Plumb Lines: An Introduction

Today I want to talk to you about something I like to call plumb lines in ministry. Perhaps you’ve built a fence or laid some masonry, and if you did, you probably had a plumb line that helped you keep everything into alignment. Well ministry plumb lines are the things that help us avoid mission creep and to stay on target.

To understand what they are, they’re basically a mash up of all kinds of different things. They’re the assumptions, beliefs, our core values, the mission, some of the things are changeable, some aren’t. They’re essentially a description of how we do things around here. Now why they’re so important is not so that you will remember how we do things around here, because every leader pretty much has an idea of how they think things should be done. But to the people that we’re leading, the people that work alongside of us, we usually need to articulate these things because over time there’s a bit of drift.

For exactly the same reason you use it to put a fence or to make sure the masonry is straight. If you’ve ever laid down some tile or masonry without a plumb line, you know what happens is you keep thinking you’re right spot on, only to turn around and look back and to realize, oh my gosh, I moved. I remember one thing I was working on, I had moved almost a foot off center without realizing it. And it happens in the way we do our ministry.

Now plumb lines, the way they work is, there are a number of things that I want to highlight for you.

1. They are the rules of the road.

So that people are able to figure out what the speed limit is around here, how we do stuff.

2. They are developed over time.

You’re not going to just come up with plumb lines and immediately know what they are. It’s going to take you a period of time and changing reality, changing culture, changing context. It’s going to cause one thing to be an important plumb line today and not so important in the future.

3. They are open to change, if they’re true plumb lines.

Now a few of them might not be, because they’re absolute core values. But when we mash them up together they can never all be assumed to be core values. They are open to change. They describe today’s reality, today’s guiding principle. And then, what I like most about them, is they make most decisions a snap.

Think of the Biblical plumb lines, if you will. When the Bible tells me that my yes should be yes, and my no should be no. That I should always speak the truth. When the Bible tells me that I should forgive. When the Bible tells me that I should live a life of morality. What it’s doing in each of those cases is giving me a plumb line.

I don’t have an example for every situation I live in, but I have a principle. And so many of my decisions about how do I best follow Jesus, follow this plumb line principle. I know what God has taught me, and therefore, I know exactly what I ought to do in this unique situation. It is a job of a leader to make sure that things stay in alignment and they stay on mission.

And it’ll be much easier for you to lead the people you lead, if instead of along the way you’re constantly telling them move here, move there, ahead of time they understand what those plumb lines are. Now in some future videos we’re going to talk about some of the ones we use around here at North Coast–by way of description, not prescription for everybody. But I want to use them as examples so you can better understand how you might figure out your plumb lines. How you might adjust them over time to make sure you stay on mission.

This video is the first of the Plumb Lines series available for free on YouTube, To watch the video, click below.

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