Larry Osborne’s 3 Mission Essentials

My friend, Larry Osborne, leads North Coast Community Church with a group of gifted leaders. I enjoy his writing as much as any pastor who writes on leadership. This October, he releases a book entitled, Innovations Dirty Little Secret. (I just sent an endorsement after pre-reading the book.) Whether you like the title or not, this book is worth getting for the chapter on mission and the short section on vision alone.

In short, there are very few books that tie organizational clarity to practical aspects of innovation in a ministry context.

Here are three essentials he talks about for mission, with a chapter subtitle, “How clarity accelerates innovation.” Larry writes that mission must be:

  • Ruthlessly Honest
  • Widely Known
  • Broadly Accepted

Here are some snippets


First, to be useful, a mission statement must be ruthlessly honest. It should reflect your organization’s passionate pursuit, not merely your wishful thinking, your marketing slogans, or a spirit of political correctness. Anything less is disingenuous. And worthless. It doesn’t take long for people inside and outside an organization to recognize what the real priorities are. If your mission statement says one thing but all of your decisions and actions pursue something else, the predictable result will be cynicism and confusion.


A second trait of a powerful mission statement is that it’s widely known. Even if it’s ruthlessly honest and laser focused, if it’s too wordy and complex to remember, it’s pretty much useless. To impact the daily decisions of an organization, a mission statement must be easily remembered and repeated ad nauseam—and then repeated again. When a mission statement is so complex and wordy that no one remembers what it says without stopping to re-read it, there’s not much chance that daily decisions will be made in light of it or even align with it. Too long to remember is too long to be useful.


In the early days of a startup, it’s easy to gain broad acceptance of your mission. If it’s genuine and clearly stated, you’ll attract people who agree with it and you will repel those who don’t. That’s why so many startup teams have a Camelot-like sense of unity.

But it’s difficult to maintain that sense of unity and broad acceptance of the mission over time. As organizations grow and mature, there’s almost always some measure of mission creep. It’s inevitable. New staff and new leaders subtly redefine the mission in terms of their own personal perspectives, preferences, or the position they have within the organization. And those subtle shifts add up. Eventually, many organizations end up with competing silos, each with a slightly different.


A clear and memorable mission statement will tell you what to feed and what to starve, what to focus on and what to ignore. It will give you a framework by which to judge success and failure.

Without mission clarity it’s easy to be seduced by every innovative idea or proposal that appears. Especially if something is novel, has been successful elsewhere or promises to make a solid short-term profit. But over the long haul, if something doesn’t take us toward our mission, it takes us away from our mission, even if it’s a great idea and a potential game-changing innovation elsewhere.

It’s hard to hit the bull’s-eye when it’s a moving target, or when everyone thinks it’s a different target, or no one knows for sure what the target is.


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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 and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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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
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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