Does your church know where it is going?
by Don Morris, Mission USA director
When I have the opportunity to consult with church leadership groups about their purpose and vision strategy, I often use an airplane analogy to help them understand the importance of clear communication. Maybe I use this comparison because I fly so often.
The analogy goes like this: As we think about our church or church plant, imagine getting on an airplane to go somewhere. We know several people, but not everyone, boarding the big passenger plane. Most of us know the routine: people are stashing their luggage, finding their seats, getting to know the person they’re seated next to, putting their phone to sleep, etc.
For many on board, this is an exciting adventure. We’re going someplace! The plane fills, the flight attendant gives his mandatory safety speech and the plane backs out from the terminal. Soon, the plane taxis to the runway, ready for takeoff.
As the engines roar and the pilot eases his foot off the brake, the plane lurches forward and the people are mashed back into their seats—the plane is leaving the runway. Quickly the plane rises into the sky, “and the things on earth look strangely dim.” The clouds are beautiful, and everyone is enjoying the ride. There’s even free coffee and soft drinks. Everything is great.
Then the pilot comes on the intercom and says, “We’re so glad you’re aboard this flight to Detroit. Please sit back and relax.”
People begin looking around. Detroit? “I thought we were headed for the outdoorsy city of Denver,” says one man. Someone else says loudly, “Hey, I thought this thing was headed for Philadelphia—you know, the City of Brotherly Love!” “No! I distinctly saw Redmond, Ore., on the flight marquee. I don’t want to go to a big, risky city like Detroit!” Pretty soon it’s chaos, as everyone has a different destination in mind.
At the first stopping point in St. Louis, several people get off the plane in disgust. One can be heard saying, “Can you believe this thing was headed for Detroit? I’m outta here. I’ll just find a bus back home.”
Back on the now half-empty plane, no one is happy except for the pilot who is oblivious to the rancor in the passenger area. The plane full of people, happy when they boarded and took off, is now filled with disgruntled, angry, disillusioned individuals—and all because of poor communication about the destination.
When we plant new churches, we’d better know where we’re going. We’d better have a plan. We’d better communicate that well—over and over and over to those who are joining in. Otherwise, chaos will reign. And this is true for existing churches as well. Headed somewhere new? Excited about a new vision, new direction? Communicate well before takeoff! And not just over the intercom.