A generation ago it was not uncommon for a churches to have bus ministries. Volunteers would drive a bus to pick people up from around the community and shuttle them to and from the church. Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good to Great, seems to suggest churches still need to get people on and off the “bus”. But Collins, if we apply what he writes to ministry, has a more allegorical idea about the Church Bus:
The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.
Collins’ insight offers great wisdom to those leading churches and minstries. Thom Rainer picks up and develops this idea, in his book Breakout Churches, calling it the Who/What Simultrack. I am certainly giving it serious consideration as the church I have the privilege to pastor, Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church, gives thought to our mission and vision.
First, I think Collins’ observation is consistent with Solomon’s counsel of Proverbs 15.22:
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Anyone can offer a two-bit opinion. But to gain wise counsel we need the insights of the right people.
Second, it reminds me that people are at the very heart of God, not necessarily success. To be successful a church must focus on people. People are our mission, not programs.
Third, it inclines me toward humility. If Collins is right (and I believe he is) then I cannot do this alone. I need the people God will bring into the picture, or will put on the bus, in order for us to be what God intends us to be and do what he has purposed for us to do. We have already seen examples of that, as God has brought certain people, and their gifts, to add to those who were already aboard.
Fourth, it promotes patience. There are people who we need to get on our bus, but they won’t get on until we get to their stop. It is foolishness, and counter-productive, to assume that the people already with us will do all we need done; that they will do what God has not desgined them to do. We must patiently depend upon God to introduce us to the people he wants to use. As Rainer points out: Better to leave a postion unfulled for a long time than to rush to fill it with the wrong person.