I started officially playing the game of football in 3rd grade. I played around in the yard with friends and family before then but I became part of a team for the first time in 3rd grade. My football coach, until I went on to middle school, was a perfectionist when it came to fundamentals. He drilled us on the basic fundamentals of the game every practice. This may be surprising but, this particular coach’s list of fundamentals included alignment. He would often say, “if we can’t line up right, we can’t run the play right.” If you’ve ever played the game or you consider yourself an avid fan, you know the ball is placed on the line of scrimmage and so many men have to be on the line (7) and so many men behind the line (4). The seven men on the line must, by rule, be behind the line of scrimmage and aligned on the center who snaps the ball to the quarterback. If not, there are consequences or, as we say in the game of football, it’s a penalty which costs the offensive team yardage.
Alignment isn’t just important in the game of football. It is also significant to marching band and even your vehicle. By the way, have you ever watched the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day on television? Those marching bands coming down the boulevard are in lock step and each line is nearly perfect in alignment. Amazingly, they are in alignment front to back and side to side with even spacing between each line. And speaking of vehicles, if our vehicle is misaligned, it will shake, shimmy and wobble. And, even worse, misalignment will eventually cause damage to the tires and other parts of the frontend assembly. With that said, I need to address one more area where alignment is critical. What area would that be? In case you can’t venture a guess, the church. And, more specifically, the mission of the church.
Nearly ten years ago, I went to Post Falls, Idaho with a group of pastors and church leaders to learn more about how to lead a church in making disciples. In other words, I went for the purpose of learning how to become a disciple making pastor who leads a disciple making church. I had a few things in mind about discipleship but alignment wasn’t one of those fundamentals I even imagined would be discussed. I’d go as far as to say, I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. In any case, during this conference, the topic of alignment became a major topic of discussion. If fact, Jim Putman, Senior Pastor of Real Life Ministries, stated emphatically, “you must have alignment among your church staff and church leadership or becoming a disciple making church simply isn’t possible.”
I’ll never forget the discussion of alignment during this conference and I’ll always remember the morning prior to leaving the hotel in Post Falls to go to the airport. I was sitting beside two pastors who I knew from the Omaha area in the lobby and I looked at them and said, “our staff and leaders are not in alignment especially in the area of the mission of the church.” In fact, it had been on my mind for a couple of days by that point and I finally just blurted it out. I was wrestling with what to do about it. At that moment I realized it had to start with me. I had to become a disciple who could help others become disciples. And further to that, I had to become a disciple making pastor leading a disciple making church. It all begins with alignment to Jesus, His word and His mission.
Why is alignment important, even critical? Similar to football and band, if you’re not in the right formation, working from the same playbook and marching to the same beat, there is chaos and dysfunction. Can you venture a guess of the percentage of churches in North America in chaos and dysfunction? Yes. You guessed it. It is a high percentage.
So then, how do we move toward alignment? Let’s begin with Jesus. Jesus must be acknowledged as Savior and Lord by faith, worshipped and served as Lord (Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9) and respected as Head (Eph 1:22, 5:23) of the church. And, last but not least, we must love Jesus first and foremost and the evidence of our love for Him is obedience to His commands (Matthew 22:36-38; John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-5).
Our alignment to Jesus must also include His Word. In doing so, the Bible must be acclaimed, studied and obeyed as God’s breathed-out Word (2 Tim 3:16). It isn’t good enough to just hear or know the word of God, we must put it into practice (James 1:22; Matthew 7:24-27).
As we are aligned to Jesus and His word, we must also be aligned to His mission. Even though there a number of ministries, there is only one mission. For that matter, every leader, member and ministry must align with the mission. If we don’t, it is similar to a football team or marching band being misaligned. It causes chaos and dysfunction. So then, what is the mission? Just what Lord and King Jesus said it is.
MT 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Why did Jim Putman, Senior Pastor of Real Life Ministries, state emphatically, “you must have alignment among your church staff and church leadership or becoming a disciple making church simply isn’t possible?” Because knowing and obeying the Great Commission of Jesus is the mission. If this isn’t our mission and the church leadership isn’t aligned to His mission, then what we might call a church isn’t a church. Alignment to the mission is frankly that serious to the future of any and all churches and ministries.
I have an admiration for football going back to the days playing in the yard with family and friends even before I started officially playing the game in 3rd grade. I keenly remember the fundamentals I was taught from the 3rd grade continuing on through middle school and high school. Even to this day, as I watch a game from the stands or on television, I can typically spot whether a player has sound fundamentals. And, yes, alignment is one of those fundamentals. As my coach said when I was in third grade, “if we can’t line up right, we can’t run the play right.” This goes for the local church as well. If we aren’t aligned to Jesus, His word and His mission, we’re nothing more than a chaotic and dysfunctional organization or club.
So, let me ask. If your vehicle was out of alignment, would you get it fixed? Probably so. In all likelihood, you’d be forced to or get a new one at some point in time. But, what about your alignment to Jesus, His Word and His mission? If you’re not in alignment, are you ready to fix it?
A Work in Progress. Making Disciples who Make Disciples.
- Making disciples who make disciples
- Introducing people to Christ across the street and around the world
- Loving the least among us with grace
- Leading together through teams
- Empowering the church through passionate prayer
- Worshipping as a lifestyle
- Embracing ministry with a Kingdom mindset