4 Mega Lessons on Keeping Vision Clear with Dramatic Ministry Success

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a back-to-back connections with three very different and very fruitful ministries. On Monday, I was in Chicago with Dave and John Ferguson on the Community Christian Church team. On Tuesday I was with Mountain Lake  Church in Atlanta, and on Wednesday  I was with Upward Sports in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

These ministries demonstrate dramatic success. Dave and Jon have built a city-reaching, multi-site church as well as a church planting network (New Thing) around the defining value of “reproducing at every level”. Shawn Lovejoy has lead a unique and effective church in the shadow of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church. (In addition, he has encouraged a tribe of church planters through the ministry of churchplanters.com.) Both churches gather thousands of people weekly. Upward, as a sports ministry, has impacted millions and continues to cast mind-stretching vision to reach millions more.

My time in reflection on these ministries brought these observations:

#1 The unexamined vision is not worth casting.

When these leaders talk about what God is doing in their ministries, you can feel the ownership and passion that comes through the constant seeking, wrestling, deciding and articulating work of clarity. When they cast vision its real and its worth something not only because they sought God for it, but because they work for it.

#2 The more fruitful your ministry, the more time will be required—not less—to cultivate further clarity.

Great leaders know a simple fact: You can always be more clear. Most pastors treat a clarity exercise or vision retreat like its a one-time gig. But when you are around leaders who see crazy fruitful results, you’ll notice a certain and constant preoccupation with clarity. Ironically they are spending disproportionately more time doing things like:

  • keeping the mission real and felt
  • making the values active and visible
  • insisting that strategy is sharp and aligned

At Upward the team always jokes about re-entering “the tunnel of chaos” as part of the constant clarity pursuit. At CCC, Jon Ferguson, on moment’s notice, can unpack the nuances of applying the 5-step process of reproducing at every level (pictured below.)

Jon Ferguson

#3 Strategic assumptions and the strategy itself (that brought success) must be reinterpreted, reevaluated and reformulated every step of the way.

You don’t convert and develop people the same way at each phase in your ministry. Why not? First, because there is always room for improvement. Second, because times and people change. Third, because with success, your organization must adapt and expand how it does what it does. If you want to keep things both sophisticated and simple, you must dedicate serious time to dialogue and rethinking as a leadership team. At Community Christian I enjoy watching Dave Ferguson redraw the map of how they planned to reach Chicago. As the picture changed, so did the strategy. Currently they are reconsidering how to decrease the number of campus constants as they expand beyond their current twelve locations.

#4  A big vision is the natural byproduct of consistent passion for a simple mission over a long time.

These three  ministries didn’t start with a big vision. The started with passionate mission. Over time, the stick-to-it-ness of humble tenacity and mission clarity gives way to bigger and bigger dreams that become apparent as the mission moves forward. Caz McCaslin recalls the dream to extend his gymnasium to reach another 100 kids. Why? His mission was to introduce children to Jesus through sports. Eventually that mission would bring the dream of 1,000 church gyms with evangelistic basketball leagues across the country. He accomplished that years ago. What next? The same mission is generating a plan to win 4 million kids. These “upsized visions” could never be seen or achieved without a fanatical focus on the same mission over time. The same is true with CCC. After becoming a multisite with twelve campuses Dave and Jon are now talking about “the how” of 200. They just wouldn’t have see that fifteen years ago.

Which one of these lessons intrigues you the most?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
"The guests perceived some of the church members were faking it." Some of that is due to personality types. I'd imagine most existing members who are introverts would come across as "faking" it when greeting guests, because they probably are faking it to a degree. Doesn't mean they're not sincere, they're just uncomfortable as well. "Boring or bad service." IOW, not entertaining enough. Not sure if that's necessarily a bad thing.
 
— Rico
 
I'm really trying to understand the widespread opposition to greeting each other. I am a Catholic and we have a time in the mass where we wish each other peace - no personal information, just peace. Regardless, can people honestly say they come to the house of the Lord and are surrounded by their brothers and sisters and take offense or find it wrong to greet each other in His house? Awkward or shy or whatever it is called, it seems like that would be a time to be able to get past that and at least say hello.
 
— Jillian
 
A lot of comments were criticizing types of worship that they didn't like. Remember that different churches meet the needs of different people. You might like hymns, but someone else likes loud praise team songs. You might like in-depth sermons and others might like something lighter. Those differences were not what this article was about. People of various denominations looking for various worship experiences had ten similar things to say about looking for a church. Wandering into a tongues-filled church is far different than wandering into a KJV 1611 church then being disappointed. ALL churches should work on having clean and safe areas for children. My husband and I actually changed churches before we had children because our home church nursery was far from being clean and safe. ALL churches should work to have clear information about service times and directions on their websites/signs. ALL churches should encourage their members to be genuinely friendly. These are things that should be found regardless of one's personal taste in what they want from a church. It would be nice if websites had a sort of "what to expect" page for visitors as far as when services start, what they usually consist of, how children are handled, what to expect for communion or other rituals. This would make people feel welcomed. It's just like when you have someone in your home. You tell them where the bathroom is. You show them where to put their purse so your pet doesn't get into it. You point out drinkware and beverages. I think that many churches EXPECT that people will know what to do, but it can be very confusing going to a new church, even of the same denomination. Not knowing what to do can make people very uncomfortable. There's no reason not to make every effort to make everyone feel comfortable in church. And if a church does ALL it can and a person doesn't come back, it's not that the person is somehow unloving towards God. It could just be that the church wasn't what the person was looking for. This article was pointing out ways that churches could do better. I would like to comment about the whole "this is my pew" problem. A lot of schools have gone to randomly assigning seating from day to day in the lunchroom. This breaks up cliques and helps everyone feel included. Kids get to meet different kids than they might if they just sat at the same table all the time. Just think how it would be at church if everyone was encouraged to rotate where they sat and to never sit in the same pew in the same month. Talk about shaking things up!!
 
— Emalyn
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.