Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

The right question to ask

Posted on 11 Jun 2013 in Discipleship, missional theology | 6 comments

When we talking about growth, particularly about growth in the missional movement, we need to make sure we are asking the right question.

The wrong question to ask is how.

As in: “How do I grow this (ministry)? How do I become more effective? How do I grow as a leader?

P question

The right question is important (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These aren’t necessarily bad questions to be asking, they are just the wrong questions to be asking.

The much more important question to be asking is who.

Who am I becoming in Christ?

This question redefines our parameters and shapes us much differently.

How questions focus on success based metrics. They are consumed with doing the right things, saying the right things, presenting things the right way. We all want to be effective (or successful) but ‘how’ questions usually tend to focus primarily on numbers. Success is defined in ‘the how’ by numerical growth. Last week we had 30 people attending, this week we have 45, we must be a success! But it largely (or even worse completely) ignores missional capacity, spiritual growth, and Jesus-centered theology. When we focus on the ‘how’ we forsake Jesus shaped identity for pragmatics and programs.

Missional mindedness forces us to instead shift to the ‘who’ questions. Who am I? Who am I becoming? Who has Christ called me to be? These questions force us to keep our eyes fixated on Jesus, the Good News of the resurrection, and the hope that we have in him. Who questions draw us into pursuing the ‘author and perfecter of our faith’ not the misleading statistics of budgets, butts, and buildings.

In the missional frontier, ‘who’ questions are going to become ever more important. They are going to force us to stop and reevaluate our priorities, less on numbers and more on spiritual formation, less on bounded sets and more on being centered.

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What do you think? Are you persuaded? Convinced? Hesitant? What do you think of the difference between how questions and who questions? Please Enter the Discussion below!

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Justin I can appreciate your intent here. Jesus was pretty clear, though that metrics are a key feedback mechanism in the carrying on the work of the kingdom. I am thinking, for example, of the parable of the talents, Jesus indicates that the Master was concerned that the servants were actually working while the master was away. Further, that they behave as if he were returning at some point. Metrics will always orbit the work of the kingdom. We need to remember that these metrics move us toward the center. They are not an end in themselves.

    • Glen,

      Thanks for your thoughts and pushback. The trouble with any analogy or metaphor is that it always has its limits. My thought is coming more from a John 15 perspective, the need to abide in Jesus. I have known numerous people (as I’m sure you have) that have worked themselves to death. The focus has become more on measurable success of numbers than on spiritual vitality and thriving in Christ. Both (a standard of measurement and abiding) are needed. My thought and belief are that if I doing the one (abiding) faithfully, measurable results of success will follow.

      Thoughts?

      Thanks again for your contribution. I appreciate your desire to further the conversation and keep pushing.

      Grace and Peace.

      • I believe we agree in principle. I have little patience, however, with church leaders who use “abiding” as an excuse to “bury the master’s investment” (a little confession is good for the soul right?) 🙂 At one time – in a different time and a different context — the message to “abide” was at the core of my piety. Perhaps a day will come when that value once again becomes center. Thanks for the conversation. http://www.glenedward.com.

      • I’m with you here, Justin. While we can look at metrics (church attendance, membership rolls, etc), too often the church has made those the ends rather than simply a metric. Questions like “How can we get more people into church on Sunday mornings?” and “How can we increase our engagement percentage in small groups?” or “How can we get more people saved?” aim towards increasing the metric itself and make room for programmatic, attractional strategies which are simply about creating product for people to consume.

        Meanwhile, kingdom work should ask questions more like “How can we bring Jesus into our community?” and “Where is God moving in our neighborhood?” and “What are the real needs of families in our community?” and “How can the Kingdom impact the real issues in our culture?” Add to that questions like, “How can we bring people into a closer walk with Jesus?” or “How can we deepen our community spirituality?” or “How can we build a stronger community around Jesus?”

        See, the second set of questions is about bringing the Kingdom to bear on things. The natural result of such work is an increase in the metrics implied by the first set of questions. Our target should ALWAYS be doing Kingdom work, regardless of what the metrics say (even if attendance is declining, that does not mean the church isn’t “successful”). I’m convinced, as per Acts 2 and Acts 4, that when the Kingdom breaks in, metrics will naturally be on the rise. But if all you do is work on the metrics, you’ll constantly be rethinking and restrategizing new products to “consume” and always falling behind.

  • Jim Brown

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it but I found it interesting that the missional ‘who’ questions you offered are all ego centred: I, I, & me. Otherwise I appreciate the focus on being Christ-centred rather than success centred.

    • Jim,

      You’re right that I didn’t notice it, and that it’s unintentional. The main point of putting it that was was to (ironically) show that we needed to be more Christ-focused in our growth, putting the emphasis on his work in us.

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing.

      Grace and Peace.

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