Once we understand the “why,” the “how” and the “what” are easy.
By Merle Poirier
The story of Balaam (Numbers 23; 24) might seem an odd place to begin an article on Total Member Involvement. It is remembered most for a talking donkey, but a closer reading reveals more.
Balak, king of Moab, had a problem. Balak has offered Balaam riches if he will agree to curse the Israelites. Balaam accepts cautioning to say only what God tells him. Fast-forward to the end, and Balaam does not curse the nation, but instead, speaks three blessings. Angry, the king refuses to pay him for his service.
Before leaving, Balaam offers one more prediction—this one for free. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).
Learning the Why
Promoter Simon Sinek recently developed three words— what, how, why—into a marketing concept. He arranged them into a “golden circle,” where the center circle is “why,” the middle is “how,” and the outer circle is “what.” These three circles moving from the outside circle to the innermost circle represent Sinek’s theory on how people think. First, they ask “What?” followed by “How?” and finally “Why?” Sinek’s point is that inspiring leaders or organizations think, act, and communicate differently—that is, upside down or inside out. Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Look again at Balaam and Balak. Together they look at the “what,” they develop the “how,” but they never reason the “why.” What they wanted to do was rid the earth of Israelites. How to do it rested in cursing them. Never once do they speak about “why” the Israelites are there in the first place. After Balak’s frustration and Balaam’s ambivalence, God gives Balaam one last prophecy and in it reveals the why: I love them. I want to spend eternity with them. I have a plan.
Applying this concept to God becomes an eye-opening experience. Throughout Scripture, God, from a human perspective, is an upside-down communicator. Think about Jesus and His disciples. During most of His ministry the disciples are scratching their heads. They’d ask a question (what or how), and He’d answer (why). Nicodemus asks Jesus what and how—Jesus answers why (John 3:16). The woman at the well asks what; Jesus answers why (John 4:26).
On the road to Emmaus Jesus reveals the “why” throughout Scripture—I created you. I love you. I want to be with you forever. The “how” is sending His Son to die for you. The “what” becomes easy—living with Him for eternity. The excited disciples run all the way back to Jerusalem. When you understand the “why,” hearts and perspective are transformed. Upside-down thinking changes the world.
“Why” Can Change Everything
Churches can be guilty of thinking more about “what” than “why.” We tell others what we are, we describe how we work, but often don’t communicate why. Does this sound familiar? “You should know Jesus as your Savior” (what). “To know Him, you need to [attend church, become a vegetarian, reform your lifestyle, read more of your Bible, . . .] (how). The implication is “This will make your life better” (what). Some will join, but many will not. It isn’t inspiring.
But what if the order is turned upside down? “I believe that Jesus is my Creator, Savior, and Best Friend” (why). I believe that Jesus is coming soon, He’s creating a home for me so I can live with Him forever, and He grants me an abundance of blessings because He loves me” (how). “Wouldn’t you like to know Him?” (what). This doesn’t suggest that the other method is incorrect, but highlights that it doesn’t necessarily lead to a full heart conversion. Upside-down thinking communicates passion, love, mercy, and grace—and people respond.
When the Bible is read with upside-down thinking, it changes everything you might have thought about God. The “why” of God is found from Genesis to Revelation. The message is about saving you because He loves you. And when you grasp that, you are moved to tell others. You’re inspired to change the world.
Total Member Involvement
Total Member Involvement is about evangelism. It’s about enthusiastically telling others about Jesus. It should be easy, but it isn’t. Mostly because we’re stuck in our thinking. When the “why” of Jesus is understood, things happen. When the “why” of the Sabbath is understood, the day is amazingly joyous. When the “why” of worship is understood, you want to be with fellow believers.
One church in Maryland, U.S.A., was transformed by “why” thinking. Those from outside perceived the church as large and unfriendly. Members decided it wasn’t their problem, but everyone else’s. Pastors now and again would endeavor to fix the issue, but nothing endured, and membership support was lackluster. Yet one day something changed everything—upside-down thinking.
During nominating committee about a dozen individuals were placed together in a room with the challenge to create a plan for a friendlier environment. The leader repeatedly spoke to them about discovering the “why” of hospitality. The group continued to respond: What is hospitality? How about doing this? But the leader continued to encourage their “why” thinking—“Why be friendly? Why are we here?” Three weeks later it clicked. That day they got excited. Twelve members changed their church.
In less than three months these 12 individuals recruited more than 300 members to participate in a new program called HIS Team. HIS Team members help, inform, and support their church and each other because Jesus loves them (why). They do this in a variety of creative ways incorporating every person’s gifts from the moment a person enters the campus (how). And the what? Former members are returning, an evangelistic series resulted in baptisms, youth and young adults are talking about their church to their friends, and pastors from other congregations are asking how they can make this happen in their church. The success comes from thinking like Jesus—upside down.
A church in Massagno, Switzerland, had a similar experience. They had dwindled to six members. They lacked vision, leadership, and church growth. In May 2010 one of the youngest members decided, with God’s help, to take the lead. Having no experience as a pastor, but having studied principles of business, he decided to apply them, along with prayer, to church growth.
The new young pastor put the well-being of the people over the programs. He delegated responsibility to the members according to their giftedness. He increased communication to the members offering spiritual encouragement. Sabbath mornings were transformed by offering a genuine welcome to each person. In three years the group grew from five to 40 regularly attending, with nine baptisms and members of all ages. In March 2015 the small group was officially established as a church.
Certainly the Lord has blessed these churches. They transformed their thinking from “what” and “how” to identifying “why” then developing the “how.” Both were so successful that they didn’t need to define the “what”—people were encouraged and inspired, so they joined and committed.
Total Member Involvement is about using the gifts that we have been given for Jesus. It is, however, more than that. It is identifying the “why” of our Christianity. When we do this, we transform not only ourselves but also the world.