By Bill Easum
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13. I wonder how many church leaders really believe this? More importantly, I wonder how many live as if they believe it? This text raises several questions-“What would I change about my life if I truly incorporated this text into my life?” “Would it change the way I go about ministry?” “Would it change the way I plan for the growth of my leaders and my church?”
It’s been my observation that great leaders envision what seems to be an impossible goal and then push the envelope until they find their limits of possibility.
Axiom One: The only way to know the limits of possibility is by pushing through them to the impossible.
Great leaders have the willpower and persistence to “push through” the normal and the everyday to the otherside of normal or everyday. They never see impasses, only obstacles in the way that have to be removed and overcome. I wrote about this sometime ago in my book Leadership on the OtherSide.
Now, if a person believes this axiom, it is very likely that two things might happen along the path to success. One, a person might experience some horrible failures. Two, a person might be tempted along the way to give up on the goal just before achieving it. Either of which is where the “pushing through” comes into play. Let me share two stories with you.
Story One. Bil Cornelius is the pastor of one of the most successful church plants in the last decade. His church, Bay Area, runs around 6500 in worship after only nine years. What most people don’t know is Bil’s first experience in church planting ended in a dismal failure. But in the failure Bil learned what not to do the next time around.
I love the mission statement of Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi (I attend there now and then and consider the pastor my pastor)- “Whatever it Takes.” When I’m around Bil I get the feeling that his entire life centers around “Whatever it takes.” And I know from personal experience that his leaders sense this commitment in him.
Story Two. Steve Sojgren was the founding pastor of Cincinnati Vineyard. He left the church after 20 some years of successful ministry to begin his coaching ministry (he is now planting another church in Tampa, FL). What most people don’t know is that the first two years were so unproductive that the average person would have quit. Steve had only a handful of people. But he believed deeply in his servant evangelism dream and continued cleaning toilets for businesses until the church exploded with people.
Another key to great leadership is the willingness to set goals that go so far beyond one’s ability that the only way possible for it to succeed is if God intervenes. This means that people must be willing to fail or be scared out of their wits, or be tested beyond their own faith endurance, in order to achieve greatness.
Axiom Two: You don’t need God for things that are possible.
Great leaders know two things: They don’t need God for the everyday things; and two, great leaders know that their everyday survival depends on God showing up big time. Prayer and reliance aren’t just about getting bailed out of a situation. Reliance on God taking action is embedded in great leadership.
Axiom Three: Great leaders are never content with anything- at least not until the Kingdom comes on earth.
Great leaders are never content with their life or leadership no matter how good both are. They know there is always room to improve everything in life. Contentment to them is a four letter word, coming right after the “F” word in the order of ugliness.
Peter Drucker was an example of never being content with his leadership. I first met him at a Leadership Network meeting about twenty years ago while I was still pasturing a church. At the time he was 76 years young and still on a steep learning curve. At the time I was in my late 40’s and couldn’t help but wonder if I would have that kind of drive when I got his age. I’m still wondering twenty years later.
Drucker died in 2005 at the age of 96; his last publication was 2005. He never stopped learning and sharing. My favorite quote of Drucker was “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Great leaders live as if they have had a burning bush experience that is shaping all of their life making it impossible to rest on their accomplishments. Sure they are happy; but content, no. There’s always another hill to climb, another war to be won.
Axiom Four: Most church leaders don’t incorporate these axioms into their life and ministry.
According to a recent poll by the Chicago Tribume, 87% of pastors in the U.S. are content with their ministries. I find that hard to believe when the vast majority of churches in the U.S. are declining and ratio of congregants to baptisms is getting worse every decade (for more of my thoughts on this click here).
So here is my question I have asked over and over, “Why do so many pastors stay so long in ministries they admit are sucking the life out of them? I finally have an answer to this question. There can be only one answer- they really don’t live as if they believe Philippians 4:13. It’s just that simple.
So, here is my question to you –“Do you have the courage to push through to the limits of your abilities and to live as anything is possible if God is in it?”