August 27, 2012

By Phil Maynard

Chapter 1:  A Biblical Mandate for Fruitfulness

The authors remind us that the Bible begins and ends with images of fruitfulness and conclude that the church is also intended to be fruitful.  They identify three types of fruitfulness that God hopes we will display:

  • The Fruit of God’s expanding reign:  as witnessed in the call of Abram to become a blessing to all nations and the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations
  • The Fruit of Righteousness:  referring to the integration of God’s wisdom into our lives, bearing fruit in our character, transforming the ways in which we live and work in our communities
  • The Fruit of Justice:  moving beyond moments of compassion or generosity to a state of justice living out the expectation of God that all people will find adequate resources to enjoy life

Chapter 2:  An Invitation to Labor for God’s Harvest

While mission and vision are common terms in church circles, sometimes even used interchangeably, in this chapter the authors remind us that mission is all about why we exist or what we exist to do.  In United Methodist circles, our mission as a denomination and hence individual congregations is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Values, on the other hand, describe us at our best and what the congregation strives to be.

Vision, is a picture of what we are called to do now and in this particular place…it is the mission lived out in the context of the congregation and the community it is called to serve.

The authors note that there is a big difference between simply doing more and actually accomplishing more.  It is a question of outcomes rather than activity.  They describe two common tendencies 1) the gravitational pull to activity focused measurement and 2) the focus on internal services rather than reaching the people we are called to serve.

Asking the question “What would be different if our mission were accomplished?” is essential if we are to move toward missional outcomes.  The follow-up focus needs to be accountability – are we producing what we set out to accomplish?

Chapter 3:  The Two Most Powerful Words for Fruitful Leadership:  So That

Using a variety of biblical examples, the authors point out a biblical pattern for the activity of God’s people:  so that…consider the following:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may     not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16)

God’s love was revealed among us in this way, God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him (1 John 4:9)

Using the ‘so that’ formula, congregations are invited to consider the things that they do (VBS, Choir, Ushers etc.) so that they might determine the connection to the mission.  An example of one congregation using this format is included to show how the process works.

Chapter 4:  From Fruitful Management to Fruitful Leadership: The Power of Vision

Fruitful leadership is about the vision to which God is calling a people.  But it is not about the leader’s vision.  It’s about discernment.  Asking questions like:  What is God trying to accomplish here?  What can we do that would serve God’s reign at this time in this place?

Fruitful Christian leadership begins the day that we are able to align the calling of God in our lives with the mission and context in which we serve.  Then the vision emerges out of our community as God’s people together discern the calling of God in all of our lives in light of our mission and context.

Sometimes this discernment will be a structured and formal process.  At other times, the vision will emerge when a congregation discovers a common passion for a critical need.

Chapter 5:  Fruitful Leadership in Established Congregations

An essential prerequisite for faithful leadership in established congregations is to learn the story of the congregation.  The past, in an established church, has tremendous impact on the present and future.  When you spend time discovering the history, values, and story of the church, you send a message that you are trying to join them on the journey God has been leading over many decades.

The beauty of the congregation’s story is that it allows the leaders to remind the congregation of the very best of its history and how these qualities can still be lived in the community today.

Chapter 6:  Serving God’s Vision

Faithful ministry requires leaders to embrace God-sized visions that have the power to transform the lives, church, and community of their people.  A God-sized vision is something that your church cannot do under its own power with the resources available today.

The authors use the story of Zerubbabel to illustrate some lessons about God-sized visions:

  • Understand why the vision is significant
  • There is a reason God does not show you everything
  • God-sized visions give God room to work
  • Growing the leader

Chapter 7:  Giving Life to the Vision

Those who desire fruitful ministry should not underestimate the difficulty of building the necessary consensus to make great ideas a reality.  One of the greatest gifts leaders can provide is clarity.  When clarity is present, it supplies a vitality that naturally occurs when people discover they are on a mission together.

The authors suggest, for keeping the vision and progress in focus:

  • Monthly monitoring report of a ministry initiative
  • Staff meetings structured with a deliberate agenda
  • Communication with the congregation in a variety of ways

Chapter 8:  Sustaining Fruitful Leadership: Learning to Lead Yourself

Fruitful leadership in ministry is a ‘distance event’.  The following disciplines are made for leaders to stay fit for the long haul:

  • Take time to stretch
  • Move at the pace of your success
  • Be discerning about pain
  • Make time for recovery
  • Find a cheering section

Chapter 9:  Planting, Watering, and Praying for Growth

Faithful leaders must be the primary keepers of the vision.  They must be so connected to God that all efforts are directed toward the fruition of God’s vision.  These leaders also pay attention to the harvest.  This includes both numerical growth (worship attendance and membership) and the health of Christian discipleship.  Then, they must remember that it is God who makes it grow.