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

RUTHLESSLY HONEST

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.

WIDELY KNOWN

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.

BROADLY ACCEPTED

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.

WHY  MISSION CLARITY ACCELERATES INNOVATION

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.

NORTH COAST’S  MISSION

Making disciples in a healthy church environment

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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); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
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Leadership is More Than Leading

I find that one of the most common missing ingredients in the leaders I work with is adequate training. I don’t mean that they haven’t received adequate training. I mean they fail to provide adequate training to those they lead.

Leaders like to lead. We love to come up with a vision and then marshal the troops to get the job done. But as leaders, we often fail to explain the whybehind the what. The result is often a team that knows what to do but has no clue why they need to do it – or do it that way.

Over the years, I’ve found that one of the most important things that I do as a leader is to pass on the reasons behind the decisions I make and actions I expect others to take. It’s the difference between raising up a team of worker bees or a self-directed team capable of maintaining and operating within a consistent corporate culture and organizational DNA that is so important to long term success. It’s also the difference between a team that can function well in my absence or one that is totally dependent upon my constant physical presence and detailed direction.

So how do you on the whys as well as the whats? It’s really rather simple. Start with asking yourself why? And then ask 3 to 5 more whys? Write down your answers. Then let your team in on your thinking.

  • Why did you make that decision? And why is that?
  • What is it you want a staff member to do? And why is that?
  • Why do you want it done that way? And why is that?
  • And so on.

 

Asking the “Why” and then letting your team in on your thinking will go a long way toward creating a team that is capable of making the decisions you’d want them to make even when you can’t be physically present – a self-directed team that makes decisions and carries out its work based on principles rather than memos.

Read more from Larry here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Larry Osborne

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jim — 05/28/13 7:49 pm

I find the "why" question goes better with paid staff than volunteers. When attempting to develop an equipping culture, volunteers are more susceptible to feelings of tension if they haven't already thought through their own 'whys'. And attempts to probe beyond the first 'why' response may raise their guard and see staff as potential threats to their service than partners. And they'll wonder if there's a right or wrong response. paid staff are much more vested into the vision and naturally expect some whys.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

We’ve Confused Leadership with Discipleship

Five years into North Coast Church, Founding and Senior Pastor Larry Osborne realized the programmed discipleship classes his Vista, Calif., church was teaching weren’t making disciples. In 1985, he implemented the church’s small group system, now one of the largest small group ministries in the nation, with 91 percent of the 8,000-plus attendees involved in a weekly Growth Group. In this Q&A, Osborne shares about the church’s shift from information to relationships and the “bur in his saddle” these days.

Last year you tweeted: “Discipleship is a rather simple concept: Obedience. Why do we make it so esoteric and complex?” How have we made discipleship complex?

The Greek word for disciple, mathetes, simply means follower. That includes people at the front of the line, in the middle, and at the back of the line. And there are good followers and not so good followers. But we have tended to confuse leadership with discipleship. I hear people over and over say, “Well, I define a disciple as … ,” and I have this sense that we probably ought to let Jesus define a disciple. He used the word mathetes. And in His definition of a disciple, He included some people who weren’t exactly stellar in all the things we think a disciple should do and be.

Jesus talked about obedience: If you love me, you’ll obey me. John talked about Here’s how to know that you know me—we will obey Him. And obedience isn’t perfection; it’s obeying the light we have. According to Prov. 4:18, the light gets brighter the more we follow the light we have. But we tend to look at maturity. We love the lost, we love the baby Christian and the on-fire, charge-the-hill Christian. But anybody struggling, the smoldering wick or bruised reed, we want to snuff it out or break it off.

So that has been a bur in my saddle as I’m watching the pendulum swing from an easy “believism” to raising the bar and thinning the herd. Essentially, we’re going back to the 1930s and ‘40s when my mom became a Christian. She grew up afraid of full commitment because she was always told, “If you do that, you’ll end up in Africa. The Christians take the hard path.”

What impact does/will this have on church leaders and their people?

It ends up in a lot of gift projection—trying to make people into us instead of what God’s called them to be. It leads to absolute lack of patience and bearing with one another. Basically, we become what I call an accidental Pharisee. That’s pretty much what the Pharisees did—you were either this or you weren’t. It was a very clear black and white line. We tend to take Jesus’ commands to an individual and make them into a command everybody must follow.

North Coast’s mission statement is Making Disciples in a Healthy Environment. How have you simplified this concept?

We’ve always avoided classes and a set of hoops to jump through or even disciplines to practice. For 27 years, we’ve tried to get people into weekly community groups because we believe that all the “one anothers” of Scripture and the things we’re supposed to obey are going to show up in community, whereas in a class all you’re doing is taking notes. There’s not a lab to live it out.

We’ve always had more than 80 percent of attendees involved. I think this year, we’re at 91 percent of weekend attendance. We believe everyone should be in a weekly community gathering of some sort. In our internal meetings, everything is about creating community. We’re very clear on what our core is—worship, teaching, community and mission. Everything else is just an ancillary offering.

Take us back 27 years. What was North Coast doing before small groups?

We did the typical classes. I led these things called Timothy Teams that I walked a bunch of men through, and they had notebooks full of information. But they weren’t necessarily treating their wives and children with any more biblical obedience and godliness. It was that way across the board. I looked around at our people, and they were becoming more rigid and prideful, and they weren’t really becoming more obedient. I just didn’t see a lessening of sin corresponding to an increase in information.

In 1985, I realized that people didn’t need more information and class time; they needed more lab work. The people who had a lot of information weren’t living it out. That’s when we decided to stop the classes and get people into small groups, which we consider the hub of our ministry.

What steps did you take to make the shift from information to relationships and secure buy-in from both church leadership and the congregation?

I got the approval of the elder board and informed the congregation we were going to cancel some of our “come and fill your notebook” classes and that we were going to get into small groups where we could live out our faith and talk about the application of what we heard on the weekend. I said we were no longer going to do classes; we were going to do life.

How did you know if this shift was effective at making disciples?

When the church was small, you could measure effectiveness anecdotally. Now we measure hard numbers. But in the early days, we started watching for community to take place. Were people expecting the organized church to minister to them in a crisis, or was the small group picking up the ball? Were people expecting the church as an organization to do things out in the community? Or were they getting out and serving with each other.

The other thing we tried to measure, again anecdotally, was sin because I can’t measure righteousness. You can fulfill all the spiritual disciplines and be in the middle of an affair. Three of my six mentors were Type a, jump-through-every-discipleship-hoop personalities, and three of them had affairs. That’s when I began to say all this little checklist stuff isn’t creating godly people. So I came to the conclusion that I can’t measure righteousness; I can measure sin. A doctor can’t tell me I’m healthy. He can say there’s no discernible illness. So what I look for is sin. That’s the sign there’s something wrong. But I don’t want artificial measurements of righteousness—did you read your Bible every day, did you talk to a non-Christian about your faith, did you journal, did you go out and do community service? I’ve seen too many people in the middle of abusive relationships, affairs, addicted to porn, etc., that were dong all these things. They were jumping through the hoops. But the Gospel wasn’t taking root.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Larry Osborne

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Josh — 05/02/17 4:17 am

Always great to learn from the journey of others. Thanks

Renee Haupt — 11/28/12 1:51 pm

Spot on!

Tony — 11/02/12 1:25 pm

I really appreciate this concept of discipleship as an active, obedient living concept, not just a learning/absorbing posture. I would be curious about the specific distinction that you make between a leader and a disciple. Is leader a subset of disciple, as in all leaders are disciples, but not all disciples are leaders? Or simply defining as leader as someone with more motivational, forward movement-oriented gifts? Or is it something completely different?

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.