One of the greatest dangers in church planting is having your vision co-opted by someone or some other organization. What starts out as a wonderful God given vision, one that fueled your passion and ignited your desire to plant, suddenly is hijacked. You wake up one day and realize there is someone else driving the bus! It can happen in a number of ways and most often is a slow process, like the thief who steals from your bank account little by little so you don't notice until you wake up one day and there is little to nothing left.
In the early 90's I helped start a Metro Bible study in Austin, Texas while I was the Singles Minister at Hyde Park Baptist Church. I recruited a young man named Todd Phillips to lead the singles weeknight event and speak each week. Todd was a new believer with an incredible contagious passion for God and a talented and charismatic speaker. Because he was single, he easily connected with other singles and did an incredible job of leading and growing this weeknight ministry from 12 people to over 700 college and single adults in just 3 years.
The Bible study started out as a vision to reach the lost and unchurched single adult population of Austin. We called it "a singles sort of get-together thing" and encouraged believers to bring their friends who were not believers to the weeknight event. The music was upbeat, with secular cover tunes and current contemporary Christian songs and Todd's messages were always relevant, topical and evangelistic. We emphasized that this was not "a church", and it's purpose was to be a doorway for seekers to be led to Christ and into the local church. We taught that it was the responsibility of the believers who came and brought their non-Christian friends to disciple them and get them into church.
Over time however our vision began to drift. The longer we existed the more the Christians complained that the music was not worshipful enough and the messages were not deep enough. There was this constant whine of "we want deeper Bible study" and many stopped bringing their unchurched friends and they formed cliques from their own church. The longer we met the harder it was to stay the course. What had been a dynamic weeknight event in which non-beleivers could hear the Gospel in a relevant way, became a club for different church groups of youth, college students and singles. Eventually it stopped growing and was terminated because it was not doing what it was first created to do.
Looking back now I can see how our vision was hijacked. Our initial team of leaders understood the vision but as I delegated and handed the leadership over to others, the vision became less clear. Todd began another Metro in San Antonio and so he brought on others to take on the leadership roles as Todd focused more on the speaking. As he did, it was easier for the vision to drift. As the organization grew we failed to hold to the original vision and this great outreach event eventually morphed into an alternative weeknight church meeting.
There will always be those in your ministry and those from outside who will be licking their chops to steal your vision and replace it with theirs. Sometimes its an elder, or it could be your most faithful member, biggest giver or even your wife! When you have a good thing going, there will be a line of people vying for an ear from you to sell you their vision. If God has given you a clear direction and purpose, you must stay the course!
What are some ways that you have used to stay on course and keep others from hijacking your vision? What would you add to the list below.
- Have a clear purpose and vision which communicates not just a slogan but really why you exist.
- Over communicate it. Say it so often your people get sick of hearing it. And make sure they know it.
- Teach it often and illustrate with examples. Celebrate those who get it and apply it.
- Eliminate anything that does not fit in with your purpose and vision.
- When training new leaders, make sure they not only know and embrace the vision but embody it!
- Resist the voices and whine of others and the temptation to switch course.
- Trust God!
Have you ever been a part of an organization, business or church which has had its vision hijacked?
What other suggestions do you have to keep a pastor or leader on course?