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 God Dreams and Church Unique.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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