The Principle of Thirds

Thirds

The Principle of Thirds

A friend asked me to post something about a grounding missional principle that we use here in our community that we call the Principle of Thirds. We did not think this up ourselves, and the truth is that we don’t know where it came from.  But we do know from a good deal of experience that it bears fruit for the Kingdom of God.  We don’t count a lot of things, mostly because we used to count a lot of wrong things (i.e people in the pews on Sunday, individual giving, number of people in Sunday School, etc.).  We don’t necessarily know what all the right things to count are, but we do know some things that aren’t worth counting because spending energy counting them simply doesn’t bear fruit.  Here’s something we have learned: Count the things that you want to see follow-through on.  We measure the things that we think are important to actually do because counting them, for whatever reason, makes us do them.  It’s not the counting that matters.  It’s the doing that matters.

We have become very intentional about making sure that every mission team and mission launch has a certain make-up to them.  And we count to make sure that we are being intentional right from the start in ensuring that teams are made up a particular way.  All of our mission teams are launched with only 1/3 of the people launching them coming from our worshiping community.  2/3 must come from outside of our traditional walls.  1/3 of the team can come from another faith community.  But every mission team that we launch must have at least 1/3 of its participants being people who have no faith community at all.  Some of them may be in a faith conversation, but we are really looking to partner with people who claim no faith allegiance.   So our launch teams are 1/3 from our community, (can be) 1/3 from other faith communities, but must be at least 1/3 people who profess no particular faith at all.  If the team is not made up that way, we don’t launch.

The same model applies to how our mission teams are funded for launch.  Only 1/3 of their funds can come from our operating budget.  1/3 of their funds can come from other faith communities.  But a minimum of 1/3 of their funding must come from secular income streams that they develop through their own networks. Within three years, all of our missions must be self-funded through income streams developed outside of our operating budget.  We do this because we consider each new mission to be a potential faith community.  And each new faith community must eventually become financially viable on its own.  We plant it, but if God does not bring life to it, then we have learned to let it go.  We think (at least right now) that three years gives the mission plant enough time to get on its own feet and develop its own resources. We do not have the kind of money that it takes to plant churches the traditional way, and we believe, nonetheless, that every church is called to plant faith communities.  So, this is our way, at least for now.

We use the Principle of Thirds because we have a need to be intentional about including the people on the subject side of the mission who we are trying to invite into Kingdom participation with us on the object side of the Kingdom.  Subject and object from Day One.  Our community needs to do this because it is too easy for us to fall back into the old “outreach” model where we, the church people, are the purveyors of goodness and a light to the “them”, the needy.  There is no “us” and “them” in the Kingdom of God. And in the Kingdom we each have something to offer to one another. By building these requirements into every mission before they are launched, we have found that we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we set out to do.

Immanuel Logovisit us at: www.growingintochrist.org

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