You want change, but can’t make it happen... Now what?
Is there anything worse than KNOWING exactly what needs to be done in order to fix a glaring problem at your church, and yet at the same time being completely powerless to make the changes necessary to fix it?
For me, this feeling is never more acute than when I’m at a conference and with our Seeds Conference coming up, I can’t help but remember all those old feelings. It’s exhilarating and depressing all at the same time because right from your cushy conference seat you can plainly see a solution to your church’s biggest challenges!
You can see it now: Everything would be better...
...if they’d just let me spend a little more money!
...if they would just stop doing this!
...if I could just get them to fire (fill in the blank)!
... if I could just get them to hire (fill in the blank)!
Any of these sound familiar?
Of course they do, and yet, as you know all too well, you often have no authority or influence to get any of your amazing decisions done.
Yeah, I think we’ve all been there. So how do you deal with the desire to initiate change when you don’t really have the power to change anything? Well, here are 3 tips for doing just that:
1. REST IN YOUR CALLING
It doesn’t matter if you work for the greatest church or under the greatest leader known to man, there WILL BE times when you feel frustrated with the decisions of the people above you. It’s inevitable, so just accept that it happens in even the most ideal situations.
Think about this: Even Jesus’ followers got frustrated with his decisions from time to time. They thought he should liberate Israel from the Romans and they certainly didn’t think he needed to go to the cross. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that they were wrong and so it’s easy to dismiss their point of view, but regardless of whether or not they were right or wrong, it doesn’t change the fact that they were frustrated with some of his choices.
My point is this: when you get frustrated, and you most certainly will, always go back to your calling. Focus on your location and not your trajectory. In other words, are you in the place God wants you to be, regardless of whether or not everything seems to be heading in the direction you’d like for it to?
I can’t tell you how many times I was convinced things at Church on the Move would NEVER be just as I wanted them to be, and if I’m being honest, I was really frustrated about it. But over the years, I learned that in times of frustration you always go back to your calling. “Am I at the right place?” For me, the answer was always a definitive “yes”, so even in spite of my frustrations I knew I was in the right place and was able to rest in that, knowing that God would have to work out the things I could not control.
Are you in the right place? If yes, put your head down and keep working. If you’re not sure, you owe it to your church and your pastor to find out. I’d encourage you to do some soul-searching through prayer and ask God where you’re supposed to be and then rest in that.
2. FOCUS ON THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
So often because we can’t do what we want to do, we let that stop us from doing what we could do. I’ve often found that when I choose to focus on the things I can control, somehow progress is made on the things I can’t control.
Remember the parable of the talents? One guy was given five talents while another was given only one. You know what that tells me? Not every situation is fair and not every situation is ideal. There’s no doubt that having five talents is better than having only one, but the master who gave out the talents didn’t insist that the man with only one talent earn five more. He simply wanted him to make the most of what he had. Remember, God will never hold you accountable for actions and decisions outside of your control, but you will be held accountable for the actions and decisions you can control.
Proverbs 18:16 says “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” When you choose to focus on the things you can control instead of worrying about the things you can’t control, it gains you influence with leaders and they’re more willing to listen to your point of view because you’ve proved that you know what you’re doing.
In my experience, pastors aren’t in the business of rejecting good ideas, it’s just that in almost every case they have a LOT more riding on the success or failure of your church than you do, so consequently, they’re often much more careful about making changes than you or I might be. That’s why when I prove myself faithful with the small task I’ve been placed over, it earns me a place at the table later on when it comes to discussing the big stuff.
3. BE PATIENT
As I said before, there have been many times at COTM where I was convinced that we would never change because I was just certain I knew how it was all going to work out.
Several years back when I was serving in our youth ministry with Angie Woods, now one of my closest co-workers and a huge contributor to our team, we were having a conversation about her future at COTM. In that conversation she confided in me that she wanted to work to produce our weekend services at COTM as she had done for several years in our youth ministry. And to be honest, I wasn’t very optimistic in my response to her. In fact, I pretty much told her I thought her dream was just that: a dream. At the time, I was convinced that our church had already made most of the changes we were going to make but boy, was I wrong. Within two weeks Angie and I had moved out of youth ministry and into our current roles of producing our weekend services. I had no idea what was just around the corner.
The fact is, if God wanted you to be in charge of making all of the most important decisions in your church, he’d have made sure that you were in a position do it. I remind myself all the time that if God wanted to switch me and my dad’s birth order he could have easily done it, but he didn’t. Obviously, there’s a reason I’m in the position I’m in, so I might as well make the most of it.
Looking back, if I could have made all the changes I wanted to make, when I wanted to make them, I would have ruined our church and we would have lost the opportunity to reach many of the people we’ve been able to reach. Sometimes we’re so convinced that we’re right that we never even consider the possibility that we might be wrong. So learn to be patient and look for what God wants to teach you in the frustrating seasons and be ready, because you never know what’s just around the corner.