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I had no idea that when a friend gifted me with a copy of Reggie McNeal’s book The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church that I was taking the first step on an incredible missional journey. This resource helped me to see missional truths that I had failed to see in the previous 40 years of my ministry.  It helped me to see the mission of the church in a new way.  This one event changed the focus of my life.

There are many impactful statements in McNeal’s book, but one metaphor stands out in my mind because it has influenced my ministry since 2004.  It is the illustration of the surfer as a picture of the importance of preparation rather than planning for future ministry opportunities (waves).

McNeal describes a surfer waxing the surfboard, transporting it to the beach, and paddling out into the surf in search of the perfect wave. Sitting on the board facing the incoming waves, the surfer scans the horizon and waits to catch the wave that will propel him or her into a new reality.  His metaphor was designed to help us understand the church’s role in kingdom ministry.

God is making waves all around the North American

church. Some churches are going to get to ride them.

These are the churches that are prepared to

get in on what God is up to.1

Waves have a limited lifespan.  They appear, peak, and are gone in an instance.  You only get one chance to ride a wave.

Ministry opportunities are like waves, so it is critical that churches have the ability to do the following:

  • Realize that their environment is one of constant and rapid change
  • Waves (opportunities) must be recognized while they are still on the horizon
  • Preparation is critical: Be prepared to ride the wave when it comes
  • It is all about timing: Be positioned to engage the opportunity at the proper time
  • Know when the wave is over and it’s time to look for the next opportunity


There are waves (mission opportunities) all around us.  The word to the church is the cry of the surfer – SURF’S UP!

1McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (p. 92). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Missional Strategist

Mike Reed