What’s your BHAG?

By Scott Armstrong

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama XIV

I’m a fan of Jim Collins, a writer and business researcher.   Although the word may have been coined earlier, I believe Collins popularized the term “BHAG” in his book Built to Last.  What’s a BHAG? It is an acronym for a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.”

“A BHAG engages people– it reaches out and grabs them in the gut, Collins says.  “It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.  People ‘get it’ right away; it takes little or no explanation.”

Every company should have a BHAG.  All companies have goals. But there is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge– like a big mountain to climb.  Collins uses as an illustration the moon mission in the 1960s.  President John F. Kennedy and his advisors could have gone off into a conference room and drafted something like “Let’s beef up our space program,” or some other such vacuous statement.  Yet, Kennedy proclaimed on May 25, 1961, “that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

That, my friends, is big, hairy, and audacious.  But it is also specific.  Dangerously so.  Given the odds, such a bold commitment was, at the time, outrageous.  But it proved to be a powerful instrument for driving the United States forward towards the seemingly unreachable. 

How many Christians have “land-a-man-on-the-moon” goals like that? As churches do we reach for the stars, or are we satisfied with admiring a two-story office building?

If every company should have a BHAG, then every Christian, every church, and every ministry even more.  After all, unlike businesses, we are not trying to sell more widgets or make more money.  Our mission is global impact and transformation!  Plus, we are serving the All-powerful King of Kings and Lord of Lords:  why would we not dream big and set some crazy, lofty goals? No matter how big they are, they cannot be as big as his for us!

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The apostle Paul describes it this way – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Eph. 3:20).

BHAGs for the Christian are based in a God who does immeasurably more than even our biggest requests and dreams.

To highlight this, I’d like to direct us to two times when God-incarnate himself was amazed.  These stories should also help us to see the relationship between a big, hairy, audacious goal and a big, hairy, audacious faith (should we call it a BHAF?).

In Mark 6, Jesus finds himself in his hometown where everyone hears him teach, sees his miracles, and literally takes offense (v. 3).  They knew Jesus!  They saw him grow up.  No way could he be the Messiah!  “Nothing to see here, folks!  Just the carpenter’s little boy trying to act like someone he isn’t.”

“He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (v. 5-6).

Well, that’s one way to amaze Jesus.  The Son of God was stunned at their pettiness and lack of belief.

But another passage shows us a better way.  In Luke 7, a centurion goes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant.  No need for the pomp and circumstance of Jesus coming all the way to his house.  The centurion believed that Jesus could heal his servant with just a single word.

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (v.9).  The man was healed that very hour.

Two different times Jesus was amazed:

  1. Lack of faith
  2. Great faith

If Jesus looked at your faith level, would he be amazed at how big, hairy, and audacious it was? Or would he be amazed at your small thinking?

Craig Groeschel, founder of the visionary and growing LifeChurch.tv, asks us to think about this last week of our lives.  What great faith steps did you take in the last week? Did you attempt something so bold that it was bound for failure unless God was in it? What did you pray for? If God answered every one of your prayers in an instant, what would be different not just for you, but in the world? 

“Some of you, if you prayed great prayers,” Groeschel says, “would have found a cure for cancer or solved a hunger problem, saved a marriage, or had kids adopted into families. That would be great. Others of you would have your food blessed. And you would have traveling mercies to Grandma’s house. What would be different in the world if God answered yes to your prayers and it would be immediate? For some of you, nothing would be different because you didn’t pray and you weren’t bold.”

It is an insult to God to think small.  It is a complete misrepresentation of his character.  It may sound silly, but I am becoming to believe that not having a BHAG that we have prayerfully and daringly developed is an issue of sin.  It is, indeed, a lack of faith.

So what’s the BHAG God has given you? If you don’t know, then it is imperative that you spend time seeking God’s face and the “immeasurably more” that he has.  It will probably need to be developed and polished in community, too.  Make sure it is clear and focused.  And then let that shape your prayers and actions in the coming days.  You – and the entire world – will be forever changed!

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