OK, I know that your church has MORE than 5 dysfunctions, but these are the key overriding issues that I see in church after church, after working with scores of churches over the past several years. I personally don’t know of any church that doesn’t have at least 2 or 3 of these dysfunctions, and most churches, if they were brutally honest, would agree that they have all 5.
If you look at these from the positive side of the coin, there are also 5 BIG IDEAS for building a healthy church. As Patrick Lencioni says, “organizational health trumps everything else,” and I have indeed found these to be the 5 key areas that almost all churches must work on to truly build a foundation for great health, effectiveness, and, most importantly, glorifying God. While I’m mentioning Lencioni, I want to give him full credit for coming up with the first 2 dysfunctions in the work he has done with a variety of organizations (his most recent book covering this is called The Advantage).
A critical characteristic of these 5 areas is that they are interdependent. Having any of the dysfunctions will moderately to severely hinder your ability to overcome the others.
The first dysfunction is a leadership in distrust, discord, and ineffectiveness. The Big Idea is to Build Cohesive Leadership Teams, and that must be done before you can gain ground on overcoming the other dysfunctions. The way to do that is for every team to build trust, develop healthy conflict, demand commitment to decisions, create systems of accountability to follow through, and focus on attention to results. And trust will be built by sharing life together to get to truly know each other deeply (see dysfunction no. 5). This is all easy to say, but very hard work, and I have found that it should often begin with a significant time of prayer, confession, repentance, and forgiveness by the top leadership team -- the church Board. Supporting scripture includes Eccl 4:12, . . . a threefold cord is not quickly broken, and Jn 13:35, By this all people will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.
The second dysfunction is vagueness about what the church is trying to accomplish, how we will accomplish it, and how everyone in the organization will work together to get us there. The Big Idea is to overcome this is to Create Organizational Clarity. And the way to go about that is to create a Ministry Plan and a strategy for moving toward that plan, craft an organizational approach that facilitates moving forward on that plan, and place the right people in the right roles to make that organization work well. Biblical undergirding for this includes, among many other verses, Prov 29:18, Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint, and Lk 14:28-32, For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost (etc).
The third dysfunction is having no clear pathway and plan for bringing people from unbelief to belief to maturity and to spiritual leadership. The Big Idea is to develop an effective Spiritual Growth Pathway. This will include a workable shepherding plan, a life-on-life discipleship approach, and a plan for developing and continuing to coach and shepherd spiritual leaders at the church. The Great Commission of Matt 28:18 sums this up as the Great Directive for the Church, and it’s not just about making Christians, but about developing Disciples of Christ through continual, deeply relational, lifelong growth.
The fourth dysfunction is a church turned inward, focusing on perpetuating itself and the desires of the members. Of course, the Big Idea is to Turn the Church Outward while continuing to strengthen ministry to our own people. The three key areas of focus for turning outward are the individual Christian where he/she lives, works, and plays, church sponsored community and global ministry, and partnering with other organizations that are already effectively ministering in these arenas. These things won’t happen by anything short of heart transformation that comes from the discipleship envisioned in the third Big Idea. Key verses include James 1:27, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Finally, the fifth dysfunction is a church where there are numerous acquaintances, some friendships, but little real Biblical Community. We’re talking about the kind of community where people are authentic, transparent, and even vulnerable, where small groups go deep, the Board models mutual shepherding and vulnerability from the “top,” and even every ministry team in the church refuses to just do the business of ministry without doing relationship and shepherding each other along the way. Building Biblical Community is done as the church creates organizational clarity, builds cohesive leadership teams that are in community with each other, disciples in community, and ministers to others in community, inviting them into a relationship that mirrors that of the Holy Trinity. Eph 5:18-21 paints a picture of this, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing an making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
You should readily see the interrelationship among these 5 dysfunctions. A lack of organizational clarity facilitates teams that aren’t cohesive and vice versa. Discipleship without Biblical community becomes just another program. A spiritual growth pathway and outward facing church won’t happen unless they come from intentional organizational clarity. And that done without real Biblical community will usually result in a corporate culture rather than a culture of love that will truly glorify Christ. But truly trying to build Biblical community without constantly working on organizational clarity will most often produce a “squishy” organization that harms people from its disorganization and lack of follow-through. I’m sure you can readily see other interrelationships out of the 20 that are directly represented by these 5 areas and 120 when you consider all combinations of multiple relationships!
Assessing where your church stands in these 5 areas is the beginning of overcoming the dysfunctions and building organizational health and a more effective and Christ- honoring church.