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Needed: Organizational Explosives!

So what do you need to blow up in order to move forward?

On a recent trip, I took a jaw-dropping train ride from Skagway, Alaska into the Yukon Territory. Built around 1900, it was considered an impossible engineering feat. It climbs from sea level to 3000 feet in 20 miles, through two tunnels of solid rock, over trestled bridges that weaken knees, and around cliff-hugging curves. A few decades ago the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad was designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, along with other sites such as the Eiffel Tower.

The first surveyors and engineers deemed it impossible. But then the London investors ran into an Irish-Canadian railroad builder named Mike Heney. Heney left them with this head-scratching line: “Give me enough dynamite . . . and I’ll build you a railroad to hell.”

In the end, it took him 450 thousand tons of dynamite. Along with thirty-five thousand men and ten-million dollars, Heney was true to his word.

While I’m not so sure about building tracks to hell, I am convinced that building anything of eternal significance requires blowing up a few things. After decades of pastoring and now working with churches, I’ve found that one of the hardest things for leadership teams to do is determine what to stop doing. There’s no shortage of good things churches can do. But the reality is: you can’t do them all. Focus is vital. I can guarantee there are events and programs in your church that should have been blown up years ago.

And it’s not the little quilt-making small group that’s been meeting every Thursday for twenty-seven years. That’s not a big rock. But if the leader of the group wants to make an announcement every other weekend about where they’re meeting, you’ve got a bigger problem: it’s the dreaded “announcement-time” boulder. Is what you’re announcing each week really advancing your vision and values? And how are you using those critical minutes in your services? What do you want to plug that’s mission-focused?

And that’s just a small example. What programs/events/contexts do you continue to use that have long lost their value and productivity and do nothing but zap resources and energy? This is not about making a few people mad; how you go about it is absolutely important. But there’s no way you can build a railroad of grace and power through rugged institutionally-religious, “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” peaks without some dynamite.

Q: What do you need to stop doing…in order to release resources to accomplish your true mission?


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