Faithful, Effective, and Innovative Congregations: For many years, I have described what I am now calling FaithSoaring Churches as faithful, effective, and innovative congregations. They are faithful to the core Gospel and the ethos of their denomination, affinity movement, or missional journey. They are effective in spiritual formation and missional engagement, and pursue excellence at every opportunity. They are innovative and ever changing in methodologies; always seeking new and relevant ways to tell the never changing true story of Jesus.
FaithSoaring Churches are the leading edge congregations in denominations or movements. According to a principle I learned from management guru and churchperson Peter Drucker, they are less than 20 percent of congregations. They must make progress for the other 80 or more percent of congregations, as a group, to make progress. Without the forward movement of FaithSoaring Churches there is no overall progress in the full collection of congregations.
Perfecting Congregations: I have also referred to FaithSoaring Churches in a typology of congregations as Perfecting congregations. (The other categories are Pursuing, Preparing, Providing, and Presiding and are discussed in my book Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2006.) Perfecting congregations are those already on a spiritual and strategic journey to achieve their full kingdom potential. They know who they are, what they value and believe, where they are headed, and how they are getting there. They are simply continually perfecting that journey.
Pursuing congregations are seeking to become FaithSoaring Churches, and have the capacity and opportunity to do so. Preparing congregations are seeking to develop the capacity to become Pursuing congregations because they do not yet have what it takes to become FaithSoaring Churches. Providing congregations are effective in a limited number of areas of ministry and are generally satisfied with their current situation. For them good enough is good enough. Presiding congregations are carrying out the basic programs and ministries of a congregation, and are unmotivated to do more.
Successful, Significant, and Surrender Congregations: Three words which describe FaithSoaring Churches are success, significance, and surrender. They are successful in their kingdom endeavors, but organizational success is not sufficient for them. It is people they want to impact more than numbers they want to acquire. They also address significant spiritual and strategic issues in a manner that brings forth deep transition and change that can lead to continual transformation. They fully surrender to God’s leadership as the only leadership that will allow them to soar with faith. As a result, they are pulled forward by God’s eternal leadership rather than pushed forward by their own limited, finite leadership.
Synergistic Congregations: What I am proposing in this book is that FaithSoaring Churches are those with a continually transforming synergy of Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management. I consider these the four organizing principles of congregations. [I will refer to these as “qualities” throughout the book.] These qualities are simple. Achieving synergy is tougher than it looks.
Synergy occurs when multiple qualities work together to achieve a result that is geometrically greater than the result that any one of them could have achieved independently. In the case of FaithSoaring Churches these qualities are Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management. No one of these qualities, as good as they are, can enable a congregation to soar with faith. It takes a synergy of all four for FaithSoaring to be achieved.
These qualities of Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management also correspond in an analogous way to the qualities stated in Mark 12:30 of heart, soul, mind, and strength.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30 NASB)
Vision is about heart and deals with core values, passion, causes, and significance. Relationships are about soul and deals with experiences, thrills, and the love of interaction with people. Programs are about mind and deals with strategies, structures, goals, and accomplishment. Management is about strength and deals with actions, efficiency, focus, and metrics.
A Synergy of Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management
Thus, Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management individually are not enough. As individual qualities—silos—they cannot help a congregation become a FaithSoaring Church. It is only when they work together—become synergistic—that they can help a congregation soar with faith.
Imagine that the journey of your congregation—which I call a Spiritual Strategic Journey or an Experiential Missional Journey—could be characterized as a road trip in a luxury sports utility vehicle. Let’s say a Lexus SUV. (Many other types of SUV models could be chosen. A Lexus SUV implies for me the values and excellence of the journey we are discussing.) Then let’s suppose the four passengers in the vehicle are Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management.
Who’s driving? In FaithSoaring Churches Vision is driving. Who’s navigating? Relationships are navigating. Programs are in the back seat behind Relationships providing the programs, ministries, and activities framework within which Relationships can best function. Management is in the back seat behind Vision providing the administrative infrastructure to free Vision to soar like the wind.
Vision is driving because it fuels the journey. Relationships is navigating because it flavors the journey. Programs and Management are in the back seat playing essential supporting roles. All four must be present in the vehicle for a successful and significant journey that ultimately leads to sacrifice in response to God’s leading.
The synergy the four passengers can produce is essential to becoming a FaithSoaring Church. This means that not only is their presence essential, but where they are seated in the vehicle is non-negotiable for FaithSoaring Churches. It is essential that Vision and Relationships are in the front seat. It is essential that Programs and Management are in the back seat. Further, it is imperative that Management is on the left side behind Vision. It is essential that Programs are on the right side behind Relationships.
The reality is that this ideal configuration that produces synergy is elusive for congregations. It is difficult to achieve. Once achieved it does not usually last more than seven to nine years without intentional action to rebalance Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management. Without rebalancing, they will be out of balance; they will significantly and negatively impact the journey of a congregation.
Dialogue for Your Congregation
- What is the evidence that our congregation is all three of the following things—faithful, effective, and innovative?
- What is the reality of today? Are we Perfecting, Pursuing, Preparing, Providing, or Presiding as a congregation? Do we focus on success, significance, or surrender?
- If our congregation was a Lexus SUV, who would be driving, who would be navigating, and who would be in the back seat playing essential supporting roles?
- If Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management are not in the property seats, what are we willing to do to restore them to their proper place of service.