Ever Noticed Reveal’s Crowd-to-Core Wrinkle?

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the Reveal study from this angle…but it turns out there’s a significant crowd-to-core wrinkle.  I  don’t know how many times I’d looked at it before I saw it, but once I noticed it…it’s very hard to miss.  Here’s what I saw:

As you probably know, Willow Creek’s Reveal study identifies four distinct stages within congregations.  Exploring, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ and Christ-Centered.  The first two are fairly straightforward.  Exploring is the category for those attendees who haven’t yet crossed the line of faith.  Growing in Christ is the category for those attendees who have crossed the line of faith and are growing, but not yet mature (both of these first two are oversimplifications, but you get the idea).

I heard Bill Hybels make two interesting observations some time ago about the third and fourth stages.  First he defined them essentially like this.  When someone reaches the Close to Christ stage, they know God loves them, they know He’s for them, and they believe God wants to bless their endeavors.  In describing Christ Centered, he said that there is one difference.  They know God loves them.  They know He’s for them.  But they believe God wants them to join Him in what He wants to do in the world.

Fascinating.  It’s the difference between a consumer and a contributor.  See it?

The second observation was stunning by comparison.  Hybels observed that while he had long believed the biggest chasm to be crossed was moving from Exploring to Growing in Christ, he had come to believe that the chasm between Close to Christ and Christ Centered was actually the toughest to cross.

See it?  It’s the challenging gap between the belief that God wants to bless me in my endeavors and the willingness to set aside my own interests to join God in what He’s doing in the world.  It’s the difference between a consumer and a contributor.

Where’s the Crowd-to-Core Wrinkle?

Here’s what I noticed.  It’s in the question, “Where will my efforts make the biggest difference?  Will I have more impact by focusing on helping attendees move from Close to Christ to Christ Centered?  Or, will I have a greater impact by focusing on the Growing in Christ stage, helping them become Close to Christ?

Admittedly, there needs to be effort at every transition.  But…when it comes to emphasis…where should it be?

I know where it is for me.  Do you?

Want do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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14 Replies to “Ever Noticed Reveal’s Crowd-to-Core Wrinkle?”

  1. Your answer to the question at the bottom of your post was a perfect answer. It is my contention that we are all called of God to perform a particular task in the “workers together with Christ” (2 Cor 6:1) catagory. Actually, it is here where two very difference sets of believers tend to miss the mark.

    The one set consist of the ones who see the ministry as a position held by a “minister” who is paid to do the Church-related work. This might be the leadership or the congregation who believe this but it doesn’t matter; the results are the same. This error would not validate my “calling” to be a plumber (it was clear to me that God was calling me there). It fails to validate the amazing sacrificial contributions of the “certain disciples” (Acts 9:10) that are the real doers of the ministry.

    The second set of believers are the ones who see no value in commitment to a particular local church and gad about, unencumbered by the responsibilities of belonging to a community.These unchurched Christians have never learned (whether by choice, doctrine, or worldview that they need to be anchored if they are going to actually do the work of the ministry. Trying to reach out without an anchor can get  one rather wet and in this case the ramafications can be eternal. Serious stuff indeed!

    Anyways, your response doesn’t provide any clues about one’s significant part to play. And it is ALL SIGNIFICANT! Nursury duties, ushering, greeting, preaching; it is all important.  It’s all important enough to be called by God to do it. Where would the Tabernacle of Moses be if the tent-peg carrier dicided to forgo his job because he didn’t deem it worthy of his attentions?

  2. You make a couple interesting points, but I want to keep this dialog focused on today’s topic.  Perhaps in a later post I can address the issues you raise.


  3. Thank you, Mark. This was a very interesting post.

    One of the things our church staff is wrestling with right now and trying to help other leaders in our church understand is that there are people all along the spectrum of growth and spiritual maturation, and that maybe our goal isn’t to get them to where ‘we’ are (the Christ-centered column, presumably), but instead, to the next level that is right for them, wherever that may be. So, short term goals leading to long term goals vs. the ‘they just need to me more committed (like me)’ mentality that is often encountered in these closed door discussions. The issue then  has become HOW? to do this.

    Some maintain that right information/theology leads to right thinking (via classes/christian ed) and should be the push while some maintain that relationships via small groups will be the key to moving people along. I would like to see you talk more about how to move ‘stuck’ church leaders (Elders, Team Leaders, etc.) in this direction. The solutions aren’t really all that difficult to implement; what’s so difficult it’s getting buy in that there’s a better/different way to disciple people that seems to be the main obstacle for many churches, esp. the smaller-mid size churches that have active and influential lay-leadership working alongside paid staff.

  4. If you work on getting those Close to being Christ-centered then I think you have created more leadership capacity…people to lead Explorers and those Growing into deeper faith. If we talk about knowledge I think we miss the role of emotional growth in discipleship. I don’t think you can grow spiritually beyond where you are emotionally. Example: knowledgeable/spritually “mature” Christians with hidden addictions which reflect hidden emotional pain.  

  5. Great post and something to ponder. When reflecting on moving from “Close to Christ” to “Christ Centered” it brought me to the famous ” For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24) verse. So many of us are close to Christ in so many ways (prayer, worship, service, study, etc.), yet the absolute abandoning of total self is the toughest struggle we each face. Diving off the cliff and trusting God is there to catch (save), guide, lead, and direct is the toughest phase for us humans so conditioned in this world to be self-sufficient.

  6. Thanks for jumping in here, Rob! Love your insight into the situation. And…I love the idea of a series of articles on moving stuck church leadership.


  7. That is the conundrum, Cathy. My contention is that the lure of investing priority energy in the Close to Christ to Christ Centered move rarely renders a high return on investment. As Hybels noted…that move is the most difficult.


  8. Very thought provoking post, Mark! Tough answer as it’s a real tradeoff. Yes, it’s a major chasm between the last two categories, but the difference in what God can do through a spirit fully yielded to him, contributor vs consumer, is also a chasm. One takeaway that’s important – your comment “I know where it is for me.” That seems critical in how effective you will be in crossing the gap you have chosen to focus on. My other takeaway is that any given small group leader/coach will probably bear most fruit working on the gap he is most passionate and SHAPE’d for. I would think the small group ministry overall would do well to have several people, each with different passions/interests, working together. But… structurally, would you say that you’re either going to favor crowd-to-core or core-to-crowd?

  9. From previous posts, I would think your emphasis would be on the first chasm (Exploring to Growing or Crowd to Core).  But your response to Bill J. made me think you are supporting splitting your time between the two chasms based on what the passions of your leaders may be.  Am I following correctly?

  10. That’s right, Larry. The crowd-to-core model is primarily about finding next steps for everyone, starting with the crowd. Core-to-crowd is based on the idea that if I focus on strengthening the core…they’ll become the kind of people that join God in what He wants to do in the world. The classic issue with core-to-crowd is rooted in the reality that it is often ineffective at truly helping close to Christ to become Christ-Centered.

  11. Hi Kathy! To clarify, I’d say that crowd-to-core is about providing next steps for everyone and that would include from congregation to committed and committed to core (to use Saddleback’s concentric circles idea). The amount of energy applied to any of those moves must keep in mind the importance of the overall mission. It is very common to see churches that are focused on events and programs that focus on the moves (committed to core or congregation to committed) that are the most difficult while the crowd to congregation move gets very little energy. I suggest keeping in mind the overall mission and dividing energy between steps in accordance with the likelihood of payoff.


  12. The difference between a Consumer and a Contributor. Interestingly, this applies to marriages, families, businesses, groups, communities, and pot lucks.

  13. By the way, Mark… I’m new here but I was wondering if you would let me interview you at MoneyBible.org. I’d like to write an article (based on our interview) about Kingdom Advisors and other biblically based financial resourcers…

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