Leader to Leader, Leadership

Stop Saying “Going Forward”

April 25, 2017 | Posted by Billy Brath

“Going Forward”

Have you noticed the use of this phrase increasing over the last few years?

At first, it was used by the news media to transition interviews or reports to speculation on the future as it relates to the topic at hand.

Over time, the phrase settled in as a way for people to move on from or even ignore the impact of the current issue or scandal and look out into the distance, thus moving the hearer into an idealized view of the future.

The phrase has even made it onto academic no-no lists: Washington State University List of Errors

I admit it is a tempting phrase. I love thinking about the future, what things could be like, where we should be heading. In fact, it is a big part of my work with LCEF (VisionPath)!

Yet there is one big difference between working towards a future vision and using this phrase to get out of the present.

“Going forward we seek to care for…”
“Going forward we will be mindful of…”
“Going forward I will take better care of my health.”
“Going forward the Miami Dolphins will be a better football team”

These statements are fluff — especially the last one — come on Phins!

These are worded to move us from the current truth to a possible future which allows us to ignore whatever the real issues are or the work that needs to be done today to change things.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying.

Vision statements are powerful and necessary to propel us where God wants us to go. Great vision statements motivate people to work and cause real systemic shifts that have a lasting impact. Most importantly, vision statements don’t stand alone in some fluffy future. They are bound to the present via mission statements – the “how we get there” words.

This interdependence of Vision & Mission keeps organizations (congregations!) and their workers (God’s kids gathered) looking to the future as they work in the present.

Here’s the point: God has placed you where you are today.

Do the work of the today in the context of where He is driving you. No, the future is not always clear, especially with our sin-clouded mind’s eye. Yet even in our daily messes and confusion, God is directing and guiding by His Spirit. Don’t skip over this truth by throwing out phrases like “going forward.”

Enjoy the work of today.

Going forward, my prayer is that… (Oops, so tempting! How about I make the prayer today…)

My prayer is that we enjoy the work God gives to us every day. Some days may be hard, confusing, and downright messy, but don’t dismiss it. Instead lift today up and ask God to bless it all, that by His power all that we do will work together for good and lead us all to future He has for us.

Billy Brath
Billy Brath serves as Director, Ministry Support Advancement, of Lutheran Church Extension Fund. Helping leaders and ministries revive their sense of purpose and reach their creative potential is a great joy for Billy.