Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Called to be Great?

Written by: on September 5, 2015

While reading Jim Collin’s Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, I found myself placing the material into three district categories; Things I Liked, Things I Found Curious, and Things I Struggled With.


Things I Liked

Two things that I particularly liked were the Hedgehog Concept and the “Not-To-Do” list.

The hedgehog concept is the art of finding the intersection of your passion, what you are best at, and your resource engine. “Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”[1] This concept works for individuals, businesses, and even churches. Over the years, I have seen so many churches grow frustrated as they try to replicate what is working in another church. How many small-town churches have modeled their ministries after urban or suburban churches? There is great wisdom in understanding who we are and how God has equipped us to minister where he has placed us.

A natural outflow of the hedgehog concept is the development of a not-to-do list. The simple truth is that we do not have enough time or resources to do everything. If we want to do that which is truly important, the things that ultimately matter, we must learn to not do certain things. “The point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”[2] How many things does a local church do that ultimately keep it from doing what it should really be doing?


Things I Found Curious

Since this book was written in 2001, it was easy to see that the “great” companies of fifteen years ago may not be that great anymore. Even though they met all the criteria in 2001 and had a great track record for a decade and a half, there was no guarantee that they would remain great. Circuit City—need I say more?


Things I Struggled With

What does it really mean to be the greatest? Is Collins right when he says, “focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness”?[3] If this is true, it would seem that very few companies could become great. If we apply this to a church, do we say that only churches with the best stats compared to others are great? What about individuals? Collins claims that, “many people have been pulled or have fallen into careers where they can never attain complete mastery and fulfillment. Suffering from the curse of competence but lacking a clear Hedgehog Concept, they rarely become great at what they do.”[4] Is there a difference between being the greatest at your career and being a great person? If so, what is more important and what should receive top priority? Even in a career, is it ok to be second best? How about third or fourth? What would Jesus say? When asked about greatness, he did not point to leadership potential realized or end of quarter earnings. He did not create a matrix of comparison between individuals, he talked about serving others.

I am not saying that we should not do our best nor am I saying that we should not become great at what we do. I am simply observing that all earthly greatness will one day come to an end and our definition of greatness better be more than a fifteen year stock quote. Could we not say that hearing the words “well done, good and faithful servant” is the ultimate test on one’s greatness?

[1] James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap–and Others Don’t (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, Kindle Edition, 2001), Location 1603.

[2] Ibid., 3302.

[3] Ibid., 1763.

[4] Ibid., 1775.

About the Author

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

9 responses to “Called to be Great?”

  1. Dawnel Volzke says:


    I like your application of the Hedgehog Concept at the individual level. God gives us each unique gifts and a purpose or calling, gives us a passion for our work, and provides us with resources to accomplish the task at hand. Too often, we pursue ministry work without pursuing the vocational calling that He has given us.

    You asked, “Is there a difference between being the greatest at your career and being a great person?” If we consider that our work is for the Lord, then we should strive to be great in all that we do. The Lord created me to do the work that I am doing, so therefore I don’t separate my work performance or career from who I am as a person. I am not perfect and there is always room for performance improvement. My pursuit to be great for Christ is continuous.

    In your ‘things that I struggled with’ section, I appreciate your statement that sometimes it is ok to be second. I’m not sure Collins intent is to drive unhealthy competition with other organizations, as I believe that he was indicating that it is good to benchmark. We need to look at good models in order to ascertain if there are things we could be doing better. As Christians, we do this when we strive to be more like Jesus. Too many organizations become complacent in their fulfillment of mission. In their acceptance of ‘less than great’, they fail to be good stewards of the resources that the Lord has given them. They go backwards or stay stagnant, but they fail to move forward. Often, they don’t reflect Christ to the world or internally to their own workers. This is why I believe there are more and more people turning away from organized religion. If our intent is to serve others, then we should continuously pursue how we can best serve them. We should aim to be effective, to achieve the best outcomes, and to reflect Christ accurately to others.

  2. Travis Biglow says:


    You are right about hearing Jesus say “thou good and faithful servant” even if we don’t measure up to many standards set by other churches and mainstream ministry. I have come to a place in my ministry that is frustrating and at the same time educating. I have not seen tremendous growth in my church and I have at times felt discouraged. But at the same time I am growing as a pastor and I have those who are faithful. And I feel that I should be faithful to them in giving them my best! So i think you are on point with how we determine greatness. And Jesus will be the ultimate one to tell us we were great anyway!

    • Brian Yost says:

      You make a great point. As a local pastor or a local church, we may not be the biggest or ever be considered great by some standards, but a local, seemingly insignificant church may draw people to Christ who fall through the cracks of a “great” church.

  3. Dave Young says:

    Brian, I have similar struggles. We know there are two world views always at play. The natural and the supernatural. So even with a really good work like what Collins offers we’re going to see things from a different worldview. So a concept like “focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness” – makes perfect sense under one view and is circumspect when you see things from the wider-broader Super natural view. Of course we can appreciate his perspective, and his research and even believe that it might have a shadow of the truth to it. For example I’d say “focusing solely on where God has gifted and called you will provide the eternal greatness”. Thanks for the thought provoking post. Can’t wait to reconnect in HK.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      And what about the times that we feel a clear and compelling instruction from the Holy Spirit to engage in activity that we can NOT EVER be the best at? What do we do with that?


      • Brian Yost says:

        Like being a parent? I have no pretensions about being the world’s greatest dad (in fact, my kids have never even humored me with a mug that says so), but I have been called to be a father to my children. I may not be the best, but I feel called to be the best that I can be.

  4. Mary Pandiani says:

    Your struggle with the “greatest” theme was another tack I was going to take in my own frustration with the book. It seems that our Western Culture has such a focus on that concept that we can miss out the value of “going second.” As I grow older, I realize that I may not accomplish the “greatest” work in whatever job I have by certain standards. But I can be faithful, and I think that’s what God is asking of me.
    Appreciate your reflection that included the “like, curious, and struggle.”

  5. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, Am I sensing a thesis change??? You could make millions writing the follow-up. I like you thought, “Even though they met all the criteria in 2001 and had a great track record for a decade and a half, there was no guarantee that they would remain great. Circuit City—need I say more?” Circuit City … you need not say more:)!

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