In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why,1 he unfolds a why/what/how framework. The “why” is the heart of the matter, and what energizes change. In the words of my friend, Duffy Smith, “the ‘why’ gives permission to the ‘what.’” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “why” that motivates what we, individually and as The Wesleyan Church (TWC), do. I think the “why” can be expressed in the phrase, gospel gap.
TWC has been a relatively healthy and incrementally growing denomination. However, we are losing ground in reaching North America with its growing and changing population, as well as its increasing secularization. This gap is even more pronounced around the world, as the global population now holds five billion souls who cannot yet make an informed decision about Jesus Christ. The “gospel gap” between our incremental growth and the accelerated growth of the mission field is widening every day.
As we seek to fill this gap, a more intense scrutiny about the way we go about our work in TWC is required. We must take nothing for granted. I’ve sensed several themes emerging that I want to share with you:
- Missional more than organizational. As we take a long, hard look at our structures supporting our mission, we must ensure that ones being built or re-tooled are done so for the right “why.” Harry Wood, retired district superintendent, spoke powerfully about the right “why” when he spoke in support of actions his home district took earlier this year because the rationale was firmly focused on missional opportunities, not on reorganization for its own sake. Missional focus is essential as we make decisions about making potentially uncomfortable changes required to achieve a more important end result. The gospel gap, actually closing the gospel gap, is what matters regardless of structure.
- Centered more than bounded. Much of our ministry has been geographically identified by boundaries. What seems to be emerging is a variety of churches functioning as sending epicenters from which evangelistic intensity emanates boundlessly. Sending churches of all kinds and sizes are planting and revitalizing churches in close proximity, across North America and around the world–perhaps your church is doing this or is starting to. It may be that the “centers” become more permanent, but the “edges” and “boundaries” begin to morph to match the mission as we partner together more effectively so no one is in it alone. We have an opportunity to become less focused on the boundaries, and more focused on the sending.
- Partnering in Multiplying Disciples. The notion of “one big family” can be limiting. Relational connections and partnerships must form around a common mission (see Leading Church Multiplication2 by Tom Nebel and Steve Pike). We need to ask one another deeper questions in authentic community. Missional multiplication will mean we are asking, “How can we be a transforming presence in more ZIP codes than ever before?” The answer will look different in different places — but will always be about making more disciples so they can convert and baptize more people who will in turn become disciples.
- More Collective and Co-inventive. Our overall church planting work support system (developed by Ed Love, director of church multiplication for TWC) is called the “Church Multiplication Collective” (“collective” is described in MultiChurch3 by House and Allison). I find this name notable as we rethink the way we work, not just across geographic boundaries, but also across previous tiers of church leadership. This co-invention process includes more people with more diverse viewpoints and spheres of influence.
- Full engagement of roles and gifts. Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers are outlined in Ephesians 4 as more than election to offices. Having a full engagement of all these giftings will lead to the equipping of a “Kingdom Force” that is multigenerational, multiethnic and multieconomic, including women and men, clergy and laity, closing the gospel gap in North America and globally.
- Contextualized more than franchised. As we work to “hack the missional code” in each setting, we must develop a greater capacity to “morph” with the mission. Roundtables are emerging within local churches with pastors taking on responsibilities that have historically been identified with districts or the general church. Likewise, the general church is offering supportive infrastructure that used to be done by districts or that local churches had to figure out on their own. Structure is the flexible (and ultimately temporary) “scaffolding” for the permanent goal of disciples making disciples and churches multiplying themselves. Contextualized structure adapts to the service needs of churches and mission fields here and abroad. Structure must remain editable so even what is being built now can be changed as needed.
- Positioning apostolic multipliers. For those of us in denominational leadership, we must do more than manage apostolic multipliers (as I’ve come to call those with a unique gifting to multiply the church). We must unleash women and men who offer a unique contribution toward the multiplication of the kingdom. The positioning of apostolic multipliers will be a core responsibility of leaders throughout the church, individually and collectively. We will then be able to work together so those with apostolic imagination and impulse develop a true “Acts 15 Spirit” of mutual voluntary submission (see also Ephesians 5:21), instead of engaging in rogue and random work that doesn’t find or isn’t sustained by the roots made available only by shepherds and teachers.
We long to become more than just a denomination — we want to prepare ourselves for whatever movement God might want to birth, as faithful disciples did in the New Testament and in the earliest days of Wesleyanism.
Our evangelistic intensity must be red-hot … because the gap between the church and our mission field is the biggest “why” motivating all we do.
God has each of us and all of us in our roles at this moment for no other purpose than to stand in the gospel gap and make it possible for more lost souls to come to an informed decision about Jesus Christ.
1Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Penguin Group, 2009)
2Leading Church Multiplication by Tom Nebel and Steve Pike
3MultiChurch by Brad House and Gregg Allison (Zondervan)