I don’t know about you, but I’m sure tired of ministry leaders who assume that their BIG VISION for mobilizing the body of Christ automatically trumps my smaller vision for our local church.

Yet, it happens all the time. A parachurch organization, a denominational leader or local pastor comes up with a plan to mobilize the body of Christ at large in order to do something great for God. It’s always a cause that’s hard to argue with: an evangelistic outreach, church planting, a mission project, a compassion drive, a citywide prayer meeting or even a political agenda that can only be pulled off if we all mobilize to fend off the latest crisis de jour.

For instance, we were recently approached about participating in a one-year campaign of community service designed as the pre-evangelism for a citywide evangelistic crusade to follow. It sounded like a great idea. I love the concept of uniting churches to serve. I love putting the music of service to the words of the gospel.

But here’s the problem. North Coast Church already has an extensive community outreach. We already average nearly two service projects a day. And every 18 months we close down our weekend services for an additional massive Weekend of Service that each time has provided over $1,000,000 worth of biddable goods and services to the community.

If we sign on for their BIG VISION it will mean putting our God-given vision on hold. It will kill our momentum and set us back a long way. Yet, if we don’t play along, we’ll be branded as self-centered megachurch that doesn’t know how to play well with others in the sandbox.

My guess is that I’m not alone. It’s not just megachurches that have to deal with this. Our size makes us a prime target because we look like a huge recruiting depot and a potential source of significant funds to the BIG VISION types. But the pressure to jump aboard everyone else’s bandwagon is nothing new. It began when we were a small church. It’s just that then we were last in line and now we’re the first to be hit up.

I’m not saying that God isn’t behind these BIG VISION initiatives. I’m not saying they’re unimportant. I am saying that in their zeal to mobilize the troops, these leaders too often forget a couple of very important truths – the priesthood of all believers and the diversity of the body of Christ.

We’re not all called to do or be the same thing. If my name isn’t on their vision, it’s not necessarily because I’m not listening to God. It might be that I’m hearing him quite clearly.

Instead of full-court presses and drive-by-guiltings, it would be far better if they would simply run the magnet through the sand, picking up and gathering all those who share their vision and letting the rest go home. It worked rather well for Gideon.

But instead they tend to cajole, hound, and pester – solicitous on the front end (when they’re still trying to gain my support), too often rude or condescending on the back end (if they fail to get it).

I’m not easily pushed around. I can dig my feet in with the best, especially when I know God has called our church to do something different. But I sense that many of us do give in to the pressure and jump aboard not because we’re called, but because we don’t want to face the grief that comes from standing alone.

So tell me – what’s your experience with these BIG VISION folks? Am I all wet – or spot on? Am I the only one who wonders why these people always claim to love me and have a wonderful plan for our church, our people, and our money?

7 Comments

  1. Mike G on February 9, 2009 at 9:27 am

    I really resonate with your thoughts. I’ve definitely felt the tension of trying to live out the vision for our church, while feeling guilty if we’re not getting being the “Big Vision” stuff. I don’t want to come off as arrogant or thinking that because we’re a large church that we don’t want to be a part of what anyone else does.

    There’s some good freedom in your words. Thanks Larry

  2. Chad Payne on February 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Yep. A spirit of cooperation does not mean that we must all participate in the same programs together. Our church may have an emphasis that complements what your church is doing. It isn’t competition, it’s complementation. It’s unity through diversity.

    Great observations.

  3. Doug Kyle on February 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Right on. Actually it is a comfort to hear you struggle with this too as a megachurch. As a medium sized church, we feel this pressure all the time. I hadn’t thought about how it would increase as you get larger, not decrease. Still the best way to say, “No,” is to have a passionate “Yes.”

  4. Fred Lybrand on February 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Larry,

    One of my old Profs (Howard Hendricks) said what apply fits here, “You hit the nail with your head!”

  5. Chuck Land on February 11, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Larry,

    What about people inside your church who come and they have a big vision to take your church to the next level. It is often what you have written above but then you get the shots of not listening to people in your church, it’s your way or the highway kinda of junk.

    any thoughts on dealing with those people in your own church?

    Thanks!

    • Larry Osborne on February 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

      Chuck

      I find that most of the internal pressure to jump aboard a different vision comes from those whose ears and/or heart has been captured by an outside organization. They come to our leadership wanting us to mobilize the congregation and our money to jump on a bandwagon they’ve already jumped on.

      My answer to these insiders is always the same as my answer to BIG VISION outsiders: “It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t have my or our name on it.” Granted, that seldom satisfies them or makes them happy. But it does help me stay on message and stick to the vision we already have.

      And as you know, the only way to convince some people that we’ve “listened to them” is to agree with them.

  6. Wes Bell on February 11, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Great post. It seems like this comes from outside sources as well as from the inside at times. Doing good things can and often do keep you from doing the greater things.

Leave a Comment