LeadingSmart

Practical Stuff for Church Leaders

One Thing That Scares me

Institutionalism. When I came to Granger in 1993, there was a sense of a movement. A few hundred people were gathering and we all knew God was going to do something great—you felt it when you walked in the door! We had nothing to lose! Minimal salaries. No building or mortgage. Low overhead. Being a United Methodist church plant, we studied the movement of Methodism and could also see the institution it had become. It seemed the purpose of the institution was to survive. We wouldn't let that happen! And as a small, nimble group with an amazing leader—we set about building a local church and watching thousands of lives transformed by the love of Jesus over the next fifteen years.

As the church grew, it required more staff—then facilities—then more staff—then building loans—then parking lots and equipment and land and yet more staff. And all of that required strategy and leadership structures and hierarchy and policies and decision-makers. And it produced a local church that is having an undeniable impact on the community and in other parts of the world. And for that I'm grateful.

But…

I believe if we keep doing what we've always done…we will look back in a dozen years or so and see that we've become an institution that exists for the purpose of preservation, not innovation. We will be a machine, not a movement. We will be captives of the org chart rather than catalysts of the mission.

I don't exactly know what that means for the future. But I believe we are on the edge of figuring that out. There is such a feeling of anticipation right now at Granger and especially among the leadership team. We have a sense of unity that is as strong and pervasive as I can ever recall. At the same time, there is a confident fear about the future. Like we've just taken off in a plane for an island we can't see with just enough gas to get there and we aren't even sure we are heading in the right direction but we are together committed to keep going. Yeah, that type of confident fear.

Alan Hirsch says, "History is absolutely clear about this: most established institutions will resist a movement ethos. It's just too chaotic and uncontrollable for institutions to handle. That is why most movements are ejected from the host organization. This needn't be the case, but it does require a significant permission-giving at high levels of denominational or established organizational leadership to ensure that they are not."

I'm convinced a movement is afoot at Granger. And I can't wait to see where it leads.