The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Living Your Life By Design“
October 12, 2020
Intro: In today’s episode, I interview strategist Will Mancini on the importance of clarity. As Christian leaders, are you intentionally living your life by design, discipling by design, and networking by design? Listen in to gain clarity that will advance your calling and leadership.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button, and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Will Mancini, the founder of Future Church Company. Welcome, Will.
Will Mancini: Hey, Al. It’s great to be with you today.
Al: Gosh, there’s so much that I’d love to talk with you about today and especially on what Christian leaders desire and need to strengthen their leadership. So let’s get started.
Will: Right. Yeah. Looking forward to it.
Al: Yeah. So, Will, you’ve had, really, a robust mix of experience. You’ve been a pastor, certainly a leadership coach, and I would describe you as a serial entrepreneur, in a way, in the Kingdom. You know, you started and grew a well-known church consulting firm, Auxano, and now you’re starting a new venture. We’ll hear more about that later. But to get to know you better, tell us about someone who’s had an impact on your life, maybe a mentor or somebody that’s really meant something and taught you something.
Will: Yeah. I love that question, Al. You know, the first thought that comes to mind is a professor I had in Dallas Theological Seminary. His name is Howard Hendricks. We used to call him Prof, affectionately. Passed away several years ago. Was at his funeral. But he was someone I had to listen to on tapes back in the day, the little cassette tapes. And as a college student, just was really attracted to him as a thinker, Christian educator.
Probably, when I think about who I am today, I think of a drawing that he would draw. And I didn’t really understand it, Al, at the time. But I was in an 18-month, little 12 seminary students, little discipleship group with Prof. We’d meet at 5:30 in the morning on Thursdays, and it was called the Early Risers Group, and it was a group of 12 guys that would sit at his feet. And the biggest impact that he made on me was a little drawing. He would draw—imagine a white board and just a simple black funnel drawing. And he would draw a funnel, he would talk to us with real serious quietness, and he’d draw at the top of the funnel. He’d draw a bunch of x‘s. Imagine ten or twelve x’s at the top, the wide end of this funnel at the top. And he’d say, “Men, these are all the things you can do for God.” And he would go on about the more education you have, the more relationships and people you know, the more success you have early in your industry, he said, “The more that x‘s will line the top of your life funnel. You’re going to have all these opportunities.” And then he’d go to the bottom of the funnel, and where there’s only room for one x, he’d draw one x. He’d circle it. He’d say, “Men,” he goes, “I want you to pursue the one thing you must do for God.” And that, just, huge pause. And then he’d just start saying these things. The secret to concentration is elimination. What are you saying no to? He’d say, “Guys, a lot of these x’s are at the top of your life funnel.” He said, “A lot of these opportunities are distractions in disguise.”
And he would just kind of just—and to be honest, like, I had no clue what it meant. I was sitting there taking notes, but I’m like, “Sounds cool, but I just need a job when I graduate. I just need to put food on the table for my three kids,” as a poor seminarian. He actually would say, “Good Christian education‘s like a bomb with a really long fuse. It’s going to take some years before the dynamite explodes.” And certainly it did for me.
What Prof Hendricks taught me was the importance of clarity and the importance of really understanding that, you know, according to Ephesians 2:10, we really are created with not just a general purpose to give our lives to God and follow Jesus, but with a very specific calling, a very specific ultimate contribution that only we can make on planet Earth. And Prof was really beginning to open up that idea that I’m really created with something that I must do, that God created me to do. And success and early success and options, those things can really distract you from what God has.
So I would say part of the journey that I took in my life, that you referred to the serial entrepreneur, there’s not really a playbook for that. But I would say that Prof started the gears spinning on how I’m going to use my one and only life.
Al: Yeah. Wow. Well, that’s a great story. And I think any of us with some years under our belt can really appreciate all the x‘s at the top, especially after success, because things open up to you. And yet to focus on the one thing, to pursue the one thing that you must do for God, which really kind of describes, then, you took that seriously, because when you go to willmancini.com, on your personal website, the headline says “Clarity Changes Everything.” So tell me a little more about that phrase, clarity changes everything.
Will: Yeah. Yeah. Well, part of the context of that for me is I was a chemical engineer and worked a little bit as an engineer in seminary. I was called to the ministry and got a seminary degree. I was also very passionate about advertising and branding. So I’d actually spent three years working in an ad agency. So my life was kind of a fusion of three different career tracks. And there was a time where I was thinking about wanting to be a ministry consultant and thinking about what would my focus be.
And I remember reading a book called Making Rainmakers, and the author of the book suggested, what one problem do you want to solve when people think of your name? The way he said it was, when people run into a problem, you want them to think of your name, and kind of saying, figure out what is a problem you want people to think about? And for me, it had to do with clarity, lack of clarity or vision, that idea of just we have a general sense of what we want to do, but we’re really not that clear. And over time, I’ve just become somewhat in this before I realized you can actually have greater clarity than most leaders have if you put some margin in place, you have the right tools, you ask the right questions. Most human beings, most leaders are not living from a clarity that is accessible. When I think of the trajectory change and the breakthrough possibility of maximizing the clarity that’s accessible to you, I literally think of it as clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.
One of the ways I like to think of it, there is a C.S. Lewis quote that you can’t never really forget once you hear it, and C.S. Lewis is talking about his belief in general as a Christian. And he says this, he says, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the sun, not only because I see it, but because by it I see all things.” And so it’s an interesting kind of provocative statement. And now if I translate it to clarity in the sense that when our listeners, when they get out of bed this morning, they probably didn’t focus on the sun’s literal presence. I mean, we can go to the window, run up, and stare at the sun. But every single thing you did since your eyelids opened up this morning was guided by the fact you could see and your environment was lit up because of the prior existence of the sun. And every once in a while we notice it when we see the sun blaze in the sky.
And I would suggest that the difference between having clarity that’s accessible to most leaders, most believers, most individuals, and not having clarity is metaphorically the difference between a sun rising in your day. If you’re in a house that you’re unfamiliar with and you can’t turn on the light switch in the middle of night, that’s a precarious place to walk around. I mean, you’re paralyzed because you don’t want to hurt yourself, stub your toe, run into something. And I really do believe and have seen time and time again that with some intentional work you can have a significant level of clarity, new clarity, that is literally like the sunrise. It’s like, you know, once you have it in place, you’re not thinking about it all the time, but it changes everything else you’re doing in your day.
Al: Yeah. I love that thought. And it allows you to really experience flow because you’re free to focus on the one thing that you’re clear about.
Will: That’s absolutely right. Absolutely.
So, okay, Will, so now you’re starting a new venture, the Future Church Company. So tell us about that.
Will: Yeah. It’s new and not new at the same time, so my core role has been a church consultant for the last two decades, but I’ve been a ministry entrepreneur as I’ve done consulting as kind of my core calling. And I did, as you mentioned, many people in the church know me from a company that I started, sold, and now have left called Auxano. Well, that organization’s still going and doing really well. I basically updated and upgraded kind of my consulting tool box, so I’ve continued to innovate. And the Future Church Company represents, really, the last three to four years of my life’s work and thought leadership, and it also represents the acceleration of innovation that’s possible because of COVID. So there’s a lot of reasons why at mid 2020 I felt like I wanted to set up a new shop.
It also pulls together several entrepreneurial projects under one umbrella company. So the Future Church Company is all about helping the church return to the movement that Jesus intended. And it’s got some interrelated organizations that all serve that purpose.
The first one of those is Younique, which we spell “Younique” with a Y-O-U, not to be confused with the makeup company that’s out there. So it was a little audacious to say, “Okay, we’re going to go head to head with a makeup company,” but really love the idea, this Ephesians 2:10 idea, that God had a dream over you when you were born. And most people have not really named that. They don’t really feel that as an everyday, normal reality. You can have the notion of that, which is fun and feel good, but it’s not breaking through to the motions of your every day and the sense of really getting traction with your life. So Younique is the first gospel-centered life-design process. It’s very robust, very challenging to take someone through. And we’ve designed that to deliver through the local church. So my calling to the church is revealed by virtue of the fact that there’s 350,000 brick-and-mortar churches in North America, and we want each of those churches to be able to add significant value to the men and women and children who attend through life planning and life design. Some of your listeners might be familiar with, like, a Celebrate Recovery or a Financial Peace University, and there’s these great ministries that churches can adopt and utilize. So we’ve created Younique to be a life-design ministry that I believe is going to be one of the most important things that churches can offer between 2020 and 2040.
And then we do direct church consulting with a company named Pivot that’s part of the Future Church Company. This is a disciple by design. What I’m declaring here, particularly in 2020, is that the functional Great Commission of the church has become, “Go into all the world and make more worship attenders, baptizing them in the name of small groups and teaching them to volunteer a few hours a month.” And churches are really good at trying to get people involved in the machinery of church. But that’s not why Jesus died. That’s not the real Great Commission. So we do want to help the organized expressions of church, that can drift toward programed church, become effective disciple-making centers again. We want to help the church move from teaching to training and really bring great value to believers. And so Pivot is an organization where we talk about disciple by design.
So Younique is living by design, Pivot’s helping the church really disciple by design, and then the last Future Church Company brand is Denominee. That is Denominee. It’s a play off of the Latin root word where we get the word denomination from or, like, a denomination of a dollar bill. And that’s really networking or doing—denominations are just big networks of different kinds of theological faith tribes. And so we actually have a tool box that can renew a network or a denomination. So our mission there is to increase the value of the network or denominational leader to the church. And as you can imagine, Al, we’ve had a lot of large Protestant denominations that peaked some time, usually between the ‘60s and the ’80s. And right now they’re kind of backpedaling and trying to understand what does it mean to be a compelling Baptist denomination or Presbyterian denomination or Methodist denomination or Lutheran denomination in the world or Assembly of God denomination in the world. And so we have an organization that can really help renovate in this disruptive time, what does it mean to be a networking or grouping of churches of faith in today’s current context? Network by design, disciple by design, and live by design, Future Church Company.
Al: Yeah. Live by design, disciple by design, and network by design. And Younique, so that’s going to be a training program that you really hope to train church leaders, really, across the country to help individuals really understand how to live by design.
Will: We’ve just taken, we’re probably about 4,000 people through. And then in the last four years, we’re in our first 200 churches that are active and up and running, and it’s growing pretty quickly right now. So we’re having a really great time. COVID slowed us down. It was a challenging time there. But yeah, we literally, in the last four to six weeks, we are, every day, we’re booking new training so that churches can scale this in their membership and their folks who attend. And our goal right now has been to try to take 25,000 people a year through the church by 2025.
Al: So, So 4,000 people through the program already. And so I’m going to ask you a softball question here. Name one of your favorite stories of a leader who’s really turned the corner, who’s taken this and experienced transformation, maybe even advanced their calling and mission.
Will: Honestly, it’s hard to pick one. I’ll maybe highlight two. But the very first one that comes to mind, as I’m thinking of your listeners as Christian businessmen and women, I’m thinking of a guy. His last name is Sadler. I’m going to come back to that. And he has a very strong mortgage business in Atlanta area. What I love, when we go through the process, there’s lots different ways to take it, and you can take it in bite-sized pieces. But if you take the whole process in one setting, it’s about a three-day experience. So it’s an intensive or an accelerator. And we have 18 assessments that we take people through. And you kind of name your sweet spot, and you build out what we call your personal vision frame, and we do some life planning. One of the inspirational stories that came from Mr. Sadler was his dream. He’d written down—we have people write down—we kind of do a redeemed version of the bucket list, and we call a life-dreams list, a God-dreams list. He was sharing. And it was so inspirational. He talked about how he had coached a business person on his team for years who had this really deep passion to eventually make a six-figure salary in work. And for some reason, this business owner took this employee under his wings and said, “I’m going to help you grow your income to become a six-figure salary.” It was interesting because it was just a mentoring. It was a mentoring around building financial capital and worth in your life. Of course, he’s a believer and sees his business as a ministry means as a mortgage company.
When he came through the process, he shared a new dream. He said, “I want to help 100 people in my business all make $100,000 a year or more.” He was just like, “In the next five years, I’m going to help 100 people break the $100,000 salary barrier. And I just share that because it’s so simple and clear. But what I would love the listeners to feel for a minute is the deep passion of a Christian business owner who’s so excited not just to win for himself, but to set up—the very existence of the business is not just to help the clients win, but to help the employees win and to see their financial fruitfulness as a part in just one dimension, of course, of our lives as believers, but to see that as a holy thing, a good thing, a God thing, and just a way to bless his people.
Now, this was interesting. I’ll come back and to share this story. And it’s funny because his name gets revealed a little bit in it. One of the tools we do in the process is we do a name-meaning tool, and we teach on biblical concept of name meaning. And this person was working through some of the tools, and he looked up at me. He said, “Well, I’m not really getting any breakthrough on your name meaning.” And I was looking down. I was interviewing him a little bit. One of his passion areas, he says, “I really love to help people get from point A to point B, and you could just feel the sky—you know, he’s efficiency guy, give people what they need kind of guy. And I noticed that his last name was Sadler. I said, “You do realize what your last name represents.” I said, “Your last name literally means one who makes saddles.” And I said, “Your passion is to help people get from point A to point B.” I said, “That’s what human kind has needed saddles for for a really long time.” His passion was giving people simple tools to help them get from point A to point B. I said, “That’s exactly what your name means, because when you give someone a saddle, you’re helping them harness the beauty and power of a horse as a God-created animal to help them get from point A to point B.” It was kind of just a fun way to—when you add up his middle name and his first name, which I won’t share, it actually perfectly articulated kind of the way that he saw his life calling before God.
But that’s a simple snapshot. What we actually do, that individual would have finished the process. They would’ve had a life-calling statement unlike anybody else’s. So they have a very specific reason why God put them on Earth. They have their core values. They have 100 things written down on their life-dreams list that they want to do before they die. And then they have kind of a three-year, one-year, 90-day roadmap around that. And those, you know, it’s just fun to watch people get that kind of breakthrough and see the value of their life under God and for God’s glory.
Al: Well, I’m looking forward to the new movie that come out maybe, Will, as a result, called The Redeemed Bucket List instead of—
Al: It’ll be a little more uplifting, I think, than the other movie that we know of with the bucket list, yeah.
Will: Yeah. Bucket lists can be narcissistic, so we want to make it gospel centered. So we have tools to redeem that bucket list.
Al: Yep. Well, you’re causing me to even think about my own God-dreams list, there’s no question. That’s really insightful, and I know it’s going to be just tremendously helpful.
I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
Already, I know many of our listeners are thinking and identifying with one, two, or even three integrated initiatives, and Younique speaks to the power of each individual’s vivid personal vision, a gospel-centered life plan that you’ve already described. So why is this so critical for leaders, especially when they are stewarding the people or the workplace culture—and that’s what we’re focused on—that God has entrusted to them?
Will: Let me start by naming the problem and try to clarify the problem. The problem that I see in believers’ lives today, leaders’ lives today, you know, God, is this Ephesians 2:10 opportunity that’s been underutilized or under-seized. So the reality is most people have not—not only have they not named their dream, Al, that we’re talking about, the opportunity to really steward and develop your imagination for why God has put you on Earth and how you can enjoy and maximize that one and only life—most people have not actually gone through any intentional process to decipher and decode their life story. So we say everyone’s experienced their story, very few have interpreted their story, and even fewer have actually articulated this is what God has been doing in my story. And so to see your story as really an articulate way of being able to name and interpret God’s authorship in your story and say, this is what God has been up to in my life and to name that unique contribution that you make as a one-of-a-kind human being.
So to pull back a little bit, this was an old, rabbinical thing that for many rabbis, Moses was this ideal godly leader. It was said by a famous rabbi that when you stand before God some day in heaven, He’s not going to ask you, why weren’t you more like Moses? He’s going to ask you, why aren’t you more like you? And even the rabbinical tradition would teach that the Messiah is not going to come until you’ve performed your one and only role. There’s never going to be anyone just like you. There’s never been anyone just like you. And so as this—and you think of God’s, just, inexhaustible, genius. I mean, no two people are alike. There’s no clones in heaven and on Earth. And that idea, we’ve not really plumbed the depths of that idea in modern Christianity, Al. So we have this, what would Jesus do? kind of idea.
Al: Right. Right.
Will: And the bigger question is, how would Jesus live if He were you? If Jesus had your bank account, if Jesus had your spouse, if Jesus had your children, if Jesus had your job—are you a banker, are you a plumber, are you a business leader are you an attorney, you’re a doctor—how would Jesus live if He were you? That’s a really powerful question, because, like I said, heaven’s yearbook’s not 10 million people that all look the same. It’s people who have brown eyes and blue eyes and red hair and dark hair. And at the dawn of your immortality, you retain your identity. As you become more conformed to the image of Jesus, you become more like your unique, true self. And we don’t have much in the church today to bring that forth and bring that to light in a real, actionable, applicable way.
So that’s a long intro to say, the problem is most people do not know the extent to which they can clarify their particular calling. In Scripture, we hear this beautiful resonating phrase for Esther: “For such a time as this.”
Al: Mm-hmm. Yep.
Will: Esther was put in a critical moment. Well, every listener right now, Al, has a “for such a time as this” statement. I mean, you are here for a reason. And I believe that we’re robbing ourselves if we live in a general sense of, hey, we’re here to glorify God and help others, and to miss the opportunity to name that and push through on that.
So for business leaders listening, I would say a business is this massive opportunity to live into your one-and-only calling or to be distracted by something else, going back to that original funnel idea, all the things you can do in life. We’re distracted by the expectations of others in our lives as we grew up, we’re distracted by the imitation of success. We see flashy pictures of success, and we want to chase some of that. We’re distracted by the preoccupation with life. And life is going by so fast, sometimes we don’t think about it. We’re distracted by the allure of money and just the mighty dollar bill. And so there’s a lot of things that can distract us, and what we want to do is get this thoroughgoing biblical breakthrough on your Ephesians 2:10.
I keep saying Ephesians 2:10, Al, so I’ll by quoting that verse. It’s you are God’s poema. Poema, it’s a workmanship or masterpiece. “You are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He has prepared in advance that you should walk in them.” It doesn’t say you will walk in them. It’s your call. It’s your opportunity. It says that “you should walk in them.” And so just the idea that God pre-prepared things for Al, things for Will, things for every listener. It’s like I think of God as this father in heaven who’s like your mom cooking up something special for dinner. He’s cooking up something special for the moments of your day, even in the next minutes and hours ahead of whatever you’re doing right now. So those are a few thoughts on we want to just leverage what’s knowable about that clarity.
Al: I really love that, Will. And I like your comments there, at the end of our life, we’ll be asked, “Why weren’t you more like you, your true self?” and, really, have each of us be fully self-aware of what God has intended us to be. I love that. And how would Jesus live if He were you? We’re always thinking and comparing ourselves with others. “I want to be more like that. I want to be more like her or him” and not really—so who are we and how can we be our best self?
We could talk more about that, but let’s pivot here a little bit. Look at the second endeavor, the Pivot disciple design. You know, you ask the question, what if you could measure success beyond just attendance? And I know a lot of people listening here go to church, at least online these days, but in your mind, what’s the transformational takeaway of a leader who’s really caught on how you can truly measure discipleship?
Will: Well, for two decades, every church I work with, we articulate what we call mission measures or missional life marks. And it’s this idea that you can actually—if you’re a pastor, you ought to know what kind of disciple is your church designed to produce. Most pastors, as you can imagine, can’t answer that question. They’ll spend more time on sermon prep in four weeks than they do on answering that question in their lifetime. And so I just think that’s a huge missed opportunity.
So what happens, though, is we’re not indicting the motive of any pastors. I’ve been a pastor myself, and it’s hard. It’s hard work. And Sunday’s always coming, so there’s never really a break from the programmatic treadmill that you can get caught on. And what happens is we easily misplace the means results for the end results. We get kind of the means and ends confused. So we would say dollars coming in and attendance, people coming into your programmatic expression of church. Those are results, but we call them input results. So they’re kind of what goes into the factory at the beginning of the day. What we want to after is that the essence of the mission is all about making disciples, so what kind of output results do we have?
And so it’s interesting. It’s not that hard to begin to imagine how you might measure real discipleship or real transformation. There’s a couple different keys, Al, that I like to reveal. I have an engineering background and so I have training in scientific method. And the key here is we tend to think about validating reality or truth from a scientific method. You know, forensic science of who is the murderer or whatever, and we can go back and get DNA samples or whatever. We can’t do that with transformation. We can’t measure transformation scientifically.
But there’s another method that we use, and we use it every day in our land. It’s called judicial method. It’s not about science; it’s about testimony. And what happens every day in our land as people are declared innocent or guilty, with a real consequence either way, based on something we all talk about in the church, testimony. And so in human functioning, we have judicial method, judicial process, which is the ability to testify to real change. Of course, we see this in scriptures—eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. There’s testimony that this event happened. So we use testimony to validate a historical event or reality or a change or whatever. So we want to quickly validate that if you’re working with people who aren’t trying to actively deceive you, we can testify to real changes that happen in our life. And that begins the horizon of saying, is transformation knowable? Is progress marketable? And the answer is yes.
The second pushback is, “Well, Will, you can’t really know where someone is in their relationship with God in this.” And the answer is no. You will never know comprehensively. I mean, an individual can’t know themselves comprehensively. Only God knows comprehensively. The answer is we can know truly. We can know significant progress or not. And I challenge church leaders to say, “Hey, how are you knowing truly? You’ll never know comprehensively. Get off that false notion.” You know, you can measure whether someone goes to a small group or not, Al, right? That’s pretty easy.
Will: You either attend it or not. But that’s not a true measure of whether you grew in biblical community. Well, I could ask a group of adults, how many 2:00 a.m. friends do you have? How many people, right now, if the bottom of your life dropped out at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, how many people could you call on your cell phone without hesitation? And right now, have a small group with several men and women, we’d all could name that. Or I’ll give you another illustration. You know, refrigerator rights as a measure. How many adults could walk into your home right now, Al, and without asking permission, open your refrigerator? These are measures of true community, the aspect of spontaneity, the aspect of that kind of permission. And the truth is you can go to five years of small groups as a church attender and have no 2:00 a.m. and friends in your life or no one with refrigerator rights in your life. Or you can go to five years of small groups and have all kinds of 2:00 a.m. friends or people with refrigerator rights. All we’re saying is don’t just measure whether someone was in a small group or not. Look for something else. So that’s kind of a symbolic way we can talk about any aspect of following Christ. People know whether they’ve grown in their patience. People know whether they’re praying for someone who’s far from God. These are things we can really discuss and celebrate and other things we can testify to God’s goodness in our lives.
Al: Well, you’re really causing all of us to think. I mean, how many 2:00 a.m. friends do we have, and how many people would we let in our house and open the refrigerator without really thinking anything about it? Those are interesting questions.
You know, I listen to good questions. Our work at BCWI is to inspire and equip leaders to create flourishing workplaces, and we really believe that you can’t improve what you can’t measure. So what you’re really saying is that it’s good to measure with truthful statements. What’s your gut response to my statement, you can’t really improve what you can’t measure?
Will: Oh, I agree 100 percent. I know there’s a lot of deep overlap in that. And I would just say this. If the challenge in the church is we want to be able to preach a sermon and expect that by itself to onramp people to new ways of living, to have new skills of living in the way of Jesus. And as you know, it just takes more modeling and practicing and evaluation and accountability than that. We want to help the church become a community of practice as much as it is a community of belief. And I believe that’s what Jesus started 2,000 years ago. And so, absolutely, we want to help pastors and churches not rely on input results. And so many do, as you know. And actually, what I love about it, Al, is it can sound intimidating or sound like we’re taking ourselves too seriously. Actually, it just restores the love of ministry again. It just—it’s just why we all get—no one would get called into ministry from a church perspective. I mean, we’re all in ministry. Let’s clarify that. But no one would get called to vocational ministry of church work to run a program machine or to count numbers on Sunday morning. We all had breakthrough, and we just wanted to see people’s lives changed and to enjoy that and to feel the joy of that. So a lot of this is really about reorienting and getting off of a false scorecard and restoring the joy and love of why we got into ministry to begin with.
Al: And that’s why I like to hear so many churches, so many Christian organizations, that start off their weekly meetings just talking about those transformational stories, stories that people have experienced over the weekend or as a result of the ministry. And I even was on the board of a larger healthcare organization, and we started every board meeting with a patient’s story. And we actually had a patient’s story come in and talk about their experience in our hospital and how it transformed their life, and we would learn more from those stories. The testimony, as you’ve communicated, was really inspirational. No question.
Well, so, the third one, and this is the one I said, “God bless you, Will, for taking this on, because it is a need.” Let’s talk a little bit about the Denominee future journey. Tell us a story about how a new networking of churches is unfolding here right before us.
Will: There’s a principle that network happens. And the business, people who are listening, they probably have their own business networks and so forth. Well, the churches are going to network, whether that’s denominationally or otherwise. And it’s a little bit of an unlikely calling, a reluctant calling for me. Al, because denominational work is not very sexy right now in terms of sometimes it’s a mild-turnaround or deep-turnaround story. But years ago, I felt the Lord really impress upon my heart to make the strategic outsider a normative way a church operates, meaning and strategic outsiders as the goofy way I think about a coach or a consultant.
One of the best church consultants whose shoulders I stand on is Lyle Schaller, and he called the consultant the interventionist. And a mentor of mine, Carl George, calls the consultant the neo prophet. I call it the strategic outsider. Every business, every individual, certainly the church, needs someone outside the system to help it maximize its impact. And unfortunately, the church is more tempted than a typical organization not to bring outside knowledge from the outside or outside perspective. I remember Deming said, “Profound knowledge comes from the outside.” And so the church is low on that profound knowledge as an organization, characteristically.
So the Lord, I really felt, put a burden on my heart to help make that outsider a normative part of the way a church staffs, in the way a pastor thinks. And so over the years, I’ve always been trying to reproduce my consulting work by raising up other consultants here or there, but that’s kind of a slow reproduction process where maybe over 10 years I might impact 15 or 20. Or if we do certifications, I might impact 30 or 40 leaders a year through a certification.
And it struck me about five years ago, I’d worked with enough denominations—I was, at one point, I got overwhelmed by the sheer scope of denominational infrastructure in the world. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of local, regional, national denominational leaders.
I’ll give you an example. Southern Baptists, as one Protestant denomination, they planted 8,000 churches in the last 10 years in North America. And there are hundreds of people in a building in Alpharetta, Georgia, called the North American Mission Board, and there are 42 state conventions, each with their own staffs. There are over 1,000 local associations, many of which have a full-time association leader. And that’s just one denomination.
And I realized, you know, what if the Lord had given me two decades of track record of really bringing value to local churches? What if He was equipping me to build a toolbox that could help any denomination reinvent the value that that denominational leader brings to their grouping of churches that they oversee? And if you were to summarize kind of the process we do, so much of what happened in the ‘80s and ‘90s was program-based value. You go back to, say, 1972, and let’s say you’re a Baptist or you’re Presbyterian, just to throw two random ones out there. The church that was in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the church that was in Sacramento, California, they looked the exact same on the inside. If you’re in a worship service in Spartanburg or Sacramento, you don’t really know where you are because those things are identical.
And one of the sociological phenomena that Lyle Schaller was the first one to really indicate, he indicated in 1997, he said “The time has come.” This is 23 years ago. He said, “The time has come where no two churches are alike.” And what that means is a denomination can’t bank on its churches having a one-size-fits-all programmatic approach to solve the needs of the churches in their geographic area or their denomination. And so that means you have to shift from a program approach to a process approach, which is really what I’ve done my whole life. That is, you lead with questions, not answers. You lead people through a discovery process just to more deeply understand what God’s calling them to do. You lead them through a process to help them solve their own problems. And you bring your outside knowledge as a process expert, not a content expert.
And so that’s really what I’m doing with denominational leaders, is help them re-realize how beautiful and wonderful their denominational distinctive is today, because many of them have forgotten it. So we go back to the founding careism: what does it actually mean to be Baptist today in 2020? What does it mean to be Presbyterian today in 2020? Most young leaders don’t have a compelling answer to that. So we go back to say, what is your distinctive in the Kingdom?
And then we go back and say, how can we renew Baptist expressions of churches that are powerful Kingdom places that reproduce Baptist kinds of disciples bringing—for example, Baptist is all about having a high view of direct access to God, of an individual’s direct access to God. We use words like soul competency. These are old words, but we need to refurbish them and really appreciate the beauty and wonder of having this autonomist, direct access to God. And there’s a freedom that comes with that that’s beautiful, and there’s a responsibility for that that’s awe-inspiring. And all of a sudden, that’s why Baptists tend to be bold proclaimers of the gospel, because they believe there are things at stake because every single human being has direct access to God right now if they place their faith in Jesus. And that’s just their distinctive that they bring to the world, where a Methodist has a high view of God’s holiness. And that Wesleyan spirituality of entire sanctification says, “Hey, you can, on this side of the grave, really become holy like your Father in heaven is holy.” And there’s a whole beauty of teaching that they bring and modeling they bring to believers.
So you can tell, Al, I can talk long on this, so I’ll slow down, but we just want to help small network—I mean, one of my clients is a little baby network of eight churches, and they’re a brand-new network that are part of another denomination, and they’re a local network. How do we help them maximize what it means to be in their network? Or we have these—working with a church-planting network in Austin, Texas, that has about 40 churches in it. And so we’re helping, whether it’s eight or 40 or 400 or 4,000… we’re working with one group that has 51,000 pastors that are part of their tribe. So whatever the size grouping is there, we want to help them reinvent how they bring value to each church.
Al: Yeah. To reinvent, as you say, the value that denominations or networks have. Boy, that’s a high calling, Will. There’s no question.
Well, I’ve got a question for you, Will. You’re a deeply spiritual guy. Anybody that at least is on the other side of a Zoom call can figure that out. Given all the demands on your time, and you’re really involved in a lot of things, for you personally, what kind of spiritual rhythms and daily practices keep you rooted with God and your relationship with Christ?
Will: Yeah, that’s a wonderful question. Well, I’ll answer it two ways, and I’ll go back to Younique first and say in Younique, we’ve developed even a 90-day planner that goes with our life-planning toolbox. And my answer to that, when I’m running Younique, I look at my life through four storylines of health, love, work, and play. And every 90 days I ask the question, what has the Lord wanted me to step into in my health, in my love, in my work, in my play? And we call those now rhythms. So the truth is, I want to build in my life a reassessment every 90 days to say, what new rhythms might I need in my spiritual life so things don’t get stale? and that kind of thing.
The two most prominent go-to things for me in life have been spiritual reading and journaling. So I started journaling when I was a sophomore at Penn State. And I’ve kept kind of a library of journals. There are some seasons in my life where I never journal daily. There’s some seasons in my life where I’ve consistently journaled two or three times a week, maybe anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes with the Lord. Those have been some of the most substantial spiritual disciplines for me. And that journaling is connected to prayer and scripture reading, but that journaling is something that really activates my spiritual vitality.
The other thing for me, and this is kind of the spark-plug discipline for me, and it’s a little bit quirky, it’s spiritual reading, meaning I like reading outside of this century. So I like reading different centuries. So all the medieval—Saint John of the Cross; reading the ancient fathers—Thomas Kempis. And I guess it’s using time to be the great purge of what is the essence of walking with God? How did people in different countries and different centuries walk with God? So that’s probably, to have a book like that on my nightstand is probably the most important thing. If I can just confess to the listeners, spiritual reading for me is like a spark plug because in my flesh, I may not be motivated just to get up and read scripture. But if I read a spiritual book, it’s a little easier for me to get started, and then I want to read scripture. Or I don’t feel like I have the discipline to sit and just pray well-disciplined thoughts, but if I have a pencil in my hand and I can write my prayers to God, I feel like I’m a better pray-er. So I feel like those are almost crutches as disciplines to help me get into the meat and potatoes of reading, reading and digesting scripture, and then just spending time in prayer with the Father.
Al: Amen. Well, there’s a lot we could pursue on that. Thanks for sharing. Spiritual reading and journaling, I can relate to that. Similar stories. I use an iPad. I find pencil and paper is too slow for me. I can type faster. So that’s a key part. It just keeps me focused on prayer, for sure.
One more question about the Future Church Company. That’s the word future in the name. Tell us kind of what future speaks to you. Why the Future Church Company? What trends or future directions do you see church leaders paying attention to, and so on?
Will: Part of that is I’ve written about five books. My sixth book is coming out that’s entitled Future Church. Sometimes you got to be careful and not overstate your contribution. So future church technically for me means what do we need to be thinking about between 2020 and 2040? So in some ways, when you read the book, you realize there’s always been a future church because it just means doing organized disciple making really well, and people are doing that at all times and places. But I would say, Al, if you look at my passion for clarity, and I would say the one thread that weaves through everything, all the organizations and is captured in the word future, is the idea, I would say, of imagination as a competency or a skill for a human being. And I believe it’s one of the greatest opportunities for any human being, particularly believers.
This is what I found. In the process of writing the book on life design entitled Younique, I read a lot of nonbelievers who wrote about intentional living, and I tried to read everything I could find that was written by pastors or believers. And here’s what I found. I was actually more inspired by nonbelievers writing in this space than I was believers, because I found they had more robust imaginations. And here’s what I believe. I believe that as believers, we are tempted to use revelation as a crutch, and it leads to an underdeveloped imagination, rather than saying, “Okay, as people who get to tap into the mind of God, as people who get to see God’s epic, redemptive narrative in human history, we ought to be the most imaginative human beings that ever lived. How can we recover that?”
And so part of imagination, as one author said, is kind of the organ of meaning. I mean, you know, our dogs and our cats can’t imagine. They’re stuck in the cage of today. But God enables us to travel through time. We remember as a spiritual discipline. We look ahead as a spiritual discipline. The word faith, being certain of what we cannot see with our physical eyes but we can see with, as Paul says, the eyes of our heart. He prayed the eyes of our heart would be enlightened. So the very human capacity to travel through time into the future makes us—it just reflects that imago Dei. It makes us so godlike. And to imagine that it’s so easy to live an entire human life and not exploit and leverage and learn, and like someone developing their muscles, develop the muscles of our imagination for a godly life and for a well-lived life.
So maybe the final thought there is, I’d say, I would encourage your listeners to believe that God had a dream over them when they were born and then to have confidence that you can begin to understand what your life’s ultimate contribution is and can be. That word ultimate contribution is not mine originally. It was a great saint who studied the lives of Christians for a long time, Dr. Robert Clinton. And he wrote a book called The Making of a Leader, and that was a word he used, and we picked up on it and built on his life’s work on Younique team.
And so I would just say future is this, future is this, that God has a plan for you; that it’s knowable and namable, more than you probably realize; and that your life becomes more meaningful and more joyful. It becomes more passionate, and it holds more progress to the degree that you hit Pause and invest a little time into that that imago Dei, that ability imagine and live in the future a little bit. And just that it doesn’t sound too heady, it’s as simple as this. Get a blank sheet of paper, pray to the Lord, and start writing down things the Lord has put on your heart that you want to do. There’s not a human being on the planet who can’t do that, and won’t have access to new ideas if they just hit Pause and pray and think about how God’s using them and what God’s up to.
Al: Well said, Will. Thank you.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, Will Mancini, founder and leader of the Future Church Company and the author of the book Younique. Will, thanks for investing yourself in everyone who’s been listening and benefiting from all you’ve shared with us. We’ve certainly learned a lot, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the work that God is going to work through you to accomplish over this next season. Let’s just put it that way. Thanks, Will.
Will: Hey, you bet, Al. It’s great to be with you. And just because we’re talking about this stuff, I’m such a huge fan of what you have done with your life and the contribution you have done to the healthy, strong cultures and your own dream and vision of how you want to see that multiplied. So I know that our hearts are deeply connected around these ideas, and I have a deep admiration for the ministry that you lead.
Al: Well, let’s make Christian workplaces the best, most effective places to work in the world.
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