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Monday, March 15, 2010

From the Fog to the Focus.

We had a friend stay with us last week. She is a gifted professional coach and consultant. We have known her for a number of years. She was not with us to consult, per se, but in the course of many conversations over the week, she was able to offer keen insight into imagine/Northampton and what we need to change for the better. She cares for us and the mission we have been summoned to.

She also affirmed what I sensed, but could not articulate well.

Most helpful was her questioning where our strategic focus was these days. She could not draw a bead on it. I know why: it had become refracted and diffuse over the last few months. We have been scattered in our direction. The experience has, at times,  felt to me a bit like chasing after the wind or grasping at straws. I really couldn't articulate the strategic focus to her. When I would try, she would get a very puzzled look on her face. And I was getting lost as the words stumbled from my mouth. It was awkward, but revealing.

As we dealt with the confusion she reminded me of the critical need to focus on our main thing. What is the strategic focus we need to pour our resources toward to best accomplish why we are here in the first place? As I said, this wasn't new to me, but I saw afresh the imperative of doing so.

We had been trying what seemed to make sense such as having public worship once a month. We were also beginning to brainstorm forums and events we could do to establish a presence and meet a need in Northampton. And we were thinking again about our initial idea of having a place on Main Street where we could serve the city. Lately, we decided to pull back from public offerings and re-group to deepen our community as a house church.

So we were trying, but trying does not equate to having a real strategic focus.

From her questioning and our discussion I was ushered back to the imagine/Northampton mission statement:

To creatively help people discover the God who is far more than they can imagine.

The question became: "so how best can we do that?" As I reflected, it made sense we needed to do so internally and externally. In other words, we need to help the people God has already gathered around the imagine mission, i.e., the Launch and Leadership Teams, the imagine/Band, and the people coming regularly to worship with us. How do we help them discover God where they still don't know him? How do we help them deepen their understanding, surrender more of their hearts, and follow him more closely as their primary way of life? Deepening our community gathered around Jesus who has called us together to know and serve him makes sense. If they are not spiritually formed and convinced of his love and the call to serve him, how will they be able to "incarnate" his love in Northampton?  (Mission focus 1a)

Next, I thought about the fact we also need to help people discover him who are not yet called by his name. The reason we are here is just that. It is our "prime directive." My next blog will articulate a way of beginning. (Mission focus 1b)

The last question concerns by what means will we accomplish 1a or 1b? Will it be imagine on Main necessitating a major fundraising campaign? Will it be centered on developing our house church and organically growing a "viral" community of Jesus followers who fan out into the city and build relationships with people one at a time? Could the public forums and events be the best way of connecting?

The Leadership and Launch Teams will have to decide with the help of the Holy Spirit in the days ahead. We shouldn't tarry in ascertaining God's strategic focus a day more than is necessary for discerning God's will.

Finally, in another discussion with our friend, it became clearer to me we don't really operate as a team. We really operate more as a small group of like-mind Jesus-followers who care for one another, love Jesus, support the mission, and want to see it realized. Six of us did move up here and a few others have joined our merry band. People are learning to be missional individually, and most help out with events, etc. But I think all would agree ours is not yet a coordinated effort where we all have distinct responsibilities on the team, and are accountable to one another to fulfill them. We are not adverse to such a team dynamic; we're just not there yet. We need to get there.

So I feel like my fog has lifted a bit.  You might remember, I have ADD so the fog dogs me. I just had to write that!

I know a key part of my leadership role in the days ahead will be to keep this need in front of everybody all the time. I must be like a broken record for a while. Vision leaks and strategic focus dims if someone isn't keeping them in view constantly.

If we fail to focus we will languish in confusion and maybe even chase our tails. The Gospel and the Kingdom are too precious a treasure to squander in vacillating ineptitude.

Pray for imagine/Northampton and the missionaries gathered to launch it. Here is the team:

Kit & Tricia McDermott
Jim & Karin LaMontagne
Matt & Karen Bayne
Nate Oldham
Ashley Capozzoli (soon to be Nate's bride)
Michael Dubuque
Maureen Frates
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