Let’s begin with a disclaimer: I’m no mechanic. I don’t know a lot about how car engines operate. Really, just enough to be dangerous.  (Which explains my driving.)

But I know the basics: keep it filled up with gas and don’t forget to change the oil.

Organizations are similar to car engines. So are churches. Teams. Even individual people like you and me.

The basics of a successful organization, church, team or even person are pretty simple: keep it filled up with gas and don’t forget to change the oil.

Creativity is like oil. It’s difficult to function efficiently (or have any fun) in its continued absence. Creativity lubricates the interactions of a movement or group, allowing teams to operate at a high temperature together. It enables all the moving parts of a thing to come together with minimal friction.

And like oil, creativity wears out over time and must be replaced. Part of the leadership gift is the ability to recognize when one round of creative thinking has run its course … and the complementing ability to lead a team into a new creative season. In other words, to change the oil.

Discipline is like gas. It’s not difficult to function without it, it’s impossible. Gas is a high-energy fuel. If you put a small amount of it in a tiny, enclosed space and light it up, it releases an astounding amount of energy. Car engines basically create hundreds of miniscule explosions of gas every minute, harness the energy those explosions release, and translate it into motion.

(Yup, I looked that up. And I am not ashamed.)

Like gas, discipline gets used up. But unlike oil, there’s no long window of opportunity to do something about it. A team that runs out of discipline won’t slowly begin to produce less results; it will find itself quickly stranded on the side of the road.

I used to think what we needed most to succeed as a church was a constant stream of fresh creativity. As a result, we spent our first few years changing the oil weekly, sometimes even daily.

Often while running dangerously low on gas.

The truth is it only takes one great creative idea to carry an organization for a significant period of time.

Apple doesn’t come up with a new product category every three months. Some might even argue that they need to change their oil more often. But no one would argue with how fanatically disciplined they have historically been about making rare inventions shine by regularly grinding away at the details until they get it right.

If you’re feeling stuck, it’s possible you might need a new, change the oil idea.

Or maybe you just need a fill up the gas determination.

The best organizations, churches, teams and yes, even people, experience just a few bursts of creative genius … supported by constant, tiny explosions of discipline.

Change your oil once in a while. Fill up with gas much more often.

Those are the basics.


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