PUSH TO RESTART (7)
In West Texas, the mountains all look like someone scraped off their tops; they are capped with flat, open plateaus. A traveler from Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains push high into the sky and reach majestic peaks, would likely chuckle at Texans for calling these flat-topped, rocky projections, “mountains.”
Plateaus are natural formations of the earth and plateaus are natural places for churches to reach.
Can a plateau be transformed into a time of growth? In some cases, yes, but probably not in all churches. The objective is not growth, but movement.
Every church needs to be moving forward and outward to stay beneath the clear mandate of the Great Commission given by Christ our Lord. The purpose of this article is to show a clear path to creating movement (which often leads to growth) in a congregation.
A time of stagnation, plateau or decline stirs up negativity by its nature. In the heart of a pastor, that negativity will sometimes take the form of self-condemnation and judgment, feelings of inadequacy and a sense of personal failure. While these are unhealthy emotions in most situations, I have learned to interpret them positively; they serve to create in me a desire to change things.
Desire is the first step to creating movement in any situation. If you are sitting on the couch and are thirsty, the desire for something to drink pushes you to go to the refrigerator for a bottle of water. If you have a desire to see movement in your church, it is likely an indication that God wants to do a work through you.
But desire alone is not enough to create movement. How many committee meetings have you sat through in which the participants created a lot of discussion, some good ideas, but no actionable deeds? We must guard ourselves against being mere “idea men” who think that concept building is the same thing as kingdom building; it is not. Quite often idea men sound bold and big in their words but in their heart they fear failure so much they never attempt to prove their ideas to be valid.
The fear of failure is huge at this first stage toward movement; if we do not sweep it aside, we will never move forward. (More about conquering fear in a later article.)
The second stage of movement is vision. As we spend copious amounts of time in the Father’s presence, He begins to formulate a visual in our mind of what He wants to accomplish through us.
When we outgrew our facilities on Town Point Road, I began talking with the Father about relocating the church. He spoke to my heart and said to ask Him for five acres of land with a sanctuary that seated two hundred (I still have the page in my journal where I wrote it down). I did not have a great faith that He would do it; I simply obeyed Him in asking for it and I began searching for a five-acre plot of ground we could purchase, assuming we would have to build on it. But His plan was better: a dying congregation a few miles away indicated their willingness to swap properties and, to God’s glory, they owned five acres and a 200-seat sanctuary with a separate educational building (and they had 12 toilets compared to our 2!).
The challenge with the vision stage is being careful not to supplant God’s vision with our own fantasy. He only provides for what He proposes; He is not obligated (or interested) in fulfilling our overactive imaginations.
Maybe one reason you are frustrated, pastor, is because you do not understand why God is not helping you live out your dream. A better plan is to spend enough time with Him until you get your directions from Him! He will guide you. He will help you. He will move on your behalf, but only if you move forward in obedience to His specific instructions.
The next article will cover stages two and three of creating movement in a congregation: experimentation and insights.
Dr. Donald Lynn Hardaway