Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Pinball Method

My father has a great illustration about the strategy that most churches use to guide their ministries. Let's call it The Pinball Method.

It works like this: Someone enters the church like a ball is launched into the machine. Maybe they'll bounce off of this program, maybe they'll bounce off of that program. Maybe they'll score a lot of points, or -better yet- get us another ball. Eventually, they'll start to fall through the bottom, so the flippers (or "staff") flip them back into the system.

It's a little random, but that can be fixed. Just add new targets ("programs") or flippers ("staff") at strategic positions in the machine. Eventually, there are more things for the pinballs to bounce off of than there are pinballs in the machine.

Sadly, The Pinball Method is the ministry strategy I'm used to. It's what I've done for 12 years. It's what inertia in a church will inevitably lead to.

So let's try a different method. Let's call it The iPod Method.

iPods are simple. There's a grand total of one button on an iPod. One. But the capabilities inside of such a simple machine are stunning. It can store video, pictures, and music. You can carry a roomfull of CDs and DVDs in a portable jukebox that weighs about 6 oz. And it's all managed by one button.

What if a church could be that simple? The iPod Method is one where the entire purpose, plan, and process of a church can be expressed in one sentence. Or maybe even one word.

What is the purpose of a church in one word?
What characterizes a mature disciple of Jesus in one word?
What is the most effective strategy for reaching others in one word?

What if all of those were the same word?

I believe they are:


So here at Harvest, we've built our vision/mission/purpose/whatever statement around that word. We want to be a church that exists for love. A people characterized by love. Where we impact our world with love. The more I study the Bible, the more I find this is right.

So instead of a pinball machine, we have a triangle:

See? Simple.