Question Zero: Verve, A Case Study

At Verve, the church I was a part of starting in the middle of Las Vegas just a few years ago, we have tried to start with why. The first thing we asked was question zero, “If we start this church, why would it exist?” And we continue to keep our focus there – in our staff meetings, our Leadership Community meetings, in our reports to financial supporters and our management team. And not only have we experienced the primary benefit – we haven’t become so obsessed with what and how that we’ve lost our necessary obsession with the mission Jesus gave us, but starting with why has provided all kinds of other benefits as well. 

For instance, one unusual thing about Verve is that we’ve been able to raise a lot of money compared to most church plants. The reason? I think it’s because we start with why. We don’t tell potential supporters about how we’re going to do church in a new way or a cool way, or how we have a vision for multi-site or social justice. We tell them, “We’re going into the middle of Sin City to try and save people other churches probably won’t reach.” And because we’re focused on Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving the lost, we’ve been able to raise a lot of money. 

Another unusual factor about Verve is that as a two-year-old church of 200 people, we had a staff of six, all of whom could work elsewhere at full salaries, but who raised their support to work at Verve. Why? It’s because people know that if they work at Verve they’re getting the chance to be a part of a mission at the very heart of God. That we’re not going to play games. That we won’t focus on increasing the attendance in our church services but instead will try to increase attendance in Heaven. I don’t know about you, but not only would I take a smaller salary for that, not only would I raise my own salary for that, I’d die for that. 

One more unusual thing about Verve is that about 70% of the people we reach were un-churched non-Christians when they walked into Verve for the first time. Most churches would be happy with 7% but we’ve got 70%.  How? We start with why.

Now when pastors look at our church from the outside, they think it’s about how. They point out the humor that permeates our services, our rocking music, or our cool videos. When I hear that I want to ask, “Really? Do you really think that’s why we’re reaching non-Christians? If so, have you ever met a non-Christian? Seriously, do you think any non-Christian in the history of the world has ever had the thought, “I want a good laugh. I wonder what the funniest church in town is?” Or, “I want some live rocking music, I wonder what church has the best rock music in town?” Or, “What church might have some cool videos for me?”

Of course not. The featuresof your church do not reach non-Christians, they only reach Christians. The church postcards that promise “Relevant teaching, upbeat worship, and a fun children’s ministry for your kids!” onlyappeal to Christians.

We reach non-Christians because we start with why, because we focus on the mission. If we were to send postcards they would say, “We want to connect you to God” or “Verve is God for the rest of us” or “What if God is what you’re missing?” 

At Verve, we’ve made question zero the question, and it’s worked well for us. And there’s only one right answer to question zero. Jesus gave it to us. You exist to seek and save the lost, to bring God’s abducted children home, to make disciples out of unbelievers. And if you start a church and it grows to 10,000 people but you’re just reaching Christians, you’ve failed. If 95% of the people who come to your church were already Christians when they first showed up, something is wrong.

Because that’s not the mission.

And that is notthe answer to question zero.

*** To learn more about understanding your WHY and getting true clarity on your mission, check out Auxano and all the great resources in the Auxano Vision Room.