Connecting The Body of Christ - Church

Connecting the Body of Christ

Clint GriderBy Clint Grider9 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Mind the Gap: Leading Your Church to Agility + Effectiveness in Any Environment by Clint Grider.

Chapter 6
Breakthrough: Unlocking the Power of Connectivity

Does your ministry system immerse people in an environment that naturally leads them to the next steps Christ has for them? Or do they have to contend with a disjointed system that inadvertently requires dogged determination, heroic ingenuity, and extraordinary assistance to connect the dots?

This chapter and the ones that follow are about how to make your church a place that captures peoples’ attention and hearts in ways that are deeper and more far-reaching than you ever imagined. It’s not about how to make your church “the happiest place on earth” and get people to spend a lot of money; it’s about cooperating with the Holy Spirit to facilitate people’s next moves for breakthrough growth in Christ for his kingdom purposes. As Andrew Hébert says in his book, Shepherding like Jesus, “It’s all about him. It’s not about me. The moment my ministry is about me [or anything else really], it’s not about him.”1

How Disney World Captivates Guests

Disney parks possess one feature that’s especially illuminating in designing an immersive experience that feels beautifully simple to the person who enters it.

On one hand, Disney parks consist of meticulously cultivated environments. When you enter any of the “lands” of Magic Kingdom or other parks, you enter a place. They establish a rich atmosphere that heightens awareness and works on you while you’re in each place.

On the other hand, the parks also punctuate the atmosphere with special happenings that capture guests’ attention for a few moments at a time. These might include a parade, a beloved Disney character, or an apparent custodian who suddenly becomes a street performer by using his wet mop to draw a character on the street to the delight of a child passing by. Even the timely approach of a cast member offering perfectly tailored assistance falls into this category.

Here is a major part of the genius of Disney parks. Disney carefully combines cultivated environments and special (“magical”) happenings to captivate guests. It takes both working together to create an immersive experience that moves people.

These elements at Disney parks that I’m calling environments and happenings parallel the two basic kinds of intentional activities in a church. The environments at a Disney Park are like constants, the ongoing experiences that happen in and through the church week after week. Constants include programs like worship services, groups, classes, and regular volunteering as well as an individual’s disciplines for spiritual growth like daily Bible reading and prayer. In the analogy of the Underground, constants are represented by trains; they should provide the perpetual movement that carries a person to the destinations of Christlikeness as they are ridden over time.

On the other hand, the special happenings that occur at a Disney Park are like waypoints, the momentary, short-run, or temporary experiences that are meant to inspire someone to a new practice or a change of direction. Waypoints might include a catalytic training event, a four-week all-church group emphasis, or counseling about a particular challenge. Waypoints should be pivotal moments. In the analogy of the Underground, they are the stations that lead someone to ride a new train, whether an activity done in community with other church travelers or a practice in their personal life.

Churches help people experience something new and wonderful about God when environments and happenings — that is, constants and waypoints, trains and stations — are working together. That’s connectivity — when your constants and waypoints are seamlessly integrated to complement one another in a system. Without both, people rarely experience breakthrough, and they usually don’t travel as far with Christ toward the destinations he desires for them.

Nonstop, Hyped-Up, or Ho-Hum?

Churches experience different results depending on whether they concentrate energy on their constants, on their waypoints, on neither, or on both.

Let’s look first at a church that focuses its effort on making its constants (trains) excellent. I call this a nonstop church. Its robust suite of constants provides ongoing spiritual nourishment and challenge for people in a variety of ways. Yet because there are few inspiring and well-coordinated waypoints, people rarely take decisive steps into a new engagement or behavior.

In a nonstop church, people who are used to only attending worship rarely join a smaller group and people who are used to their group rarely engage much more deeply other than through a few events here and there. People don’t often make decisive changes in their personal lives, because a summons to something new doesn’t feel different at a deep level; the call to action just blends in with the rest of the busy routine. It’s like the classic folk song “M.T.A.,” a ballad about an unfortunate man named Charlie who starts riding Boston’s subway system one day but can never get off. A better way to look at it is as a train that never slows down for new riders to get on.

While some churches like this one have trains but no connected stations, other churches put too much emphasis on stations and too little on trains. I call this a hyped-up church. The carefully planned waypoints of a hyped-up church produce great excitement and sometimes even a raft of decisions to follow Christ, to give sacrificially, to serve the community, or to make another major commitment. But without effective and well-coordinated constants, there is no follow-through, and people’s commitments don’t usually result in lasting change.

While a nonstop church concentrates on constants and neglects waypoints, and a hyped-up church does the reverse, what I call a ho-hum church lacks quality and coordination in both its constants and its waypoints (if they even exist). The church experience feels like “business as usual” with little or limited vibrancy, excitement, or growth. Ministries and programs generally do their own thing with staff not seeing how things fit together or why they’re doing certain things versus others. Seemingly positive moments are fleeting. Typically, ho-hum churches experience loss of momentum and steadily decline leaving smaller and smaller numbers of people to wonder “what happened?”

Designing a Church for Breakthrough

A breakthrough church, on the other hand, excels in its emphasis on both waypoints and constants to intentionally connect them to one another in clear, meaningful ways. In a breakthrough church, inspiring stations lead people onto effective trains that take them to the destinations of maturity in Christ and kingdom impact that the church has defined in its journey outcomes. This powerful intentionality is the essence of connectivity.

 1 Andrew Hébert, Shepherding like Jesus: Returning to the Wild Idea that Character Matters in Ministry (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2020), 90.

Excerpted from Mind the Gap: Leading Your Church to Agility + Effectiveness in Any Environment by Clint Grider. © 2023 B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.

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