“Direct Hit”

Several years ago, Paul Borden consulted with the leaders of the Susquehanna Conference. The Matthew 28 Initiative, a strategy for transforming congregations, developed out of that experience (read more at Growing Effective Churches).

I’ve written about Centre Grove UMC’s experience with Matthew 28: see Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative (the before) and The Matthew 28 Initiative In Review (and after). See also the recent article on the cover of the conference’s newspaper.

Borden’s book, Direct Hit: Aiming Real Leaders at the Mission Field, is a good manual for Matthew 28. The book shows pastors how to lead churches to become outward-focused, focused on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s what transformational leadership is all about. Borden states, “Your purpose as a church leader is to lead a congregation to find those strategies and tactics that will enable followers to effectively reach those lost and dying people with the good news” (28).

An outward focus is essential. In fact, Borden says, “Congregations have two types of customers,” primary and secondary …

Primary customers are the ones who are not yet part of the congregation because they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Secondary customers are the disciples who are already involved in the congregation. (33)

Since it’s natural for churches to turn inward and focus on “secondary customers,” there will naturally be barriers to becoming outward-focused. Borden lists some barriers to leading change in inward-focused congregations, including the fact that “Most pastors do not see themselves as leaders.” Further, pastors often “perform in an environment where faithful endeavor is honored, but fruitful results are not expected or demanded” (20-21).

Borden argues …

few pastors have taken seriously the role of leading an entire congregation to change from conducting ministry for personal consumption to conducting ministry for the purpose of transforming the community that surrounds it. (22-23)

But that’s exactly what must be done. Borden states, “Healthy congregations are outward-focused, and they maintain that focus against tremendous forces that are constantly encouraging an inward bent.” That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These churches “are led by pastors and a team of leaders who are clear about their mission and focused on achieving a vision” (22).

So, what are the behaviors of transformational leaders? Borden discusses several …

  • Passion
  • Courage
  • Flexibility
  • Missional
  • Wisdom
  • Positive
  • Responsibility

Passion is highly important. It “comes from God’s work in our lives,” and is “at the heart of all effective leadership” (31).

Courage is also essential because leading change is never easy!

The control of established congregations by people who do not want to grow and are unwilling to give up privileges of membership is the biggest problem faced by those desiring to lead congregational change. The movement from an inward focus to an outward focus, with rare exception, demands a major shift in who controls the behaviors of the organization. Tackling this major issue demands courageous leaders who are willing to risk all for the sake of the Great Commission. (34)

Transformational leaders must also be missional.

The command to make disciples requires an entirely different kind of leader than one called to oversee current disciples and perhaps grow congregations by reaching others who are already disciples. The most effective pastors today are missionaries at heart. (38)

I love that phrase: “missionaries at heart.” If pastor’s are going to be transformational leaders, they must be missionaries at heart!

Transformational leaders are also positive; they do not feel the need to use guilt or coercion. They simply cast vision.

Positive leaders are constantly showing disciples what God can do and wants to do, and how God is delighted to use disciples to bring about the kingdom of God. These leaders do not lead by compulsion, using guilt to get people to serve. Rather they cast vision, assume the best, and then develop new leaders and disciples who have been convinced that they can do many things in time and space that will have eternal value. (41)

Borden devotes two chapters to vision and creating a sense of urgency. Borden writes, “Vision is derived from the passion of a leader who has a prophetic fire burning within the soul to accomplish something significant for God” (45). Borden details how pastors can effectively develop and communicate the vision.

Borden also gets practical in helping congregations move forward and suggests recruiting three teams for the development phase: a prayer team, a vision team, and a team of leaders to implement the change.

Leading change, and transforming congregations, is not easy, but for the church to truly be faithful to God, it’s work that must be done. Borden states, “The whole purpose of congregational transformation is to get congregations once again fulfilling God’s mission” (57).

Direct Hit is built on the belief that churches ought to be about the mission of making disciples of Jesus and that pastors must lead churches to be passionate about, and devoted to, that mission!

4 thoughts on ““Direct Hit””

  1. Randy,
    I have several questions about this process. First, is this something that was developed withing the boundaries of the Susquehanna Conference or was it developed elsewhere?

    Does this take the place of the “Call to Action” efforts, supplement those efforts, or a result of those efforts? How is this different?

    This was the first time that I have heard anything about this and I am still not clear what it is that is anything different from what the church is supposed to be doing in the first place. I looked at the links that you provided and while there was a great deal of information about the general process, I didn’t think there was anything substantial. And quite honestly, I didn’t learn anything that would make me excited about doing this.

    I am not trying to be cynical but why would it take three years to get something going? The only thing that I agreed with in the “Call to Action” was the sense of urgency that the denomination was in danger of dying. Taking three years to initiate a process, while generating good feelings, may be a bit too long.

    Why do we not go back to our roots and do what it is that Methodists have traditionally been good at and that is holding a good old fashioned revival? It would achieve the goal of Matthew 28 and it would be done in a lot less time.

    But I fear that many Methodists have no clue what it means to have a revival or how to begin one. And we also have this fear that we might turn, heaven forbid, into some sort of fundamentalist. But it was John Wesley who began the revival that saved his country and it was the early Methodists of this country who brought Christ to the people. Maybe we better learn our history and be doing what we have done in the past.

    • Tony, your points are well taken. I would be interested in your thoughts on how we can lead churches to go “back to our roots and do what it is that Methodists have traditionally been good at … holding a good old fashioned revival.”

      In the meantime, I want to be clear: I’m not touting this initiative, or any initiative, as the be-all and end-all of church programs (I never use the word “program” to describe Matthew 28); it’s simply one strategy.

      But, to answer some of your questions, the Matthew 28 Initiative is a strategy that was developed in consultation with Paul Borden for our conference. For what it’s worth, it’s pretty similar to what the Missouri Conference is doing (where Bishop Schnase serves).

      You’re right, this is pretty much what the church should be doing anyway. But, the reality is, most churches aren’t, so we need strategies for leading transformation. Matthew 28 is simply one possible strategy for leading transformation.

      Your point about seeking revival is well taken. Matthew 28 certainly doesn’t replace the need for revival. In fact, the purpose of developing a prayer team is to bathe the whole process in prayer from the beginning.

      But I think it’s important to remember that Wesley and the early Methodists didn’t just seek revival; they built systems, strategies, disciplines (i.e., methods) into the core of the movement. If anything, Matthew 28 should help us refocus and get back to our missional DNA.

      As far as the length of time, it simply takes time to reshape church culture, to turn inward-focused churches into outward-focused ones. That simply doesn’t happen overnight.

      Incidentally, though, the thing that drew me to Matthew 28 in the first place is that it would SPEED UP the transformation process. The first time I mentioned Matthew 28 publicly, I said it would be a catalyst, a shot-in-the-arm; it would allow us to do in one year what it would take at least 3-5 years to do on our own (if ever). And, that’s what’s it done!

      I should say, too, that for me, it’s not primarily about church growth. I simply want to be part of a church that is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, becoming an outward-focused church making disciples of Jesus. I want nothing more than to lead, or be part of, a movement that’s on fire for God. For us, Matthew 28 is simply one ingredient in the recipe for turning that dream into a reality!

      • Randy,
        Sorry that I didn’t back to you quickly but it was a little hectic at this end.

        In response to your request about getting back to our roots, I would suggest that we might think seriously about returning to the pre-1968 order of worship. In that order of worship, the sermon was the last point in the service and it gave one an option to make the call to the congregation to come forward for Christ.

        Now, it was pointed out to me that the present order of worship also includes that opportunity but then is followed by the offering. It strikes me that under the present order of worship it is very difficult to make an altar call and then turn around and ask the offering be taken. It is almost as if we are saying, “now is the time to pay the bills”.

        Now, let me add two points. First, the post-1968 order of worship places communion after the message and that is where it should be. If the focus of worship is on communion, then nothing else should get in the way.

        But if one is not doing communion, then let’s think about a way to focus on giving ourselves to Christ. It has been suggested that instead of the ushers collecting the offering, the people should come up to the altar rail with their offering and that might work. But there are those who don’t have an offering or give it in some other manner, so what are they supposed to do.

        I think that be going to the pre-1968 order of worship on Sundays when there is no communion and placing the message/sermon at the end of the service, we have a chance to really challenge people to make a decision that may have them come to the altar and dedicate (or rededicate) their lives to Christ, or at least leave them pondering the steps that they have to take.

        It doesn’t have to be in the style of the old time religionist (which I happen to despise) but we should always, I think, have the people thinking about what they are going to do next. And the present order of worship, while functional in its own right, doesn’t give us that option.

        • Thanks for your thoughts, Tony.

          We certainly have to be intentional about designing worship in a way that people can encounter and respond to the work of God’s Spirit. I once heard Leonard Sweet say something like, we are afraid to put two hymns together; it’s as if we’re afraid that something will happen (not an exact quote, of course).

          Other than that, I’m not really a stickler for worship order.


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