I was reading some business blogs the other day and came across one in Entrepreneur magazine. The president of Fusion Logistics, Joe Judson, was waxing eloquent on one of the measures of success, interest versus commitment, and it got my mind spinning about some church leaders I’ve worked with.

Many church leaders are interested in growing their churches. They read the right books, they attend the right conferences, and sometimes they even contract with the Effective Church Group to do a consultation. The fact is, most of the church leaders I run across are interested in church growth. But perhaps not surprisingly, virtually none of these church leaders are growing churches.

Interested people are, shall we say, interesting. They spend significant time learning and watching and attending and occasionally they even dabbling. But when push comes to shove… even when there’s not much pushing or shoving… church leaders interested in church growth aren’t willing to apply what they learned. They may know all the right things and have access to all the right tools, but knowing isn’t doing. They know a lot about church growth. If we go by the latest church growth statistics, we know that about 85 percent of church leaders are at best interested in growing their churches. Interested

On the other hand, I work with a handful of committed church leaders. These are the men and women who don’t just know how to grow a church – they’re actually growing their church. Statistically, we know about 15 percent of church leaders are more than interested in growing their churches… they’re committed to growing their churches and are willing to do whatever it takes to do so. They’re not just interested – they’re committed.

Committed Church Leaders Invest

It’s one thing to casually read an article, a book, or attend a conference. It’s another thing to invest. For instance, over the past year we’ve been leading a series of conferences on the four things that grow churches. We’ve found that those who attend and are just interested in the topic tend to sit back, cross their arms, and listen attentively, but are regularly the first ones to tell us why it won’t work in their setting. During the conference we provide a strategic planning worksheet for each of the core processes – and the majority of the interested church leaders go home with four blank strategic planning pages.

Committed leaders don’t just attend a conference. They don’t just read a book or a blog or a magazine. They’re reading or listening and evaluating – not if this will work, but how it will work. What would they need to do in their context to leverage what they’re learning? At the four things conferences, they ask questions too – but they’re asking how to adopt and adapt. And when they leave the conference, their strategic planning pages are filled with scribbles and bullet points and time lines. They haven’t spent their time – they’ve invested their time.

Committed Church Leaders Practice

Knowledge is good. Wisdom is better. But best is when church leaders practice what they’ve learned. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting out there and doing – engaging what they’ve learned. But rarely does a new skill become second nature – or even effective – without practice. For instance, becoming a polished speaker doesn’t happen just because you stand up and preach week after week after week … you’ll only become more comfortable with what you’re already doing. Polished speakers practice. They video record themselves and watch themselves to see how they’ve done. They add a tweak here and make an adjustment there.

 Reportedly, Dr. Jerry Batson, my New Testament professor, was committed to “losing” his Southern accent. To do so, he listened to national news reporters with their midwest accents. Then he’d record his own voice as he preached each week. He would listen to the recording and take note of the words that were “different” than the reporters. Then he’d practice until word by word, phrase by phrase, he put aside his accent. Listening to him, only the most critical voice analysts would likely ever guess his Southern roots.

Committed leaders aren’t satisfied with just giving something a try. They prepare and evaluate and adjust until their actions get them the results they’re looking for.

Committed Church Leaders Engage

Although practice makes perfect, if you never take the stage in front of a live audience, all that practice is a waste of time – at least in terms of getting results. Committed church leaders engage what they’ve learned and practiced. They do more than take it out for a stroll, but they commit to doing things differently, even if it’s uncomfortable. For instance, church leaders at the Four Things Conferences learn how to manage their time to maximize and facilitate their church’s growth. We know that at least 85 percent of the attendees are not making the time management changes they’ve learned – largely because doing so means making a significant change in their priorities. But the 15 percent – they’re going home, looking at their time management strategic plan, and engaging the process. And when they do, they see the results they planned for and expected.

This is the key difference between those who are interested and those who are committed. The committed church leader gets busy doing what they’ve learned. By and large, they don’t know anything more than the 85 percent who read the right books, subscribed to the right magazines, and attended the right conferences. But knowing something doesn’t grow churches, it doesn’t reach the unreached, and it won’t grow the kingdom. It’s interesting – committed leaders seem to innately know this and so they invest and practice and engage what they’ve learned. And committed church leaders, the 15 percent, are growing their churches because they’re interested in more than just being interested. They’re interested in commitment.

Question: How have you helped your church leaders from being interested into being committed? Share your insights in the Comments section below.

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