With all the power and subtlety of a tank, Bill Easum asks, “Is your congregation being faithful to the biblical mission of making disciples?” He rolls on from there.
In his latest work, Unfreezing Moves: Following Jesus into the Mission Field, Easum observes that many churches are “stuck.” For various reasons, they are unable to make disciples.
Easum intends to help such churches “become faithful congregations that can join Jesus on the mission.” Furthermore, he wants to help even the “unstuck” churches continue to innovate.
He works toward this purpose by first laying a foundation for understanding the transformational task, and then offering nine unfreezing moves.
Easum writes that stuck churches fall into two “spheres.” Sphere One churches have a pervasive atmosphere of control. Through stifling structures, little permission is given for real ministry to take place. Building maintenance and historic programs are given priority. Disciples are not grown and new ideas are not welcome. These churches are firmly stuck.
Sphere Two churches are still stuck, but they are struggling to break free. They are in turmoil because some members have a desire for “more,” but the power agents are resisting.
Unstuck churches fall into two spheres as well, according to Easum. Sphere Three churches encourage ministry to spring up. Leaders assist believers in utilizing their passions and gifts. Innovation is valued and permission is easily given.
Sphere Four churches are congregations that have been functioning in Sphere Three, but are taking a short breather in order to rest, evaluate and then re-engage.
To some, this may sound like a recipe for utter confusion. But Easum explains that a church’s DNA will guide ministries and decisions. The DNA is the agreed-upon mission, vision, values and bedrock beliefs of the local church. The DNA is vigorously guarded, proclaimed and lived out. All decisions are made in light of the DNA. Anything that violates it is dropped.
The second section of the book describes the nine unfreezing moves and offers some evaluative questions to help readers decide if their churches are ready to make this move. The nine moves are:
Move 1—A Solid Community of Faith
The most important step in the transformation of a church is the creation of deeply spiritual leaders who trust each other, are free of major conflict and have a deep desire to connect with the outside world. Without this core, true change is impossible.
Move 2—Discovering and Articulating the DNA
The church must have a DNA which is faithful to the biblical mandate to make disciples and love each other. This DNA must be owned by the leadership of the church and actively applied to all aspects of church life.
Move 3—Indigenous Worship
Easum describes indigenous worship as using the language, technology and culture of the people the church is trying to reach. He states that changing worship is the most productive of all of the unfreezing moves. However, he warns that if the first two moves have not been successfully mastered, then it is the easiest way to create a riot.
Move 4—Mobilizing the Congregation for Ministry
Easum advocates training the body of the church to perform the overwhelming majority of outreach and discipling. This shift also means that the primary function of the paid staff is to equip 10 to 20 people for serious ministry leadership.
Move 5—Redemptive Missional Opportunities
Sphere Three and Four churches have a driving passion to connect with and transform their world in everything that they do. These ministries thrive best when they bubble up from spiritual leaders with a burning heart to see a particular mission fulfilled.
Move 6—Organizing around the DNA
No one organizational system is proposed. Instead, as congregations become Sphere Three or Four churches, they must be certain that no structure has been carried over or allowed to develop which inhibits the DNA.
Move 7—Hire Servants, Not Professionals
Staff members should live as servants whose primary function is not to minister to the members, but to gather and equip teams of ministers by encouraging them to live out their spiritual gifts in line with the DNA of the church.
Move 8—See Space and Place as a Metaphor
Too many congregations spend more of their resources on facilities than they do on their biblical mission. Faithful congregations understand that property is simply a tool for fulfilling their mission.
Move 9—Radical Generosity
If a church successfully becomes a community of faith (Move 1) and involves the body in significant ministry (Move 4), then money is rarely an issue.
In 174 pages, Easum may not give all the detail the reader desires, but he has condensed an enormous amount of quality material. This makes the book useful as a starting point for personal and group study. He also points the way to other valuable and more detailed materials.
Easum is not naive about the hard work involved in transformation. He regularly acknowledges the dangers and difficulties staff, and especially pastors, will face. Nor does he advocate a specific model based on the mega-church du jour.
Instead, he passionately argues for the church of any size to be faithful to its biblical mission. And that is hard to argue.
David Benjamin is pastor of King’s Cross Church in Tullahoma, Tenn.