“If everything is mission, nothing is.”
In their excellent book, What Is the Mission of the Church, Greg Gilbert and DeYoung make the case, “If everything is mission, nothing is.” They advocate a careful articulation of the church's mission and caution against expanding the mission beyond making disciples. Of course, making disciples can have many different strategies, but it's important for leaders to remember that specific strategies are theirs … not Jesus's.
Organizations that must oversell to promote basic projects are often characterized by two key factors: (1) lack of trust and (2) lack of vision.
Lack of Trust
Integrity and trustworthiness are the most compelling reasons to follow a leader. Leaders who oversell are marked by a desire to push their projects … even at the expense of those they serve. Because such leadership is marked by personal ambition masquerading as Christian ambition, the people who follow these leaders “smell” insincerity and personal aggrandizement in their leaders. They may not be able to articulate the precise reasons for their unease, but something doesn't feel right. Because the members of the organization are uneasy and don't trust their leaders, leadership must overstate their case in order to convince the people that a project is worthwhile.
Organizations characterized by trust between leaders and followers can simply make the case for a project within the realm of normal rationale.
Lack of Vision
A second characteristic which marks organizations that oversell their projects is the lack of a compelling vision. Bill Hybels put it well when he said, “A vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” The fact that a leader must oversell is an indicator that he has failed to provide a compelling vision. People are drawn to inspiring causes with trustworthy leaders.
Consider the millions of dollars that are being given to the states of New Jersey and New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. If the mayor of New York City had appealed for help two months ago, his pleas would have been met with laughter. The harder the public laughs, the harder the mayor sells … and oversells. People learn not to take him seriously.
Fast forward to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. There is a compelling cause, a vision of the future–a restored city with safe water, good shelter, and adequate food. Money comes pouring in as city leadership demonstrates that it's using donations in a responsible way.
Organizations that oversell are paving the way to their own demise. Even as projects are accomplished, the lack of trust and compelling vision are disenfranchising those whom the organization depends on for its lifeblood. As people realize that the leadership has once again overstated its case, trust continues to erode, eating at the foundation of goodwill that once characterized relationships between leadership and members of the organization.
Don't oversell! Trust in a sovereign God to provide. Rather, devote yourself to carrying out ministry in a way that demonstrates integrity and a commitment to a clear, compelling vision.
See part 1 of this post.