Does Your Church Embrace the Vision? Two Ways to Know

2There’s a crucial question every ministry leader must answer when it comes to their vision. When do you know the vision has become ingrained in the culture of your church and not just in your own dreams?

It’s not enough to have a vision, even a compelling one. It’s not enough to be able to communicate your vision well. And it definitely isn’t enough to be passionate about your vision. Of course, you’re going to be passionate about your vision. It’syour vision. What you really want is for the vision to stick. To infiltrate and permeate every area of your church. To be so ingrained in your culture that people speak the vision and do the vision without even thinking about it. But how do you know when that has happened?

Two indicators stick out to me. Here’s the first:

1) When the best ideas are not your own.

When the vision has become ingrained in your culture, great ideas should be flowing from all directions. The pastor shouldn’t be the chief idea officer, but the chief vision officer. His responsibility is to make sure that the ideas are fitting into the vision. Not generate all of the ideas for the vision.

If all of the best ideas are coming from the pastor, it’s a sign the vision hasn’t truly been owned by the people. It’s only being served. In other words, for your staff and volunteers, it’s still your vision. And since it’s your vision, you should be the one coming up with the best ideas for it. And then they’ll support you by making them happen. As Christine Caine would say, they see themselves as servants of your vision rather than as stewards of a vision that has become their own.

The vision isn’t going very far this way. I don’t care if you’re Steve Jobs; you don’t have enough great ideas in you to keep it going.

The solution: regularly demand people to bring their own ideas to the table. Set the expectation that fresh ideas for how to carry out the vision aren’t welcomed, they’re expected. Remind the people you’re leading that the vision isn’t just yours. It’s everyone’s. And everyone can and should contribute.

When they do, reward and recognize them in front of everyone. Make them the standard.

And then don’t be surprised when great ideas start flowing from people other than you.

2) Leaders have been raised up who can communicate the vision better in ways more suited to their personality and area of responsibility.

If you’re the only person who can communicate the vision, you’re in trouble. If your staff has to get you to every event to cast vision, there’s a problem. It’s an indication not of how great of a vision caster you are, but of how much your staff has yet to own and appropriate the vision to their own unique contexts.

I remember the first time I heard the original version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan. I didn’t like it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I had already heard it played by Guns N’ Roses. And I thought their version was way better.

That’s what you want from the people you lead. You want people who can take your vision and make it better and communicate it more effectively in their own ministry setting. Who can take it and find fresh angles to approach it from that you never would have thought of yourself.

You know the vision has become ingrained when you don’t have to be there in person to ingrain it. Your leaders have so internalized it that when they’re there, it’s as if you’re there. And it’s even better.

The solution: Regularly force your people to articulate the vision in the context of their specific area of responsibilities. To you. To the staff. And to the people they oversee. The more they do, the more they’ll understand it, own it, and spread it. And the more your people will love and believe in the vision, not just the chief vision caster.

 

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Steven Furtick

Reputation vs Character?

John Wooden said “Your reputation is who people think you are, your character is who you really are.”

Which is more important? Reputation or Character?  First it is important to determine how they are different.  It was shared recently with me that your reputation is what other people think of you or perceive you to be. Character is who you really are internally, what and how you do things when no one else is looking or no one else will find out. So, what would it look like for us to have great character in 2014 and stop working on our reputation? Who really cares what people think?
I learned this lesson in the last three to four years ago. I ran into a person who worked endlessly on their reputation but had terrible character. When their character was revealed (which happens in intimacy) they were a complete let down. The truth is, they wouldn’t have been a letdown at all if they would have been themselves.
Abraham Lincoln was very concerned with the nature of character, but he was also aware of the importance of having a good reputation. He explained the difference this way:
Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
In today’s world that is overly preoccupied with image, it is easy to worry too much about our reputation and too little about our character. Building a reputation is largely a public-relations project, but building character requires us to truly focus on our values, actions, and always following through with what we commit ourselves to on a continual daily basis. Noble rhetoric and good intentions just are not enough to build true character.
I truly feel that your reputation is what people think of you and your character is what you actually are! Reputations will change with our circumstances and can be made or destroyed in a brief moment, but character is built through a person’s lifetime.
People don’t judge who we are, they judge who we’ve led them to believe we are. The more time and effort we put into making ourselves look great, the longer and harder the fall when the truth comes out. And eventually the truth comes out.
What we should be concentrating on is moral strength based on ethical principles. Character is revealed by our deeds and actions and not just words, especially when there is a gap between what we want to do, and what we should do, especially when doing the right thing costs more than we want to pay. Character is also not whether we accomplish our ambitions or goals in life, but how we truly live life through a lifetime.
 
What I took from that relationship was difficult, but it’s something we have to face in our early twenties, usually, and that’s there’s a difference between our reputation and our character. Since then, I’ve decided not to work very hard on my reputation. Or at least I hope that’s true. I air most of my dirty laundry, so nobody will judge me. People only judge those who claim to be better than others, more holy, more righteous more moral. When I’m ethical, I just look good. When somebody who works on their reputation isn’t ethical, they find themselves in social court. Working on our reputation is just a dumb move.
As a Christian I know that God sees all, and that He remembers all, and is ultimately the final judge of our actions in a lifetime spent on earth. Reputation is what people say you are; character is what God knows you are. Character is not a fancy coat we put on for public show only. Character is who we truly are, and will be judged by accordingly, on earth as well as in heaven. If you always concentrate on building character, your reputation will build itself. Develop your character, and you will never have regrets.
Here are some other reasons to have good character and not worry about our reputations:
1. God rewards character, not reputation. To care about your reputation means you care more about public opinion than the opinion of God. I notice that some of my friends who work endlessly on their reputations never really advance in life, love or their careers. People who work on their reputation “have their rewards in full” meaning that God has no interest in rewarding them, but they will get people to be impressed by them and that’s about all they are going to get. This is the essence of “worldliness” even though it is wearing religious clothes. The worldly person gets their pleasure and redemption and religion from the world, a person who knows God doesn’t work for a human audience. Who cares what they think, honestly. Just does the right thing because it’s the right thing and let God reward you.
2. If you present yourself as better than you are, you can’t have intimacy. People who lie about who they really are socially bankrupt, lonely, and have a string of bad relationships. Why? Because they can’t let people know them. They are too busy trying to win in some kind of “game.” Screw the game. Make friends. Settle for being medium great. Your heart will thank you.
3. Tell the truth. There’s nothing more healing than living in the truth and presenting yourself as who you really are. It’s easier to sleep at night.
4. When you work on your character, you’re working on the stuff that happens when nobody is looking. This is infinitely more difficult than misleading and deceiving people. But it’s the stuff that really sets you apart. It’s the stuff God rewards.
One cannot fully control his reputation, but he is always in charge of his character. What would your life look like if you stopped working on your reputation and started working on your character?

The “free gift” of salvation not so free.

I’ve thought that there is a fundamental contradiction in the evangelical message of salvation because, according to them, it is NOT Christ’s atoning death that saves you, it is YOUR BELIEF in it. (otherwise everyone would be saved). Therefore, this is not a salvation by grace, it is another salvation by works, albeit cognitive work. You must DO several things – find out about and understand the atonement, accept that Jesus dies for your sins, feel guilt and express your sorrow for being responsible, ask forgiveness, and invite Jesus “into your heart” to rule for the rest of your life.

IF you are sincere enough and it works, you get your life insurance (or fire insurance). Many people do this many times because they aren’t sure. What do these things mean? What does it mean to “believe,” “confess sin,” or “accept Jesus”? These are mental events with no objective evidence. And how does one force oneself to believe if the story makes no rational sense? Can you believe in Santa Claus again just because you need to save your life? With the threat of hell-fire condemnation, this is terrifying, crazy-making stuff. It’s no wonder that “believers” exhibit so much mental illness, including psychosis. Taught to children, I consider it child abuse of the worst kind.

I’ve wandered a bit from my initial point, which was that this doctrine is a salvation by works, ie, it is the accomplishment of the believer. Maybe that is why fundamentalists are so smug.

Aside from the obvious problem of people being unsaved because they are too rational, smart, enlightened or integrous, what about those who, because of the requirements of this deal, are too dumb to understand it, don’t know about it, only believe a little bit, etc. etc.? Even in our human justice system, people are not condemned for what they are thinking.

Here’s an analogy. Say you are in danger of a calamitous death and someone comes along and puts a present near you which will save your life – a FREE GIFT our of pure benevolence!! But you can’t have it until you notice it, find horrible fault in yourself, feel sorry and grateful, manage to get to it and pick it up, and then promise to devote your life to the gift-giver. If you are blind or lame or just don’t want a gift, good luck to you. How can they ever say this kind of gift is unearned??? And isn’t it pretty weird that the gift-giver is one and the same as the creator of the torment you get if you don’t accept the gift? Talk about strings attached. Imagine if we gave each other gifts like that.

I just had a birthday recently, and I’m glad ordinary humans have a better idea of giving.

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Marlene Winell