Fellow Pastors and church leaders, we are in a battle for souls. The Bible encourages us to “endure hardship as a soldier.” This is not to say that we are at war with people, and we need to be very careful to realize that the war we are involved in is spiritual in nature. In fact, the war we are engaged in is far more important than any earthly one. The implications of our war are eternal. Victory is not a matter of who will be in charge politically or who will control natural resources. It’s a battle that will determine how many people we can rescue from sin forever. We’re talking about souls for eternity.
In any war, in any battle, there absolutely must be a strategy before the engagement starts. I want to share with you seven aspects of the strategy that any local church needs to adopt to take their communities by storm.
1. Your church must share a single concept of operation.
Unity is vital to winning. No matter its size, a local church is the body of Christ, which represents order and synergy. When the parts of the body are together in vision, mission, and values, we’re headed for victory.
One mistake churches make is to start ministries to meet particular needs without considering how the new ministry will relate to existing ministries. But healthy churches are able to synchronize their leadership so that the children’s ministry, student ministry, small group ministry, etc. are all on the same page, working from the same basic plan of operation.
2. Your church must develop flexibility in execution.
Plan, but don’t plan too much. You need strong long-term goals, but not detailed long-term strategies. Why? Because over the next decade, you don’t know for sure yet how your community will change, how culture will change, who will come and go on your staff or among your key volunteers, or what unforeseen circumstances your church may endure. Flexible churches are willing to adjust to change and make improvements on the fly.
The plan is good until the engagement starts, and at that point everything is bound to change.
3. Your church must empower people to make their own decisions.
The church works best when the people who are doing the ministry are making the decisions. This is one of the reasons Saddleback has never had committees or boards. Both of these terms refer to groups of people who get together and talk, take notes, and govern, but don’t necessarily do. We would rather release the doers to be the deciders.
4. Your church must retain its mobility.
Sometimes churches plateau because they found a way to grow, but as we get larger we institute more structures that prevent us from being as mobile as we once were. This is an issue to think through within the core of your church’s leadership. How do you keep resources ready to go for people executing your strategy? How can you allow people to move into different areas of ministry than what you initially hired or recruited them for? How can you remain mobile and ready to move quickly?
5. Your church must become more skilled in the art and science of communication.
You can’t always control how your community thinks about you. The story people tell about your church will sometimes reflect the negative experiences they’ve had or the rumors they’ve heard. But you do have the advantage of framing that story through how you communicate.
You will cast the initial image of what your church is like with your promotional and marketing materials, your website, your social media presence, the language with which you describe your church and your future as a staff and leadership. Remember that from the striping of the parking lot to the curriculum used by small groups, everything is communication.
6. Your church must know the enemy’s weaknesses.
We are good at observing how Satan is working, but often poor at observing how Satan is failing. We can see that people live for pleasure, for money, or for success to the detriment of their spiritual vitality. What we often forget is that at the end of this endless, vain search for significance, Satan’s solutions always leave people hungry and thirsty for more.
Knowing this weakness helps us to be ready at all times with Jesus as the answer. Materialism, living for pleasure, living for money, living for success doesn’t work. It doesn’t satisfy. The weakness with the New Age movement is it doesn’t work. Inevitably people come to the conclusion, “I’ve been living for the wrong thing.” What we need to do is just help hem find out that Jesus is the only Savior sooner rather than later.
7. Your church must take reasonable risks.
There is always a cost to success and winning. Having counted the potential costs of success, we must decide that victory is worth the risk involved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the Saddleback Church family take risks, big and small, with miraculous payoffs. Obviously this doesn’t mean making decisions blindly or rashly. It means being confident in the Holy Spirit’s direction and putting everything on the line for the sake of souls.