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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

18 Jun '09

Complacency or urgency?

One of the deadliest threats to any ministry, be it a church, mission, mission team or some other ministry is that of complacency.

Complacency is defined as self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies (Webster).

I am struck at how often when talking to ministry leaders and asking them about how the ministry is doing that the answer is overwhelmingly positive.

There is often little urgency among those I interact with that things need to be different, that not all is well or that they need to do things differently. I contrast that response with those who are business owners who give me a very realistic answer regarding the challenges they face and the difficult issues they are wrestling with.

When I talk to ministry leaders and the vast majority of their report is positive and I don't hear the critical analysis of what should be different, what real deficiencies or threats exist, I know that I am talking to someone who does not live with a sense of urgency, tends to gloss over deficiencies and likes to put a positive spin on situations - rather than do the critical analysis needed to understand reality.

And, I can safely assume that their own teams or reports live with the same complacency they do. Perhaps it is the fact that ministries have so little accountability generally and that we just assume that Jesus will do what He wants to do that we don't ask and answer the critical questions and live with such complacency. Unlike those in the business world, many Christian leaders don't have to live with a profit or loss statement and thus live more easily with contentment with where things are.

The sad thing is that the state of the church and the effectiveness of much of what passes for missions is woefully inadaquate and ineffective. That is a result of complacency and lack of urgency.

That self-satisfaction comes from a lack of critical analysis of what could be, or ministry fruit left on the table because of our satisfaction with what is.

Companies that become complacent and self-satisfied die or go into bankruptcy - so General Motors and Chrysler and a host of others who have disappeared in the last decade. Ministries simply move into decline, seemingly oblivious that anything is wrong or that things could be different.

Good leaders are never complacent or satisfied and they do not allow their teams to live in complacency either. They are always asking critical questions about priorities, strategy, opportunities and dangers. They celebrate wins but they never camp on the wins or the success of the past but are always looking at the untapped opportunities of the future.

This is about a way of thinking and living and leading.

Urgency is not about doing more or doing it faster or creating more activity. Leaders who live with a sense of urgency often engage in less activity than others but do far more critical analysis and ask harder questions and focus their attention on those things that will push the missional agenda the farthest. They are also not looking for swift wins (nice when they come) but long term ministry fruit.

The apostle Paul lived with a sense of urgency that was evident in his life and his teaching. He constantly exhorted in his epistles to the churches to never be content with their spiritual life or their ministry but to work while it is still day for the night comes.

Good leaders do less, focus on the most important and constantly communicate with their priorities and communication their sense of urgency to see the ministry they lead (or the team they lead) maximize their potential.

And they communicate their sense of urgency to their staff who easily fall into a mode of comfort (we all gravitate there) and live with a deep sense that we must always be looking for better ways to fulfill our mission.

Their calendars reflect that commitment! Their priorities reflect that commitment. Their communication reflects that commitment and their meetings reflect that commitment. The focus of their lives reflects that commitment.

Where are you living on the complacency/urgency continuum?

For a great read on this subject, take a look at John P. Kotter's book, A Sense of Urgency. Our senior team is reading it right now. I deeply desire that our ministry live with urgency not complacency.