American churches are like forts.
30% of the members ride into the fort once a week and then they ride back out of the fort intending not to be influenced…or to influence…the people who live out on the frontier.
And, frontier people have no interest in discovering what fort people do inside their forts or if it might add any value to their lives.
Some churches like being forts. Forts keep the bad people (those different than us!) and their influence out and away from the “good people” who ride in and out of the fort.
Many churches, and their leaders, don’t like being forts. They see the biblical disconnect of a people called to Go and Make Disciples. …As the Father sent me; so I send you… But the forces of the fort make it almost impossible to break the ride-into/ride-out-of-the-fort mentality,and so there is little influence on the frontier.
There are two reasons why your church probably won’t break out of the ride-into/ride-out-of-the-fort mentality and why the church will have less and less future influence on the mission frontier.
- Every church searches for the “change your fort in 50 days” program rather than admit that it will be a slow process marked with breakthroughs and setbacks.
- Every church tries to find the substitute for leaders…yes, leaders…who can live on the frontier and lead others to live on the frontier, too.
It’s pretty simple. We need more and more leaders who function outside the fort and lead others onto the frontier, as well.
So, here are 4 surefire ways to keep that from happening:
- Don’t go first! Gail and I discovered that going first was really pretty simple…just not easy, since we’d never done it before.
- Make sure your fort makes it painful for anyone to fail. It’s okay not to have crazy success immediately.
- Send them out and ignore them. Don’t invest in them. You’ll lose them forever. Nor will they form the character and faith to lead again.
- Keep it abstract and unclear. Most people are sensors (Myers Briggs) and need easily understood steps to begin entering the frontier.
It’s no surprise that the fort/frontier problem is a leadership problem.
It’s no surprise that most of us will not successfully navigate this problem by ourselves.
So, what can you do?
- Share this with some of the “good people” at your fort.
- Ask them to help you pick out the next “change your fort in 50 days” program or ask them if they’re up for the slow, but exciting journey, into the frontier. (Lots of fort people thought that following Jesus would be much more exciting than they’ve found it to be.)
- Check out one of the five PLI learning communities that will launch later this year, some for pastor and spouse…some that include the baptized people of God… in Boston or D.C. or Cleveland or Omaha or Denver. Raechel can tell you more.
Here’s my fear! Too many churches and too many leaders will wait too long to begin the slow and rewarding journey onto the frontier and they will surrender the opportunity to be the vibrant community that they long to be.
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken