U2 and organizational greatness

U2 released No Line On The Horizon, which is growing on me.  It’s quite a departure from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which I loved.  I was reading an interview with the band on CNN.com, and I was struck by the last statement from drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.:

We were always labeled “big” — you know, “U2’s a big band.” And you want to be a great band, and I think that’s one of the reasons we stick at it. There’s still work to be done.

Wow.  Some people might read this and think pretension.  I thought just the opposite.  For a guy who has spent most of his life in the biggest band in the world, he realized that big and great are not the same thing.  You can be big and suck as a musician (I could name some examples, but that would be mean).  Or you can strive to be great and your audience will find you.

Organizationally the desire to be big is a killer, for churches, business start-ups, whatever.  If your desire is to be big you are simply a balloon, Balloon’s pop when they get to big.  If your desire is to great, then you start with substance instead of air.

For the church, it is so easy to just want to grow, but I’ve been in enough big churches that were just that, big, they weren’t great.  And I’ve been in some small churches that were really great.  The small church knows that there is work to do.  Sometimes it’s harder see where you can grow when your desire is just to be big.

To stretch the metaphor a little more, look at the human body.  It’s easy to get big, just consume, consume, consume, and don’t strain yourself.  You’ll get big.  It’s a lot harder to get strong.  You have to consume, and exercise, and you have to monitor your body, and make sure that you are on track.  You set goals, and you work towards them.  You can be big and strong, or you can be big and flabby.

If your goal is big, that’s easy.  If your goal is strong (great) you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.  And it’s totally worth it.

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