I was blown away once again by our church’s unbelievable unity. We just held a business meeting where we unanimously voted to redirect our building fund from building a new worship facility to investing in a completely different model and direction. Not only did we completely change the last seven years of planning (complete with countless hours of blood, sweat and tears) but the mood of the meeting was one of excitement!
How can you turn failure into excitement?
1. Hold your plans loosely. Visioning and goal setting are statements of faith. They give us an opportunity to see God do things we would never have imagined. But these goals and dreams are always forged through imperfect people living in a world of uncertainty. We are not God. We cannot see what the future holds. We attempt great things for God but we are keenly aware that He has the right to veto any plan at any time. The Bible says, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word.” (Proverbs 16:1, GNB) and in James 4:13-16:
“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.”
2. Discern the difference between resistance and redirection. Every dream is laced with difficulty. Nothing worth doing is easy. To accomplish something great you must expect great difficulty and learn the power of perseverance. The Apostle Paul said, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT). Winners never quit and quitters never win. However, leading God’s people to accomplish God’s purposes is fraught with complexity. A discerning leader has to be open to the reality that God may be redirecting us to accomplish the same purpose but with a different pathway. Sometimes God uses strange circumstances to redirect us as was the case with Balaam and his talking donkey. “But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.” (2 Peter 2:16, NLT) Listening constantly for the voice of God’s GPS declaring, “Recalculating route…turn here!” allows us to wisely course correct when He directs.
3. Marry your mission; date your model. Andy Stanley coined this term in his book, “Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend” One of the traps church leaders fall into is to reverse this order. All leaders start out in love with the mission: Reach the lost at any cost! Beginning with a passion to do whatever it takes, we do exactly that. We try new things. We think outside of the box. We take big risks. We set out on a grand adventure with little to lose and the world to gain. That entrepreneurial spirit serves us well to get started but can be disastrous once those new things start working. No one in their right mind wants to change what’s working. And yet, therein lies the paradox of ministry. Because what’s working today has a shelf life. It probably won’t work well in about 5 years. In ten years it will become stagnant and after that possibly toxic. The critical diagnostics that every church leader must ask themselves every year is “Do I love people more than I love our programs? Do I care more about those we have not reached than those we have (see Luke 15:1-7 if that statement bugs you)? Am I willing to look honestly and perhaps painfully at what we’re doing now and evaluate it based on effectiveness rather than my own personal attachment or emotional investment?”
Is it hard to let go of your plans? YES!
Is it emotionally draining? YES!
Is it exhausting to go back to the drawing board? YES!
Is the destiny of people without Christ more important than my plans? Of course!
Therefore, once again, I lift up the plans, programs and strategies of this church to her true Leader and humbly declare, “Lord, this is your church; these are your people. I am here to do all I can with all I have for as long as you give me. May my agenda always be written on an Etch-a-Sketch held in your wise hands.”
PS – Interestingly, the very day I was preparing my thoughts to share our new direction with the church, I came across the following article: http://thomrainer.com/2013/12/09/seven-reasons-why-church-worship-centers-will-get-smaller/