One of the greatest lessons I've learned in the past few years is about clarity. I agree with Will Mancini, self-proclaimed clarity evangelist, who says, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything." I've been learning this lesson in three areas.

Ministry Clarity

When I began the process of church planting, I found myself confused. I began reading all the church planting books. Everyone had a different model, and they were all sure that theirs was right.

I remember closing the books while on a retreat. I pulled out a journal, and began to write about the church I sensed God was calling us to plant. I incorporated insights from what I'd learned, but sensed that I needed to get clear about what God was calling us to do.

Since then I've worked on developing greater clarity with our team using Will Mancini's books Church Unique and God Dreams. We have a one-page summary of our mission, values, strategy, and marks. We also have a one-page planning document that summarizes our five-year vision, three-year vision, and one-year and 90-day initiatives.

I've served in churches that lacked clarity. It cost us. Looking back, I wish we had forced ourselves to wrestle through the process of gaining clarity about what God was calling us to do. Not only would it have prevented pain, but it would have helped our ministry.

Personal Clarity

I knew Will Mancini as the church clarity guy. A couple of years ago I heard Will talk about personal clarity. I attended every session that I could, and became hooked on the idea.

When I heard that Will as leading a personal vision cohort, I jumped in. The process was helpful, and I ended up with a two-page document that I have with me almost all the time. The first page outlines my mission, values, measures, strategy. The second page outlines what I'm working on using different time horizons: 3 years, 1 year, 90 days, and next week.

Here's what I wrote at the end of the process:

Over the years, I’ve tried many tools to help me get personal clarity. Most of them were helpful, but it always felt like I was missing something, or that the tools were too complicated to meaningfully guide my life.  The Younique Personal Vision Journey is the first one that has been comprehensive enough to encompass all of my life, and simple enough to use every day. I have greater clarity than ever before about God’s call on my life, and how to translate this into action.

Business Clarity

My wife and I are working on a new initiative right now. I'm excited about it, and I'll be writing more about it soon. We're working hard at getting clarity about what we are trying to do. I'm finding Business Model Generator helpful. When we're done, we will have a one-page document that outlines our business plan and clarifies what we hope to do.

I love the process of gaining clarity, so that every area of my life — ministry, personal, and business — is summarized in just a few pages. "It’s simple to make things complex, but it’s complex to make things simple," says Mancini. It's hard work to get to simple clarity, but it's worth it.


If you asked me which virtue I undervalued before, but value now, it wouldn't even be close. Hands down, I'd say clarity.


Personal Clarity

Personal clarity is knowing who you are. It's being clear about your identity, what you value, and what you're good at. Without personal clarity, it's difficult to set a course for life, or to evaluate choices. It's a process of discovery more than invention. It's hard work, but it pays off in spades.

I appreciate Will Mancini's work on personal clarity. I've also appreciated Younique Ability by Strategic Coach, Why You Can't Be Anything You Want To Be by Arthur Miller, as well as Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. Personal clarity is key.

Preaching Clarity

Haddon Robinson writes, "For preachers clarity is a moral matter. It is not merely a question of rhetoric, but a matter of life and death." Getting clear on the message of the text, and knowing how to clearly communicate that message to the audience in front of you, is crucial. Clarity is essential to good preaching.

Leadership Clarity

Marcus Buckingham says, "Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader.  If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear."

I know why clarity is so rare: it's costly. Its cost, though, is also what makes it so valuable.

Pursue clarity. As Will Mancini says, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything."

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

A Different Kind of Leadership

It’s not that I’m opposed to leadership. Quite the opposite. It’s just that I think we sometimes look to the wrong places for leadership wisdom, and this has disastrous consequences within the church.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that churches should run like businesses, and pastors should act as CEOs. No less a thinker than Jim Collins disagrees:

We must reject the idea— well-intentioned, but dead wrong— that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become “more like a business.” We need to reject the naïve imposition of the “language of business” on the social sectors, and instead jointly embrace a language of greatness (Good To Great And The Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great)

But we have to go even further. We have to ask ourselves why Scripture speaks of leaders so differently than we do. Joe Stowell nails it in his excellent book Redefining Leadership: Character-Driven Habits of Effective Leaders:

Because of our own inherent twistedness, the kingdom way will often seem counterintuitive, pragmatically unproductive, and upside down. Yet, if the leadership recommendations of Jesus seem upside down, think again.

Stowell’s book is a must-read. It contrasts outcome-driven leadership (our default) with what Stowell calls character-driven leadership. "Leaders who lead with moral authority elevate Jesus as the true and singular leader of the organization,” he writes.

I’ve been thinking of this again recently as I’ve looked at Paul’s approach to raising up leaders in fragile new churches throughout the Roman Empire. What kind of leadership does Paul look for? He looks for character; for people who exhibit the qualities of a disciple. He looks for people with Christlike character, a well-managed home, and an ability to teach and defend biblical truth (Titus 1). Jeramie Rinne summarizes Paul’s approach: "Better a godly elder with mediocre leadership gifts than a charismatic leader with glaring moral flaws" (Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus).

As I’ve said: I’m not opposed to leadership. I’m certainly not opposed to learning more about leadership skills. It’s just that we may need to tip the balance the other way and talk a lot more about leadership character, about leaders whose primary qualification is that they are enamored with Jesus. This quote from a sermon by Tim Keller has reverberated in my mind ever since I heard it, and I believe every word:

My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don't need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn't based on their performance.

That’s the kind of leadership we need.

The Number-One "Vision Problem"

I believe in the importance of vision and leadership. Still, I've grown almost allergic to the statements that seem to be so common about having and casting a vision. It's why I love this quote by John Ortberg in Ready, Steady, Grow, a book by Ray Evans. Ortberg says:

Vision is fundamental to the health of your church, but it’s probably not the kind of vision you’re thinking about.

Someone gets gripped by a vision that will not let them go. But it is not a vision of what they’re going to do. It is not a vision of a preferred future. It is not a vision of human activity. It is a vision of what already is. It is a vision of God, and how good he is, and how wonderful it is to be alive and a friend of such a Being.

Out of such a vision flow desires to do good things for such a God. Sometimes these activities may lead to results... And then other people may gather, and some decide they’d like to be involved...[But] people begin to pay more attention to what they are doing than to the reality of God.

At this point the mission replaces the vision as the dominant feature in people’s consciousness... people are living under the tyranny of Producing Impressive Results.

The number-one ‘vision problem’ with churches today is not (as is widely held) leaders who ‘lack a vision’. The real problem is when our primary focus shifts from who God is (a vision alone that can lead to ‘the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts’) to what we are doing.

Great quote. The number one problem with vision in our churches is that we lack a vision of God. Until we have that, almost nothing else matters.

1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The First Priority of Leadership

What’s the first priority of leadership? Character. It matters more than leadership techniques, skills, or even results. The results that matter, after all, flow from character.

I’ve been thinking about this recently in light of three different books: The Deep Change Field Guide by Robert Quinn, Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer,  and Redefining Leadership by Joe Stowell.

To my surprise, Palmer has a lot to say about leadership in Let Your Life Speak. Because pastors are (among other things) leaders, and “a leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there,” character is crucial. Palmer writes:

A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good.

Leaders, he writes, have a tendency to “project more shadow than light.” Positive thinking doesn't change this, and it also ignores some dangers:

By failing to look at our shadows, we feed a dangerous delusion that leaders too often indulge: that our efforts are always well-intended, our power is always benign, and the problem is always in those difficult people whom we are trying to lead!…If we do not understand that the enemy is within, we will find a thousand ways of making someone “out there” into the enemy, becoming leaders who oppress rather than liberate others.

Parker outlines five issues that we tend to face, including insecurity about identity and worth, a tendency to view everything as a battle, functional atheism (“It all depends on me”), fear of chaos, and denial of death. I think I've seen all five in leaders, including myself.

What is a good leader? Parker writes:

Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us into a place of “hidden wholeness” because they have been there and know the way.

It’s no accident that Scripture puts such high value on the character of a leader. It’s the difference between what Joe Stowell calls “character-driven leadership” and “outcome-driven leadership.” We need more focus on character. Character, Stowell writes, is the defining priority of leadership. His book, along with Let Your Life Speak and The Deep Change Field Guide, are striking similar notes.

We will inevitably project who we are. All the leadership techniques in the world will not change this. Apart from a character that is shaped by the gospel, we will project shadows. The first priority of a leader must be character: to be remade by the gospel, to experience the deepest change, to be the chief repenter, the most enamored with the gospel, and the most real about life.

Character is the first priority of leadership.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.