(Photo: Willow Creek Association)
Already in its second printing, a newly released book by one of the country's most innovative pastors is fast-becoming a must-read for church leaders who really want to have it.
After seeing his church grow from a two-car garage worship experience to now services at 13 different campuses in six states, Craig Groeschel, founder of LifeChurch.tv, talks about a transformational agent he calls "it" in his new book It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It .
"We didn't have a nice building. We didn't have our own office. We didn't have a church phone number ... What did we have? We had a few people ... We had enough Bibles to go around. And we had it," Groeschel writes, describing his church start in 1996, in the first chapter of the book.
You can name today the churches that have it, churches that had it but lost it, and some that don't have it, the LifeChurch pastor said at a recent leadership summit.
So what is it?
"The answer is 'don't know,'" Groeschel said as he addressed thousands of leaders at Willow Creek Community Church. "Honestly, I'm not totally sure."
It has a lot to do with the Holy Spirit, Groeschel believes, but that's not everything.
What he does know is that organizations that do have it possess seven qualities. They have a "laser focus," see opportunity where others see obstacles, have a willingness to fail, are led by people who have it, and have unmistakable camaraderie, among others.
Moreover, it is not a system or model, nor is it something that can be created, copied or manufactured, he says. God makes it happen.
And when churches have it, they see transformed lives but at the same time, those churches with it attract critics, many of whom misunderstand.
When LifeChurch was expanding to multiple different locations and incorporating satellite video teaching into the services, the church drew its share of critics, some of whom felt video sites created distance between the churchgoer and pastor or that video venues directed all the attention to one pastor (on screen).
Still, while LifeChurch was growing, not every campus had it.
"All of our campuses were under the same leadership. The buildings were similar. The worship pastors were unique but had consistent styles. The kids’ curriculum never varied from campus to campus. All were experiencing exactly the same weekend teaching. But some campuses had it. And some didn’t," Groeschel, who says it is still a growing idea, states in his book.
He illustrates this by showing that there was phenomenal growth at every LifeChurch campus except the one where Groeschel taught at live, in person.
He realized, "If you don't have it, you can get it. If you have it, you can lose it."
During the biggest periods of growth at LifeChurch, Groeschel had lost it, he says.
"When you do start growing, it really is easy to lose it," he says. "It's so easy ... to start focusing on numbers and start looking at the big picture rather than focusing on some of the individual stories and neglecting your individual relationship with God."
"Make sure you don't fall so in love with success [that] you fall out of love with Jesus," Groeschel warns church leaders.
Today, he says he has it.
But it wasn't a "one-point process" to get it back. Over a period of a year, he stopped listening to other pastors' messages and books and sought out God's Word; and he saw starvation in another country and death, he explained.
"Some of you, it’s time to let God break your heart again," Groeschel told leaders. "I pray you don’t sleep until you get it and fall in love with Jesus again."