Published: 10 years ago

The Yo Yo Needs the String

On Sunday the Summit hosted Ed Stetzer as guest speaker in our services.  Ed is internationally recognized as the sultan of stats, the guru of growth, the pied piper of planting churches.  Whenever Ed speaks, you always walk away with a little something to chew on, and this recent message did not disappoint. One of the chewy bits of his message was what I lovingly refer to as “The Yo Yo Illustration” because…well…that’s what it was.  You can hear the full message here, or get the summary in 3…2…1…

When a yo yo is in motion, there are two forces working: centrifugal force keeps it pushing out, but centripetal force keeps it reined in.  In the church world, centrifugal force is the mission, and centripetal force is all the systems, processes, and structures within the church.

Ed’s point was that in many churches, the focus after a time rests not on the centrifugal (the gospel) but the centripetal (our programs).  And while I wholeheartedly agree with him, I would caution that no matter the focus we should put on the yo yo (centrifugal), the string (centripetal) is still necessary.

At the Summit, the centrifugal force is defined in our mission statement as Love God.  The gospel – God’s message of love and redemption to us – should be the focus.  Once our eyes get off of God, we are not building his kingdom, but ours.  But remember that the centripetal force is defined as Love Each Other and in a way, Love Our World.  Our structures, systems, programming, and ministries exist to help people love God better.

Just as a church has a responsibility to the kingdom (Love God), we have a responsibility to our members and guests (Love Each Other), and to those who may never darken our doorstep (Love Our World).  It is a three-legged stool that only works effectively when all three legs are in place.  Take one away, and you have seriously affected the integrity of the stool.

No part of our mission can be exalted at the expense of the others.  We can indeed become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.  On the flip side, we can get such an inward navel gazing belly button lint picking mentality that we forget that we were made to worship God.

I sat down with my Connections staff on Monday to hash out all this chewy stuff.  Here are a couple of tidbits I walked away with:

One team member said that the solution is to keep the string short so you can keep the mission clear.  This is what it means to have a simple church mindset.  Programs and ministries and initiatives and projects are simply vehicles to the main goal…they are not the goal itself.

Another reminded me that it is very easy to let the method become the focus.  What works to introduce people to the gospel this week might not work next week.  Your cubicle mates might not all respond the same way to the life changing message of Christ.  This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (I Cor. 9:22)

As a church, it would be irresponsible to constantly share the gospel but provide no outlet for discipleship, just as it would be irresponsible to create a five star experience for our guests but never introduce them to Christ.

To summarize: the yo yo is important.  The string is important.  But to elevate one while ignoring the other means that both are ineffective.

What does your church’s yo yo look like?


photo credit

  1. Rick says:

    Great photo. Good job Frank.

  2. waddey says:

    Right on dude. I don’t know about all of Ed’s yo yo illustrations but even we, here at little bitty rural Cottage Grove Baptist Church, have figured out that good in-reach (discipleship, worship, fellowship) produces good outreach. We can’t even spell centripukeal or centrifrugal. I have heard people say that the church is the only organization that exists for non-members. I believe that mentality is dangerous as we also exist and meet together regularly to edify one another. You can’t have the yen without the yang baby. You can’t have peanut butter without the jelly. You can’t have a Baptist Fellowship without Chicken. You have gotta take care of business inside the church and out. Good post.

  3. Rick says:

    Don’t get carried away Waddey. While inreach and outreach will always exist in tension to one another, one happens more naturally than the other and it ain’t outreach. So, if you think you’re placing equal attention on both, you’re probably kidding yourself as you grow more inwardly focused.
    My experience tells me the churches that love people outside the church the most also love one another the most.

  4. Rick says:

    Waddey, just to clarify, when I said “you” I wasn’t actually meaning you. I’m referring to church folk in general. I’m pretty sure you guys get this at Cottage Grove.

  5. waddey says:

    Didn’t mean to get carried away by all the analogies. I just appreciated Danny’s point about balance between inreach and outreach.

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