I just came back from a week at Northpoint Community Church. We attended the GrowUp Conference during the week, the Alpharetta Campus on Sunday morning and the Buckhead Campus on Sunday evening. For those not familiar with Northpoint Community Church—Andy Stanley is the Senior Pastor, Reggie Joiner is the Director of Family Ministry. Northpoint meets at two campuses (Alpharetta & Buckhead) and is currently building a third (Browns Bridge). All three campuses are located within a 20 mile radius of Atlanta, Georgia. Between the two campuses the church sees an average attendance of over 15,000 people. On Sunday morning at the second and third services they were turning people away. Hosts stood outside of the two auditoriums at the Alpharetta Campus letting people know that the auditorium was full. People stood in the hallways and watched the services on monitors. And for those of us from Southern California, this all happened on a rainy day. Apparently the rain doesn’t deter Georgians.
At the Drive Conference in a message called “Communicating for Change” Andy Stanley emphasized the need to preach one-point sermons. This message is outstanding and can be heard at www.driveconference.com. Of the three messages we heard by Andy Stanley this last week he remained true to the one point sermon.
Sunday morning: Jealously is not a problem we have with other people, it is a problem we have with God.
Sunday evening at Buckhead: Confession breaks the power of guilt.
GrowUp Conference: “There is no progress without change; there is no change without challenge and if God has gifted you to lead, He’s gifted you to challenge the things that need to be changed.”—Defy Gravity, General Session III
Below is a brief summary of my notes from the message by Andy Stanley: Defy Gravity, Session III
1. Leaders love progress because the role of a leader is to take us on journeys.
2. Leaders hate the status quo—preach it!
3. Nothing strikes terror in our hearts more than the prospect of being stuck.
4. Progress is always preceded by change.
5. Change is always preceded by challenge.
6. Change is always preceded by challenge.
7. Change is always preceded by challenge.
8. Change is always preceded by challenge.
Andy camped on this point for a while. Among my notes: There is no change without a challenge. Friction is not a sign of ungodliness. When keeping the peace becomes the ultimate value then leaders will leave.
I. Challenging the status quo is where leadership begins.
Every organization conspires to stagnate, to progress toward stability; this is why leadership is so important in creating progress in an organization.
A. Leaders instinctively evaluate and critique everything.
B. It is in you to challenge the process.
C. Deep in your heart you feel that if you were in charge things would not only be different, they would be better.
D. This propensity explains why . . .
…you ask “Why?” about everything.
…you have an opinion about everything.
…you are always offering unsolicited suggestions (Janna and I caught ourselves here the rest of the day)
…you are constantly pointing to other models.
Andy challenged people who may be giving push back to these characteristics that they may not possess the gift of leadership. Their gifts are certainly valuable to the organization, but not as leaders. They are moving at 20 miles per hour, while the leaders in the organization are trying to move at 80 miles per hour. If you are moving at 20 you need to step out of the way and follow the “rabble rousers.”
But this propensity is generally problematic . . .
II Challenging the process is often interpreted as a challenge to someone’s leadership and authority.
A. Your supervisor may confuse this tendency as arrogance or a lack of respect.
B. Keep in mind . . .
1. Everything that is in place was originally considered a good idea.
…like those thrones on the platform in Baptist churches, large one for the pastor and music person, the small ones for mamma and baby bear.
2. Everything that is in place was originally somebody’s good idea.
3. Everything that is in place was once viewed as revolutionary.
4. Everything that is in place began as a challenge to the status quo.
A. Develop the art of challenging the process without challenging the authority of your leader.—cf. the section on “Leading Up” in John Maxwell’s, 360 Degree Leader.
1. When an instruction is given—follow through. Debrief later.
2. Never verbalize your frustration with the process in front of other team members
Principle: Loyalty publicly results in leverage privately.
3. Don’t confuse your insights with moral imperatives
4. When you can’t follow, get off the team.
B. Create a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the process.
You don’t recruit leaders by making an announcement; you recruit leaders by creating a culture that is safe for leaders to challenge the process.
1. You don’t gain anything by not knowing what they are already thinking.—gain their insight. Leaders are already thinking that they can do your job better than you, so gain their insight.
2. Don’t confuse an expression of leadership with rebellion.
3. If our leaders have permission to challenge the process:
The organization remains relevant
We create an environment that attracts leaders.
Nothing goes underground.
Suggestions for creating a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the process:
1. Have new leaders evaluate the organization after 3 months & after 1 year.
Ask questions like: What surprised you about this job? Does anything seem off purpose? What improvements in staff & department need to be made? How are your opinions received?
2. Have leaders brainstorm the following scenario: Something tragic has happened to the Senior Pastor. The whole organization has been turned over to you. What changes would you make? There are no sacred cows.
Some thoughts: I might add that everything that is in place now and everything that will be in place in the future began as a challenge. There is no way out of the challenge factor. A good place for self evaluation for many churches would be to ask the question: “Who in our organization is allowed to make a challenge?” This sort of question may get to what is impeding a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the status quo. I suspect that for many churches that there is a bottleneck on change and progress because of one or more of the following factors:
The “they” factor: leaders, including the senior leader, are afraid to make challenges because of what “they” might think. “They” could be people who hold political power, but may not hold actual leadership positions in the organization. In this case only “they” are able to make challenges and since no body knows who “they” are, no challenges are made because “they” might get upset.
Unclear governance structure: This would be the organization where power and the ability to make decisions is constantly shifting. Decision making power is typically “shared” between several leadership bodies. I.e. board of directors, senior leader, staff, committees etc. . . In the climate of unclear governing structures it may be safe to challenge the status quo, but change dies on the operating table as it is passed from governing body to governing body. One doesn’t know who to address a challenge to. Each governing body acts in fear of getting their fingers caught in an area that they may have no authority.
One leader only factor: only one person is allowed to challenge. In this environment you can expect stagnation in two forms: If the leadership structure of a church only allows challenges from one person and that person is not a leader you can expect stagnation because few or no challenges will be made. Secondly, no problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. When there is only one person allowed to challenge the status quo that person can’t know what they don’t know. This structure needs to empower a team of leaders that is allowed to make challenges.
The key to preventing stagnation in an organization is to expect your gifted leaders to challenge the status quo and have a plan to garner those challenges, have clear governance structures and have a team of leaders who are allowed to challenge and act upon challenges to the status quo.