What will Every Nation Churches and Ministries look like in thirty, fifty, or one hundred years? And what current issues will affect who we become in the next century? In terms of Steven Covey’s urgent and important matrix, those are the ultimate important-but-not-urgent questions. You might wonder, What kind of people sit around, thinking about those kinds of things?
In 2008, I was invited to join the board of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) as a representative of Every Nation Churches and Ministries. I considered this a great honor for several reasons:
1) The NAE has enormous clout, representing sixty-eight million evangelicals.
2) Most of the individuals serving on that board represent denominations that are hundreds of times larger than Every Nation Churches and Ministries.
3) Fellow board members have many years of experience leading on very high level — the level where they deal,regularly with those long-range issues.
__Leading a local church is like riding a jet ski; serving on the board of NAE is like being on the bridge of a 100,000-ton aircraft carrier.
Local church leadership teams are accustomed to discussing a problem, making a decision, and reporting progress at the next meeting. By comparison, in an organization as large as NAE, which represents so many groups, things move along more methodically and deliberately so they can take in every perspective. Leading a local church is like riding a jet ski; serving on the board of NAE is like being on the bridge of a 100,000-ton aircraft carrier.
NAE board members are the leaders of denominations comprised of tens of thousand of churches. That has been for me an extraordinary education in leadership on an entirely different level. These are leaders who think of membership trends in the tens of millions and of finances in terms of hundreds of millions. They also tend to ask one hundred year questions.
ONE-HUNDRED YEAR QUESTIONS
Some of those big-picture questions for Every Nation Churches and Ministries include:
1) What is the most effective way for Every Nation Churches and Ministries to keep innovation on the leading edge of ministry? The most effective strategies for engaging cultures and making disciples will come from the leading edge, that is, those in local churches who are actually engaging the culture and discipling. So, how do we consistently incorporate those ideas so that we don’t become a movement famous for success in a previous generation?
2) What is role of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, Inc. in terms of serving and shaping? Organizational leaders at Every Nation operate in the framework of stewardship and ownership groups. In others words, local churches and local leadership teams are the owners, while organizational leaders are the servants.
The churches, regional leadership teams, and the national office have roles in shaping and serving the future. On the national levels, we shape because we have the capacity to strengthen churches and build church plants through rigorous study of “best practices” for launching, assessing, and training personnel.
__Leading-while-serving was never meant to be simple. It’s actually impossible without a common commitment to a vision (i.e. the Great Commission) that’s more important than our own interests.
On the national and international level, we have to serve without being bureaucratic, and we have to develop tools without creating rules. Living out the paradox of servant-leadership that Jesus prescribed and demonstrated is a constant challenge. Leading-while-serving was never meant to be simple. It’s actually impossible without a common commitment to a vision (i.e. the Great Commission) that’s more important than our own interests.
3) What do we communicate to the world through our public image? The national office is responsible for the public face of Every Nation — which we want to be one of involvement, organizational and fiscal excellence, and of a servant posture with other denominations and movements. In a world where every word is scrutinized and interpreted as some kind of policy statement, this is not as easy at it sounds. It is, however, the price of growth and influence.
4) How can we continue to produce generation after generation of young leaders? Steve Murrell said it so well in his recent book, WikiChurch:
The leadership team is constantly asking, “Where is the next generation of leaders?” We are not just looking for the next group of senior leaders in their forties and fifties; we seek to identify an emerging group of leaders in every age group and demographic.
Sure, we have had visiting Christian leaders comment on the passion and maturity of our young leaders. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re currently doing a good job of discipling and training. It only means that we were doing a good job about five years ago. If we become complacent about leadership development and empowerment only to realize it after leaders stop emerging, then we will have woken up five years behind the problem. Momentum is a beautiful thing. It is much easier to keep something going than to restart the process after it has come to a stop.
A ship sailing from New York to London that is one degree off course, will wind up France or stuck in an Arctic flow. In order to stay on mission, every organization with a one-hundred year vision, need to be regularly asking one-hundred year questions.