Do you have a growing list of words you never want to hear again?
This past fall, I very quickly ran out of patience for the words “pivot” and “unprecedented” and “new normal.” These words have gotten old pretty quick partly from over-use, but also because when reflecting on life and history and the nature of the world, the fact is that things are always changing. There are events almost every year, and certainly every decade, that have completely changed everything.
Just before and around the time I started pastoring in 1990, the fall of the Iron Curtain changed the world. And then 11 years later, we had 9/11, and a few years later we had the financial crisis of 2008-2010. We’ve had COVID-19 this past year. All of these things dramatically changed the world in a critical and sudden kind of way.
During that same time, the internet showed up and became popular and Google, Facebook and YouTube and all these other things have changed the world in a less sudden way. But historically when you look at it’s been pretty fast and so there’s been this change all the time.
What that means for those of us in ministry, in leadership and really in any role, is that we’ve got to really stop looking for a new stable location, context, and situation. Stop looking for some kind of a place where we can develop a routine and not have to worry about anything because the truth is things are always in flux. They’ve always been in flux and they always will be influx.
Certainly we can have a foundation that never shifts in the Gospel, in the Word of God and in the person of Jesus Christ. But rather than looking for a foundation in the world itself, really what we’re called to do and be is to be nimble, to be tuned to the voice of the Spirit.
I would say on the technological side, probably we need to get a little bit preoccupied with data analysis and we need to really honestly ask ourselves, what’s working, what’s not working, whether it’s about church attendance or finances or the effectiveness of what we say we’re doing.
If you are a leader in a Christian church, you’re called in some measure to contribute to the cause of making disciples to be a disciple who makes disciples. Is that happening? Are you measuring it? How do you measure what is a disciple?
I just did what I do from time to time. I went on the website of a large church and looked at their annual report and at their total finances for the year, then divided it by the number of baptisms. In that church it turns out it costs them $185,000 per baptism in their last fiscal year.
Now, I don’t know how you respond to that, but for $185,000, which is the total cost of probably two staff people with a salary in the 70 thousands. I don’t think that’s great. In fact, I would be more inclined to call that a travesty. We need to just be honest and say what are we called to be and do and are we accomplishing it in a reasonably efficient and effective way.
Now moving forward I think we’ve got to continue testing new methods, new tactics, and even revisiting our entire overall strategy. If your strategy was built around having people into your physical building and that was your way of reaching new people and everything else, that has to change. We need to move into what I call a ready-fire-aim mode where we test things quickly.
That’s the beauty of the online world, but we need to import that into the offline world as well where we test things knowing that most things are going to fail in some measure. We need to go in knowing that something new isn’t going to deliver ridiculously high immediate results, but where we need to test quickly and then reevaluate and recalibrate and test again until we find what’s working.
I think you can probably kiss five-year plans goodbye for the foreseeable future, but we can move back to the foundation of our clear purpose of being disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciples who listen to the voice of the Spirit day by day and interceding. Whatever ministry or role we’re involved in, we’ve got to be clear on that unique purpose, unique mission, unique vision of that ministry and of that purpose. We need to understand what our role is in relation to that larger purpose, mission, and vision.
So moving ahead, we’re in unprecedented times that call us to pivot and we need to find a new normal, but the new normal is really going to be the same as before. A time of accelerated change, a time of constantly shifting cultural foundations and in that context we need to represent Jesus well, proclaim the Gospel clearly, and be disciples who make disciples.
This is a time to land in that place in James 1 where if we need wisdom, we ask for it and know that God gives it freely and generously without finding fault and as leaders, we need to daily call up for wisdom, supernatural wisdom. Yes, we’ll take into account the data and the happenings around us, but wisdom that will tap the incredible supernatural, eternal wisdom and knowledge of the Creator and He invites us to partner with him in our service to this world.
So wisdom to you. God bless, press on.