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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Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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