If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.
While this may sound like a ridiculous notion, at times it seems that the very brain that helped interpret our original vision is often the thing that ends up drawing us off course. It happens everywhere, in our private lives, family, business and yes, even in the church.
While speaking to a group of local pastors recently, I asked them the following question, “Pastor, what is your product?” I could tell that some of them were a little intimidated by my use of business terminology. I explained that my question was not meant to address them personally, but rather the broader aspect of the church. In other words, if the church were a factory, what would its product be? Many of the men had a difficult time articulating a response.
After a few minutes I initiated a second question, “What is Chrysler’s product?” The immediate response was “cars”. I then suggested, “While it is true that Chrysler does make cars, cars are not really their product. As confusion began to break out among the crowd, I continued on, “Chrysler’s ultimate product is transportation. They manufacture different kinds of cars in order to satisfy a wide range of transportation needs.”
The pastors seemed to readily accept this notion. I then restated my first question, “So, using this illustration, what is your product?” After several minutes someone responded, “The product of the local church should be Christ-like people.” What a great answer! We should be producing people whose lives truly reflect the life and love of Jesus Christ. However, aren’t Christ-like people really like the car?
You see, I believe that the product of the church ought to be a godly world. It would follow then, that the product of a local Colorado Springs church ought to be a godly Colorado Springs. I wanted these pastors to see the big picture. Just as Chrysler remembers each time they manufacture a car that their primary purpose is to satisfy and provide transportation needs, we as the church need to recognize that the primary purpose of building up Christ-like people is to draw others to Him and ultimately produce godliness in our communities.
In keeping with this train of thought, whom should we identify as our “customer”? I believe many would suggest that those attending our churches are our customers. This is not the case. Our real “customers” are the lost, and those in attendance are in training to reach them. I believe it is critical for us to understand this paradigm.
Our “customers” are the lost, and those in attendance are in training to reach them.
Standing before this group of pastors, I continued on with a more challenging question, “Most of us would agree that Chrysler is doing a pretty good job in delivering a quality product, now tell me, how do you think the church is doing?” In other words, if the church were an actual factory whose bottom line profit was directly related to the quality of its product, would we be in business? The silence was deafening as I began to complete my discussion with the following illustration:
Let’s assume that Chrysler has gone out and purchased the best raw materials available. At this point, they throw all of this rubber, glass, metal, plastic, etc. into a box on the factory floor and call it a car. Quite obviously, we would never identify this box of parts as a car. Disassembled, those parts could never satisfy our need for transportation. Now I want you to think of an average man or woman sitting in church receiving some of the greatest raw material the world has ever heard. (Not since Jesus walked the planet, have we been equipped with such extraordinary wisdom and knowledge). To think that this individual will step out of that building as a Christ-like person is as ludicrous as believing that the box of parts is a car.
So how should we go about solving this problem? Chrysler figured out something that I believe we, as the Body of Christ need to consider and employ. First, they go to the drawing board and ask themselves some tough questions. What is the finished product supposed to look like? How will it operate and what features will be needed to insure quality transportation results? In answering these questions a vision is captured. Each member of the staff leaves that planning session knowing exactly what it is they want to build.
Next, Chrysler initiates an assembly line. An intricate process is involved in the construction of a vehicle. You cannot put the wheel on before the axle is there, and before the engine can be installed a solid frame must be constructed. It’s interesting that in the academic community we understand the absurdity of teaching advanced calculus to a first grader, yet somehow we have overlooked that concept in our efforts to develop Christ-like people. Just as Chrysler’s work is done part upon part, as Christian leaders our work needs to be accomplished precept-upon-precept.
Building principle upon principle is critical. However, there is one final step that must be taken to insure success. Understanding that a product is only as good as one’s ability to measure or evaluate it, Chrysler’s process goes beyond the assembly line. For them, each vehicle is considered both costly and significant, and therefore, each one must be inspected for quality and reliability. Thus, before leaving the factory Chrysler sends a person with a clipboard to the end of the line. This person is required to give the car a thorough inspection. If the car passes, it is released to the marketplace and offered for transportation. If the car fails inspection, it is sent back to the assembly line for the appropriate adjustments.
It is important to realize where we as the Body of Christ are falling short of this over-all process. Many churches are still struggling to understand what their product should be. Others have a keen knowledge of their product, but have not discovered how to put the assembly line into place. And then there are those who seem to have a firm grasp of the precept-upon-precept approach, yet they are experiencing limited success because they are not measuring their results. Too often church leaders have no idea how John and Mary are really doing in their world.
I believe that the Chrysler illustration suggests at least three major points that must be considered if we are to build a successful ministry:
- First, we need to catch the vision – Who are our “customers”? What is our true product? What does it look like? Chrysler takes its understanding of what the customer needs, goes to the drawing board and creates a visual image of the product before any actual procedure is put into place.
Point of action: Put together a list of what are the essential characteristics of a Christ-like person. Decide what these individuals need to understand and how they will need to behave in order to impact others.
- Second, we need to implement an assembly line. Once Chrysler has a clear understanding of what the finished product should look like, it then puts together an elaborate assembly process to lead to the desired result.
Point of action: Now that the characteristics of a Christ-like person have been defined, we must learn to teach them systematically. Develop a process for instruction, and insure that each level is being supervised and guided by a staff member or team.
- And third, we need to find an accurate means of measuring our effectiveness. Like Chrysler, when all is said and done, we must be able to answer the all-important question, “Is our product doing what it has been designed to do?”
Point of action: We must be creative in developing strategies that allow us to stay more connected to our “flock”. This should be a priority. As pastors or small group/cell leaders we must take seriously the spiritual health and vitality of each member under our care.
Imagine the glorious possibilities if every church and church-related ministry took this kind of approach and began to focus on the visible impact of their teaching. I believe we would see a re-vitalization among the Body of Christ, one that would produce a harvest of fully devoted followers of Christ with a passion for reaching out to a hurting world.
As co-workers in Christ, dedicated to the fulfillment of His business, let’s re-evaluate our process so that we might have a better chance of impacting our world with Godly and effective followers of Christ. Let’s begin to practice Intentional Christianity!