Ever seen a bulldozer do it’s work on an old house, dead tree or mountain of dirt? It’s a sight to be seen, and if you have little kids it’s especially fun. The smell of diesel fuel being drank by the gallon, exhaust spewing black smoke and big stuff getting demolished. It’s awesome.
Unless you’re in the house it’s running over.
As a leader and church planter who hangs out with leaders and church planters, I’ve heard the ‘Big Vision’ story more than my fair share. Often because I am hearing it come out of my own mouth. Big Vision is a tough thing, because it is vital for you and I as leaders to inspire the people who we lead, but it can also rip us apart if we are not positioned correctly.
50ft away watching the bulldozer that is Big Vision–cool.
In the Bulldozer tearing stuff up — even cooler.
Hanging out in the house when that Big Vision rips you to shreds — ouch.
A few simple, but significant things I am learning about how to position myself in relation to Big Vision
1. Keep a safe distance
I am learning to cling a bit more loosely to vision. At the end of the day, if the Big Vision is God’s, it’s His problem to worry about. I am just called to be faithful with my part of that vision. If the vision is MINE I am learning to not allow my own fulfillment to be tied to it in an unhealthy way. To ask the, ‘why is this so important to me?’ question early and often.
2. Be aware of who will get crushed
If the vision is to build yet another California strip mall to house yet another stupid Applebee’s (sorry Applebee’s) then at the very least I need to know whose house is gonna get demolished when you run your Bulldozer vision through there. Every ministry we launch, every budget dollar we allocate costs somebody something. I am learning to anticipate better who pays the price for my vision, successful or failed. I am also learning that my wife and I should not be the only two paying for the vision. Who else is on board?
A Check on Reality
And now let me speak to the Dangers of Incrementalism. Maybe you read the book by Bill Hybels just like I did. The book aptly named, if a bit narcisitc, AXIOM. In there he reminds us leaders that the average church in America loses 10% of its people each year simply by move-aways, death and the like. If you are exceptional maybe that number is smaller, but I bet it’s still there in some form. His ultimate challenge is, not to try and grow each year by just a little bit, but by big leaps. Otherwise you’ll be lucky just to hold your ground. He ends the chapter about incrementalism with the words, “it’s the kiss of death — don’t fall for it.” This kind of teaching in the hands of a leader like me can fuel that fire to “go big or go home”. For the record I don’t think that’s what Bill (yeah, I call him Bill) is encouraging, but a mentality like this fostered too long and we start to hope the bulldozer will run us over and put us out of our misery. Meanwhile, lives are being changed around us. Maybe not at the rate we’d like, but I bet that 1 person you just baptized doesn’t think you should quit! We have to be sure, as leaders, that our lust (yes, lust) for the “Big Vision” does not overshadow our call to be faithful servants.
Recently I was talking with one of my teammates on the Disciples Church Staff. We were talking about the stuff we have learned since we and few other friends planted Disciples a few years ago. He said something so profound. In discussing what One Thing would you tell a church planter if asked about church planting, Sean said, “I would tell them it’s just a grind. There really are very few big plays. Most the time we are just moving the ball slowly down the field. Gaining yards, but it’s not too sexy.” Wow, well said I thought. Isn’t that the REAL story of making disciples? Isn’t that the reality we need to expect, even when we dream big?
I think the NFL can teach me a good lesson here. These are the best football players on planet earth. They are specimines of power, speed and agility. Their quarterbacks can throw a ball 50 yards or more. Their running backs can bench press a volkswagen and run a faster 40 yard dash than 99.9% of humans. Amazing. Yet even with those amazing athletes, did you know the average team in the NFL last year had an average per-play offensive gain of 5.5 yards. FIVE YARDS! Even with all the long bombs, huge runs and SportsCenter Highlight reels, five yards is the average. But that was the “average team” you say (which by the way was the Falcons, my Broncos were better). Ok, let’s talk about the best of the best. The best, you ask? 6.1 yards by some lamo team in San Diego whose name I will not mention because as previously mentioned, I am a Broncos fan. This provides another great encouragement. The very best were only marginally better than the average. So if you are growing slow, making gains but it’s not like “that other guy”, relax, he’s probably only .6 yards ahead of you. whew.
Jesus could have thought dinner with poor women, money from a widow or a simple conversation with a woman at a well were small and insignificant. But they were not to those people, and as we would find out later they were not to the people and communities that were touched as a result. The point here is simple. Look for the small gains. Celebrate first downs in nearly the same manor you celebrate touchdowns. Most importantly work to string 5-yard plays together and the touchdowns will come. It seems to be working for the NFL and it definitely worked for Jesus.