Summary: At the beginning, organic churches need help with establishing purpose and culture. A gifted facilitator is able to do this. They will first lay the foundation of God’s eternal purpose as the reason for their existence. Then, they will guide (not control) the group in discovering their local purpose and culture as time goes on. These two things act as healthy boundaries, filtering what’s acceptable belief and behavior to be a part of the group.
In the last post, we learned that a facilitator is someone from outside the local church. They help groups to learn the process of making Christ the functional Head, as well as the center and circumference of their existence. God designed this role on purpose as protection for His body from its individuals supplanting Him as the functional Head. The gifts of facilitation are contained as a smaller subset of the gift of apostle that is described in the New Testament.
The goal of God’s eternal purpose
At the beginning, a gifted facilitator will be able to help the group lay the foundation of God’s eternal purpose. Although it may not be plainly evident, churches and their individuals meet for a variety of reasons. Churches may meet to expand their religious influence. Some meet to consume intellectual stimulation from a gifted speaker. Individuals may meet to “get fed” or have a sense of meeting their internal religious requirements. Some individuals meet out of guilt for the lives they live.
How can you tell what a group or individual’s purpose for meeting is? Just look at their accompanying actions. Does a church take a huge loan to build a bigger building to fit more people when they don’t have the cash to pay for it? Is the only time you see an individual when they attend church services? Does a person get drunk every Saturday and show up to church every Sunday? What do these decisions tell you about their purpose? (Ignore what their missions statements say.)
It serves as a guide for behavior
Purpose guides behavior. Once the facilitator lays the foundation of God’s eternal purpose, every decision that the church and its individuals make should be filtered through it. If the facilitator is not able to help a group lay this foundation, they are not ready to help the church. For more on God’s eternal purpose, read the book From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola.
Once the group understands and agrees to God’s eternal purpose, the facilitator can help them work out their specific local purpose together. Do you see how having a stated purpose directs a group of people and guides their decisions? It acts as a filter through which everything gets passed. If it comes out from the other side, it’s acceptable for the group. Without a purpose, the group lacks direction, everyone is free to assume their own purposes, and it’s inevitable that the group will get tossed around by conflict and likely end in hurt and pain. With purpose, individuals have a standard they’re accountable to that’s bigger than any one member and their particular ideas.
As time marches on, each group will inevitable get distracted from their purpose. A gifted facilitator is able to re-calibrate the group back to the reasons for their existence (see the New Testament letters like Ephesians and Colossians).
The process of establishing culture
The other major thing the facilitator helps the group with is establishing their culture. He does not tell them what their culture will be. He also does not bring his culture and implant it in a new location. He simply helps them think about and establish it.
Purpose is why you exist and where you are going. Culture is how you’re going to get there. It embodies the expectations of how the group will work together. What environments are you going to establish? What activities are you going to do? When and how often will you meet together? The facilitator advocates for the group culture should any of its members step outside its boundaries.
Purpose and culture aren’t things that are set in stone from day 1. That wouldn’t be healthy. It’s something that gets molded over time as a group molds together. The facilitator guides the molding. Then as this happens, the facilitator has solid ground to stand on. As the book The Art of Facilitation tells us…
The facilitator can then “stand in” or “come from” the group purpose with the authority of the group and provide processes to move the group in that direction. If the purpose is unnamed or unclear, where does the facilitator take the group and on what authority?
If the group comes to consensus about their purpose and culture, the facilitator encourages them (but doesn’t force or manipulate them) to honor their decisions. Now the group has a solid foundation of what to expect of each other and themselves when it comes to belief and behavior.