A Matter of ‘Conch’ience!

The Body Builder

by Major Terry Camsey –

According to Webster, a conch is “any of various large spiral-shelled marine gastropod mollusks.” I mention this only because of something I learned a few years ago that I would like to share with you.

It has to do with catching conch in the South Sea Islands.

Apparently, years ago, the South Sea Islander fishermen used to catch conch and stack them in the boat until it was time to return to port. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun frequently ruined the conch caught (or is it caught conch?) so that the day’s effort was wasted.

Then someone had a bright idea. Why not catch the conch, drill a hole in the shell of each, tie them together and drop them back in the sea? Do you know what the fishermen found? Even after several hours fishing, when they returned to pick up the conch they were in exactly the same place they had been dumped. Each had been pulling in the direction it wanted to go and, as a result, attempts of the group to move were neutralized.

Doesn’t that sound a little familiar if you change the context?

It certainly has a familiar ring to Bill Hybel’s (of Willow Creek Community Church), if I understand his message on “Turning Vision into Action” recorded on video at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit ’98. This despite the fact that he leads a church with an attendance of thousands.

If I correctly interpret what he says, a concern has arisen because while there are a multitude of programs running at the church, many of them have been pursuing their own agenda. There has not been too much alignment with the direction the church as a whole aspires to move in. The “conch” as it were, though “tied together” in community, have been “treading water” compared to the possibilities if all were to agree and pursue a common dream.

A realignment process has, therefore, been under way to reconcile the activities of the various programs and groups with the overall direction intended for the church. Undoubtedly, if they all pull together, the result will be substantial improvement in the effectiveness of the church.

Now, as I say, Willow Creek is a mega-church and we have been reading recently in an LA newspaper that mega-churches are having to rethink their strategies. Doubtless, a straying of various programs from alignment with a commonly accepted mission is part of the problem. It is so easy over time for methods to be seen as an end in themselves instead of a means to some other end long since forgotten.

As we start to move in the direction of achieving visions now articulated at local corps/unit level (and divisional and territorial levels, for that matter), this issue of insuring that all sections of a corps (division or territory) work towards the same destination (projected vision selected at each level) will be a critical one.

Is it just vaguely possible that, for many years, we have seen little movement in some places precisely because too many individual programs were pursuing their own ends instead of those commonly agreed by the corps as a whole? If so, we know one thing we have to take care of if our visions are to be realized.

It’s a matter of “conch”ience, too. Isn’t it?

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