At our last leadership team weekend away our speaker was Terry Calkin, the pastor of a Green Lane Christian Centre, an independent mega-church in Auckland, New Zealand, which over the years has grown from a small group into a fellowship of over two thousand members. Terry told how he had build his church on ‘four principles of leadership’: viz. vision, passion, character, and gifting. In particular he focussed on vision: vision, he said, gives direction to passion, and passion stops gifting from day- dreaming. He went on: ‘Vision needs to be-stated every Sunday. Tell the church what God has been doing in the past week. Allow your church to be permeated by the contagion of excitement’.
Another mega-church pastor, Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church, said something similar. One of the chapters of his book A Purpose Driven Church is entitled ‘Communicating Your Purposes’ and is headed with a quotation from Proverbs 13/17 (Living Bible):
An unreliable messenger can cause a lot of trouble. Reliable communication permits progress.
In this chapter he tells of how although the re-building of the wall around Jerusalem took only 52 days to complete, the people became discouraged at the half-way point – so just 26 days into the project Nehemiah had to renew from their vision (Neh 4.6-15). From this Rick Warren derives his ‘Nehemiah Principle’: “Vision and purpose must be restated every 26 days to keep the church moving in the right direction. In other words, make sure you communicate your purpose at least monthly. It is amazing how quickly human beings – and churches – lose their sense of purpose. A little further in the chapter he says:
Don’t assume that a single sermon on the church’s purposes will permanently set the direction of your church. Don’t suppose that by printing your purposes in the bulletin everyone has learned them, or even read them! One widely known law of advertising is that a message must be communicated seven times before it really sinks in.
It was at this point that we were challenged. Every year we have a Vision Sunday, when I preach the same sermon at both morning and evening services in which I seek to spell out the direction in which I believe God would have us go – indeed, sometimes I have preached a whole series of sermons on the mission and vision of our church. We have produced book marks and fridge magnets as reminders of our mission and vision. Every week our news-sheet features our mission and vision. But the reality is that we have not been communicating. So we decided to get excited about our mission and vision.
‘Excitement’ has been defined as ‘a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness’. That has certainly been true of us as every week, as at the tail end of the notice-spot, one of our leaders shares their excitement – either about what we are about to do, or about how God has blessed what we have done. Yes, excitement has been the key word: every Sunday, morning and evening, whoever is responsible for the slot begins ‘I am excited about…’, and continues to express his or her excitement about what God is doing in our church as we seek to implement our vision for the church. What have people been excited about? We began by sharing our excitement about God spoke to us during our leadership weekend away: we have shared our excitement about the new Alpha course, about ‘Well Springs’ (a pampering course for women which seeks to encourage people to begin to ask themselves the kind of questions which will cause them to want to join Alpha), about a taster day for ‘Well Being’ (similar to Well Springs in format, this is a ‘stepping stones’ course we have developed for seniors), about our new church football team (although our team has so far lost every match it has played, it is attracting so many men on the fringe of the church that we are having to consider creating a first and second team), about our new club for international students, about our young people’s weekend away, about our plans to wrap up Christmas presents for people in the local shopping mall… We have no difficulty in finding things to be excited about.
The good news is that we are now really communicating to the church – and the church is responding to our excitement. I have since discovered that unconsciously we have been fulfilling a maxim of Rupert Murdoch:
In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example – and perhaps by excitement by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.