What Are You Fanatical About?

post date: October 29, 2007
Before leaving Grand Ledge this morning, I had breakfast with Andrew, Brian and John–the three staff pastors at Grand Ledge Baptist Church. Andrew I have known for 17 years but I just met Brian and John this weekend. The church recently voted to go to a unique three-way co-pastor system in which the three pastors will together form the leadership team for the church. They will share the preaching and will divide up the leadership tasks according to their gifts and interests. They will lead by consensus and shared vision. I used the word "unique" to describe this leadership plan, and that certainly applies, although it’s fair to say that other churches are moving in the direction of a shared leadership team. And in some places this concept has been very effective. I think it’s likely to work well at Grand Ledge because the three men respect each other and because, while having different personalities, they share the same vision for the church.
I told the men about two presentations I attended by two leaders of large and very effective churches. These two leaders (one a pastor, the other an executive pastor) were responsible for leading and organizing thousands of people on a weekly basis. One man leads a group of mostly inner-city cities, the other serves in a suburban multi-site church that reaches over 8,000 people every Sunday. In terms of design, the churches were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But I was struck by one similarity. At certain points in their presentations, both men described certain things that mattered so much to them (in one case the training of leaders for their various locations; in the other case how they kept track of thousands of people) that they set up a detailed system that ensured that things were done in a certain way every single time, with no variation. As I listened, it became clear that in both cases, they were describing what we might in other contexts call a "core value." It was as if they were saying, "WE REALLY MEAN THIS. IT WILL BE DONE THIS WAY. AND WE WILL BE FANATICAL IN OUR ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS OF HOW IT IS DONE." I don’t like writing in all-caps, but it does convey the exact point I want to make.
In almost every endeavor of life, there are only a few things that really matter, and what those few things are is a subject of ongoing debate. I suppose most of the time in the church, we tend to give "sort of" lip service to what we are doing. We "sort of" care about small groups or we "sort of" care about who can be on the praise teams or we "sort of" care about impacting our community or we "sort of" care about how the ushers dress or we "sort of" care about whether or not Sunday School classes can take up separate offerings for special class projects. The list of things we "sort of" care about is endless–and it changes from one church to another.
My point is not that everything matters equally. That’s obviously not true. But those two church leaders convinced me of something I had not seen before. The churches that make the largest impact for Christ have figured out what they are fanatical about–down to the nitty-gritty details. It was perfectly clear to me that the leaders were implicitly saying, "What we’re dong may not work for everyone, but it works for us, and if you come to our church and don’t like it done this way, we’re probably not the church for you."
It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to be a "balanced" church, which sometimes means a bland church. Too often you end up doing a lot of things fairly well but nothing with excellence, passion, conviction, and attention to detail. Personally, I would rather attend a church that does a few things very well and with great attention to detail, even if it’s not the way I would do it myself.
So I leave you with this question to ponder about your own life. What are you fanatical about–down to the nitty-gritty details?

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