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); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
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