Nexus Blog

Intentional Churches

By | June 6th, 2022

I recently watched The Matrix: Revolutions on a flight home from vacation. In between corralling all three of my children and ensuring all of their devices were working so they could be properly entertained, I was thrust back into my college days of endless discussions, arguments, and theorizing about The Matrix. This phenomenal trilogy released around the turn of the century was a sci-fi, action-packed, thriller where the machines ruled the world and humans fought to resist. One unique characteristic about many of the humans is that they had a port in the back of their heads through which they could be ‘plugged in’ to The Matrix. The coolest part was that an “operator” could upload all kinds of content into a person’s brain once connected. So, in an instant, the hero Neo played by Keanu Reeves is delivered countless skills. When the first round of uploading is complete, he wakes up and delivers the iconic line, “I know Kung Fu.”

Immediately, we all wished we had some kind of port in the backs of our heads to instantly learn any topic, skill, language, or anything else in the world. The bummer is, we don’t. The only way is through hard work, discipline, time, energy, and investment.

To learn something new or accomplish something great, you have to be intentional.

Church leadership is no different. Too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of pulling off services every 7 days, managing the staff, putting out fires, dealing with drama, and everything else. We regularly miss the impact and influence we could have in our communities simply by being unintentional with how we invest our time, energy, and resources. We envy the churches and leaders that are movers and shakers in their communities many times wondering ‘why not us?’

Intentional Churches Are Led By Intentional Leaders

Bart Rendel & Doug Parks have spent years leading and serving the church in many different roles. Most recently through the ministry of Intentional Churches (IC). IC is a church leadership consulting company that walks leaders through their Church OS (Operating System) to help leaders be intentional in everything they do. [Watch our webinar interview with Doug Parks]

Church life is busy and a lot of things can fall through the cracks or even distract us from the intended mission of our churches. The gravitational pull to focus inward is massive. We tend to focus on the ones who are already with us rather than the ones who aren’t. That focus is always initiated from the top down in our leaders. But the reverse is true as well. If we’re intentional and focused on what we do and why, the results are evident. It would be awesome to plug all of our leaders into The Matrix and upload the mission, values, strategies, best practices, and vision of the church that we constantly dream about. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s a process.

As they say in their book, Intentional Churches, “Intentional churches are led by intentional leaders.” From the way we craft services, train small group leaders, cast vision, manage our website, or follow up with first-time visitors, we have to be intentional. So how do we do that as leaders?

There’s so much good content in their book and I highly recommend you pick up a copy. But here are two of the many insights that have connected with me…

Site-to-Seat-to-Street Total Experience

Do you know that wall in your house that needed the paint touched up like 4 years ago? The one where a guest in your home would notice it immediately. Or maybe it’s the sound of a train near where you live. You don’t even hear it anymore but someone who visits your home notices it immediately and is visibly agitated. That psychological response happens all the time. It’s something that’s familiar and unimportant to us because we’re there all the time but when someone new walks into our space it’s clearly an issue. That’s often how it is with our church spaces.

I love this tool called the Site-to-Seat-to-Street Total Experience. It helps leaders know what areas they should be mindful of as they consider every aspect of a first-time visitor’s experience at a church service. Often, people are taking in experiences and are being influenced by things we haven’t even considered. You’d communicate well about the time, tell them where to park, the house would be cleaned, the table set, the meal prepared and ready, the conversation would be riveting, clean up would be immediate, etc.

It’s our job to be intentional in the details so that every aspect of a person’s experience has been thought through. From the first time they visit our website to when they get to their seat in services and eventually pull away from our meeting location, we’ve thought through it all. It shows that we value them but it also makes our church gatherings more attractive, engaging, and catalytic.

Double Vision

The second thing I want to share with you is the concept of Double Vision. Nothing new under the sun here. It’s the ability to think, act, and evaluate how you might double your Kingdom impact. Dreaming of a better future requires putting tension on what things are like today. I loved this quote from Intentional Churches:

“Great vision acts like tension in a rubber band. It puts tension on your plans and activities. It informs direction. Just like a rubber band, too much tension will break it… Vision that is too shallow or weak will not inform direction just as a slack rubber band doesn’t do much between your hands. There is no built-up energy or useful tension to instruct the next steps. It also allows you to wander aimlessly, maybe moving forward, maybe not… Double Vision is inspiring and life giving, it catalyzes a clear response, aligns your team, clarifies strategy, leads to breakthrough thinking, and is within reach!”

Intentional Churches

Understanding where you are and what your impact has been is great. But it’s not the end. Yes, praise the Lord for the good things He has done in and through your ministry. But continue to dream about what’s next. If you were intentional as a leader, how could you partner with God to double your church’s Kingdom impact in the next 5 years?

Vision Lives And Dies In Execution

It’s easy to dream big dreams. The harder work lies in the execution. When you wake up on Monday morning with a fresh set of problems to address from the day before. But you don’t always have to wake up like Peter in Office Space with “a case of the Monday’s.” We can be intentional as leaders.

One of the staff values for Andy Stanley’s church is “make it better.” So you did a great job on Sunday, what can you do to make it better? You held a great children’s event. What can you do to make it better? Your website is cool. How can you make it better? Our discipleship process is working! How could we make it better?

Intentional churches are led by intentional leaders. Be ruthless in evaluation and dream God-sized dreams. And take heart, for the Lord is with you!

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