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May 13, 2004
LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.
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Here is this week's LeaderLines. . . .
Good to Great: Getting Ready for Vision Sunday
by Tom Goodman
“I’ve been here for twelve years and nothing’s changed,” he said. “Is there any plan to get us off this plateau?”
That was what one of our young adult leaders said to me over a meal at Wendy’s this week. Though he has not yet seen the statistics that Herb will share this Sunday, he knew them from his own twelve-year experience at Hillcrest. Despite
the fact that Austin’s population exploded at a rate of fifteen percent a year the last 10-15 years, Hillcrest’s attendance hasn’t changed, and it bothered this young adult.
May his tribe increase.
When I accepted the call to Hillcrest last year, I picked up a book called Good to Great. In the bestselling business book, Jim Collins examined eleven companies that had been in a fifteen-year plateau before a turnaround that led to
sustained and spectacular success.
It should be easy to see why the book intrigued me! I wanted to see if there were any lessons from these turnaround companies that could be applied to Hillcrest.
Across the last few editions of LeaderLines, we looked at some lessons from Collins’ book. By challenging Hillcrest to pay attention to some of these insights, I’m just following in the footsteps of the Master. In Luke
16:1-10, Jesus was actually the first teacher to challenge Christians to learn spiritual lessons from the business world. He actually held up a corrupt but shrewd business manager as a tongue-in-cheek example to his followers, and he
drew this conclusion: “Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right”
What are some lessons from Collins’ book that we can apply to Hillcrest? Collins found that mediocre companies became great companies through disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. I believe
that’s Hillcrest’s answer to rising above our ten-year plateau as well. As we get ready for this weekend’s special Sunday, let’s recap what we’ve learned across the last few editions of LeaderLines:
First, we have to be a disciplined people. Though most leadership material stresses the importance of casting a vision for people to follow, a vision won’t motivate people unless they first share the same values. This upcoming
“Vision Sunday” marks my first anniversary with you, and only now have I suggested anything that could be called a “vision” for our church. That was on purpose. Across this first year, I’ve just been laying out values . . .
principles . . . convictions. Only a disciplined people who are rigorously committed to the same key values will catch a vision—let alone follow it.
Second, we have to maintain disciplined thought. This is where “vision” comes in. According to Collins, the good companies that became great did so by taking a hard look at what had kept them flat, while never losing hope that they
would find what could make them great. They eventually discovered what Collins called their “Hedgehog Concept”—a simple understanding of where they needed to focus their energies. Collins cautioned that discovering this “simple
understanding” took an average of four years in the good-to-great companies.
With that in mind, the May 16 “Vision Sunday” is just one vital part of an ongoing process of discovering our Hillcrest Hedgehog. During our morning worship this Sunday, I will bring a message on what I believe God is calling us to do in
the next few years as a church. During the Sunday School hour (9:30-10:30), all adult classes are encouraged to meet in the MPC for a continental breakfast and a presentation by our Ministry Staff.
In a few years, I believe we’ll discover that our Hedgehog Concept—our vision—will turn out to be some variation of this sentence: Our church could become the best in Austin at convincing those we know to join Christ in a climb up the
discipleship H.I.L.L. You’ll have to read that line carefully two or three times in order to find all that I’ve packed into that one tiny sentence.
In order to become a good-to-great church, there’s a third thing we need: disciplined action. This refers to the work we do in fulfillment of our vision. There’s a flow to all this: a values-driven church (disciplined people) that
accepts a vision (disciplined thought) applies it to everything they do (disciplined action).
Now, what’s the same word that shows up in those three components? Disciplined! In each of the good-to-great corporate transformations, there was no miracle program, no magic formula, no one-shot seminar, and no stunning personnel
hire that suddenly catapulted the company into greatness. In fact, in most companies it was difficult to pinpoint the moment that the turnaround happened. In every business turnaround Collins examined, it was the triumph of
steadfast discipline over the quick fix. I believe that’s true in a good-to-great church, too. The formula is—
(disciplined people + disciplined thought + disciplined action) + time = success
In the 60s and 70s, John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins to win ten NCAA Championships in twelve years, at one point assembling a sixty-one-game winning streak. That’s what most people remember of the legendary coach. What most people don’t
remember is that he coached the Bruins for fifteen years before winning his first championship. Year by year, he instilled the values and the routines that eventually led to stunning and sustained success.
I know the young man who sat with me at Wendy’s this week doesn’t want to wait fifteen years to see a breakthrough at Hillcrest, and I don’t think he’ll have to. Still, turnaround doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a different way of
thinking and acting, and changes to thought and behavior take time. This week’s “Vision Sunday” is vital part of that process, and I hope you’ll pray right now for our special day!
P.S. In the evening this Sunday, May 16, the Ministry Staff will present our recommended Fall schedule and field your questions. Please note the earlier start time for this evening’s program—It will run from 6:00 p.m.
to 7:30 p.m.
If you have internet access, log on to www.HillcrestAustin.org/ScheduleProposal to see the suggested schedule and hear my twelve-minute explanation of the proposal. Spread the word on this item!
Another P.S.—Be praying for your Ministry Staff. While you are reading this, Gene, BJ, Jim, Herb and I are all in California on an important conference.