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

by Guy Rodgers, President and CEO

(transcript & audio)

In Part I of this message we began exploring the “Why,” “What,” and “How” of Pinnacle Forum through the lens of its philosophical value, visionary value, strategic value, relationship value, transformative value, networking value, leveraging value, and empowerment value. Let’s begin Part II with a further unpacking of the empowerment value.

Have you ever been faced with a problem or need where it felt like you were the only one who recognized it and wanted to do something about it? Standing in such a place can be so discouraging it can be paralyzing. That’s precisely how the enemy of our souls defeats us, by isolating us and disempowering us. A core benefit of Pinnacle Forum’s vision for a national community of communities, a network of dozens of chapters, hundreds of forums, and thousands of partners, begins with simply knowing “I’m not alone.” I know from personal experience in leadership of two national, chapter-based organizations, that this in itself is incredibly empowering.

What’s more, the momentum achieved by starting new chapters across the country rubs off on each individual chapter. Success breeds success, and each chapter’s efforts to find and recruit new Partners will only be helped as our reach expands across the country.

Because we have just scratched the surface of Pinnacle Forum’s potential as a national movement it’s perfectly understandable to question whether there is value to be part of this broader movement. My response to that is three-fold.

First, I ask for your grace and patience as we journey in this direction. I recently talked to the President of a national, grassroots movement who told me they’ve been three years in the process of transitioning from where they were to where they want to go. We both had a good laugh as we talked about how impatient we can be. Transitions take time, and they can be messy if pushed too quickly. One reason is that one of the great challenges of our day is getting and holding people’s attention, and this contributes to the difficulty of guiding a group of people spread out over multiple states in a common direction toward common goals. We are moving in the right direction, even though that’s not yet as clear to everyone in our community as we would like.

Second, I ask for your prayers, for wisdom, clarity, focus, discernment, strength, and yes, patience, for our NSC and chapter leadership. And let us be ever mindful that, as the apostle Paul makes clear in Ephesians 6, our opposition emanates from the dark powers and principalities in the spiritual realm. Rest assured the enemy of our souls does not want Pinnacle Forum to succeed, and the tactics he uses to oppose us typically include discouragement, doubt, confusion, strife, and one that may surprise you – excessive busyness. So please, join us in making prayer for Pinnacle Forum and for our overcoming this opposition a priority.

And third, may I lovingly challenge you: What can you do, that you’re not already doing, to help this effort be more of a “we,” together effort? Perhaps it’s visiting our new website for the first time. Or tuning in more regularly to our monthly teleconferences. Perhaps it’s making a financial contribution to the NSC or writing your cultural impact plan and sharing it with your Forum. Perhaps it’s reading the E News each month, or reading my blog, “The President’s Perspective.” Or listening to a message like this. Perhaps it’s emailing me a personal story about how Pinnacle Forum has impacted you or the world around you, or sharing that with a colleague and inviting that person to check out Pinnacle Forum. If you’re a Forum Facilitator it would mean you participating in a quarterly video conference call we’ll be launching soon to help me hear directly from you, as well as reading and applying the revised Forum Facilitator Guide in your forum.

The benefits of these and other ways that you can proactively connect to us at the national level and to Pinnacle Forum Partners across the country are increased awareness and understanding of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it, and where we see this taking all of us. As you proactively connect you may be surprised at how many of your questions are answered or how many resources and ways to connect there are, with more coming. This is contributory initiative, living as a producer Christian within Pinnacle Forum rather than a consumer Christian. If you have ideas to help us better serve you, please, pass them along; we want to hear them. If you have questions, please, forward them to us. And please hear my heart on this: In Psalm 37:4 we read, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” There’s no greater desire I have for this ministry than to see each and every Pinnacle Forum Partner experiencing the full benefit of what it means to be growing in Christ and empowered and unleashed to be God’s servant-leader change agent in our culture. And we will only achieve this as we do it together!

Before continuing to a discussion of the paradoxes of the Gospel with respect to value propositions, there’s one more thing that each of us can do. This is an execution of contributory initiative so powerful that it’s guaranteed to close that gap between the ideal and the actual in every aspect of our lives.

In Psalm 25:14 we read, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and He will make them know His covenant.” Another translation reads, “The Lord confides in those who fear him…”

The imagery in the Hebrew is one of two friends reclining together and sharing their deepest thoughts. Let’s pause and think about this for a moment…

…The God of the universe, creator of 100 billion galaxies, wants to recline with you and me, to take us into His confidence, to share his deepest thoughts with us.

How mind-boggling is that???

How do we gain such access? Through regular, committed prayer, significant time with God every day, communing, listening, waiting, asking, searching the Word, meditating on it. This is where He will come and recline with us.

Unfortunately, the fact is that most people in America who describe themselves as Christians pray less than five minutes a day. Five minutes a day won’t give us access to the deep thoughts of our spouse or our best friend, and it won’t bring us the realization of Psalm 25:14 either.

If we’ve become captive to the busyness of life that crowds out extended time alone with God each day, consider how much we’ll bring to our families, our businesses, our jobs, our friends, and yes, to our forums and our Pinnacle Forum relationships, if we were to bask more regularly in the intimacy described in Psalm 25:14! Just think of the richness, the depth, the wisdom, that would characterize our Forum discussions beyond what we’re already experiencing. This is contributory initiative on steroids!!

Let us now shift gears to one of the questions I’ve heard asked a number of times regarding the value of Pinnacle Forum, which goes something like this, “What’s the value for me to contribute $400 of my $1,200 per year Partner contribution to the national support center?” It’s a legitimate question, and what we’ve been discussing regarding the value of networking, leveraging and empowering is where we can find some of the best answers to that question.

But let’s probe this question of value from a different angle than the typical one. We’ve been conditioned in this country, when confronted with a product or service or idea, to ask, “how does this benefit me?” And there’s nothing wrong with looking at one car compared to another and asking, “how does car A benefit me more than car B?” That’s part of stewarding the resources God has entrusted to us.

But the eternal perspective Jesus modeled for His disciples pushes us beyond this to the seeming paradoxes of the Christ-centered life: He who would be first, let him be last. He who would be great, let him be a servant. It’s better to give than receive. He who loses his life for Christ’s sake will save it, he who tries to keep his life will lose it.

Do these paradoxes sound like attractive value propositions? On their face do they sound like “benefits” to you and me?   They are, but not in the way consumer culture defines benefits. They are truly, in our post-modern time, counter-cultural. For instance, any mature Christian will attest to how dying to self is the pathway to the abundant life Jesus promised. This makes no sense to the unbelieving world, but what greater benefit could there be than this?

So what if we turned this particular “value” question around and looked at it in the light of biblical paradoxes?

If our $400 per year is effectively used to plant new forums across the country, find new partners, establish new chapters, and thus transform other lives and communities, do we benefit?

If our $400 per year is used to provide pathways to greater connectivity with other believers across the country, do we benefit?

If our $400 per year encourages us and empowers us as we see growth and accomplishments across the country, do we benefit?

If our $400 per year helps develop and unleash leadership, both in our communities and across the country, do we benefit?

If our $400 per year is helping to fulfill the Great Commission and the cultural mandate, do we benefit?

Viewed this way wouldn’t we all agree that yes, in every instance we benefit?

I’m not saying that the Pinnacle Forum National Support Center is knocking the ball out of the park in these areas. We’re not where I want to be or where we want to be – but we are getting there.

Yes, there are traditional consumer benefits to being a Partner, such as discounts to our national conference and access to nationally-recognized leaders on our teleconference calls. And as you can see we’re launching many new initiatives with many more in the wings. But if a desire for traditional consumer benefits is the heartbeat of our perspective of Pinnacle Forum’s value, no matter how many new benefits we provide, there will always be potential for disappointment. This is because Pinnacle Forum, by its very nature, is one of those gospel paradoxes. It’s intended to be a place where “what’s in it for me” is not defined by consumer culture but rather by “how does this benefit and serve others?” If we’re serious about transforming culture, we must live from a perspective that is different from the prevailing winds of consumer culture.

This is what Pinnacle Forum is ultimately about – helping each of us grow, not as the world defines leaders, but as servant-leaders – and then unleashing that leadership through the very kinds of networks Hunter notes have been at the forefront of changing cultures throughout history. This sums up our leadership value. We’ve all been influenced by “consumer culture”; our objective in Pinnacle Forum is that every benefit and value provided to each of us is destined to prepare, equip, empower and unleash us to be freer of the mindset of consumer culture and thus to be the servant-leaders God wants us to be.

So what then, is the impact value of all of this?

As history demonstrates, the key to cultural transformation is the networking and leveraging of influential leaders. There, my friends, is the impact value. We have the right formula, and as with anything that is true in God’s creation, the right formula is essential for success. For instance, the right formula for the foundation of society is God’s design for the family. Having the right formula in and of itself doesn’t guarantee success. But not having the right formula, as we’re witnessing with the collapse of God’s design for family and the horrendous toll this has inflicted on our society, guarantees failure.

What should encourage each of us is that our challenge in Pinnacle Forum is not to try to make a flawed formula work, which is ultimately hopeless, but rather to better apply effort, strategies, tactics and principles that will make the right formula work. That’s where we’re going – testing, launching and communicating strategies and tactics that will enable us to enjoy and sow the benefits of constructive cultural impact far in excess of the number of people in our organization.

One way in which we can do this better than we have been is to be more proactive in assuming leadership for the creation of strategic working groups aiming for transformation at the community level. Some of you have seen just how powerful these can be in bringing about city transformation. In the next few months you’ll begin seeing ways in which we’ll help you to better assume leadership roles in these efforts across the country.

Lastly, let’s talk a moment about the administrative value of Pinnacle Forum. For most of us talking administration doesn’t do much for getting the juices flowing, but I think we all appreciate the value of sound administration in any organization.

The Pinnacle Forum model for administration is one of the National Support Center helping chapters focus on advancing the mission of the ministry by relieving them of some of the main costs in time and money of managing various administrative tasks. By employing economies of scale we make it possible for chapters to do more with less.

Here’s a list of administrative services the NSC provides to every Pinnacle Forum chapter:

  • First, the umbrella of a 501 c3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization. With 2/3 of every partner’s annual $1,200 contribution going to the chapter, every partner can claim that tax deduction without each chapter having to secure and maintain this tax-exempt status. Think of it this way: if every chapter was independent, for a Partner to get a tax deduction for the $800 portion that goes to the chapter every chapter would have to apply for and maintain the 501 c3 status. Securing such status can now take a year or longer; maintaining such status requires record-keeping and reports that are now handled by the NSC.
  • Second, accounting practices such as paying for and conducting financial reviews, tracking contributions, and managing multiple bank accounts. The National Support Center spends tens of thousands of dollars every year on this, a cost that every chapter would have to bear if each chapter was independent and not part of our network of chapters.
  • And third, managing the employment of chapter Executive Directors and other staff. If every chapter was independent, every chapter would have to have its own payroll account and manage every aspect of payroll that is now handled out of the National Support Center.

Beyond financial, accounting, and regulatory compliance value, there are other administrative benefits to the chapters.

  • Website multi-sites. With the building out of our new website we have incorporated the ability for chapters to use a common template for their individual websites. This not only provides common branding for Pinnacle Forum but saves each chapter time and money.
  • Database management. We’re completing the development of database dashboards that chapters can use to manage data in a national database paid for and administered here at the National Support Center. This alleviates every chapter from having to pay for and manage its own database.
  • Document storage and back-up. We are currently testing the best and most cost-effective system we can find to allow chapters to save documents, share them internally, and have them stored and backed up.

For some of you listening to this you might be saying to yourself, “but I’m not in a chapter yet so I’m not experiencing these benefits.” True enough. But our goal is to build a chapter around you so that the day will come when you will be part of a chapter and your chapter will experience all the benefits and economies of scale I’ve been talking about under “administrative value.”

I’d like to close this message with a summary of what we, as a national community of communities, can be. Of what we can be if as leaders we truly “think national transformation and act local transformation.” What we’re trying to do here isn’t new; over the course of some four decades at the turn of the 19th century William Wilberforce and what became known as the “Clapham Circle” profoundly transformed English culture and even the entire world.

Wilberforce is best known for his successful 20-year battle to end the English slave trade. But as Richard Gathro points out, in an essay published in 2001 by the C.S. Lewis Institute, Wilberforce could not have done this alone. He was surrounded by a group of influential leaders, the Clapham Circle. Gathro identified ten characteristics of the Clapham Circle that contributed to its success. As we look at six of them, think of these in terms of what Pinnacle Forum aspires to be.

  • “They shared a common commitment to Christ AND a clear sense of calling.” Without this clear calling their common commitment to Christ would not have been sufficient to produce the results they did. A central goal of Pinnacle Forum through the Four E strategy is to help each Partner experience and execute upon that clear calling.
  • “They were committed to lifelong friendship and mutual submission was the norm.” Consider for a moment: how many of us have “lifelong friends,” people we would trust with our very lives? Wouldn’t that in itself be a tremendous benefit of being part of Pinnacle Forum?
  • “Their advocacy was marked by careful research, planning and strategy.” This is precisely the methodology we should be striving for as we “engage” the culture and “execute” strategies for cultural transformation.
  • “They kept the long view on completing projects.” The abolition of the slave trade took 20 years. We must cast off the impatience, the “I want it now” feature of contemporary consumer culture that influences us, and trust God to bring our efforts to fruition in His timing – even if that takes years.
  • “They made no dichotomy between evangelism and social action.” One of the core features that attracted me to Pinnacle Forum was its commitment to the cultural mandate, that as believers we are called to both lead people to the saving grace of Christ AND constructively improve the world around us.
  • “They enabled one another vs. trying to `have it all.’ They recognized each other’s passions and supported one another in addressing them.” This is at the heart of our Pinnacle Forum methodology!

I’m not suggesting that we can or should be a duplication of the Clapham Circle. We don’t live in 18th century England. But we can and should aspire to be a 21st century expression of the Clapham Circle. The characteristics described by Gathro are biblical and timeless, and they are especially, even desperately, needed in times like ours. Let us therefore broaden our horizons, expand our vision, and row the boat together, as “producer” Christians rather than “consumer” Christians, as servant-leaders who desire to steward their influence, who understand the times and know what needs to be done.

My heart swells with gratitude when I contemplate the leadership already in place throughout Pinnacle Forum. I’ve learned from you much more than you can know; indeed, many of the ideas discussed in this message find their root in what you have shared with me. We have a firm foundation; now is the time to actively and aggressively build upon that foundation, to encourage each other with what one of our national board members calls a “healthy urgency.”   These are increasingly perilous times; let’s therefore purpose to increasingly free ourselves from the trap of consumer culture and the comfort and paralysis of “business as usual.” Let’s ask God to reveal to us how we can be more courageous and willing to be risk-takers for the advance of His kingdom, and act accordingly. Let’s evaluate how we are stewarding our gifts, talents, time, treasure, and yes, our influence, and seek more intentionally and strategically how we may serve God by serving others, provoking each other to good works, through this uniquely ordained community we call Pinnacle Forum. My friends, this is a noble calling worthy of the name of Christ, and God is looking to that day when he will delightfully say to us, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

I want to thank you for sharing your precious time with me, and I leave you with this timeless and profound exhortation from William Carey, known as the “Father of Modern Protestant Missions”: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” What grander calling could there be to God’s servant-leaders? May our great and loving God release through us, from His Spirit within us, the love, joy, peace, strength, wisdom, clarity, discernment, patience and perseverance to be those leaders who expect and attempt great things!

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