Church Reset? Control, Alt, Delete

You might not know David Bradley’s name, but you probably know his work.

Bradley is one of the fathers of personal computing, an engineer who collaborated to invent the IBM PC, the distant ancestor of almost all non-Apple personal computers today. 

While Bradley and the rest of IBM’s top secret “Project Chess” business unit were developing the machine, they naturally ran into a lot of bugs to fix along the way. The hardware and software were works in progress, so frequently the machine would hang up and freeze. Bradley got tired of flipping the switch to shut off the computer, waiting a few seconds, and flipping it back on when this happened. So he figured that while he was writing code anyway, he would build in a command to restart the computer in any circumstances by holding down a combination of keys. The keys he chose were control, alt, and delete. The rest was history.

Bradley worked in computing for 35 years. He holds seven patents, which made IBM hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet he’s best known for the CTRL-ALT-DEL emergency reset, which he says took five minutes to make. “I didn’t realize I was going to create a cultural icon when I did it,” he says.

In 2001 Bradley sat on a stage with giants of early personal computing, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the IBM PC. When asked about CTRL-ALT-DEL, he joked, “I have to share the credit. I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous.” (Gates’s frozen smile amid the audience’s part uproarious, part awkward laughter is unforgettable. According to Bradley, he and Gates remained friendly after the quip.)

Bradley’s story got us at Pivvot thinking about ministry as the pandemic is expected to give way to a new reality this year.

To a great extent, our church systems have been hung up. Of course we’ve been active and even innovative over the last year. But in much of what we’re used to in ministry, we’ve been frozen.

At the same time, we and the people in our churches are looking forward to a reset, especially in the fall of 2021. But that’s the big question: what will we reset to? Will it be a simple reboot, starting up again as if COVID never happened? Or will it be a deeper relaunch, not recalibrating to the status quo before the pandemic but reorienting church to the mission of Jesus that he modeled and commanded in the Great Commission?

If you’re leaning into that deeper reset, think about taking a page out of David Bradley’s book and control, alt, and delete. To energize disciple making in your church:

  • What do you need to control?
  • What do you need to alter?
  • What do you need to delete?

We’ve created a brief, ten-question exercise to help leaders take the pulse of the disciple-making culture of their church. We hope it gets a robust discussion going on your team.

To add to the conversation, here are examples of things you might control, alter, or delete, tied to the questionnaire, as you prepare to hit the reset button this year.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENTS & SAMPLE RESPONSES

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We describe precisely how legacies of the past help and harm disciple making in our church today.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Delete blaming people and leaders, past and present, without taking into account the legitimate church experiences that have shaped their behavior.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We arrange our programs to enable staff to devote at least 20 percent of work time to relational disciple making.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Control our attention and direct it away from activities that don’t promote disciple making or deeper engagement.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We recognize how staff, key leaders, and the congregation each unknowingly prioritize the crowd in the building on Sunday over the crowd around us everyday.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Delete resting our leadership on our personal influence in favor of making others the hero.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We communicate a highly contextualized mission that our people can’t help but know is theirs to live and lead, supported by pastors and staff.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Alter our mission statement to make explicit who does the mission.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We adeptly train people to function like Jesus through training-infused programs and relationships.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Alter how our groups and classes function by asking, “What did you learn today? What are you going to do about it?” and having participants report on their activity the following week.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We have an integrated strategy that reliably makes people both into members inside the building and also into multipliers outside the building.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Alter our ministry map to incorporate essential programs we run, essential practices people themselves run with their missional family, and the activities that move them from the one to the other.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We enable people to discover their calling in life, work their job as Jesus would, and leave a legacy of disciples at their place of greatest vocational accomplishment.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Control our leadership training initiatives to point toward equipping for personal calling beyond the church, not only competence for roles inside the church.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We train people to leverage the unique value they bring to others to extend a contextualized invitation to learn Jesus’ way.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Alter our evangelism programs to empower individualized proclamation, not just individualized invitation to church.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We hold in common a single, measurable goal for the next 12 months that marshals our energies in specific ways for the next 90 days.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Delete multiple objectives on the middle-range ministry dashboard in favor of one.

ASSESSMENT STATEMENT:

We execute a communications plan that ensures that our people understand and embrace change and how they can individually play a role.

POTENTIAL CTRL-ALT-DEL RESPONSE:

Control the message by picturing the church as a widening succession of circles and by dialoguing with each circle and then refining the message before sharing with the next one.