Leading a church can be a lot like gathering a group of friends for a road trip.  Both have their challenges. For example, just because everyone shares a love of travel, drives the same kind of vehicle, and agrees to observe the traffic laws doesn't mean they'll automatically take the same route to get there.

On the contrary, if someone doesn't step forward to clearly lay out the route and a pre-determined schedule, the group won't stay together long.  Someone will always opt for the scenic route. Another will choose the most direct.  The hyper dogs will want to gulp down coffee and energy drinks while pushing on through the night.  Others will insist on eight hours of sleep and regular rest and stops as the only way to get there safely.

Now, all of these routes and schedules can work. But if it's supposed to be a group trip, someone has to make sure that everyone knows that on this trip we are following this route and this schedule.

That's the role of the Lead Pastor at the Winds. We're trying to make sure that everyone understands not only our mission, vision, and values but also the route we're supposed to take to accomplish them and any special 'rules of the road.'

To this end, we've developed some ministry plumb lines.  These will help us ensure that our ministries, decisions, and initiatives line up with the core values and priorities we claim to have. And they let everyone know how we're supposed to do things around here. Let's be clear: these don't represent the only way to do ministry, or even necessarily the right way to do ministry, but they do represent our way of doing ministry. Their purpose is to clarify how we plan to shadow God, build the church, and heal the world right now.

Our plumb lines are broken into four major categories for easier reference and understanding: leadership, mission, ministry, and church.



For any idea/project/dream the leader has to supply a truthful vision of the future.  The leader has to go deep inside themselves and figure out what they want and why and how in order for it to work.  This is why we sometimes get impatient when other people (lay or staff or elder) come to us with good ideas that they don't want to lead themselves.  If any idea is truly worth following through, it must come from somewhere.  It must come from within the leader - the person who is willing to sacrifice to see the idea birthed into reality.  No leader? No ministry.  Additionally, this is why we sometimes get impatient with people coming to us for ideas: if this is your project, the ideas about how it should be done ought to flow from within you. Of course, over time this can get difficult and we sometimes find our well of ideas running dry.  That is why it is so important to stay sharp.  Be a life-long learner.  Ministry is difficult, so take care of yourself and learn to steward your own passion and spirit so you can continue to be highly productive and continue to grow in your relationship with God.  Leaders, also, need to constantly be reinforcing the Westwinds' value that everyone needs perMission to follow the dreams inside of them for God.  It is this permission that moves us forward, though we recognize that permission still needs coaching and accountability.


People should be treated like individuals.  God made us each unique, and that uniqueness should be celebrated.  To that end, we embrace our idiosyncrasies (pipes, tats, comic books, sci-fi, etc. are all in-bounds).  We are comfy in our own skin.  We want everyone to understand that God wants them to become the best possible version of themselves, not cookie-cutter imitations of someone else. This means that it's okay for some people not to like you, just as it means that you don't have to defend your personality (though, of course, there may be times when you have to defend your behavior).  Perhaps most important in all of this is the understanding that the public and the private should align.  We don't want anyone to "posture" to try and look holy, or to hide their flaws.  We want people to be who they really are, and be loved and welcomed for it.


Staff members must focus first on their paid responsibilities at the Winds.  Whenever we have a passion that falls outside of our job description we have two choices: either ignore our passion, or find a way to use that passion and bend it to our job. This is what we mean when we say 'leverage your passion.'  We don't want staff to ignore their passion, but we need them to do their jobs first because that's what we've decided needs to be done in order to move the church forward into the future. Don't get distracted. Be entrepreneurial - sure! - but make sure to take care of your job.


Leaders are bleeders; they care so much they'll give their lives for the ministry.  Whenever we look for leaders, we should look first to those who are willing to prioritize kingdom work at the expense of less-crucial concerns.  The rewards for this kind of sacrifice include influence, position, and possible employment at the Winds.  This is one of the key ways we celebrate the virtuous, the noble, and the faithful.


Everything we do as part of Christ's church is relational.  Authority is relational, not positional.  Pastoral care is relational, not educational.  This is why we want our staff to play well together.  This is why we keep short accounts.  This is why we practice open and honest communication, speaking clearly and getting straight to the point.  As leaders, this is also why we need to work hard to give everyone a chance to start over.  Others may choose to hold people in bondage to their past mistakes.  We can be aware of the past, and may sometimes choose to lead differently because of the past circumstances of our volunteers, but most important is the fact that no one ever gets shamed. Shame is an almost irreversible poison in relationships; we don't shame people while we lead because we want their relationship with God, with us, and with the world around them to flourish. That - at the core - is what ministry is all about.


We have an incredible amount of freedom in choosing how to do the things God has placed within us to do.  To speak plainly: God doesn't care what we do; rather, He cares more about what's happening inside us and through us, than about what we're doing for Him or for others.

Discernment is just as much about deciding what NOT to do as it is about figuring out what to do.


Leadership is about stewarding energy and momentum.  The best way to do that is to seize opportunities as they appear, because quick turnaround tends to build momentum. We want to be able to respond quickly to the Spirit, or to a need, or to our intuition, and that requires us to be constantly in prayer.  We pray in advance of any crisis or opportunity so we don't have to slow down and try to hear from God in order to move forward.  That way when good opportunities come we can capitalize on them quickly and with confidence.


When people step out of line we can't ignore their disrespect.  If left unchallenged, we will subtly be suggesting to the church that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Leaders need guts to confront good people who sometimes act badly (even if this kind of bad behavior is only as 'harmless' as playing the victim).  Leaders also need strong spines to confront mean-spirited and malicious folk who seek to forward their own agendas within the church. Of course, the way we challenge bad behavior should be loving and done in the motivation of healthy change and restoration.


We hold our rules loosely, knowing that there may be extenuating circumstances that cause us to reevaluate from time to time.  We may also choose to bend/break our own rules based on what God is saying to us through prayer and consideration.



Because everybody matters both to God to us, those ministries that reach more people will be better resourced. Resources, after all, are almost always limited and should be allocated to those ministries that produce results.  We cannot be afraid to discontinue ministries that produce very limited results, if for no other reason that they draw on the time and energy and availability of our staff (who could be better utilized once freed from these low-return responsibilities).  As a corollary, we think that every dollar ought to get used twice (we call this the "Jesus double-dip").  By this we mean that we ought to think strategically about how to get extra use out of every purchase, every initiative, and every event.  For example, our Beyond 1000 initiative operates on a triple bottom line in which every event needs to fulfill the mission, generate business-related revenue that can be worked back into the ministry, and garner some media attention.


The dominant culture in America today is the post-Christian, media-driven, consumer.  Typically, Americans value their anonymity in religious and spiritual contexts.  They care about how things are labeled (or even if they're labeled at all...which is why we have an aversion to "church-y" sounding language), because naming conventions matter. Our task is to bring the gospel into this culture in much the same way as the great missionaries of the past brought the gospel all over the world.  We must help the people of our world understand the gospel by placing the message of Christ in terms they can understand.  To that end, the first thing we must do is exegete the culture.  We have to figure out the world around us as they understand it, not as we wish it would be.  This requires us to stay in step with the culture (i.e. to be early adopters), using music and art and aesthetics and references that [1] abide by their own rules and [2] are representative of the times and of the people.  This can be uncomfortable, especially for long-term conservative Christian people.  To help us inculturate ourselves, we need to look for signs of redemption and cooperate with the Spirit by finding something in common between us and those around us.  We need to stand for things, not against them, keeping in mind that there are many ways to Jesus, though he is the only way to God. We'll use any means to bring the gospel in contact with our culture providing it doesn't contradict scripture or Christian orthodoxy. This also means we'll welcome anyone into our church, even if they don't profess to be Christ-followers.  At Westwinds, you can belong before you believe. The only non-negotiable here is the gospel.  Furthermore, because we understand ourselves as missionaries, we also understand that everyone witnesses. Evangelism (telling others what God can do for them) and witnessing (telling others what God has done for you) are different, and though only those who are gifted are called to evangelize we are all called to be witnesses.  Additionally, we should note that evangelism and apologetics are different.  Apologetics are to protect and defend the intellectual credibility of Christian spirituality, but rarely (in our postmodern American context) serve to win others over into the faith.


The mission (shadow God, build the church, heal the world) is the whole entire reason we have a church in the first place.  It's all about the mission. Mission first, mission only. Things that deter us or attempt to co-opt our energies (like political agendas or social agendas) must not be tolerated within the church.  The established power-brokers cannot have control at the expense of the mission. The newbies cannot wrest control away at the expense of the mission. In this regard like-minded unity is more important than diversity, which is why we always look for staff and for leaders who think and believe like we do. We must be careful that we never become too proud to do the things that will help others shadow God, build the church, and heal the world.  Nothing should ever be beneath us. We must also be careful that the internal needs and desires of the church don't force us to become insular and unconcerned about the world around us.  Outreach should always trump in-reach. It should also be noted that mission and activism are different. Mission is about 'healing the world' and requires gospel-centered effort, whereas social activism is really only about good works and requires only good intentions.  To center us on mission, we tell our people that [1] everyone needs to understand the biblical foundation for why we do what we do, [2] everyone needs to invite the Spirit to change us as we do it, [3] the church must always be included in the story, and [4] Jesus must always be elevated.


Relationships are not an end unto themselves, but occur along the way. Groups that are meant to form relationships often fail to do so because of feeling contrived and self-serving. Because of this, purely social events will always be our lowest priority and receive the least amount of resources if any at all.



We say "come dirty" but the clear implication is "get clean." It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are changed; our own efforts will always fall short; therefore, the transformational ethic is embodied in Spirit-centered living.  We are meant to stay in step with the Spirit, respond to Him, and be changed. We want to be 'editable' (by the Spirit, by others, by scripture, by prayer, by conscience, etc).  This transformation happens progressively, which means that every single person is somewhere on a kind of holy continuum on their spiritual journey.  It also means that the people we're looking for to help us fulfill the mission of the church are often right under our nose - they just need to be developed and discipled.  People are not found, but grown.


Spirituality isn't about behavior modification so much as it is about transformation and renewal through the power of the Spirit. We don't want to focus all our energy on people's failings, shortcomings, guilt and woe. We don't ignore sin, but choose instead to focus all our energy on the good news of the gospel because our goal isn't merely correction, but re-orientation.


We work toward version 4 of every idea (an initial concept, plus 3 rounds of revision).  Everything is subject to peer review. Every first-draft gets push back. We don't like things that look like they didn't take too long. This is why we steer away from things like clip art, crafts and craft-y things, clutter, homemade flyers, crayons and markers on posters, etc. Excuses are not acceptable here, though people will often try to make them.


Creativity is paramount in everything. It's one of the ways we shadow God.  Therefore, we will often try new things "just because" and, unlike many others, we change for the sake of change - just to keep things fresh and fluid.  We seldom do the same thing twice, and we take art seriously - it's much more than either advertising or propaganda, it's creativity made flesh in honor of the Creator.


We are suspect of things made "over there" and then brought willy-nilly "over here" (i.e. conference materials, etc), because where they came from ought to tie directly into the unique situational requirements for why they were made in the first place.  Because ministry comes from within you, we want our people to make their own stuff.  "Indie" is cool.  We don't copycat, and we hate pre-packaged items/materials. If God is really alive and at work in you, then what you do ought to flow out into your own expression and brand of ministry.



This is where people are changed and resourced and transformed. As much as there is distinction between ecclesiology (every Christian person is part of God's church) and actuality (the local churches are not wholly filled with every Christian person) it's important to recognize that - for better or for worse - the local church is all we've got to heal the world.  Every Christian person needs to be in a church in actuality, not just jump through an ecclesiological loop-hole and opt out.  For our part, as leaders within the church, we want to drive all our efforts at getting more people here because we can't do anything to help them become better followers of Jesus until they start showing up more frequently. After all, you can't clean a fish that's not in the boat.


The church isn't "for you." You are meant to shadow God. You are meant to heal the world. The church is not here to 'meet your needs' and it's not our job to feed you.  You need to learn to 'pick up a spoon' and feed yourself.


Corporate culture subtly undercuts the mission of the church. The church should not be cultured like IBM, even though there are business aspects to the management of the church's resources.


We need to critique reality, to confront those things within the church that are not the way God wants them to be.  Church is not about keeping people happy. We need to be truth tellers, reminding people that things should be different.  Our role within the kingdom is to speak about change for the future. Convention doesn't pressure us.  We understand that if we are faithful in discharging our mission it will likely piss off religious people.  That's ok. Much like the biblical prophets, we recognize that being faithful to our calling will lead us to do things that most other churches and pastors would not, which is why we give the disclaimer that The Cue (our weekend worship gathering) is PG-13.


Church is not just for believers, but neither is it all about seekers.  Our church is for the spiritually curious, the disenfranchised (those burned out on organized religion), for thinkers and for creatives.  It's for everybody to better encounter their Creator, and thus utilizes mutli-sensory worship and incorporates differing learning styles (visual, aural, kinesthetic). Furthermore, we play with extra-biblical models knowing that there is no 'right' way to pray and there is no biblical prescription for weekend worship. Things like small groups are great for those that need them, but there is nothing inherently godly about how we choose to do ministry, only that we do it for the sake of God's glory.


It is a posture, not a program.  As such, music can be worship, performance can be worship, and work can be worship.  The occurrence is incidental; the heart is what matters to God.


We never mess with the core doctrines.  Ever. We stand in line with thousands of years of Christian history and tradition, but also recognize that there is room for imaginative re-renderings of biblical concepts, characters, and context within the boundaries of orthodoxy especially as it serves to help others better understand the Story of God and the World.

For more, read "Quirky Leadership" by John Voelz