The term “MCs” refers to four types of people who influence the culture of a church from outside the church. Each has a slightly different purpose, but they all bring credibility and freshness when it comes to addressing the local congregation. These people are seen as objective and are usually perceived as being experts in some form. The fact that they usually come with credentials and expertise means their words carry weight. The four influencers I refer to as MCs are models, mentors, coaches, and consultants. While there is some overlap, here is a breakdown of each:
Models—Models are people and churches we look up to as examples to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1). That doesn’t mean we should duplicate everything they are doing. It just means we observe and learn from them. There is a theological and/or philosophical connection that makes either part or all of their ministries attractive and relevant. Therefore, models exemplify ways that we want our church to look, feel, and act.
Mentors—Mentors are individuals who pour into us directly. They are not only modeling but also teaching us. They are ahead of us in their knowledge, experience, and insight. Out of their overflow, they share practical and spiritual insights in order to help us grow and develop. Mentors can be people we personally know, or they can be people we’ve never met but follow at a distance by listening, reading, and observing.
Coaches—Coaches also have wisdom and experience beyond our own but differ slightly from mentors because they are developing us in a one-on-one relationship that revolves around our specific needs. Mentors usually start with what they have on their hearts to share, but coaches usually start with the specific needs of the people they are helping. There is almost always some form of a personal relationship with a coach.
Consultants—Consultants are seasoned professionals who come in to address isolated challenges facing the church. They evaluate, troubleshoot, and then make recommendations for what the church needs to do in order to move forward. Consultants almost always cost money, and the church is one of several clients. The relationship between the church and the consultant is almost always more professional than personal.
To illustrate the difference between MCs, let me use golf as an example. First of all, there are certain professional golfers I look up to as examples. Perhaps it’s their character, their witness for Christ, the way they conduct themselves on the course, or something about how they play the game. But out of the hundreds of professional golfers, there are only a few I respect and follow closely. They can inspire me, encourage me, and offer some value to me as a Christian and casual golfer. These would be models.
I also have friends who are good golfers. I don’t take lessons from them, but when we play, I ask questions, listen, and pick up random insights. In addition, I follow a couple of authors who write teaching books about golf. If I’m looking for tips on putting, driving, etc., these authors are the first ones I look to, and I am very familiar with them. These could be considered mentors because, out of their skill and wisdom, they have a direct influence on my golf game.
When I actually sign up for golf lessons, a golf coach instructs me. One hour per week for the better part of one summer, the golf coach observes my swing, points out my weaknesses, shows me how to correct them, and gives me specific things to practice between sessions. He works with me individually and walks through various aspects of my swing. He helps me break bad habits, such as releasing my wrists too quickly and coming outside the ball with my irons. I wouldn’t call him a model, but he is much more than a mentor: he is a coach.
Finally, let’s say that my game is at a plateau. I just can’t break through to the next level. So, assuming that I’ve got an extra ten thousand dollars, I decide to travel to Florida and have a personal consultation with a top-notch PGA coach like Butch Harmon. I meet with him for a couple of hours, and he gives me direction on how I can improve my game. I then come back home and work to implement the changes, perhaps even asking my coach and mentors to help me apply what the consultant has shown me.
While there is some overlap, each of the MCs has value and plays a slightly different role in helping develop and mature my golf game. They give me objective input, fresh perspectives, and new information.
The same thing is true when it comes to leading a church and influencing culture. MCs give us confidence and accelerate the learning curve. They are able to stretch, encourage, point out blind spots, expose us to new information and resources, and equip the congregation in ways that may be hard for us to do on the inside.
I once brought in a consultant to talk with our elders about church governance. He did more in ninety minutes to chart a new direction for the leadership of our church than I was able to do in a year. I could give multiple examples of how MCs have positively influenced my church and me, but I’ll simply say this: please take advantage of them. Even if you can’t afford to bring someone on site, you can read blogs, meet up with other pastors, sign up for online coaching, subscribe to podcasts or video messages, or even read books with your leaders. Ultimately though, you shouldn’t try to change the culture of your church alone.
--from Chapter 12 of Dirt Matters: The Foundation for a Healthy, Vibrant, and Effective Congregation
Next week, I will offer the fourth of the nine principles you can use to implant your church’s values into its culture.