Executing the Mission: The Why, What, and How of Pinnacle Forum, Part I

by Guy Rodgers, President and CEO

(transcript & audio)

I want to welcome you to Part One of a very important, two-part audio version of “The President’s Perspective” titled “Executing the Mission: The Why, What and How of Pinnacle Forum.” One of the great blessings I’ve experienced during my first year as President and CEO has been the opportunity to get to know so many of you; to hear and digest your ideas and aspirations for Pinnacle Forum, as well as your questions, concerns, and yes, frustrations; and to process these in light of where I believe God wants to take us together in this journey. This two-part message is the result, and is for anyone in or around Pinnacle Forum who is seeking a clearer picture of what we’re doing to accomplish our mission and how we’re doing it.

A month ago I recorded a message titled “Pinnacle Forum’s Unique and Noble Calling in These Perilous Times,” which addressed four key elements of the context for our vision. Now the time is ripe for us to drill down into how we fulfill that vision, that is, what we do and how we do it to best execute our mission. This is arguably the most important message I will bring to you since beginning my tenure as CEO one year ago.

Before we begin, you might want to write down questions you have, and as you listen, look for answers to them and to questions like these:

  • What’s the value of being part of a national network of chapters and forums?
  • How is Pinnacle Forum distinctive?
  • How can a Partner better execute on his or her 7 Mountain calling and better connect with other Pinnacle Forum Partners?
  • Why should an influential Christian leader want to be part of Pinnacle Forum?
  • What are we doing and how are we doing it?
  • Where and how do we need to improve?

To enable you to get the fullest benefit from this message the transcript will be posted along with the audio on our website under the blog “The President’s Perspective” so that you can refer to it later, even print it out and make notes as you see fit.

In any organization, indeed, in our own lives, there’s always a gap between the ideal and the actual. What we should strive for in our lives and in the organizations and ministries we involve ourselves in is the progressive, continual narrowing of that gap. This is consistent with the biblical exhortation to “do everything as unto the Lord,” in other words, to strive for God-honoring excellence in all things.

Thus, my fondest aspiration right now, as we get ready to enter 2017, is that each of us is prepared and seeks the equipping to narrow these gaps, in our lives and in Pinnacle Forum.

To begin with, here’s the big question I want you to think about and I’ll strive to answer: What is the value of Pinnacle Forum and how do we define that? Put another way, what is the rationale for our existence?

And here are the big ideas, the categories if you will, for answering this question.

  1. The philosophical value
  2. The visionary value
  3. The strategic value
  4. The relationship value
  5. The transformative value
  6. The networking value
  7. The leveraging value
  8. The empowering value
  9. The leadership value
  10. The impact value
  11. And the administrative value

So let’s dive in, beginning with a brief assessment of the philosophical and visionary value.

By “philosophical value” I mean, what about Pinnacle Forum’s philosophy for being, for existing, provides value? The answer is best summed up in our motto: Transforming leaders to transform culture. This is what we’re called to do, and this calling has three components: a target audience (influential leaders), transformation of that target audience (growth in Christ, what theologians call “sanctification”), and an aim for the expression of that personal transformation, the transformation of culture.

So why does this have value? Because it’s so foundationally biblical. The reason unbiblical philosophies lack value and fail is because they’re not in harmony with reality. Marxism and its image of humanity sounded glorious; its reality was horrific.

My friends, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the foundational philosophy for Pinnacle Forum. Let’s not do that. Let’s remind each other regularly what our philosophical value is!

By “visionary value” I mean a vision that raises us up, that helps us see beyond our immediate horizons, that, as Wild at Heart author John Eldredge would say helps us see beyond our smaller stories to God’s BIG story – and the role we have been called and honored to play in it.

For over 35 years I’ve wanted to be part of movements and causes that had a big vision. The typical leader I’ve met during those 35 years feels the same way. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Actually, if we haven’t lost heart with life and thus grown cynical we feel compelled to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Recently I was talking to an old friend about Pinnacle Forum, and he mentioned someone he knew who might be interested, who had a long list of impressive life accomplishments. My friend said this person once told him, “If I can do it alone, by myself, it’s too small and I’ll get bored.”

That’s the spirit. That’s the kind of leader Pinnacle Forum aspires to reach. And it’s why you’ve heard me speak to our vision so frequently over the past year. As Hosea warned us, “Without a vision the people perish.” They perish because they lose direction. We should want to be part of a big vision because that’s how God made us and that’s what we need. Anything less is a rebuff of our calling in Christ and a settling for the kind of mediocrity that has become so endemic in our culture.

This is why I’ve described the Pinnacle Forum vision as a “national community of communities.” Not one forum or one chapter – but hundreds of forums and chapters. Not merely our own community, but an entire nation. Thus, central to what we do should be strategies and tactics that lead us toward being a national movement, a national community of communities, where we think national transformation as we act for local transformation.

I’ve had the privilege of being in leadership with several state and national grassroots or chapter-based organizations, so the Pinnacle Forum vision to be a national movement composed of chapters isn’t unique.

But our overarching strategy is distinctive, and that brings me to our “strategic value.”

At its foundational level, Pinnacle Forum rests upon three elements that together comprise a distinctive strategic approach to addressing the challenge of cultural transformation.

The first is our confidential forums, and how we conduct them is essential to our success. The fact is, the quality of the experience in our many dozens of forums varies considerably. This is why one of the things at the top of my list for 2017 is to build upon what is working and successful and achieve greater consistency of value across our forums.

It’s why we’re including in our upcoming online Partner Community a place where forum facilitators can ask questions, exchange ideas, and promote best practices to each other. For a year now I’ve hosted a monthly, two-hour video conference call with our chapter Executive Directors and market leaders, and we devote time on every call to sharing ideas. This is the kind of connecting, brainstorming, and application that over time will filter down to every forum, so that every Partner and Participant in a forum will see his or her experience continually improve and grow.

The second element is the Four E Strategy: Encourage, Equip, Engage, Execute. I sometimes wonder if we pause often enough to appreciate just how biblical, potent and practical this strategy is. Improving the understanding and application of the Four E strategy has become one of my top objectives, because it’s so essential to our mission. It’s why, for example, this year we released an updated version of the Forum Facilitator Guide, with much more emphasis on the last two E’s, “engaging” and “executing.” The guide includes the concept of a “cultural impact plan,” in which forum facilitators are encouraged to devote time each year for forum participants to develop a “cultural impact plan” for themselves, and then share it with the others in their forum for feedback and discussion. This is a very distinctive tactic, one that in and of itself will position your forum to be more than a Bible study and empower you and the other participants in your Forum to be more focused and intentional in creating and executing culture-changing strategies.

The guide also includes a list of recommended curricula and resources, grouped by topic, to help your forums save time by assisting you in selecting resources that meet your needs at any given time.

It’s why we recently launched two private Facebook groups, one for the family mountain of culture and one for the government mountain, with plans to launch for the other five mountains soon. We’ll be following these with a private Facebook group for Forum Facilitators, to enable our Facilitators to more easily connect, share best practices, ask questions, and thus be able to continually improve the forum experience for themselves and their participants.

It’s why the Partner community we’ve been hard at work on has multiple connection points for Partners to engage each other across the seven mountains of culture. It’s why that community will allow Partners to post opportunities for cultural and ministry engagement, engage in discussions and write blogs for each other, and why we’re exploring platforms such as LinkedIn to better facilitate connections between Pinnacle Forum partners and those not yet in our community.

It’s why we’re floating new ideas with chapters such as them hosting an annual “Opportunities to Engage Expo”, where Partners and pre-vetted ministry organizations come together on an afternoon so that Partners can investigate these organizations, thus embarking on what Half-Time’s Lloyd Reeb calls “low-cost probes.”

It’s why we’ll soon be launching a quarterly video conference call for forum facilitators and exploring the prospect of such a call for chapter board members.

It’s why we’re evaluating the use of applications like Periscope to help us be better connected and why we’re looking at the prospect of a Pinnacle Forum app.

It’s why our E News now has a feature called “Opportunities to Engage.”

And it’s why a regular podcast and access to Two Ten Magazine are in the works as two new benefits to Partners.

The third element of our distinctive strategy is where we’re aiming – to impact culture across all seven key mountains of culture: Arts and Entertainment; Business; Education; Family; Government/Military; Media and Religion. As you can see, the direction we’re going regarding improving how we help you engage and execute ties directly into this third component, transforming culture within each of the seven mountains.

James Davison Hunter, in his eye-opening book To Change the World, makes this statement about how cultures change:

When networks of elites [and by this he means influential leaders] in overlapping fields of culture and overlapping spheres of social life come together with their varied resources and act in common purpose, cultures do change and change profoundly.

Hunter’s analysis of history is compelling, which means the value of the Pinnacle Forum strategy, even as we’ve only scratched the surface of our potential, is indeed enormous. We dare not overlook or underestimate this.

The next value of Pinnacle Forum doesn’t need much elaboration, and that’s the “relationship value.” A consistent theme I’ve heard from Pinnacle Forum Partners is how much they value the relationships they’ve gained through their forums, relationships they’ve typically had difficulty developing through other avenues within the body of Christ. In the years to come, should hostility to Christianity continue to increase as it appears it will, we will come to appreciate even more than we do now the value of these authentic relationships. We’re going to need each other like never before, and there is simply no way we can quantify the value of this. We simply can’t afford to take this for granted.

It’s through these genuine relationships that we can experience the personal transformative value of Pinnacle Forum. Leadership can be very lonely, and God did not design us to walk our paths alone. Experiencing encouragement, accountability, shared wisdom, and just the trust that comes with authentic, transparent, peer-to-peer relationship promotes growth and helps unleash the leadership potential in each of us.

This brings us to the “networking value,” “leveraging value,” and “empowerment value.” Each of these are vitally important to contributing to the other transformative value of Pinnacle Forum, that of transforming the culture around us.

If Hunter’s proposition about networked leaders leveraging their influence is correct, and I’m persuaded it is, we owe it to God to maximize these three interconnected values through Pinnacle Forum, because it’s here where we can experience the highest degree of empowerment and thus the optimal degree of cultural transformation.

There are a number of factors that determine how well we will maximize the potential networking, leveraging and thus empowering value of Pinnacle Forum. But before listing them it’s important that we recognize that realizing the full potential for these values depends upon an appreciation that as a leadership development and leadership unleashing ministry each and every one of us has a vital role to play that no one else can play. Key to this is what I call “contributory initiative.”

Here’s an example of what I mean by this. Obviously, I have leadership responsibilities for which I must take the initiative which are specific to my role as CEO. You can’t assume the initiative in those matters. You can’t even assume the initiative for me to be committed to and attend my forum – but neither can I assume yours. Thus, we each demonstrate leadership by how seriously we exercise responsibility for our respective commitments to Pinnacle Forum. In other words, how we exercise contributory initiative.

The fact is our forum experience will achieve its highest potential as a result of contributory initiative. Please don’t wait for every idea to come from the CEO, chapter Executive Director or Forum Facilitator. Some of the best ideas we’re launching or planning to launch have come from you. You’re a leader and we need your leadership; seize the initiative to raise questions, put forth ideas, look for ways to do things better. If implicit in the DNA of our community is the assumption that all or even most communication is to originate from the NSC as a “top-down” process, we simply will not realize our best or even good potential because we won’t be operating as a community of influential leaders.

The tendency of human nature in organizations for a small number of people to exercise most of the initiative and responsibility is so common it even has a name – it’s called “The Pareto Principle.” In churches we often call it the “20-80” principle – 20% of the people giving 80% of the money and time. Indeed, the very leadership and organizational structure in many churches actually helps encourage this phenomenon.

As an organization we don’t want to be defined by the Pareto Principle. That, for instance, is why the requirements of being a Partner include an annual contribution of at least $1,200, or $100 per month. Some call it having “skin in the game.” We want our DNA to be defined by leaders who understand the potency of contributory initiative — how they steward their time, talents, treasure and influence through Pinnacle Forum — and act accordingly!

Here then, are six factors that will determine how well we succeed in realizing the networking, leveraging and empowering value of Pinnacle Forum:

  • First, Communication between the National Support Center, Chapters, Forum Facilitators and Partners.
  • Second, Communication between Chapters and other Chapters, Forum Facilitators and other Forum Facilitators, and Partners and other Partners.
  • Third, Individual commitment to servant-leadership animated and accelerated through Pinnacle Forum.
  • Fourth, The cultivation of “producer” Christianity rather than “consumer” Christianity. “Producer” Christians are hearers AND doers of the Word; they are proactive and initiators of action; whereas “consumer” Christians are largely spectators, typically that 80% defined by the Pareto Principle.
  • Fifth, The number of Chapters, Forums and Partners.
  • And Sixth, The conscious and intentional application of effective strategies and tactics.

With this in mind, a question I’ve heard a number of times is, “What is Pinnacle Forum doing from the national level that is helping our local chapter or our local forum?” As you listen to this two-part message my hope is that you see there actually is quite a bit happening in this regard, maybe even more than you were aware of, with a lot more to come.

We’ll take a giant step in the direction of better serving you once we’ve raised sufficient funds to welcome a third full-time employee to our national team. A gifted leader who comes aboard as a Vice President for Chapter and Forum Development will exponentially expand our bandwidth. This person’s primary responsibility will be serving the chapters and the forums, and helping to launch new forums and new chapters. Ideas on our drawing board, many of which have come from you, will receive the attention and execution they merit but we simply can’t give them right now. With the gains in communication that will come with the addition of this leader the pipeline up and down the communication chain will expand geometrically. There are numerous Pinnacle Forum Partner success stories most of you haven’t heard yet which will have the opportunity to be told simply because we’ll have a full-time leader who can oversee the research and dissemination of them.

I’m not speaking theoretically here. In 2008, as Executive Director of a national, start-up chapter-based organization, we hired what we called a National Field Director, whose full-time responsibility was to find and cultivate new chapter leaders and serve those already in place. In the following 12 months, with the addition of just this one leader, both the quantity and quality of our chapter network exploded. No doubt many of you listening to this have seen the same explosion at critical times in your business or organization when just the right leader was brought on board at just the right time.

Funding, finding and unleashing this leader is therefore our greatest need today here at the National Support Center.

In Part II we’ll take a closer look at the empowerment, impact, leadership and administrative value of Pinnacle Forum, and the paradoxes of the value propositions of the Gospel as they relate to Pinnacle Forum.


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