3 of My Least Favorite Words

In my opinion…

Words are a distinct and meaningful element of speech or writing and are intended to clear things up, but they often have the opposite result. There are three words we often hear in the church setting that usually do anything but clear everything up. They make good copy for brochures, but often little else. I’m going to “man up” and take them on from a worship guy’s point of view.

Strategic

I love this one! For every year (and there were many) of my ministry, there was a “strategic plan” meeting. Somewhere between starting the new program year and Christmas, an obligatory, “all hands on deck” day long meeting was called to revise (or start from scratch) a strategy for the church. Sometimes, this was merely a justification document for the size of our budget and program. Read Thom Rainer’s Simple Church.

Most church musicians hate these exercises because we already know where the church is supposed to be going—to worship every week! That, at least, is what we hope for and work endless hours preparing to implement each weekend.

Every year, I wonder why we are confused about what we are supposed to be doing as a church. I tend to think like a worship leader and worship, after all, is like eating and sleeping—you have to do a lot of it to stay healthy. How many whiteboards and flow-charts, it seems to me, have been covered beyond all recognition with ideas to “move the church forward?” The church, established by Christ, will move forward whether we like it or not!

O.K., enough grousing! Yes, clearly the church needs to think and plan strategically in order to “do” ministry and reach new people. Yep, I get it. The point is that so much time is spent working the resultant flow-chart or eighty-page white paper that the Acts 2 model of coming together for worship is sometimes buried in an avalanche of brochures and focus committees.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.   Acts 2:42-44

Mission

Messing with the word “mission” is like beating up on mom or not liking apple pie—there’s no excuse for it. Still, observing dozens of institutions for several decades, when a church separates mission from everything else they do, they may have missed what we were supposed to be doing in the first place. 

Mission is not a separate word or department. It is the church doing what the church needs to do. In some sense, our “mission giving” should be our only giving, because it’s all a mission! 

Read books about the missional church, take two aspirin, and call me on Tuesday!

Vision

Here’s a word I really struggle over. Every church should have a vision. Every senior pastor is supposed to be good with vision, and every parishioner wonders why our vision statements seem to change every 2 years!

What’s obscuring our ability to see clearly for the long haul? Is it a lack of visionary skills, or is it our inability to see what’s right in front of us? Do brokenness, poverty, hopelessness, and fear not present themselves with sufficient momentum to get our attention?

In some churches, vision has to do with building more buildings, but that’s really institutional “deferred maintenance” stuff. Real vision comes from just looking and seeing what’s going on around you.

Kind of preachy, but unfortunately true, in my opinion.

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dougl@churchleaders.com'
Doug Lawrence is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, who helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences. In 2007 he founded and continues to serve as CEO of Speaking as a Performing Art, a firm which coaches leading executives and their teams and includes pastors from across the country. Doug co-authored GPS for Success, published in 2011, with Stephen Covey and others. You may reach him at [email protected]