We’re talking about ministry, though I think these ideas could be applied to any non-profit organization. This is what I use as a grid for “doing” ministry. It works pretty well and holds me accountable in a very simple but firm way.
Philosophy: That which decides what’s important. This could also be described as Theology, since whatever God deems important so should we.
Implementation: Putting hands and feet on your philosophy. Implementation is subservient to philosophy.
Review: Carefully checking to see if what you’ve implemented supports your philosophy.
Philosophy + Implementation + Review = doing what we say we do
If your mission statement says “We make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”, then that’s your philosophy. Everyone agrees on this, gets behind it, says that it’s doctrinally sound. This is a very difficult thing to implement — to put into place. This is where the how hounds. How do we make fully devoted followers of Jesus? It is philosophically great but if it doesn’t have arms and legs, it’s dead.
Usually we take what we’re already doing and dub it as something we do for mission. But if these things were birthed from different philosophies, then how can it possibly be subservient to a new philosophy? When it comes to review time, we get really frustrated because it’s just not working. The review stage is meant to reveal cracks in implementation first, trusting that your philosophy is pretty solid. But what typically happens is a change in philosophy (or the wording of philosophy) which is quite exciting because it’s new but will prove useless because it’s just a stirred pot of the same stew.
We establish a philosophy. Why not use what’s already laid out in Scripture — the Great Commandment and Great Commission — and make it your driving philosophy? Then, in a different and subservient category, lay out the implementation. If Matthew 28 is your philosophy, then the book of Acts (etc) is a great example of Implementation. Sure, you see some development of the church along the way, but only after implementation and review. Why is Paul cleaning the clocks of the Corinthian church? Review after implementation. He’s saying “you missed it here, friends”. This is where things get off the paper. You’ve already got things on a piece of paper in your philosophy. After you’ve implemented, it’s time to let it hum its way to the first review. Are we fulfilling our philosophy? No? Then check what you’ve implemented… NOT your philosophy. Implementation is flexible; philosophies are sturdy and require little tuning. We usually flip the treatment of these around and start tinkering with sub-points of philosophy, all the while as we keep doing what we’ve always done in terms of implementation.
Implementation keeps you geared to the times. Philosophy keeps you anchored to something solid that is untouched by trend. Review keeps you introspective and honest about the state of your organization.
Why do we hesitate to toy with implementation? It’s a lot tougher and makes much bigger waves. Philosophical shifts tend to upset philosophical people. The other 95% see it as a blur because they learn your philosophy by what your ministry does — not says. Establishing a philosophy is like playing with a train set. Implementation is like playing with life size trains. Which is more dangerous? Which makes a bigger impact?
And THIS, my friends, is why we need courageous leadership that is willing to step out and implement and review a philosophy. It is much easier said than done.