The world I grew up in taught there is one way to do everything and one size fits all. That’s the heart of the industrial world of modernity. However, just the opposite is true today. You know that if you own most any kind of software or cell phone. Almost everything today is undergoing decentralization. That’s the nature of the beast. But with decentralizing there has to be an overarching mind at work that holds all the pieces together otherwise there is chaos.

Visa is one of the best examples. There’s no office or headquarters or even paid personnel, just the software (the mind) that makes sure whenever a purchase is made with a Visa card it goes through the same channels to the right place. Visa cards are good all over the world; a vendor is able to accept the card as long as the rules of the mind are followed.

The same is true in the church. No matter how decentralized a church becomes, there is still one mind that guides or controls the outcome depending on the style of the one with the mind. I personally like leaders who guide better than control. When the leader guides rather than controls, growth happens much more quickly. It’s called empowerment. But no matter how decentralized the church becomes, the team has to have the same DNA as the leader. When that is the case, empowerment occurs throughout the organization.

One of the best examples in the church world is the multi-site approach to ministry. No matter how many sites there are, they all have the same DNA if they are to avoid chaos. Even when the DNA is the same in all the leaders there is still a form of controlled chaos. Dee Hock, founder of Visa, describes it as “Chaordic.”

One of my favorite examples is Community Christian in Naperville, IL. They are decentralizing all over the place with multiple locations even out of town, but the same mind guides all the decisions because they all have the same DNA. They call it The Big Idea. Every campus uses the same message and graphics no matter what city the campus is in. The more decentralized a church becomes, the larger it can become as long as there is one mindset underlying it all.

Where this breaks down is when a church tries hard to gain consensus on some new idea.  This action usually leads to frustration and conflict. We never suggest trying to gain consensus on a new idea.  Run it by your leaders, yes; ask for a buy-in, yes.  But never put it up for a vote.  Someone always loses in a vote.

What you need is for a lead pastor to lead, cast vision, and make decisions that he or she feels will fly. If the lead pastor doesn’t have a finger on the pulse of a church, then there is a bigger problem.

We are aware that many church people don’t think the pastor should have this much power.  But that’s part of Christianity’s problem. If the pastor isn’t allowed to lead, the church usually declines. All we have to do is look at the New Testament church and see how much influence the Apostles had over the churches. For decentralization to work, there must be a one mind holding the pieces together.  Without both, the church of the 21st century is hamstrung.

Question: What is the one mind behind all that your church does? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.

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