Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What is holding your church back?

In last Friday's post I quoted something from Rory Vaden's book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. Today, I want to share another topic he addressed in the book that I thought would be helpful to my readers. Towards the end of the book he emphasizes the importance of taking action. We can have the best of intentions, but if we never actually do anything we won't accomplish those intentions. Although we may acknowledge this is true, many of us struggle in the area of action. Why?

Vaden states there are three reasons we don't take the action we need to take.

  • Fear - We are afraid to take the action.
  • Entitlement - We believe we shouldn't have to take the action.
  • Perfectionism - We won't do it if we can't do it right.
As I read this section of the book I realized that every time I've hesitated in doing something I knew I needed to do one of these reasons was behind my hesitation. There's a good chance you would say the same about yourself.

The book speaks to each of these reasons so I'm not going into them here. I do recommend you read the book because it addresses a lot of things that will be helpful to those in church leadership.

When I speak to pastors and other church leaders about why their churches seem to be stuck, at least one of these three reasons are usually mentioned.

During my pastorate our denomination announced a capital funds campaign to increase our mission presence in the world. I challenged our church to give far more to this campaign than we had ever given before. The church voted to do that with only one person voting against it. The day after the vote I visited him and asked why he voted as he did. He explained that our church had struggled for years and things were starting to turn around. He felt we would fail to reach the large goal which would cause the church to become discouraged again. I told him I felt certain we could reach it if we were truly committed to world missions. At the end of the campaign we had raised over three times our pledge because we didn't let the fear of failure stop us from trying.

Perhaps the most common of these reasons is an entitlement mentality. Have you ever challenged your church to do something different in order to reach new people only to be told that they shouldn't have to do that? "Pastor, we shouldn't have to change our worship times. If people wanted to come to church they would come at the time we've had services for years." "I don't think we should have to sing different songs just to appeal to new people. The songs in our hymnals are good enough." These, and countless others responses, all reflect an entitlement mentality. "We're members of this church and we are entitled to do things the way we want!" Yea, that mentality is guaranteed to hold a church back.

I think perfectionism may be a bigger problem for us in the ministry than for our churches. We don't want to look like we don't know what we're doing, so we don't do anything until we are certain we can do it perfectly. The problem with that thinking is that no one can do anything perfectly the first time they do it.

The first time I preached in a church service I nearly rubbed the crease out of my pants. My hands were sweating and I kept rubbing them down the front of my pants trying to dry them off. When I got up to speak my throat was dry and it took all I could do to open my mouth. I had carefully prepared a message that I thought would fill the 30 or so minutes I had been given. I was done in ten.

I've now been preaching for over 30 years. I've led workshops for ministers across the US and in two provinces of Canada, given keynote speeches, and spoken to various service organizations. All of this is possible only because one night I was willing to preach a sermon even though I had never done so before. I knew I might fail, and I did! But I learned some things that night, and the next time was a little better, and the time after that was better, and so on. The fact is, after delivering thousands of messages I'm still learning and, I believe, improving. If we wait until we can do something perfectly before attempting to do anything, we'll never accomplish much in this life. Such an attitude will hold us, and our churches, back.

What is holding you or your church back? Is it fear, or entitlement, or perfectionism? You must overcome the thing that is holding you back if you want to begin to move forward. It may not be easy to do so, but it is doable.

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