Why “Greatness”?

by vernsanders on December 13, 2011

This is another post in the aftermath of my just finishing the book Good to Great (read my “Humility Beats Charisma” by clicking here). For those who have read the book, I am doing the mental substitution of the word “church” for the word “company” or “business,” and reflecting on the great churches and their “comparables” that never seemed to be able to get to greatness. While this may not be “new news” to you, I’m adding my particular thoughts about things.

Near the end of the book, the author, in summing up, asks this question.

  • Indeed, the real question is not, “Why greatness?” but “What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness?” If you have to ask the question, “Why should we try to make it great? Isn’t success enough?” then you’re probably engaged in the wrong line of work.

I believe this is absolutely true. You may know this under the guise of “Follow your bliss,” or “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” In the church, we know this as being “called” to a ministry. But so many people don’t choose to follow their calling. I’m not going to either speculate, or condemn that fact, but it is a reality. It takes a certain amount of courage to follow a call, even if you don’t think you are “right” for the job (see Moses).

But if you are there “for the money,” you tend to approach your job differently. I call this the difference between being an employee and an entrepreneur. Now I’m willing to grant that in certain cases your survival under a charismatic leader (see my earlier article here), even as an entrepreneurial person, means taking on an employee mentality. Practicality, in the short term, can trump calling. But in the long run, in my opinion, you will be much happier working in a position where you are called, than not. And then the decision you have within your control is whether or not you are called to greatness.

A story, if you will permit.

I was not there, but I trust the source of this true story. A well known musical director/clinician was serving as an adjudicator at a festival where several ensembles were performing. It was a “rated” festival, in that each group got a “grade” as a result of their efforts. This particular clinician, who in their profession has almost legendary status, is, personally, a bit of a curmudgeon. After each group does their thing, this festival expects the clinician to verbally respond to the group’s efforts, perhaps drawing attention to something that can be improved upon, and working with the group to illustrate how it might be done better. When one particular ensemble finished their performance, there was a bit of a delay while the clinician finished writing on the adjudication sheets. The clinician then slowly walked to the stage, and went directly to the director. In what is now considered a classic statement, the clinician says to the director: “You should consider a different line of work, because clearly you are not fit to do this.” And then goes back to the adjudication table.

Are you called to your ministry? Just putting in your time? Ever known a colleague who needs to consider a different line of work? I’d love to hear your stories. Tell me about them by leaving a comment below.

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