How Leaders Affect the Future

June 21, 2019

How Leaders Affect the Future

I once served on a church planting committee for a large denomination. As a group, we were responsible for interviewing potential planters and gauging whether they would be able to successfully start a new congregation.

We had a myriad of assessment tools that we used but one in particular stood out. It dealt specifically with measuring the visioning capacity of the person. It would evaluate the person's ability to not only formulate a vision, but execute it as well.

The exercise rated particularly high on the predictive scale as to whether the person would succeed or fail as a church planter. What was equally intriguing about the test, was for every twenty-five applicants only one would qualify as having the ability to cast vision and execute it.

That was the ratio; 25 to 1. At first I found it hard to believe the statistics, but over time it became impossible to argue against them. One of the key factors was decision making. It wasn't just the way they made decisions but the how and the why behind them.

I've often wondered why the test wasn't standard requirement for every church leader. Time and again, the candidates who demonstrated keen visioning capacity were the ones who framed the bulk of their decisions in a particular way. There are two foundations in the church world for making decisions. They are:

  1. Pacify the Past
  2. Fuel the Future

There is technically a third, which is the present. But a focus on the present is nothing more than navel-gazing. Not only that, it likely means that you are doing nothing more than putting out proverbial fires while you yourself burn out from all the activity and little progress.

Decisions that we make as leaders tend to either pacify the past, or fuel the future. Because the way we make decisions, demonstrates what we guard the most. We either guard the past, or guard the future. Guarding the past will lead to making decisions shaped more towards keeping people happy and content. Over time, this becomes a certain recipe for irrelevance.

Now, I'm not talking about valid tradition or the continuity of the people of God over history, but I am talking about perpetuating modes and methods whose time has long expired. Which leads to the best option, fuel the future. Invariably, the candidates who scored high in the assessments, and who were considered the one out of twenty-five, were the ones who framed their decisions with the future in mind.

It is virtually impossible to create a compelling vision, one that will capture people's imagination and energy, if you're basing decisions on putting out present fires or pacifying the past.

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." — Warren Bennis

1 Response

Jeff Ste.Marie
Jeff Ste.Marie

July 04, 2019

Good morning Jon,

it has been some time since I last responded to your writing. The semester has been a full one, including a 9 day trip with 40 students to England and France. We were there for the 75th Juno Ceremony, a powerful day to attend. We also visited Beny Sur Me-Mer Canadian War Cemetary in Reviers, where I had paired up each of our students with a soldier whom they had to research. One of my students commented ‘there are a lot of 19 year olds here. He was 19, so I felt prompted to respond “ Consider how you currently spend your free time,it’s clear how they spent their’s’

I’ve just finished year 29 and God willing, I have one more to go. I appreciated this message from you, as it has affirmed some of the steps I am taking to ‘finish well’. I am the ‘longest person in the building, having spent my entire career at Laurier. Having been involved in many things over the years, teachers come and go without any knowledge of how various things happen, they just get done.

I’ve put it out there that next year I hope to mentor new teachers in all the volunteer roles I carry out, in order for things to carry on. While I have no guarantee that someone will pick up every torch I carry, I hope they will. There have been some decisions to be made that will project our tech department’s plans well into the future, and I have excused myself from them. I’m hoping the next person in my role will jump in with both feet as I have, and take a lead in casting the next chapter an seeing it through to fruition.

I enjoyed your England pictures Jon, I trust you and yours are well. Be encouraged in your writings Jon, you plant seeds of hope in the minds and hearts of your readers.

I shared recently at a retirement dinner of some fellow automotive teachers about the ‘faith of a farmer’, in this case, my brother in law. They own a huge dairy farm in Sussex NB, where we visited last January, to celebrate his father’s 90th birthday. David is the 3rd generation on the farm and he has just handed the reins to his son NIck. We were walking the land that had all the trees taken off, all the stumps had been pushed up in a long row. It looked like a battlefield after the battle. I mentioned that he should burn the stumps to help clean up the land and he was quick to say no. ‘I’m going to let them sit there and rot for 10 years, plow them into the land, add lots of manure, and grow corn here”. I saw ugly stumps, he saw a corn field. We looked at the same vista, just through a different lenses.

All the best Jon,


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