Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers

SacredCowsSacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers; Ministry Anytime Anywhere by Anyone (William M. Easum; © 1995 by Abingdon Press)

Bill Easum is an internationally known speaker and writer, and is respected for his insights into congregational culture, and the future of the church. He has written three other books, The Church Growth Handbook, How to Reach Baby Boomers, and Dancing with Dinosaurs. These works have been helpful for many E.L.C.A. leaders who are planning for their congregations’ futures.

An outline of the book’s contents:

v Chapter 1: The Sacred Cow

  • Control is stifling the church.
    • This book is about freeing individuals and teams to make responsible contributions to the Body of Christ without having to first ask for permission.
  • Summary: Easum’s image of a leader is one who: “finds all the gifts of members, winds them up, and sets them on their way.”

v Chapter 2: The Quantum Age

  • Not only is there more change these days than in the past — there is a different kind of change.
    • Very little in our past has prepared us for ministry in today’s world.
    • Things in the environment that disturb a system’s equilibrium help create new forms of order.
    • Chaos or disorder can become the source of new order instead of something to be avoided.
    • Chaos is the start of something new.
    • Tightly controlled organizations and institutions will not do well in the Quantum Age. In place of a top down, oppressive approach something new is emerging: permission-giving networks.
    • Accountability is more important than control. The individual or team takes action, and then gives account of what was done and why it was done.
  • Summary: While in the Newtonian world inertia was the norm of the universe until some object struck another object, in the quantum world change is the norm of the universe. No constants exist. A radical unpredictability underlies all experience and a profound irrationality lies at the heart of experience. [page 23]

v Chapter 3: The Controllers

  • Controllers have two objectives: to resist change, and to control everything that happens.
    • The church (in its desire to be nice) too often lets controllers have far too much influence.
    • As a church grows, the small central group can no longer manage all the affairs of the congregation in a timely fashion
  • It is important to distinguish between accountability and control.
    • Control has to do with restraint, limiting people, and exercising power.
    • Accountability has to do with measuring results, and working towards a goal with integrity.
  • Summary: The role of Christian leaders is to help God’s people discover their spiritual gifts and live them out on behalf of the body of Christ. The Body of Christ is the foundation for the permission-giving church. [page 37]

v Chapter 4: The Connection and Foundation

  • The Body of Christ is a helpful metaphor for the church.
    • It implies cooperation, equality, mutual trust, unity (but not uniformity or conformity)… as well as illness, ugliness, dysfunctionality, and deformity.
    • It is composed of networks and relationships that are in daily flux.
    • The body is a bottom-up network, based on cooperation, freedom, and the common good.
    • All cells (parts) are stamped with DNA that engineers them to do what they do automatically.
  • The Body of Christ is a network of autonomous cells called “spiritual gifts.”
    • Each gift is autonomous, yet functions on behalf of the entire body.
  • Summary: Christ gives us total freedom to make the final decision about how we live. We can be permission givers or controllers. We can live on behalf of the common good, or self. It is our choice. If we choose to bless the diversity of one another and cooperate with each other on behalf of the Body, the Body is healthy. If we choose to live for self, the Body suffers. [page 46]

v Chapter 5: Permission-Giving Churches

  • Permission-giving churches bend over backward to err on the side of giving permission to new ministries. They live to say yes instead of no.
    • Trust and love are at the heart of permission-giving churches. Love lets go and permits the other to stretch his or her wings. Mutual respect is present.
    • Instead of asking people to serve based on the need of the institution, they are asked what gifts they have to bring, and how they want to use them.
    • The shorter the time lag between discovering a spiritual gift and putting it into actual ministry, the more effective the congregation will be. There are two practices that help this:
      • Don’t give new ministries to existing committees.
      • Avoid taking a vote on new ministries whenever possible.
  • Summary: Permission-giving churches have leaders who are secure enough to equip others for ministry, and then get of their way and let them develop their ministry even if it is not something in which they might participate. The authority of these leaders comes from their servanthood, not their power or election. [page 54]

v Chapter 6: Discovering Our Place in God’s World

  • Permission-giving leaders rely heavily on “power with” — working through relationships, acting together with others, developing friendships while working on behalf of Christ.
    • God has given everyone spiritual gifts — the leader’s responsibility is to help others discover what their gifts are, and help them to use them for the sake of Christ.
    • A spiritual gift is not a natural talent. It is what God does through us to accomplish something.
    • The servant model is important. This is the goal of spiritual gifts — helping one another serve.
    • Often times spiritual gift inventories are used to make this happen.
  • Summary: Permission-giving churches encourage each person to look within to discover their gifts for the purpose of sharing those gifts with the Body of Christ. [page 70]

v Chapter 7: Permission-Giving Leaders

  • Today’s leaders focus on delegating responsibility, rather than controlling or managing.
    • Their passion is to develop other leaders who will develop other leaders.
    • Healthy leaders have four fundamental emphases: faith, vision, mentoring, and realism.
  • Summary: Permission-giving leaders ask one question: “How am I going to use my spiritual gifts today to encourage someone else to help the Body of Christ to grow and mature tomorrow?” [page 96]

v Chapter 8: Permission-Giving Networks

  • Permission-giving churches need an organization that encourages each person to use his or her gifts on behalf of the Body of Christ without going through a maze of committees to get approval.
    • Networking is the foundation of this organization.
    • Control in this organization is replaced with interaction between the parts of the network on behalf of the whole.
    • There is no “right” form of organization. It is becoming increasingly difficult to develop organizational or informational flow charts. As soon as one is developed, the needs of the organization change. The easier it is to diagram an organization, the more ineffective it will be.
  • Summary: New alliances and networks of teams will also emerge in permission-giving churches. The self-organized team approach will be vastly different from the committee structures that are entrenched in bureaucracies. [page 112]

v Chapter 9: Self-Organizing Ministry Teams

  • The clearer a church is about its mission and the more intent it is on being a permission-giving church, the fewer standing committees it needs.
    • Few churches need more than one standing committee — most churches can reach this goal over a five or six year period of transition.
    • In the place of standing committees, permission-giving churches encourage the formation of self-organizing, self-governing, and self-destructing teams.
    • The interconnectedness of the teams makes the overall ministry of the church function smoothly.
    • The governing body intervenes only if what a team is doing goes against the core values of the congregation or endangers it financially.
  • There are five basic types of teams: problem-solving teams, natural management teams, quality circles, virtual teams, and work teams.
    • Each team needs to have its own clearly developed mission statement.
    • Core Ministry teams accomplish what the church cannot imagine doing without (worship, Sunday school…)
    • Most congregations need to have at least two core ministries in addition to worship and Sunday school.
    • Staff and leaders need to see themselves as “serving” the teams, not controlling them.
    • Training of volunteer leaders is very important.
  • Summary: If you decide to begin a team ministry, avoid the following mistakes. (1) Don’t use someone else’s organization. Develop your own so that all teams support the mission of the church. (2) Don’t abdicate responsibility. Even though teams are given total decision making power, it is essential that an accountability system is provided. (3) Don’t refuse help from someone outside of the church if you have never ministered in a permission-giving church. (4) Don’t abandon the project before its time. Give it three to five years. (5) Don’t make the transition to team ministry without beginning to dismantle some of the bureaucracy. [page 130]

v Chapter 10: The Steering Team

  • Permission-giving congregations function best if they are held accountable by one small standing committee. I call this group the Steering Team. This group consists of no more than seven people, including the Pastor. The group is limited to a two year term to ensure that if they become a cork instead of a funnel, they can’t obstruct ministry very long.
    • It provides boundaries that guide people as they chose how to participate.
    • Three documents are essential:
      • a Mission Statement — basic, bottom line mission — one sentence — easily memorized
      • a Vision Statement — narrow mission of the church — slightly longer and more specific
      • a Value Statement — sets boundaries — helps individuals live out the above two
    • If a Finance Committee is absolutely necessary, then ensure that its primary role is to provide as much money for ministry as possible.
  • Summary: Any person or team that does not work for the Body must be held accountable in ways that are in line with the values of the congregation. Otherwise the Statements have no meaning.. [page 140]

v Chapter 11: Transformation

  • Transformation begins with a Pastor  who is intentional, has a vision, and articulates that vision so that it is shared by the congregation, and gets enough people to support it.
  • Transformation is a long-term project.
  • It begins with a “quick victory” to give leaders confidence.
  • Nothing can be above question.
    • Pastors must remember that their first priority is to be the spiritual leader to those who are hurting because their world is changing.
    • Permission-giving churches exchange rules for values. We need to be clear on our common values, beliefs, and mission before moving forward.
  • Summary: What most of our churches are doing at the moment is not developing disciples of Jesus Christ who are willing to live on behalf of people they have not yet met. [If we are to become that kind of church] we need to formulate new questions and look for new solutions.. [page 166]

Questions for Saint Peter’s Ministries:

¨     How do we see the presence of accountability and control at Saint Peter?

¨     How is the “Body of Christ” a freeing metaphor for our congregation?

¨     What levels of trust and love exist here — is the atmosphere one of grace?

¨     What can we do to insure that we recruit leaders who are mature enough to be helpful?

¨     How important is servanthood in our congregation’s culture?