Everybody has them. You know, those days, sometimes weeks, months and even years when the things you hope for, wish for, pray for and even work for, just don’t seem to happen.
Recently I have been involved in an employment search. I am graduate level educated; I have not only skills, but experience; I have sent resume after resume and received rejection letter after rejection letter. Truth is, there are days when I simply would prefer quitting, giving up and being done with the search for that place where I can do great work and make other folks lives better. During these moments, as during other moments in my life, the one thing that keeps me hanging on is “DETERMINATION.”
We all need it, especially when losing heart is presented before us as a viable option and the intensity level of the discouragement we feel nearly overwhelms us and sweeps over us like an ocean wave.
Where does determination come from? Where do you get it? Usually for me it involves:
When we are hungry enough for what we are reaching for, determination becomes more powerful than discouragement and we press on, we move forward with every ounce of strength we can muster. Hunger/desire will take shape differently depending on the person, but for me, during this job search it means improving myself while I wait – reading, listening to helpful audio, cultivating my writing skills, and of course continuing to send apply for jobs. There are some things that I desperately want in life, so I keep going and also look for different strategies and approaches to take to get me where I need to go.
I realize that not everyone who will read this shares my Christian faith tradition. If you don’t perhaps for you it is important to tap into whatever source of strength and hope that is a part of your faith practice. For me, God is everything – life, breath, hope and strength that far surpasses my limitations. Looking to the God of all creation and trusting this Gods’ accessibility and provision is what helps me continue during tough times.
The truth is that we all have something(s) to offer the world. The truth also is that we all can be better versions of ourselves. Taking time to assess strengths and the specific areas where we need to grow is all part of the determination process. Need a class? Need to read a book or article? Need to connect with folks who know differently than you know? Growth is ALWAYS an accessible option – even with limited financial resources, there is always a way.
So, when all else fails keep holding on. Even when you claim strength, take a risk and then fail, and it causes you to doubt your strength/capability, and entices you to give up and refuse to try again; cry if you need to, regroup, get back up again (whether on your own or with the assistance of some friends), dust yourself off and keep trying.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact some days are just plain hard and make you want to throw up both hands and just scream! But after you do that, keep pushing forward – be determined!
Some of the most creative and helpful ministry ideas flow from environments where experimentation and implementation of ideas that differ from what an organization or church has never done. Though not a Christian organization, Apple, lead by Steve Jobs, by far is one of the greatest leaders in innovation. Whether its deciding after an extended period of specializing in computers deciding to create a phone, ipods, and more recently the iPad, their innovation is unmatched and they demonstrate that sometimes a deviation from the “norm” may be just what is needed to launch an organization or ministry forward into greater effectiveness and impact.
Sometimes innovation can be perceived as a threat and result in resistance in the heart, mind and actions of leaders. Here are some of the ways that squashing innovation gets played out.
Require Unchallenged Submission to your Authority – “why?” questions are deemed disrespectful/viewed as unreasonable to you; and no one should dare voice disagreement. If you tend to surround yourself with “yes” women/men watch out, your insecurities may be showing.
Dictate after you Delegate – Share position and responsibilities without handing over proper authority.
Say words like “we don’t do things that way here” (thanks to Seth Godin for this one) – By saying this you get obedience and submission but kill innovation.
Inadequately Resource a Staff Member or Ministry Area you Profess to Support – A church or organization’s budget speaks volumes regarding where their heart is. Enough said!
Does your organization or ministry encourage and inspire creativity and innovation or squelch it? In order to encourage innovation try doing the opposite of at least one of the above observations.
The stats are in – the American Church in many ways is not booming, it’s declining. According to research done by David Olson the church is not keeping up with the growth of the population. Some churches are closing, others are stagnant, and thankfully others are seeing exponential and continuous growth.
I am no expert, so please don’t read this with that expectation. However, as I have observed certain congregations I have concluded that at least some of the following could be reasons why many (not all) churches are either declining or failing to grow and then I will offer what I believe to be possible solutions. They are in random order.
#1 Answering Questions that No One is Asking
The world has changed and continues to change. Many of the issues our culture face in the 21st Century are vastly different from those of the previous century. Yet many churches fail to address relevant issues and apply God’s still relevant voice to those issues. Blowing the dust off of yesterday’s sermon illustrations, spouting off old cliches, and insisting on ancient music don’t draw many people to churches who are looking for hope and help. Listen to God and keep an ear toward culture and make the connection.
#2 Attachment to Outdated Methodologies
I have heard countless people criticize things such as contemporary worship songs, use of media, not having Sunday School, etc. No matter how much growth is experienced by those places who stay open to God’s ideas regarding some of the possible “how tos” of ministry today, still critics remain. Yesterday’s ideas may have been God given and we should celebrate those ideas. However, to insist on doing them forever is to close our hands to the rest of what God desires to give us and do through us. No, every church doesn’t need to have bells and whistles, but God does call us to forward movement – He has more.
#3 Solo Leadership Models and Practice
I’ve been wrestling with whether or not solo leadership is healthy for an individual and for local congregations. One pastor who does it all couldn’t be healthy. Even if the ability to have additional paid pastoral staff is not possible, it is necessary for the health of churches and leaders to give her/himself to the role of equipping others for ministry so that they share in the work God is doing rather than simply watch the solo pastor do it. The same is true for those who lead specific subgroups within churches. It makes sense to me that those individuals are not called to do all the work but to “pastor,” develop/train, and release those whom they lead into service.
#4 Self Reliance Over God Reliance
There’s a statement floating around and I am unaware of where it originated from so please forgive me. Here it goes. ‘If the Holy Spirit walked away from many churches today, things would still carry on as if He never left.’ Reaching a place where we believe that we are smart enough on our own and skilled enough on our own to be effective at the work of God is a bad idea. The Holy Spirit is the One who sustains and empowers us to have a significant impact.
Do the challenges mean that we should pack up our bags and go home? The Church is God’s organization and organism in the world, so that couldn’t be what we are called to. These challenges present us with an opportunity to do one central thing – CHANGE.
LIFE CHANGE – Everyone who ever encountered Jesus experienced change, whether in thought, behavior, direction or position. The change that Jesus brings about in us is not just for us but to cause us to live lives that draw others one step closer to Him. We’ll get stretched and it’s worth it!
STRATEGIC CHANGE – Every organization, the Church included, should have clear vision, goals that walk in the direction of that vision, and a power source to enable the execution of those goals by accessing the resources made available.
PRACTICAL CHANGE – Lofty vision and goals are good, yet they need to be fleshed out in a way that makes practical sense for those we are aiming to reach and do ministry with. Practical change should take place in our practices within congregations as well as in our approach to connecting with the needs of the people in the communities where our churches are located.
That’s what I think. What do you think? Share in the Comments below and let me know. I want to hear from you.