I don’t consider myself to be a mean person. I like to think I’m good with people. I’m mostly an extrovert. I’m a neck hugger. I tell people I love them regularly. I try to draw people out and show them I care. I’m not perfect. I have been known to act or speak in ways I’m not proud of, but for the most part, people would say I’m a nice person!
You might be a mean person, and you were hoping I would give you more permission! That’s not going to happen. Frankly, there are too many mean leaders out there today, yes, and especially, in ministry! Being mean about the vision is not about being mean to people. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Being “mean” is actually the best thing we could do for the people we lead! Being mean about the vision is very spiritual and very godly! Being mean about the vision ensures everyone understands, embraces, is inspired by, and is unified around, the vision for the churches we lead.
If you look up the word mean in the dictionary, you’ll see several meanings. One of them says that to be mean is “to be offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating.”  That’s the definition most of us think of first; but, that is not even the most common use of the word. The other definition of the word mean is “to have an intended purpose.” In this instance, the word conveys intentionality: We’ll say, “I didn’t mean that,” or “What I meant to say was . . . ” This is how we use the word most often, and this is what “being mean” is all about.
Being “mean” about the vision is being intentional about the vision. It’s intentionally protecting the vision over time. Being mean about the vision is living out the vision daily in our lives, keeping our hearts focused and aligned with it. It’s communicating that vision with clarity and energy. Being mean is moving in a consistent direction, and recognizing when the vision begins to drift. Being “mean” about the vision, you’re also intentional about protecting the vision at all costs.
If we’re not intentional about the vision, we will drift off course. Our church will cease to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. If that happens, our church will slowly lose its usefulness, until it will eventually die. Anyone want to sign up for that? I didn’t think so.
God tells us that where there is no vision people “perish.” Some translations say: “cast off restraint” (Prov. 29:18 NIV). In other words, where there is no vision, things and people die. Passions die. Dreams die. Energy dies. Where there is no vision people wander off in random directions. Without the “restraint” of a clearly defined and communicated vision, everyone will be pulling in different directions. We will have an absolute mess on our hands.
So what do we do? We keep the vision from dying in us. We keep reflecting on why we do what we do. We stay focused on what really matters. We say no to good things so we can say yes to the best things. We communicate the vision consistently and passionately. We keep the vision fresh and creative. We confront any potential signs of vision drift quickly. We deal with potential vision hijackers, people who might try to steal the vision and steer us away from what really matters.
So my question to you today is this: Are you being mean about the vision? Are you being intentional about the vision? Does your calendar prove it? Does your church calendar prove it? Do your conversations prove it? Does your budget prove it? This new year, will you commit to be more mean about the vision? If so, you’ll experience the fruit of a vision driven church: health, synergy, and tons of changed lives and eternal impact. Does anyone want that? I thought so.
 Dictionary.com, s. v. “mean,” accessed June 30, 2015, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mean?s=t
Shawn Lovejoy is Directional Leader for CourageToLead.com, a coaching ministry for pastors and churches. His new book Be Mean About The Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, released with Thomas Nelson publishers.