By Tim Spivey, lead planter of New Vintage Church (San Diego)
Truth bomb: More churches struggle because they lack execution than because they lack vision or fresh ideas. In fact, the lack of vision and fresh ideas can often be a symptom of chronic lack of execution of ideas and vision. Let me explain with a short story.
MEET THE COACH
There are some downsides to having the soccer coach as your baseball coach. The greatest of these is: He loves running and making the team run. To this day, I don’t enjoy running very much. He’s the reason. Running was used as a punitive tool. He would say it was instructional and developed character. Here’s how he coached:
Step in the bucket? Run a lap.
Pop up a bunt? Run a mile.
Walk a batter as a pitcher? Run a mile.
Hit a batter? That’s cool. No running. Ha!
Coach loved to make us run, and he knew we hated it. So, he used it to teach us execution. I walked a handful of batters in my entire Senior season. I don’t ever recall popping up a bunt or missing a sign. Why? Because I’d rather keep the bat head up and throw strikes than run a mile.
Yes, we HATED running by the time the season was over, but it made us much, much more successful and made us more creative team. Knowing we wouldn’t pop up a bunt meant our team bunted more. Knowing we all knew the signs backwards and forwards and were paying attention meant we called hit and runs and other plays we never would have called otherwise.
You’ll never see a conference on execution. No one would come. Have a conference on vision or innovation … and people will turn out in droves. The reason is, making New Year’s resolutions is a lot more fun than keeping them.
EXECUTION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN IDEAS
Coach held his own conference on execution at every practice. He got that idea through, and it’s one I’ve kept with me. Execution is more important than ideas. Every winning coach, player, or leader I know believes this. Even those who laud the importance of vision realize that a vision not cast regularly and executed is really only a day-dream.
Bobby Knight: “Everyone’s got the will to win. Only those who have the will to prepare do win.”
Mark Cuban, in response to a recent interview question about the biggest mistake he sees young entrepreneurs make: “Thinking having a great idea is more important than the execution.”
Coach: “Failure to execute … that’s a mile, Mr. Spivey.”
I have yet to meet a pastor who doesn’t want their church to grow deep and wide. Make no mistake: it is God who brings the increase. However, in my experience, he usually brings increase for those who are as faithful to the “task” of ministry as they are the ideals of ministry — to those who actually gather manna rather than simply hoping it shows up right on their breakfast plate.
We don’t want to admit this — but ministry often languishes not for lack of vision (we need to bunt right now), but execution (we missed it…or popped it up). In fact, it’s sometime our fear of the work involved in the execution of vision that limits our vision. The ability to execute ministry well facilitates greater vision. In the inability to execute ministry effectively limits vision.
Many of us pastors are out of shape. Next time we fail to execute on the vision God has given us … let’s run a mile together, shall we? Then, we’d all hate running. Or, let’s just execute more faithfully on the vision God has given us … and save the running.
Question: What do you think? Is vision or execution more important for church leaders?
Note: This post revised and expanded from a previous post.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book Jesus, the Powerful Servant.