In their book, Built to Last Collins and Porras look at the factors that create exceptional and long lasting companies. The key contribution that the leaders of these companies make is to create organisational processes and training that carry their vision and values way beyond the limits of their own skills and timespan. It’s not about being a charismatic one person visionary, but about building a visionary company.
Collins and Porras illustrate this difference with the story of a man who stands in the town square telling the time. People know the time, but they’re depending on the guy to tell them and he’s stuck there doing the telling. What would be better would be if he built a clock so that everyone can know the time after he’s gone.
Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is “time telling”, building a company that can prosper far beyond the presence of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is “clock building”.
The ministry of Jesus seems to be principally ‘clock building’, rather than ‘time telling’. His focus was to impart a vision of the Kingdom of God, to equip the disciples to take the mission of God into the world after he had defeated sin and returned to heaven. In three years Jesus cast a vision that is alive and well two thousand years later. The ‘time telling’ that Jesus did was mainly by way of example to his disciples (though this is in no way to diminish his compassion for the poor). He wasn’t driven by the overwhelming needs of the people around him, but by a vision of disciples making disciples making disciples in every nation until the very end of the age.
As church in the west we have majored on training church leaders to be pastor teachers. This works fine for maintaining a congregation and building them up in the word. But we don’t seem to be so good at training leaders for the work of building the church to be a missionary organisation that’s inherently capable of multiplying itself.
Time telling, ministering to people, is an essential aspect of the life of a healthy church. But clock building, equipping people for ministry, is vital if we are to create organisations, ministries and churches that have multiplication built into their dna. I’m challenged by the implications for my own ministry (in the personal sense of passing it on) and, perhaps more importantly, the implications for the organisation I serve. If we’re to be truly missional, we need to make sure we’re ‘clock building’ at least as much as ‘time telling’, building in multiplication as well as ministry.