A Simple Secret to Increase Your Community Impact

Will Mancini: “Are you ready to give all of yourself to the one thing that God has given your church to do?”

Would you believe that you could easily double your community impact in the next five years without spending any extra ministry dollars? How about a five- or tenfold increase of impact? I think you can with nothing more than two days with your leadership team. Would you jump to make that kind of investment?

I’ve got a secret and I don’t want to keep it. I want you to exploit it because I’m convinced God wants to do something cosmically significant and locally specific through your ministry. What makes the secret a bit tricky is that you already know it through life experience, and yet it’s almost entirely missing in church leadership.

So what’s the secret?

What Focus Does

When you were a kid, did you ever try to start a fire by focusing the light of the sun through a magnifying glass? (I realize this illustration may lean toward a boy’s version of growing up.) The nifty trick was revealed to me in fourth grade. My two favorite things to burn that summer were short pieces of rope and ants. The rope caught fire easier than most objects, and watching the ants sizzle felt like sweet revenge. (Of course, I never admitted this to any future employers.) Think about the science of it for a moment; it’s a bit like magic. Take several square inches of warm and pleasant-to-the-skin sunlight and then focus it to the size of a pin. Shazam! Stuff actually burns!

Now what does a backyard science fair project have do with your church? Everything. It’s a lesson in the powerfully simple, yet under practiced dynamic of focus: the greater the focus, the greater the impact. Concentrate the sunlight to start a fire. As management guru Peter Drucker asserts, “There are no results without a concentration of resources.” If you want to significantly increase, deepen and expand your impact, you must narrow your focus. You must find the very best thing that God is calling you do and give it your all.

How to Gain Focus

The secret to concentration is elimination.

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Over the last 15 years, I’ve observed firsthand that an inability to focus is one of the greatest predicaments of organized disciple-making in the church today. In fact, I believe we are so used to a lack of focus that it’s difficult to imagine anything else. Our people are busier and more distracted than ever. Next Sunday rolls around at the speed of life. Our staff, tired and overwhelmed, operate almost exclusively in silos. We simply try to do too much. As a result, we settle for fragmented programming and we swim in diluted disciple-making. Weeks, months and years go by and the priceless treasure of focused leadership slips through our fingers like sand. We have lost the ability to concentrate all of our resources on God’s biggest idea for our community.

So back to our opening question: Would you spend two days with your leadership team to double your community impact? Of course you would. Who wants to sit around and get a tan in the sun when you could start a wildfire of redemptive movement?

Beyond a Generic Vision

So how would two days enable a new kind of focus? It takes that long to revive the most important kind of focus that drowns in the busyness of ministry—long-range focus. Give your team a magnifying glass to zero in on one specific kind of dramatic good—a vivid and white-hot vision of the most important thing your church can do in the next five, 10 or 15 years. Think of it as a daring dream and a compelling picture of your church’s future. It’s the ultimate contribution from your congregation in a given chapter of your church’s history.

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Before I show you what focus looks like, let’s cover what it doesn’t look like.

Every pastor is a visionary, but focus doesn’t happen if you have only a generic vision of your church’s future. A generic vision is one that is indistinct, common and nonspecific. There is no focus. If your church were a restaurant, a generic vision would be: “We want to serve more food.” In the church we say basically the same thing, but with Bible verses. We say our vision is to “love God and love people.” Or “make disciples.” Or “reach more.” The scriptural imperatives are essential—period. But these imperatives don’t displace the work of imagining how your finite resources really play out in your time and place with your church’s unique strengths.

The Scripture is like the sun. Collaborative assessment and visionary planning are the magnifying glass.

Long-Range Vision

So what does a focused, long-range vision look like?

Clear Creek Community Church, founded in 1993, “adopted” a square geographic locale in one area of Houston, Texas, that is inhabited by 500,000 people. They call it the “4B” area, designated by four clear boundaries: Beltway 8 to the north, the beach of Galveston to the south, the Brazoria county line to the west and the Bay to the east. Clear Creek put a magnifying glass over the general biblical imperative to make disciples by dreaming of inviting every person in the 4B area into a gospel community (small missional groups) in the next 15 years. And, by the way, more than half of these people are “nones” on the most recent census. That means they have no religious affiliation whatsoever—a massive opportunity to build relationships with people far from God.