“Truth is not a thought, not a word, not a relationship between things, not a law. Truth is a Person. It is a Being which exceeds all beings and gives life to all. If you seek truth with love and for the sake of love, she will reveal the light of His face to you since you can bear it without being burned.”
(St. Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil)
In our pursuit of missional church model and our efforts in meeting the living God in the genre of the patristics, we must have a strategy. The word “strategy” invokes different meaning for different folks. So, if you prefer to call it a “plan,” a “roadmap” or “your framework for church planting” feel free. All of these naming conventions will have you arriving at the correct destination, in my opinion. Just plan your work and work your plan.
So, let’s begin by looking at the difference between where you are in your thinking processes. For starters start thinking about is “change.” Change is what St. Paul reminds us as the necessary ingredient for those being called or converted. The change means meeting people where they are in life and developing the roadmap from there; this is change. For example, you might say I am sticking with the tried and true versus embracing “change.” “I have a hundred-year-old church, and we are sticking to our plan from a hundred years ago.” Versus thinking about change as a means to continually grow and reach new people. People who may not necessarily reflect our current expectations. We know from the Acts of the Apostles Paul surely was not meeting with people who reflected his historical background as a Pharisee. In my past life, both business and in developing missional church strategy my two most favorites statements I have heard regarding resistance to change have been: “I have a traditional congregation, so I ask: Why to change?” Versus thinking beyond the traditional congregation and reaching out like Paul id and entering into new niche segments of society. My most favorite is “We are staying the steady course of ‘experience’” versus realizing that in our missional efforts we need to eat our “own” lunch continually.
The lessons learned from the Acts and the Patristic Fathers is to continually add value to your church planting efforts and services through a process of on-going improvement as you are evolving into a “missional workflow.” Embracing the new technologies of the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions of today can be of great assistance. Think about how to “convert” your old methods to processes utilizing IoT, including robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, as examples.
You start by visualizing in your mind’s eye the contrast between where you are today (the old model) and the strategy/plan for the new one that will carry you successfully through the next two iterations of church planting. Realize for some people this may be a compound exercise but one that is most needed.
The internet has given birth to the world of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, The Internet of Things, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles. If you have been watching commercials during the Winter Olympics you saw Microsoft expound on the innovation through AI; you saw IBM and Watson keep airliners in tip-top shape. Focus your plan on how the technologies innovate, to provide easy access to information, services, and your missional message to the people you are trying to reach both your current congregations and those being called or converted. The techniques will require some education on the part of all involved and a new collaborative working environment. Think of providing video conferencing options for services where “high touch” often is most desired. And internally using these technologies to enhance your internal operations to be more lean and agile with intranet solutions you have created for internal use. What you are doing is creating an environment that is opening up doors for all people to seek the Lord through the channels they are most familiar. Not any different from what Paul and the early church fathers did to reach out to people.
“The Lord loves all people, but He loves those who seek Him even more. To his chosen ones the Lord gives such great grace that for love they forsake the whole earth, the whole world, and their souls burn with a desire that all people might be saved and see the glory of the Lord.”
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.8)
Now noodle on this concept for a moment: Your old strategy of “I am sticking to the present model because I know it works” translates that what you are saying is I prefer to make incremental improvements. So what? You say? You don’t want to be the next “Polaroid” where everyone says “you were great in your day.”
The technologies of the fourth industrial revolution provide a rapid means to enter new church planting markets and geographies with reduced cost to your infrastructure.
What is your plan for entering into new markets, new niche markets? Does the program innovate with the latest technologies? How are you educating your congregations and ministers of the change and benefits that come with the use of technologies? Are you genuinely collaborating with your partners or are you just trying to do it alone and “wander in the desert of change?”
You must establish in your plan your new evolving processes to stay up with and ahead of the changing technologies. You should have a well-defined plan for on-going improvements that reflect the change needed to keep growing and surviving.
These new technologies allow you and others to enter into new markets quickly. You are no different than Paul when it comes to introducing new markets. We call this, a process of on-going improvement. Throughout the last two thousand years, we have seen denominations, churches, and sects come and go….and they go out of existence because they did not have a process of on-going improvement.
The fourth industrial revolutions of technology are transforming local optimum to a global optimum. The techniques provide an abundance of opportunities to expand our reach and retain congregations with their younger family members. The fourth and fifth industrial revolutions offer the mechanism for your church planting efforts to implement change and with change comes new thinking and processes which are the key to make sure you have applied the difference in such a way that it becomes on-going process and not something which will take an “act of Congress” to kick start.
“As it is impossible to verbally describe the sweetness of honey to one who has never tasted honey, so a way of teaching cannot communicate the goodness of God if we are not able to penetrate into the goodness of the Lord by our own experience.”
(St. Basil the Great, Conversations on the Psalms, 29)