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What To Expect In 2013 At Anthem

Late in 2010, I was severly injured and left with painful nerve damage. For me, this resulted in all of 2011 centered on living and ministering in contstant pain. Incremental changes in pain management resulted in frustration that led to pastoral burnout a year later. This was particularly problematic for the church being the primary visionary. Vision became stagnant and leadership more or less about maintenance. This culminated in early 2012 when the pastors of the church deemed necessary an 11-week sabbatical for my overall well being.

This was a grace that I didn't deserve or ask for, however I am eternally grateful for the prevailing wisdom of Anthem's pastors. A family was given back its father and, now, a church its pastor. Where 2011 felt like deconstruction, 2012 is ending with restoration. Now, after two-years and with 2013 ahead of us, I feel ready to embrace the second half of my office: vision. God's providence and timing is proving perfect once again as I look around at the ensuing grace. If you haven't noticed, the church is growing yet again. So I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as we look ahead to 2013 at Anthem Church.

New Leadership

If we are going to continue our current growth curve, we're going to need a lot more leaders around Anthem. Leaders are the carriers of vision and momentum. Solomon wrote:

"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint . . ."

In other words, we drift towards what we ought not rather than towards that which we ought. We are going to need leaders to drift towards positions in:

  • Youth ministry
  • College ministry
  • Sunday mornings
  • Missional Communities
  • Teaching
  • Music

The list is endless and the need is urgent. But more than what they "do", we want leaders for who they "are". So in addition to what Paul wrote to Timothy concerning qualifications of leaders (1 Timothy 3:8-13), there are two main things we are looking for:

1)  We Want Leaders That Are Healthy - this is perhaps the best way to sum up Paul's list of qualifications. Above all else, we want leaders who are spiritually and emotionally fit to steward the Gospel mission. For example, healthy leaders are able to handle criticism and conflict directed towards others. They protect the reputation of the church and its shepherds, as well as the vision and the mission. Also, healthy leaders are able to handle criticism and conflict directed towards them. They are able to be told they're wrong without personalizing and be wrong without villianizing.

By contrast, leaders who are not healthy are critical both openly and secretly, rather than biblically. We want people to voice their opinions, disagreements and concerns, but there is right way to do this (Matthew 18:15-20).  Finally, unhealthy leaders need to be right because they feel their dignity, worth and value is at stake. This results in:

  • Personal agendas being pushed
  • Their way being the only right way
  • The innovation of others being stifled.

2)  We Want Leaders That Are Innovative - leaders who are not innovative see obstacles to any solution. Innovative leaders see solutions to any obstacle. Pastor and leader Craig Groeschel perhaps says it better than I by categorizing them this way:

  • "We Can't Because We Don't" 
  • "We Can Because We Don't"

The first category crushes innovation. People who embody the "we can't because we don't" mentality often say things like:

  • "we can't ________________ because we don't have enough volunteers"
  • "we can't __________________ because we don't have enough money"
  • "we can't _________________ because people don't find it entertaining"

Ironically, many who stiffle innovation the most are the ones who think they are the most innovative. Their objections are often birthed with the best of intentions and are seemingly grounded in reality. However, they neglect to consider that the best innovation comes from what we don't have. Further, "can't" becomes contageous to those they lead and all but guarantees failure.

The second category catalyzes innovation. People who embody "we can because we don't" think this way:

  • "we can make it work, even though we don't have enough ___________"
  • "we can find a way to _____________, though we don't see how right now"
  •  "we can ________________, despite the fact we don't have popular opinion right now"

Those fill-in-the-blanks can only be possible through innovation arising from an attitude that believes:

". . . If God is for us, who can ever be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

". . .With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew19:26)

Obstacles require innovation and innovation requires faith. In fact, obstacles should be seen as a great opportunity to prove faithful and not faithless through our innovating. It may be helpful to think of a pole vaulter. The height is the obstacle, the pole the innovation, and vaulting the faith.

Missional Communities

In 2013, we will complete our transition to Missional Communities church-wide. While we anticipate other concentric circles of community to remain, they will not be part of our sanctioned vision and equipping strategy. Planting Missional Communties in and throughout Marin is how we believe to best saturate the county with our Gospel mission. Therefore, current small/community groups will be abandoned in favor of this strategic movement led by Pastor Jimmy Cook.

Emphasis On Students

Beginning last month, I have personally taken a leadership role with high school students and Pastor Jimmy with college students. We see students as highly important to the Gospel mission going forward.

First, Anthem has a blind spot with families that have teenagers. Why? Two reasons:

  1. We have a blind spot because Marin has a blind spot due in large part to cost of living issues for young families.
  2. We are not equipped with leaders for this

We can't do anything about the first point, but can certaily rectify the second. With my background in student ministries, we intend on ensuring this doesn't continue long-term at Anthem. Families who have teenagers are an important bridge to both the culture and our current members. Without them, who will parents of young adolescents observe and learn from? Progressive disciplship for familes who will have teenagers is at stake as we grow.

Second, college students are among the fastest growing demographic we serve. Why? Again, two reasons:

  1. The Holy Spirit
  2. We are equipped with leaders for this

It is clear that God is at work among 20-somethings and we want to steward that grace well. Other college ministries in Marin have been at this for over a decade with little to no fruit to show for it. Yet, for some reason, our leaders at Anthem have seen tremendous traction in less than a year. Moving forward, Pastor Jimmy will apply the current Missional Community strategy that the church uses to what is going on with college students. In so doing, we believe this will lay the groundwork for something that hasn't been seen in Marin County for quite some time.

Membership, Membership, Membership

Nothinig has changed here. We will continue, as we have, to challenge those at Anthem beyond a life of casual attendance and consumer worship (oxymoron?). We believe that membership is the first step towards truly understanding what it means to be part of a church in the modern era. It calls believers to committ to biblical ideals within the increasingly anti-committment climate we live in. It fosters healthy, generous, missional, and biblical theologians. In short, our members are gospel-centered, gospel-fluent and gospel-focused.

Two Services

This is perhaps the most difficult shift in ministry our church has attempted in the last few years. And while painfully hard to achieve, it is nonetheless a necessary future that we must figure out. We believe the secret recipe for success is healthy, innovative leaders and committed, faithful members. Success here will mean success elsewhere:

  • Continued growth
  • Increased volunteer base
  • Sustainable income
  • Building move
  • Future leaders
  • Missional impact

The list could go on, but this will suffice in showing we cannot underestimate the value of moving to two services in the New Year. The exact timing of this decision has yet to be determined but, rest assure, it is part of our future for 2013.

Conclusion

Everywhere I look, I see evidence of grace. I see it in our people as I watch them grow and minister to others. I see it in my own life and in the lives of many of Anthem's pastors. When I look at the landscape of what could be and should be here in Marin, I find nothing but encouragement and comfort provided by the Spirit. So I would remind us all, as Job reminded himself when things seemed impossibly hard:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." —Job 42:2

And since we want Anthem's purposes to be about His purposes, we all have a lot to feel confident about.