What are the key characteristics of FaithSoaring Churches? Probably there is no perfect set of characteristics. Yet certain key characteristics emerge from my observation of multiple FaithSoaring Churches. No two congregations will have the exact same set of characteristics or formula. Each congregation is unique. Will FaithSoaring Churches have all the characteristics presented here? Not necessarily.
Here is one set of top ten characteristics of FaithSoaring Churches. Certainly other sets and types of characteristics could be put forth. Consider how many of these are characteristic of your congregation as you review them.
- FaithSoaring Churches walk by faith rather than by sight in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Isaiah 40:31. Second Corinthians 5:7 admonishes us to walk by faith rather than by sight. Isaiah 40:31 challenges us to mount up with wings as eagles and soar. Thus, FaithSoaring. One aspect of walking by faith is viewing the congregation in terms of its long-term potential rather than its short-term urgencies. Another is always imagining what is around the corner, over the next hill, or beyond the horizon.
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight [2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB]
31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary [Isaiah 40:31 NASB].
- Overall they focus more on Visionary Leadership and Relationships Experiences than on Programmatic Emphases and Accountable Management. This also means they focus more on heart and soul than on mind and strength, in the spirit of the Great Commandment in Mark 12:29-31. Yet they have all four—heart, soul, mind, and strength—and have the proper synergy of Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management.
29 Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 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.' 31 The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these" [Mark 12:29-31 NASB].
- They are captivated by an empowering Vision from God that is cast by leadership and broadly owned throughout the congregation. This Vision fuels and drives them forward toward their full Kingdom potential in response to the eternal leadership and pulling of the Triune God. This Vision is not so much a statement as it is a movement to be sensed and experienced. It is not words that are memorized, but a focus and actions that are second nature to the leadership of FaithSoaring A statement or words that are memorized may create an emotional sizzle, but seldom create a passionate and lasting movement.
- They focus on congregational strengths rather than weaknesses; what is right rather than wrong; what is good rather than bad; what is loving rather unloving. They do not ignore weaknesses; that is just not where they start. They focus on building the capacities necessary to take the next steps in ministry, and then to sustain these capacities. They are always anticipating the next steps they need to take and projecting the Kingdom impact that could come from these steps.
- They also have strengths-focused leadership in the spirit of StandOut leadership by Marcus Buckingham (the next generation of strengths-based leadership popularized in the StrengthsFinder inventory). Strengths are part of the leadership characteristic trilogy of spiritual calling, strengths or skills, and preferences. StandOut helps leaders discover their top two strengths and how to enhance leadership practice through a focus on them. [See Marcus Buckingham. Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.]
- They seek to reach their full Kingdom potential by following God’s unique leadership of their congregation. Rather than emulating others, they seek to build their own style of FaithSoaring. They engage in continual innovation of their style of ministry while retaining their core substance; always seeking to perfect what they are doing to stay on the leading edge of excellence. They pick up principles from other successful, significant, and surrender congregations, but they build a unique approach, based on their community context or target groups.
They pace their execution of transition, change, and innovation in keeping with the speed of organizations who are great by choice. [See Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York: Harper Business, 2011.]
- They are committed to the highest possible quality age/stage programs, discipleship processes, and missional engagement that meet the real needs of real people in real time. Significant Kingdom impact, rather than the success of programs, processes, and engagements is their goal. They desire that the lives of people touched by the activities and ministries of their congregation be spiritually transformed through an ongoing walk with and surrender to the Triune God. They do not over-program their congregation, but focus on what they can do with excellence rather than a long list of things they might do in a mediocre manner with less effectiveness.
- They are missional in nature. In fact, it is second nature to them as implied in Matthew 25:31-46. They focus on the expansion and extension of God’s Kingdom more than on themselves. They focus on going rather than staying. They balance renewing the core of the congregation with extending the ministry globally as well as locally. They are contextually relevant to geographical community, or the target or affinity groups they are called to serve. They are pulled forward by mission, and may even leap across various racial, ethnic, and cultural barriers in prophetic service to others. They realize it is not the joy they experience that matters near as much as the joy in the Lord experienced by those they serve.
- They have high expectations of the people connected with the congregation. They seek to engage them in an intentional disciplemaking journey. They ask them for a deep commitment. They expect them to do four things: (a) attend worship regularly; (b) be in an ongoing discipleship group; (c) build deep friendship both within the congregation for support of what they are doing in the marketplace to be salt and light in God’s world; and, (d) to have a place of ongoing service within the congregation or its areas of missional engagement. They know that low expectation congregations never soar with faith.
- They have worship experiences that are a true encounter with God rather than simply a cultural gathering according to the testimony of people who attend. Worship, as a part of spiritual discernment, is a hallmark of their praise and adoration toward God. Prayer, as an essential part of worshipful relationship and discernment of God’s Vision, is of the highest priority in their congregation and not a perfunctory ritual. The Word of God is clearly illuminated in their worship experiences, and applied in their day-to-day lives. Their reputation in their community context as a spiritual place is well known.
Dialogue for Your Congregation
1. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being high, which of these ten characteristics would you rate as an 8, 9, or 10 for your congregation?
2. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being high, which of these ten characteristics would you rate as a five or less for your congregation?
3. Which are the characteristics you most need to address in your congregation? Why? It is it high ones or the low ones? Why?