When an organization faces challenging circumstances, the temptation is to focus decision-making on solving presenting problems. While some fires do have to be put out immediately, veteran leaders know better than attempting to regain organizational health by focusing on the tyranny of the urgent.
The best example in our seminary’s history was when we experienced multiple challenges related to redeveloping our former campus in the Bay Area. We were facing legal, political, financial, strategic, and spiritual issues – all coming at us simultaneously and intertwined in ever-changing ways. Coming to work every day was like facing a many-headed monster with re-generating capacities. Every time progress was made on one problem, another problem grew a new dimension.
As we grappled with these issues for four years, what kept us centered was maintaining mission discipline. That meant we continually reminded each other of our mission – shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world – and made decisions about allocating our time, energy, money, and influence accordingly. Even with the land development concerns pressing us often, we kept our leader-shaping work at the forefront of how we spent our time, money, energy, and influence. In the end, the decision to relocate was not about resolving legal, political, or financial issues. It was about our mission. We ultimately asked just one question, “Which better serves our mission – staying or going?” The answer, when reduced to that one question, was clear then and has proven correct multiple times over the past five years.
The Southern Baptist Convention will meet in two weeks facing a similar situation. Various groups are telling us their issue is the most important one and solving each problem the right way will determine our future. While current problems deserve appropriate attention, sorting out which ones and how much to do about each one will require wisdom from our leaders and discernment from the messengers. But no matter what else gets decided, our future will largely be determined by our ability to focus on our unifying mission of getting the gospel to the billions who have not yet heard it.
Our mission, in its most basic expression, is getting the gospel to more people. It is not perfectly and permanently solving gospel-issues, however appealing that phrase may sound. For Christians, almost every issue is connected to gospel-centered living. That’s a part of our sanctification and an understandable connection. But a preoccupation with gospel-issues can lead to diminished focus on our primary responsibility – sharing the gospel with people who have not yet heard it – not debating how we are supposed to live the gospel effectively.
Mission discipline is essential in every organization, including churches, ministries, and denominations. When we lose it, we dissipate our energy and disintegrate our unity. We find ourselves ricocheting from crisis to crisis without a center stake to hold us together. Leaders know how frustrating this can be. Our words, lives, and decisions must reflect mission discipline for any organization we lead to thrive. Our overarching mission as Southern Baptists – churches, entities, and denominational units – is getting the gospel to more people.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd and the SBC Executive Committee have made an intentional effort to elevate our mission at this convention. Dr. Floyd has spearheaded Vision 2025 – five strategic goals centered on our mission. I recently blogged about each goal and have a printed version of the Vision 2025 card on my desk to remind me daily to work proactively on our core mission. While we may debate many things for a few minutes at our upcoming meeting, my hope is we will spend many hours celebrating, praying, and strategizing about our mission.
Southern Baptists know people need the gospel and it’s our job to get it to them. May God give us the grace to center our attention on that mission.