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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Reminders


 


Years ago, when I was the senior pastor of a local congregation, I remember fielding a challenging question.

 

How long would it take a visitor to our church to be introduced to our mission, vision, and values, and to know specifically what to do to become involved in living them out? 

 

I was stumped. I really hadn’t given that issue much thought.

 

Didn’t everyone who hung around our church know what we were trying to do?

 

The answer, of course, is no. But insiders have a strange way of forgetting what it’s like to be an outsider. Church consultant Carl George, when walking into a church facility for the first time, always looked to see if there were direction signs for the restrooms. But everybody knows where our bathrooms are. No, they don’t.  As George put it, “If you can’t help someone find their way to the ladies room, they certainly won’t assume you can provide directions to heaven.”

 

When I tried to remember the last time I had gone all-out communicating our mission, vision, and values, I realized it was a month-long sermon series more than five years earlier.

 

Somehow, in my mind, that seemed pretty recent. Surely people were still savoring those four awesome messages and weren’t ready to revisit things for a few more years. 

 

How wrong I was.

 

A variety of studies have revealed that most leaders vastly underestimate how often they need to point out What Really Matters. The need of the hour is not doubling such communication, nor even multiplying things by a factor of ten. Organizations would be greatly blessed if their leaders went “back to the basics” one hundred times more often than they think is necessary.

 

That’s the conviction of business management guru Patrick Lencioni. He asserts that every leader must become a CRO – a Chief Reminding Officer. 

 

“The best organizations in the world are the ones where leaders are constantly reiterating the organization’s culture, strategy and priorities.” We must continually speak about what is truly important – again and again and again. 

 

Lencioni notes that there are two reasons why many leaders falter in this task.

 

The first is precisely the one I experienced: Won’t I be perceived as uncreative or insulting or (worst of all) boring if I keep meandering back to the same old mission statement? Lencioni replies, “It’s not until a leader is so tired of communicating a message that employees are just starting to believe and internalize it.”

 

Then he adds, “I like to say that you aren’t communicating enough as a leader unless your people can do a good impression of you when you’re not around.” I probably need to find out if a few of those impressions of me have ended up on YouTube.

 

The second reason that many leaders fail to be CRO’s is more critical: They themselves haven’t clarified what really matters.

 

Why are we here? What should we be doing? How are we going to succeed?

 

Every Christian should be able to articulate an “elevator speech” – what you would say if you had only 45 seconds – that describes, simply and clearly, why you have bet your life on Jesus of Nazareth. As Peter puts it, “Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15).

 

More than a few of us want to protest, “But isn’t that why we have pastors and teachers?”

 

Actually, we have pastors and teachers to be Chief Reminding Officers – to keep telling God’s Story over and over, and to keep reminding us what we’re called to do and who we’re called to be.

 

Paul knew that well.

 

He writes, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1). Nor does he seem to think that he’s wasting pen and ink when he reminds the Corinthians of the same old story about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand” (I Corinthians 15:1).

 

Then the author of 2 Peter adds, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (2 Peter 1:12).

 

It’s good to be reminded of things that matter – over and over again.

 

Parents remind their kids to brush their teeth, sit up straight, and say “please” and “thank-you” in the hope these will become lifelong habits.

 

Coaches remind their players to stretch before each game, stay hydrated, and keep battling all the way to the end, no matter what the scoreboard says.

 

Disciples remind other disciples that although it may seem there are already a million things on our summer To Do Lists, we really have just two:

 

Love God and love others.

 

If we excel at those two, everything else will follow. 

 

If you need a reminder of that in the days ahead, you might tie a string around your finger. Or use a string as your Bible bookmark.

 

Or better yet, when you have the chance, gently remind somebody else.

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