Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Three missional shifts

Posted on 26 Jun 2014 in Christianity, Ministry, missional theology, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Three missional shifts

Reggie McNeal in his book Missional Renaissance highlights three shifts in the view of the missional church:

  1. From internal to external ministry focus
  2. From program development to people development
  3. From church-based to Kingdom-based leadership

These three areas of development can help move a church from being attractional to missional in mindset. They also serve as good checks on the road to missional and can help churches and leaders see where they are at on the course.

From Internal to External

The vast amount of research out there about church budgets is staggering and one big area of unhealthy churches can be seen in the budget. The result is that almost all churches end up spending a disproportionate amount of budget focused inward on its members instead of outward into the community. Thom Rainer even highlights that the number one cause of declining churches (that eventually die) is the look inward. He says in part, “Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus. The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way.” (Thom goes on from here to highlight the warning symptoms and signs, it’s worth a read, very convicting and insightful).


When the past becomes more sacred than the winning of souls, the church will die.



For a church to make the move from attractional to missional, strategic work needs to be done here. With something as delicate and sensitive as budget, it won’t happen overnight (or maybe over even 365 nights), but this needs to be a key part of the conversation. As I look at other churches and talk to other pastors, this becomes a rather quick way to determine if they really are (or want to be) missional or if they just want to use it as the cool latest buzzword. If pastors, staff, and leadership really get the idea of being missional and desire to move there, the budget needs to begin to reflect that desire.

From Program to People

Churches love ministry. Well, maybe it’s more fair to say that churches love ministries. Churches love the idea of having a lot of programs. It somehow feels holy, and I get that it’s easy to rationalize. It usually goes something like this:

1) People are hurting
2) We have the answer (Jesus)
3) We must help the people
4) Anything we do is great
5) Let’s do everything

In this situation, it’s quickly seen that people are tired and frustrated at their ministry obligations, but afraid to let anything go, even the ministry that hasn’t seen anyone new come in twenty-five years is sacred and needs to keep going “just in case.”

But it’s helpful to take an inventory of where the church is at, see where God is calling it in the future, and then design mission and ministry around that. When the past becomes more sacred than the winning of souls, the church will die. [Tweet That]

In our marriages, in our professional lives, in our families, hobbies, and financial situations we are always willing to stop and address things that become an issue. People quit their jobs everyday because they are tired and lifeless. Yet within the church we often lack the same sort of assessment and fear that we have to hang on to anything that at one time (thirty years ago) produced some small piece of fruit.

Instead what is helpful is to examine, celebrate, and prune.

  1. As an act of discernment, examine your community, your church, and the passion of the people. Chances are you will find something about how God has been shaping you for future ministry. Spend time as a community in prayer and and celebration of the faithfulness of God.
  2. Some ministries just need to be let go, but that doesn’t mean they were never good, right, or beneficial. Chances are there are still people in your congregation that have come to faith because of those ministries. Allow them to share their stories of what God has done and how they have grown since then. Intentionally taking time to celebrate the history of the church and God’s faithfulness will help everyone. Celebrate together the many ways that you have seen God work in and through these ministries and the people.
  3. Prune anything that doesn’t line up. Find the new ways that God has been shaping and calling the people forward in mission and determine to do everything within your power to lead the church there together. Remove the dead branches that have been sucking life and money out of the church and move towards health and wholeness.

From Church to the Kingdom

Along with budget, this becomes an easy way to gauge the heart of the church. If the first question is always, “What’s best for the church?” we will always be limited in ministry. Asking this question always forces us to look after our own (thus exaggerating the needs for the budget) and never to look after the poor, broken, and hurting that are huddling just outside our doors. wooden-cross desk

A more helpful question to ask begins with, “What do we need to do to advance the kingdom?” It’s an easy way to begin looking outward towards the community and allows people to step into their gifts and the unique ways that God has made them.


For churches that desire to make a healthy transition to the future and experience longevity in ministry, these three areas are key places to start, it allows the church to experience all that God has for them while celebrating both the past and a future of lifelong faithful ministry.



What do you think? How has your church or organization started doing these things? How were you challenged?

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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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