Moving On Up from Good to Great

Leadership Workshop Notes Prepared July 27, 2010

I read the book entitled Good to Great by Jim Collins in 2007. This book was principally written for the corporate world. However, it has had a powerful impact on my thinking in relationship to mission work in the CPC. Mr. Collins first sentence of the book reads, “Good is the enemy of great.”   I have thought about that in relationship to the CPC. Perhaps, we can say that our mission has been good, but not great. Our ultimate goal is to be a great movement in establishing the Kingdom of God.

Let me share some principles from Collins’ book that might assist us in the effort to achieve a higher level of service in our local church and mission around the world. These principles can guide us as we review and evaluate our work. Collins identifies several key elements in moving from good to great. I have tried to use the thoughts in ministry since I first read them. We only have space to review the most important elements, and apply them to the ecclesiastical context. My review of the material also includes some personal comments and scripture to apply the content to the ecclesiastical context.

Holy Land Trip 2021

  1. Good Leadership

“I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.” Titus 1: 5-9

Great organizations do not begin with the issue of vision and strategy. Instead, they figure out who they want to drive the bus of their organization. When they have the best driver, they decide where they want to go. That means that sometimes you have to change drivers.

If you have the right people in leadership, the problems of vision and motivation generally go away. Great vision without great people is irrelevant. And, this is particularly true in the case of ministers. We can find these people in a variety of places, sometimes outside the CP membership. Generally speaking if you succeed in one area you will probably succeed in another. Some non-CP leaders have the potential to enrich our denomination. Other times our best leaders will rise from the membership of our churches.

Consequently, you hire the best people and then you provide them the training needed to complement the skills they already have. If a person will not give an A+ effort, perhaps they should not be on your bus. Sometimes, some of our leaders have been great, but we must admit that we have not always had the great elders, missionaries, or pastors guiding our church. This has made it impossible to become a great organization. It would be an error to not recognize that although God can take our weakness and turn it to greatness, God doesn’t always do that. And, that is always a bit puzzling.

When we have the right people and if they ask the right questions, they will find a way to make the organization great.

We can say that high salaries do not guarantee greatness. Motivated people do not work exclusively for money. In fact, they work in spite of the salary. We do not pay reasonable salaries to secure the right work ethic. No, we pay reasonable salaries to get the right people on the job and keep them there. Great leaders have an incredible work ethic. They are constantly thinking and working to make a plan work. This is to say that traits like character, work ethic, basic intelligence, commitment, loyalty and honesty are both innate and aquired. We discover such characteristics by looking at the decisions leaders have made in life and how they have dealt with those decisions.


  1. When in doubt, do not hire the person.       You do not compromise over personnel.
  2. When you know you need to change personnel, do it immediately. Don’t let a poor employee damage the local church or the denomination any longer than necessary.
  3. There is always a place in an organization for a proven leader. But sometimes they are sitting in the wrong seat on the bus.
  4. Employees and non-employees need to discuss and sometimes argue, but once a policy decision is made, all employees should support it.
  1. Confront the Brutal Facts of the Current Condition of Your Church and Denomination

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Rev. 2:4

Endless restructure and hiring/firing are not characteristic of great organizations.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors of leadership is to act like all is well when the organization has serious problems. Face reality. Problems have to be identified and addressed. I am always amazed at the repetitively pathetic annual reports offered by some pastors and church leaders. Our job is to turn over the rocks and find the problems. Most churches live with their head in the sand.

  1. Good leaders operate initially with questions not answers.
  2. Debate and dialogue are important.
  3. When problems are uncovered, it is not necessary to place blame; use your energy to find solutions.

The truth is our denomination and many of our churches have problems, but good leaders will never give up. We will prevail in finding a way to be excellent.

“You must never confuse faith that situations can improve (which you can never afford to forget) with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.

A good church does not become great overnight. We do not overcome problems in a few months or even years. A great church is built through good decisions made consistently by good people over a long period of time.

Once the problems are identified, the leaders must act to resolve them appropriately. Making the right decisions is more important than speed in doing something.

  1. The Focus of our Area of Responsibility Needs to Be Simple and Should Address Two Questions—What Can We Do Best and What Can We Be Passionate About?

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” II Tim 1:6-7

The church has a problem in that we have to do many things good, but great churches have a limited number of things they do great. What we do great has to be decided upon based upon our talents, spiritual gifts, the need of our community, and our passion. It takes passion to become great at anything. I often feel that no one in some churches has sufficient passion to inspire others.

Great churches are able to focus their attention on what they can do best. It may be preaching. It might be an educational system that the community needs. It may be a heart for the “least” people of the community. It might be an evangelism program that constantly demonstrates fruit. It might be a ministry to youth. The idea is to find a clear objective rather than work furiously to accomplish a host of ministries poorly. If I were pastoring a church today, I find the most passionate person in the church, identify the focus of that passion, and facilitate the energy the person brings to the table. Simultaneously, I would sell the focus of my passion to the congregation and spend the time necessary to convince a sizable portion of the congregation to join the march to excellence.

Great doesn’t happen overnight. It took Einstein 15 years to find the theory of relativity.

  1. The Climate of Discipline

A strong church knows what it can do best and has the discipline to maintain focus on that objective, rather than chase the first fad that comes along. I have watched the church lose focus many times over what was believed to be the cure all to growth. Some churches thought everything would work if they started a food kitchen. Other churches have insisted on criticizing those with different passions. Others have felt that praise worship was the key.

CPC doctrine and denominational commitment should be emphasized identity so that all leaders can follow one another without retraining the congregation to a vision different than the one before.

The key to greatness is disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Discipline must be a culture and an expectation of all leaders.

Romans 5:3-5 “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”


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