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Why Most Church Vision is About as Good as Church Coffee

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by Bryan Rose

“Can’t we do it any faster?”

This is a common question from church leaders who are seeking clarity, but not desiring to invest significant resources or time into a process.

Somewhere deep inside, these leaders know that vision clarity cannot be pre-packaged or microwaved and still be effective. Yet, they lead amidst a culture of quick-fix solutions and no-wait delivery. The tension between knowing that clarity takes time, yet not having or desiring to invest much, is common. Through the years, direct responses to this question have pacified, but it wasn’t until I was absently staring off into space this morning, that I stumbled upon a sufficient illustration of the value of time in a clarity process: brewing coffee.

The landscape of coffee is vast, and differing brewing solutions exist from the ultra-instant K-Cups to ultra-hip Chemex. However, at the core, there are generally two factors that lead to how coffee is obtained:

  • How we want it to taste.
  • How fast we want it.

These two factors stand in polar opposites on the spectrum of coffee brewing. From my experience and years of barista-annoying questions, it boils down to this: you can have coffee fast, or you can have coffee that tastes good.

Most people have never actually tasted a good cup of coffee, having been either turned off by acidity and bitterness, or turned on by sugar, creamer or syrups. However, coffee can actually have a pleasant taste, and the possibility exists for each cup to emit discernible flavors and maintain regionally-specific profiles. What keeps most people from experiencing a truly great cup of coffee today is the challenge that there is no quick way to obtain a great cup of coffee.

Great coffee takes time, but it is worth the wait.

This morning, a cold-brewing system, which looks more like it belongs in the deep woods of Kentucky (or sketchy motorhome in the New Mexico desert) more than on a coffee shop counter, caught my eye. Simply put, this is a gravity-driven, 18-hour process in which water passes through a dense ceramic filter, migrates through coarsely ground beans, rotates through a glass-tubed spiral, and finally drips into a large collection container. It is said that the results are the purest extract of coffee. A concentrate that, due to the process, reduces the acidity and delivers a full-bodied coffee flavor.

Similar to coffee, two factors also lead to how vision clarity is most-often achieved in the church:

  • How effective leaders want it to be.
  • How fast leaders want it to be obtained.

As taste and speed are to coffee, effectiveness and speed are to vision clarity. You can have effective vision or you can have a quick vision, but you cannot have both. Most pastors have never experienced effective vision, because they have either quickly adapted the latest conference, book or successful church’s methodology, or buried vision under an overpowering personality or abundance of programming. Much like the cold-brew system, a developed process is needed, outside the cultural norms, to truly achieve breakthrough clarity.

Here are four components of an effective vision process from this perspective:

1. Filtering. Removing impurities is the first step. Like a dense filter, time must be spent separating the core of each church’s calling from all of the other compelling ideas, interests and possible activities. What’s left is the essence of uniqueness in place, people and passion.

2. Extracting. Next comes the most tedious part, a slow-motion migration through a consistent and integrated framework. Every ounce of progress must be measured in prayer and within the gravity of scripture.

3. Spiraling. Most Western solutioneering processes are a Point-A-to-Point-B movement to (or through) problems. Spiraling is a decidedly different process of approaching a problem from all sides, not just head-on. This type of Eastern solutioneering develops wholeness in perspective and produces confidence in results.

4. Dripping. Finally, capturing vision in the hearts and lives of people does not come in one-time bursts, but in constant dripping over years of implementation. Human nature reminds us that repetition is the key to absorption into our mind, and it is a leadership discipline to NOT explain the vision differently every time, or dump the pot when it has sat for “too long.”

Vision clarity, like great coffee, takes time, but it is worth the wait.