I remember learning about BHAGs – big hairy audacious goals – and their importance in being a visionary leader who people would follow.

But lately I’ve been struggling to come up with BHAGs.

Sometimes I look at my goals for the year (yes – I do set goals at the start of each year!) and they look less than big, hairy and audacious. In fact they occasionally seem rather tame and uninteresting.

I am reminded of William Carey’s words ‘Attempt great things for

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God. Expect great things from God’ which is well and good if that is what God is asking of you.

Lately (the last two or three years) I have felt like God has been asking me to keep walking steadily in the same direction and in one sense that is a huge goal for me. I love change, variety, new initiatives and new challenges, but it seems the biggest goal of all at the moment is to keep walking the same line.

I think something has happened theologically to also cause me to rethink the appropriateness of BHAGs. I have no doubt that sometimes God gives people a dream and they must chase it to fulfill their own identity/destiny, but sometimes I wonder if BHAGs are a way of co-opting God to our own plans for self aggrandisement and personal achievement?

Or is that just me looking for a lazy man’s escape route?…

All this is not to say I don’t have a dream or dreams. I do, but annual goals are a little different!

19 thoughts on “BHAGs?

  1. You’re on to something! The more I become comfortable with who I am and what God wants me to do, the less I find myself interested in the big dreams.

    This maybe because I have let myself down in the past, but that may not have been a bad thing. I reckon I’d be a horrible, arrogant creature if I had’ve achieved those goals.

    This is not to say that what ahead isn’t big – I can’t comprehend how to jump the hurdles I have in front of me – but that’s just it. They aren’t my hurdles any more

  2. I agree. Two things impacted me in this regard. First, reading Nouwen’s “Genesee Diaries” taught me about discovering the sacred in the “mundane”. Second (and influenced by the first) came through a redefining of what makes a goal B, H and A. I have come to realize that there are some very simple (though not easy) choices I could make in my life and my community that aren’t going to garner any headlines, but are pretty hardcore.

    Like yourself, I don’t this means we dismiss BHAG’s, but rather that we are careful not to be distracted by the grand possibilities and rediscover and follow that still small voice.



  3. I think this kind of planning is very business-like. It is good to look ahead, to search God, even in a leader team – it is so easy to lock our focus at the here and now. But there is something with this focus that isn…´t right. The goal of setting goals is to end upp with a list of goals. The goal of searching God should be finding Him, shouldn…´t it?

    Can we settke for anything less?

  4. I agree with all that’s said here. Sometimes I reckon it’s too easy to become focussed on our goals and we lose sight of what God is doing in us, in the now. I think I am learning that God is just as, if not more, interested in the process than making that final mark, whatever it may be. God’s wisdom is different than ours.

  5. I wonder too if it relates to a stage of life and my own sense of identity.

    Pre-marriage and kids I was much more defined by what I accomplished (and I know that’s not always good) but since marriage and especially since kids I feel less driven to achieve and more challenged to live a healthy life.

    Its not to say achievement and health are incompatible but for me as a single guy and as a young married bloke I was highly driven and sacrificed much to achieve what i did.

    I like Gordon Macdonald’s book ‘Ordering Your Private World’ where he focuses on the difference between living as a called person and living as a driven person.

    For one who is achievement oriented this place is a really hard one to be in, but I also sense that to simply concoct some stuff to achieve would be complete nonsense also!

  6. to me, it entirely depends on how you define “great”, but i would suggest that if you’re not being pushed in your life to extend yourself in faith (ie. trusting God in something bigger than yourself), then i think you’re missing something.

    so, i’m personally a great fan of bhags, but i believe that they are best defined by God through prayer and seeking his will for our lives, and then the exercise of a lot of faith as we go after God’s goal for us.

    so, i actually like the BHAG terminology a lot because it reminds me that it’s about faith not my efforts.

  7. Mate I think that the problem is that our culture has redefined what BHAG are. We are obsessed with size as it legitimises us to a culture that measures things in this way. Maybe a true BHAG is to keep going with what we have rather than always looking for things to distract us. The distractions can look like the cultures forms of BHAG so are legitimised but really thay stop us being failthful with what God has called us to.

  8. Here’s a quote I came across a while ago which put me back on my heels – I don’t completely agree with it – probably because I believe that all of our goals MUST come out of our conversations with God to be authentic – but it has a niggling element of truth which I find disturbing:

    “God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.

    When things do not go his way, he calls an effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he first becomes an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together”, quoted from from “What We Have Uncommon”, Kevin Miller, editor at large, LEADERSHIP magazine. Winter edition, 2003, p. 10.

  9. IMHO If WE are planning it (which seems to be the when these BHAG’s are born – at strategic planning retreats or vision meetings), then it might have less to do with faith and more to do with an honest desire to DO something big and hope that God might help us along the way.

    Funny how language means different things to different people Ob1 – the way i look at it is if a BHAG is truly a faith move, then it is simply a response to the Spirit and the word “goal” seems quite out of place in this realm as it highlights our effort instead of focussing on God.

    Personally, I’m skeptical of the concept that most of our goals involve a destination drive ie. completion = goal success, instead of a journey of constant learning, with the destination rarely coming into our attention.

    But then again, I’m not responsible to for leading a congregation of people to a 5 year vision, which i appreciate may mean destination might have a higher level of importance for those who are.

    I have come to believe that if certain things like – my personality, life stage, faith stage are goal and destination oriented ie, “doing-oriented”, then BHAG’s (and their blood relatives KPI’s and Stategic Plans) will be like a bone to a starving dog and God can and does use them to move and challenge and shape some of us along the way.

    But for those of us who do not need to be at a certain place by a certain time (possibly a personality trait, a life stage or a faith stage too), and are more interested in simply “being”, BHAG’s just don’t have that much appeal, AND God can and does move and shape and challenge us outside of them too.

  10. That is a great quote Barry and something I used to feel when leading a church because I wanted it to succeed and develop and I felt largely responsible for it.

    I know others didn’t share my goals and sense of responsibility – at least not in the same way.

    So there was at times disappointment with the people, with God, and with myself.

    I am not at all opposed to living a planned and intentional life – but these days ‘goals’ come more from trying to discern what God is saying to me is important rather than from what will earn me kudos.

    To be honest though I’d like a few esteem raising goals that I could sink my teeth into because it always makes me feel a bit more worthwhile and like I am accomplishing something.

    I have actually been trying to think some up, but they just aren’t coming… Wouldn’t it be foolishness to simply invent some BHAGs so that I could feel like I was pushing myself?

    This is one of the difficulties of a business approach to church leadership. The flip side is that when BHAGs or even goals are taken out of the equation then there is great potential for laziness and a squandering of gifts and abilities.

    Is there a balance?

  11. I had forgotten earlier, but it my more goal-driven days, I came across this in James 4:

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, “If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.

    After reading this, I realised that “BHAG”s can actually be a way of boasting before the end game.

    Instead of setting lofty goals, perhaps we should focus more on what we know we should be doing?

  12. As per normal, I disagree with some of the sentiment here. 🙂

    I believe in goal setting, and in risk taking. Does not mean I do it well, or have the courage to follow through on my own convictions, but then I have feet of clay too.

    If you dont set goals, maybe its because you are

    1. lazy

    2. fearful

    3. complacent

    I admire people who set great big goals, if it contains risk, it means you need God. It is the opposite of arrogance, which says you can do it all yourself.

    “”Tell the students to give up their small ambitions” — Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan

  13. I find I’m good at setting goals, but the processes of completing those goals are harder for me.

    I know that I am competitive, task oriented and goal driven so I’m trying to learn how to get the processes in my life right so that goals work themselves out.

    Goals are good (especially if you’re playing one of the myriad football codes) but can easily transform us into one dimensional driven people.

    Hamo I’m also a big fan of “Ordering Your Private World” and am trying to become more called, less driven.

  14. “I admire people who set great big goals, if it contains risk, it means you need God. It is the opposite of arrogance, which says you can do it all yourself.”

    I’m not sure that planning massive, risky things to achieve and then asking God to put his seal of approval on it is anything but arrogance?

    But maybe i’m misunderstanding you Mark???

  15. I agree with your sentiment otherendup.

    Its always difficult to know when it is Gods direction, and when its your own ego.

    We can probably all cite examples of mans ego, and maybe there are some who can think of times when God called, but His people failed to act. Not just biblical examples, but churches we know of.

    So the answer for me is found in discovering a God sized vision for your life/ministry with humble dependant prayer, meditation, consultation with other mature Christians.

    Presumption and pride are attributes are to be avoided but so are lethargy, apathy and fear.

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