Transforming the church to change the world


Joel Holm

Joel Holm Ministry Resources, 2004, 206 pp.   ISBN 0-9748686-6-34


Joel Holm, an MK, has 2 masters degrees from Wheaton Graduate School and has served as a pastor in two churches.  He is the founder of PathFinders International, a ministry that serves as a global broker connecting churches throughout the world into strategic mission work.  He teaches churches worldwide how to discover and organize around a strategic mission vision. 


When I saw the title, I thought this might be the book I have wanted to write.  Reading with a heightened sensitivity, I found myself both applauding and frowning. 


Some things I applauded:

1.     A local church should be centered on, and organized around, its mission.

2.     The church should have its own individual mission vision.

3.     Every department and every individual in the church should participate in its mission vision.

4.     The arena for mission is global in scope.

5.     Partnerships should be organized to achieve a mission goal.


Some things that concerned me:

1.     The “mission” of the church is nebulous and undefined. 

2.     A church’s particular mission vision seemingly can be to undertake any problem in the world.

3.     False dichotomies are set up between ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ ways.

4.     The right way to build the church globally is for your church to undertake mission directly through partnerships with other churches.

5.     Typical missions approaches are caricaturized as well as criticized.

6.     Implementation is described as a mentality but the ‘how-to’ is very general and no models are cited.

7.     The peculiar difficulties of working directly in cross-cultural settings and in cross-cultural partnerships are not addressed.


“...we have a tendency to see our church as the place for Christians and the world as the place for mission.  The conclusion we draw is that the church and mission have little in common.” [But] “God built His church to fulfill His mission.” (x)


“This is not a book about missions.  This is a book about the church.”  “ is the church that Gods builds to reach the world.” (xiii)  “Church-centered Mission is not so much a model as it is a mentality.” (xiv)


“We should not define mission.  It should define us.”  “Mission should be at the center of our church’s identity.” (12)


“The world is in chaos.  People’s lives are in chaos.  This chaos is global yet it is also very personal.”  “Chaos reigns.”  “The truth is that the gospel works best in chaos.”  “Everyone is looking for a way out of chaos.” “The church must recognize the chaos and respond in mission to it.” (16-17)


“The idea of church-centered mission is just that—an idea that mission is centered in the church.” (17)


Chapter 2.  The Idea of a Church Centered in Mission

“Every church has a center.  It’s the heartbeat of a church.  It’s what drives the

church, giving it energy and character.  It is the label our church wears proudly.”  “The center of the church describes that place that most reflects the passion, identity and focus of the church.”  It is “a statement about priority.” (19)


“There are seven specific church-centered mindsets: Creativity, Strategic Vision, Architect, Cause-oriented, Liability, Faith, and Movement.”  These mindsets provide the outline of the book:  (20-33)

1.     God is creatively building his church to fulfill his mission.

2.     A church’s mission vision comes from its DNA.

3.     Leaders see the church’s purpose defined by its role in the world.

4.     Everyone contributes to the church’s mission.

5.     The church’s vision depends on discerning new seasons orchestrated by God.

6.     The church is product-oriented, producing for God’s kingdom.

7.     The church works through peer-based alliances linked to the vision and the work.


 “When the church sees mission as being ... for some other purpose than our church being built, we remove ourselves from being used by God in a way that will transform our church.” (20)  [Do we do mission for our own church?  It seems to turn mission on its head and pander to our tendency toward selfish preoccupation with ourselves. dlm] 


“This mindset of mission being ‘there’ rather than ‘everywhere’ disregards today’s global scenario....”  The ‘there’ mentality leads to an ‘us versus them’ identity where mission is not seen as the responsibility of the church, but of those who have gone ‘there’ where the work is to be done.  Globalization means there is no longer a ‘there’ in the world.” (20-21)  [True, but does this thinking reinforce the tendency of some churches to see ‘here’ as encompassing all of our responsibility? Dlm]


The church’s particular mission vision comes from its identity, its DNA.  “A church should never engage a work because it is good for the Kingdom.”  “A church should never engage a work because of a personal relationship....”  (23) [Never?  Is there perhaps mission work that some churches should undertake because it is important to God and has been neglected up until now?  Does not God sometimes lead churches through relationships with key people? dlm]


“Most churches still do not have their own mission vision.  ...they don’t actually have a vision from God for their work.  Most function in a support role that empowers other ministries to set the church’s mission vision.” (23)


“A mission vision doesn’t begin outside the church.  It begins within the church.  A church discovers who God has created it to be and what God has directed it to do.” (24)


“Church-centered leaders measure their ministry by how their church and its members change the world.” (25)


“Church-centered mission means that mission is an integral part of each church ministry.  More than that, each ministry contributes to the achievement of the overall mission vision of the church.” (26)  “All members are contributing to the church’s mission.” (27)


“Leadership and mobilization teams (not missions committees) are essential components to this new season of church-centered mission.  Their primary role is not to make financial decisions but to mobilize the church and lead the mission work of the church.” (29)


“A process orientation is when a church focuses on the operations, the ongoing programs and people that the church supports.  A product orientation...emphasizes end product.”  The switch is from process/support to product/doing.  (32)


Partnerships, defined by our work and shared objectives, are central to accomplishing the mission. (33-34)


Chapter 3.  Church-Centered Mindsets

“A mindset is the filter by which we see life and make decision.  Mindsets shape our actions....” (37)


End preoccupation with managed growth and engage a God who is creating.  (38)


“People need the right structure, not just more challenge...  Strategy is the plan we design to take us to God’s future.”  (42) 


“The church needs to stop seeing itself as a conqueror and begin thinking like an architect....” (44)


Become cause-oriented.  The cause drives the programs.  Programs are secondary. (46)  Replace the support role with a mindset of leadership, taking both responsibility and liability for the crisis in the world. (49)  Transition from a mindset of human effort and sacrifice to a mindset that relies on God to lead and empower. (51)  “Allow a movement to drive the work rather than relying on structures to maintain a pretense of effectiveness.” (54)


“Great movements are usually chaotic.  Great organizations are rarely dynamic.” (55)


Chapter 4.  Building on the DNA of a Church

“...churches can easily lose their distinctiveness in replicating ideas and programs that have worked elsewhere.”  Each church has a distinct identity. (57)


Mission for most churches is generic, formed by those outside the church.  But God invites us to change our world based on the identity he gives us.  “We identify our vision, we don’t create it,” based on who we are: our heritage, fruit, leaders, spiritual season, resources and revelation. (58-66)


Church-centered identity brings innovation, not improvement; embraces a cause, not a program; and manifests substance, not promotion. 


Chapter 5. Church-Centered Leadership

“The primary one of leadership.  Everything the church needs is available.” (72)


“Many churches have a one-dimensional vision,...size.”  (76)  “Another dimension of growth is the creation of the church in other regions of the world....” (77)


“The more stable a church becomes, the more inflexible it grows.  Small means mobile....”  “Growth can be a hindrance to our mission vision.  The bigger we get, the harder it is to change.” (79)


Mission is not a department but permeates every part of the church. (80) 


“Most church leaders are focused on retaining, not on releasing.  The goal is retention, for retention translates into growth even if the growth is shortsighted.” (83)  “Church-centered leaders see the church as so rich in resources that there is an eagerness to share, a passion to give it away.” (84)


Chapter 6.  Mobilizing the Church for the World

“Church-centered mission believes that the church, all its ministries and members, is to participate in God’s mission.” (93)


“The previous season did not allow the for the church to be personally involved in global mission.”  “The global season has changed and tremendous opportunities exist for all to participate without having to relocate.”  “Church-centered mission positions each church, each ministry, each member to fulfill His Commission.” (94-6)


“When anyone attempts to get something from the church, they are working against the concept of church-centered mission.  Mobilization for them becomes a means to an end that they have already established.  Their interest is not in the local church’s identity and vision but in the vision they carry.” (97) “


“In church-centered mission, everyone gives to see the local church built and thus the world saved.  Church-centered mobilization accomplishes this in specific ways.  First, mobilization must come from within the church, rather than from outside the church.”  “Second, mobilization must work toward building the church’s mission vision rather than taking away from it.”  “Third, mobilization can only effectively take place when people are serving the church so the church can give to the world.” (98) [I’m not sure I understand this.  Is some of it contradictory? dlm]


“Mobilization is redesigning our existing departments to integrate mission into their vision....”  “Mobilizing our people means connecting them to the ministries of the church.”  (104)


“A risk in envisioning church members as world changers can be that everyone will have their own idea as to how the church can change the world.  Mobilization is not the empowering of members isolated from the church-centered mission vision.  Multiple visions arise only when there is a void of a single church vision.” (110)  [I suspect multiple visions are inevitable. dlm]


Chapter 8.  Producing for God’s Church

Being product oriented means having measurable, contextualized, faith-filled objectives.  Productivity must be measured within the context of mission. Character must be accompanied by competence.  The goal of partnerships is product.  Assessment is a value.  Mission is approached as solving a problem related to the church’s mission vision, for example Christians with no Bibles in North Korea or prostitution in Chicago. 


Chapter 9.  Partnerships Centered in Mission

Partnerships are often thought of as someone helping me [or me helping someone else]. 


“The two predominant models [of mission partnership] are the mission for hire model and the stockholder model.”  “For smaller and smaller amounts, a church can support a church planter, a child at risk or a bicycle that will save the nations.  Mission is having a blue-light sale.”  “The partnership centers completely on money.” (156-7) 


In the other model churches invest $100 per month into a missionary or agency.  “Debates rage in churches about the stewardship value of investing large sums into foreign missionaries when an indigenous worker can do the same job for a much smaller investment.  The debate misses the point.”  “The tragedy of the stockholder model is that it removes the church from its leadership role in mission.” (159)


In church-centered partnerships, “everyone comes to the partnership with a vision for the work and a role that gives them a genuine participation.”  Partnerships do not originate from the need of any one partner, but are based on need in the world. Each partner is a giver, giving to the mission vision.  Partnerships are not an end but a means.  Partners share risk.  They are product oriented and there is expectation of a completion.  (163-171) 


“A partnership broker is one whose primary task is not related to the mission work but the successful building of a partnership.  [This is what Joel Holm does for churches.]


“The building of Christ’s church is too important to expend energy and time in partnerships that don’t produce.  It’s also too important not to expend energy and time in partnerships that do produce.” (175)


Chapter 10.  Building a Church Centered in Mission

Traditionally the mission team did the mission work and then told the church what they had done.  In church-centered mission, the leadership team gets every person and every department engaged in the church’s mission vision.  The measure of success is the quantity and quality of church participation.  (188)


Start with the end product in mind.  What does God want to accomplish through your church in the next 12-24 months?  Where is God sending you?  Build a strategic plan and begin to carry it out.  Develop a team to manage the process. 


“The greatest challenge in change is to maintain the old while creating new.”  (198)