Several years ago, I attended a training workshop in which noted author Alan Hirsch said the following, “Your system is perfectly designed for the results that you are getting.” This statement has challenged me in the years since, for a variety of reasons. It has caused me to spend more time evaluating my programs and processes to see if they are functioning effectively. It has forced me to think about the results I hope to see happen. And perhaps, most importantly, it has provoked me to ask why we do what we do, the purpose and reason behind our efforts.
Most of us in our lives and in our ministries have an area or two where we are not seeing the results we have expected. With this in mind, let me make a few suggestions for your consideration, whether it be applied to your own walk with the Lord, or a program or system at your church.
Begin with the end in mind. Think about the results you are expecting. What will these results look like for you, and the others involved? How will you measure your success in this matter? The answer to these questions should determine much of what you do and how you do it.
Make sure your beginning is clear in purpose to all involved. If you want to see discipleship take place in your life, or the lives of your people, share the objectives that you think need to be achieved or described for the result you have in mind. Making this clear on the front end helps everyone involved to understand where we are headed.
If progress toward the intended result is not happening (i.e., people are dropping out, enthusiasm is waning, etc.), look for unintended obstacles that hinder forward movement for those involved. It could be many things: conflicting schedules, unanticipated circumstances, misunderstood expectations, or more. Identifying these obstacles will help you clear the path for effective, productive results.
If more than one obstacle stands in the way of you making it to the intended goal, focus first on the one that provides the most leverage with the others. For example, if you are having trouble assimilating visitors into your church, and also in getting people into your small groups, determine which one will create more momentum for the other one. In most churches (not all), it will require working on assimilation first.
Finally, don’t forget to make this a huge matter of prayer. Fundamentally, we cannot bring out the desired results of spiritual transformation without the Spirit of God leading the way. He must show us what the desired results need to be, and how to effectively work the process, from beginning to end. Matthew 9:37-38 indicates that a lack of workers for the harvest field is essentially a prayer problem, not a leadership development problem. So we cannot, we must not, discount the supernatural element in all of this.
Remember, “man makes the plans, but the Lord directs the steps” (Proverbs 16:9), so while we can improve the way we do things effectively, ultimately it is Jesus who builds His church (Matthew 16:18). And you can trust Him to do just that.
David Jackson serves as the director of church planting & strategy at the Baptist Convention of New England.