#012 = LEVERAGE: FOUNDATION FOR A SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY By Jack Dennison, DAWN Ministries
This is a follow up to NPPN Article #007 =STRATEGY MUST PRECEDE TACTICS
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 13:55:43 -0400
From: Jack Dennison <JDennison@compuserve.com>
Here are some follow up thoughts to Jim Montgomery’s article, MOVING FROM
SCATTERED TACTS TO A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY. I hope you find the thoughts helpful as you continue to chart your strategic approach to city reaching.
As always, feel free to use the material in any way that is helpful to you.
Richest blessings to you all!!
Jack Dennison, Dawn Ministries
Some weeks back I broadcast an e-mail message to you reporting Jim Montgomery’s article calling the Church to move from scattered tactics to an overall strategy. His key points were 1) only the Church as a whole does city reaching, 2) every strategy becomes a tactic when viewed in the larger scheme of city reaching, 3) city and national leaders need to formulate an overall comprehensive strategy that can lead to the FULFILLMENT of the Great Commission.
I say "thanks" to all who responded with such positive and enthusiastic remarks. Now I’d like to follow up that article with some comments on the last phrase: a "strategy that can lead to the FULFILLMENT of the Great Commission."
You and I are involved in city reaching because we want to see significant and enduring changes occur in the lives of individuals and in our city as a whole. We are not just interested in ANY ministry or even GOOD ministry. We want to find the highest leverage actions that will produce the greatest
and most long-lasting results. We don’t want to work AT the Great Commission, we want to FULFILL it. That leads us to the need to talk about leverage.
Leverage has to do with the relative amount of return from a given investment of time, money and energy. In the business world they speak of getting the most bang for the buck. In ministry, we want to see as much spiritual fruit as possible toward the completion of the Great Commission from a given activity. We want to identify those actions that will lead to the most impacting and enduring results.
Why would we want to see minimal spiritual results when almost the same amount of effort put into a different approach would produce optimal results? Why pursue activity that has little spiritual leverage when about the same resources-or even much less-can produce great leverage? Jesus stressed this point on several occasions through parables.
By way of illustration, consider the vital ministry of praying for every person, by name, in our neighborhood, city and nation. That is a worthy and wonderful goal.
With this in mind, one approach that has been adopted by many cities is to pray through the phone book. This gets everyone in a city prayed for, but is it the most productive prayer strategy? When I turn to my phone book and find R. L. Reiser, I don’t know if RL is male or female, married or single, black or white, old or young, still living or even deceased. It is hard to be specific, intentional or fervent when I have so little to go on.
In terms of spiritual effectiveness, it is clear that there is some value in praying for R. L. Reiser, but not as much effectiveness as if a friend, family member or neighbor were praying for him or her, and, furthermore, in a position to follow through with personal relationship. Certainly the more we know about a person, his or her life circumstances, spiritual needs, and so on the more specific, intentional, focused and fervent can be the prayer for this person.
Of course, it is easier to tear out a page or two from the phone book, assign it to an intercessor and consider the task accomplished than it is to get individual believers praying for ten people within their relational sphere of influence. In so doing, I believe we trade effectiveness for ease of distribution. The amount of leverage produced is substantially lowered.
Again, I emphasize that "phone book praying" can be of value. My concern, however, is that for many cities this low-leverage tactic has become the CORNERSTONE of a citywide prayer effort. When we develop a prayer strategy, why not start with the highest leverage activity possible that will produce the greatest and most enduring results for the Kingdom in the most accelerated manner possible? When that is done, then we can go on to "phone book praying" as a last resort to insure that each over-looked or hard-to-get-to person is prayed for. We are after results, not simply activity.
I’m sure you could think of many other illustrations yourself. My own observation, after meeting with hundreds of groups of pastors in scores of US cities, is that ministry leaders most often choose low leverage actions that ultimately lead to weak and non-enduring results. This is the case, it seems to me, because low leverage action is intuitive, highly visible, and deals typically with easily-defined symptoms rather than causes.
I have been involved in many churches, for example, that put in thousands of dollars and many hundreds of man-hours in producing extravaganzas at Easter or Christmas time. The idea is to try and do something interesting enough to get more people into the church. This is often an intuitive or even a reflex action, but rarely have I seen results anywhere near commensurate to the time, effort and money expended.
Most high leverage actions, on the other hand, are not highly visible and are not intuitive to most leaders.
One example of a high-leverage activity comes from Jim Montgomery’s book, THEN THE END WILL COME. He gives a brief description of the Alpha Course developed by Vicar Sandy Miller of the Holy Trinity Church in London. In a very simple, low-key approach, Christians bring their unsaved friends for 13 weeks of small, informal dinner meetings. Each session includes a 20-minute presentation of some Bible truth.
There are no props that need to be built or costumes made, no choir or orchestra rehearsals, no expensive promotional campaigns and so on. Just ordinary Christians inviting a few friends for dinner.
But with this simple, low stress, almost no-cost approach, the number of people involved in Alpha Courses increased from 600 in 1974 to more than 500,000 in weekly attendance by 1996 with many hundreds of local churches involved. The results? About 80 percent of all non-believers who attend come to know the Lord with a high percent getting into church fellowships! THAT’S LEVERAGE!
No one intentionally chooses low leverage activity, I suppose, but it tends to make us feel good when we can focus on and praise our activity rather than the results of our activity. We must begin to differentiate between low and high leverage activity if we expect to make accelerated and significant impact in the city-reaching arena.
This broadcast is not the time or place for me to spell out what I think a high-leverage strategy for reaching cities should look like. But I would like to suggest the elements that will help us together discover that highest-leverage strategy.
High leverage action begins with understanding what we are trying to accomplish and assessing the most effective means to do it.
Concerning our primary focus, we have said that city reaching "is the ongoing process of mobilizing the whole body of Christ in a geographically identified area to strategically focus all of its resources on reaching the whole city with the whole Gospel resulting in the redemption of society and the transformation of the city."
What would an overall, comprehensive strategy for achieving this objective look like? That can only be answered once the basic building blocks of a strategic process are identified.
Our definition of city reaching highlights three building blocks.
In the first place, "whole Body of Christ" implies that it will take all true believers working together in genuine biblical unity to accomplish the task. Who is the whole body of Christ and how do you mobilize them?
The "who" is easy: it is every person and group within whom Christ dwells, the Church. The Church in every city is comprised of denominational, ethnic, generational and geographic streams. It is also composed of Church and parachurch structures. The parachurch can contribute to city reaching through the use of the tactics it employs, but only the Church as a whole - including the parachurch - can do city reaching as it establishes an overall and comprehensive strategy that leads most directly to completing its task.
The "how" is not so easy. How do you mobilize this diverse, scattered body? The key is leadership. It is identifying the various streams and the primary leaders of each one, bringing them together in genuine biblical unity and forming them into a leadership team. In this way, the many streams of the body of Christ can be channeled into one mighty river.
So what is the KEYL EVERAGE POINT when we speak of the whole Church? It is identifying, empowering, and releasing the team of shepherd leaders for the Church in your city.
Secondly, "Whole city" refers to acknowledging the great complexity and diversity of our urban populations. Many of the tactics employed by parachurch groups, for example, offer only a simplistic answer to reaching the city. Even if the goals of the ministry were fully accomplished, the Church would be a long way from fulfilling its task of reaching the city. A whole city approach requires an extensive understanding of all that must be done in the city and must offer a comprehensive strategy to accomplish it.
The most significant activity in relation to the whole city is completing a thorough assessment of the Church’s unfinished task. Strategy, to be effective, must be based upon accurate and up-to-date information.
Once having a clear picture of what it will take to reach the city on the one hand and a detailed assessment of current reality on the other, the gap between the two becomes more clear. The Church’s planning effort to close the gap forms the basis for the strategic plan which enables the Church to be systematic in its approach to ministry while providing the basis for monitoring and assessing its progress.
The KEY LEVERAGE here is developing an accurate picture of current reality and comparing that to God’s vision for the city.
Thirdly, "Whole Gospel" requires that the Church be concerned with both demonstrating the love of Christ as well as proclaiming His message. Evangelicals traditionally are known for emphasizing the latter to the exclusion of the former, while mainline churches have created just the opposite imbalance.
The HIGHEST LEVERAGE to living out the whole gospel is found in balancing and integrating the two. In theological circles we have referred to these two as the cultural and evangelistic mandates.
To summarize, what are the highest leverage points for reaching the city?
1. Empowering a team of shepherd leaders who can help bring the Church together in genuine unity of purpose and vision.
2. Establishing a strategic plan, emerging from a complete and accurate assessment of the city and Church, that can serve as a guide to the Church’s city-reaching efforts.
3. Presenting a balanced approach to both the life and message of Christ by doing what Jesus did and what he would do if he were physically present in the world today.
It is upon these foundational stones that we must find and build the
strategy for the discipling of whole cities. It is what we must
wholeheartedly commit ourselves to.
What will happen if we keep on doing what we have been doing? Albert Einstein says we can expect to "keep getting what we have been getting." Getting a few more results from a little more activity will not satisfy our hearts cry for transformation. We are imminently expecting a move of God of unprecedented proportions. The time to get ready is today! To this end, the Church in every city of America should choose the highest leverage activities that will produce the most impacting and enduring results for the advancement of the Kingdom of God on earth.
It is the above suggested building blocks that will help us move "from scattered tactics to an overall and comprehensive strategy" in reaching our cities for Christ.