by Jim Estep
“Asymptote” is a geometry term, but in a general, non-geometry sense, it can mean “always advancing, pursuing, but never achieving.” Consider: if someone stands 10 feet from a doorway, I can tell them to close the distance by half, then stop. If we repeat the exercise several times, they will be 10 feet, then 5 feet, then 2.5 feet, then 1.25 feet, then 7.5 inches away, and so on – but will never actually step through the door.
Our pursuit of God’s mission is like an asymptote exercise! We will always be in pursuit, endeavoring to move closer and closer to achieving its ultimate ends, never, this side of eternity, fully satisfied the with results; we’re committed to continuous improvement in our ministries. With my role at e2 and 25 years as a practical ministries professor, God has given me the opportunity to visit, teach, and coach a large number of congregations throughout North America. While visiting these congregations, those that were vibrant, growing, evangelizing and disciple-making had one factor that kept surfacing: their relentless quest to fulfill God’s mission in the church. They never settled for what they had already accomplished in the past, they wanted to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, ESV).
We will never “arrive,” but we also don’t stop pursuing. Ministry will never be 100% perfect, 100% effective, 100% inclusive. Take risks, make changes, be innovative, seek to improve on how far you’ve traveled so far. Ask “what’s next?” The only time we’ll actually reach our ultimate goal is when Christ returns and we experience for ourselves the fullness of His Kingdom. Until then, we continue to move closer and closer to His prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mathew 6:10, ESV).
Asymptote churches are led by asymptote leaders; elders who are on a habitual quest for improving ministry effectiveness, guarding the mission by never compromising it – and advancing it through any iteration. This will make our congregations both biblically sound and practically relevant. And our congregations will keep moving perpetually toward God’s calling.