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Action is very different from merely talking about action.

How many protests start and end with a complaint, but never offer a solution?  How many committees are a bunch of talking heads that never seem to do anything to help the community?

action civic leaders broken room painEven thinking about your church – how often have you sat around and talked about spreading the gospel to your city, and how often have you gotten up to do something about it?

These are all examples of people who talk about problems.  But as we think about truly helping the city, we have got to be action oriented.  We have to be able to obtain results.

This is true as seen in the book of James: “A faith without works is a dead faith,” and “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As Christians who are trying to help the city, and who are doing it through the city government in some way, we have to be action oriented.

Here are some guidelines:

To Be Action Oriented, Ask the Right Questions

Questions that start with “why” are extremely important for setting down the philosophical or theological reasons for taking an action.

But they can also be the very thing which stops you from actually doing anything.  If you only ever ask why, you’ll go around in circles, always finding more theoretical ideas to discuss.

Be sure to move from why questions to what questions.

Here are some examples:

  1. Don’t stop with, “Why should we help the disabled community?”  Continue on with, “What exactly would help the disabled community?”
  2. Don’t stop with, “Why is nothing being done about the pollution in the river?”  Continue on with, “What does the city Department of Ecology need in order to be able to focus on the river?
  3. Don’t stop with, “Why is there no compelling art in the community?”  Continue on with, “What do local artists need to succeed?”
Churches can enact change. Period. Click To Tweet

To Be Action Oriented, Set Goals

Action civic leaders SMART goals

Photo credit:

Once you’ve asked the right questions, set SMART goals.

Look at the photo to the right, which was originally posted on  It is an outline for what makes a good goal.

The only way you can create the change you want to see is by setting small, incremental goals which will eventually bring you to your objective.

This takes organization, planning, and the ability to mobilize people around you.

That all can sound overwhelming, but if you’ve asked the right questions from above, the goals will spell themselves out.

Your team will produce the needed goals through dialogue.

To Be Action Oriented, Follow up

And setting the right goals will only get you so far.  You have to set up a system of accountability.

Maybe, at the beginning of every meeting, you will discuss the progress you’ve all made in reaching the goals you have set.  Maybe you set up supervisors or task leaders who each have responsibility for a single goal, and they hold their own sub-team accountable to accomplish the goal.

Set small, incremental #goals which will eventually bring you to your objective. Click To Tweet

Whatever your process is, you’ve got to follow up and make sure things are actually getting done.  And if they’re not getting done, then be the jerk who asks why.  It’s hard to do sometimes, I know.  But if you are truly wanting to be action oriented, then you have to be willing to make people feel uncomfortable on occasion.

To Be Action Oriented, Work with the Right Groups

action civic leaders mapI get it, okay?  Some bureaucracies will never be anything more than people who want a title on the board or committee.

That’s really tough, because nothing will ever get done in these groups.

Look for these red flags which show that your group might be unable to become action oriented:

  1. The chairman/leader does not delegate effectively.
  2. Projects rarely get implemented because there is an endless revision process on everything.
  3. Your team gets caught in the weeds regularly.  The details of a given project end up taking most of the talking-time in every meeting, instead of being worked out by the individual/team who was originally given the task.

When you find yourself in a group like this, consider whether your time should be spent working with a more productive team.

To Be Action Oriented, Be Willing to Work within Existing Secular Structures

Churches can enact change.  Period.

The church is God’s tool for this age to display how wise He really is.  And there is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit.

But sometimes, existing secular structures are the best avenue to accomplish a specific task.

For example, advocacy groups have a respected voice in many communities for minority groups.  Public school systems are widely accepted because the majority of the general population are connected to them.  Government committees have access to government money and resources.

In certain situations, creating positive changes in your community will be done best through existing secular structures.

Don’t be closed to the Holy Spirit, if He is working through common grace in a specific circumstance.


Is your team getting stuck on the question of why?  What is your team doing to help your city?


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