approaches, possible ideas you considered, and the best idea you found. Then share this proposal with the elders and/or key leaders in your congregation.

5. Start Small. Most opposition to change is based on a fear of the unknown. Sometimes that fear is unfounded but it may also be legitimate. For example, smart businesses always test-market a new product before going into full-scale production. Pilot projects let you work out many of the logistical snags before launching a full-blown version to the congregation.

6. Offer the New Idea as an Option. Marketing research is clear: people want to “try before they buy.” Again, the fear of change probably torpedoes most new ideas. But we can minimize this fear by keeping an existing approach in place while developing the new idea alongside the old one. This approach frees those who are ready to run with the new idea. It also buys you time to persuade the concerned folks gradually. Even if the concerned ones don’t get involved with the new idea, you may get them to allow it. If you try to make the new idea replace the old one, you have a big battle to fight.

Several months ago, I had a conversation with Bob Buford, a very successful businessman who is also an astute observer of organizational changes. He said that when Interstate 20 was built, the engineers didn’t tear up old Highway 80. At first, some people were afraid of the new interstate. it was an unknown, high-speed, potential death trap. Some folks just kept on driving on Highway 80, passing through every little town on the way, hitting the red lights and speed zones, and getting to their destinations a lot later than if they had driven on the interstate. But eventually they tried the interstate and liked it. The new highway won without a battle!

7. Implement, evaluate, and improve. Put your new idea into practice, but stay tuned to whether or not it’s working. If your idea is not an improvement, it’s just as bad as the inadequate old idea – maybe worse! You need a regular review of all important activities. During this review, keep asking some very key questions: “What are we trying to do?” (Write it down.) “What’s working?” (Keep doing that.) “What’s not working?” (Drop or improve it.) “What do we need to add?” (Make a new proposal.)

Bill Hybels believes that one of the secrets of success for the Willow Creek Community Church is, “We are incurable ‘tweakers.’ ” They are always tring to do God’s work better.

Follow these seven steps and they will help you make “Whatever It Takes” your mindset. Here’s how Richard Jackson felt about his church’s theme:

What a joy it is to be a part of a “Whatever It Takes” kind of people. It is easy to love folks who love the Lord and his church as you do. Being a part of North Phoenix is not convenient. It never has been. We constantly change. We challenge. We grow. As we do these things, the demands for commitment increase. Workers are needed. New schedules are necessary. Our giving must increase. To all of these challenges the faith family of North Phoenix says, “Whatever It Takes,” we will do.

What a great attitude! We have not arrived at either perfection or completion. Let’s pay the price to be and do what pleases God – whatever it takes!Wineskins Magazine

Kregg Hood

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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