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Church Leadership The Youth Cartel

Pushing Past the Pain of Change

This weekend, at Open, I heard a few things. Some were from attendees, some speakers, and others from the Holy Spirit.

Most of the thoughts that stuck are along the lines of change. People are ready for change. They are hungry for it. And the pain of continuing this cycle of depreciating returns is too depressing– finally overcoming the reality that making some levels of foundation shifting change is worth the cost.

Thoughts like this…

  • how we as a tribe gathers needs to change
  • how we gather teenagers needs to change
  • how we disciple teenagers needs to change.
  • how we think of ourselves needs to change.
  • how we fund the movement of ministering to adolescents needs to change.

With declining numbers in all of the categories that seem to matter, the reality is that there are so few winners and far too many losers.

We all need things in our life and vocation to change. And we are in the position to do something about it.

People, like you and me, are beginning to realize that it is up to us to make these changes instead of waiting for someone else. (Cough, be a leader. Cough, cough. Entropy. Cough, cough. I KNOW! Cough, cough.)

The Pain of Change

Actually changing things will cost you something. It might make people hate you. It will be messy. It might lead to your organization losing money or even closing. There’s a pretty good chance that you could get fired.

But I want to encourage you as you think about change. When you lead towards what you feel God is calling you to move towards… it’s always scary. It’s always full of fear. It’s always brought with some pain.

Sometimes in Scripture we need to read between the lines a little bit. I think of people like Noah going home and telling his wife he needed to build an ark and gather animals. I’m guessing he and his wife didn’t see eye to eye on that at first blush, something tells me he slept on the coach, and maybe it was a little while until she accepted the lunacy of her husbands vision. Rest assured… building an ark isn’t good for your sex life. Or I think about the Centurion in Acts… I’m sure it went well when his boss in Rome found out he and his entire house converted to the religion he was paid to squelch. I don’t think that guy got a raise. Or I think about the Peter on the day of Pentecost… I’m sure that his message of Jesus as the Christ went over like a pile of bricks. Remember, most of the people in the audience walked away saying he was drunk.

So this is what I know. Not just from the Bible but from my own life: Until you suck it up, accept that the changes you know you need to make will involve some pain, you’re just going to keep doing nothing.

No sir. Not for me. I want to sleep at night. The word regret will not be on my tombstone.

Things will change because they must. Pain will be overcome because its just pain. And the vision and dreams God has laid on our hearts should scare the hell out of us.

But fear of pain preventing me or you from the leaders we can be?

May we never sink so far.

Categories
Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Church Leadership

Powerless

Breathing heavy and full of adrenaline I stood up from the knee deep waves among the kids and did a 180. With a massive smile I began the long push through the surf back to my fellow bobbing boogie boarders.

It was a Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines. One of my favorite beaches doing one of my favorite things.

Smiles were ear-to-ear among this pod of boogie boarders, basking in the late Sunday afternoon glow the with warm summer breezes, the water temperature had finally risen to the point where you could stay in indefinitely without shivering.

The swell was building. We all felt it. In our group were a wide variety of skill levels. Experts with nice boards and fins running circles around all of us. Beginners on their $20 boards that weren’t quite the right size. And me, a midwesterner who loved it but resides firmly in the novice category.

Typically, I don’t like to go off shore beyond where I can touch the bottom. My technique is typically to wade out and position myself near where the waves break so that I can move “hop on” a wave rather than paddle and drop in. But the waves have drawn me out here, floating and chatting alongside all the other giddy riders.

We’d all caught enough waves. We were just lined up at the dessert table waiting for something fantastic to happen. In truth, the waves had already been too big for me and I’d been lucky to duck the ones that broke weird and hop on some fantastic rides.

I was way beyond my skill level. I felt it. But the allure of nice, pretty waves, warm water, and my success pulled me out where I didn’t belong. I was trying not to think about

A few minutes later one of the more advanced guys said, “Here they come!” About the same time one of the guys girlfriends said, “Hey, I can touch the bottom.” We all knew that this meant that the next set was going to be big. Most of us got off our boards and stood up, watching where the first waves in this set broke.

I was in the perfect spot. I ducked and let a couple of big waves break over me. And I was feeling pressure not to let this big set go by. I could tell by the excitement level of the better boarders that the next wave was the best one. Judging by the massive size of some of the other ones, which were way taller than me, the best one had to be ridiculous.

And there it was. I ducked a wave and looked up… it was rolling in. The best guys missed it, they were too deep. But I’m there, standing in the sand with my board up against my chest. As it approached me I felt like it was too big. But I had only a split second to turn and dive under it before it broke on top of me. Instead I hesitated. It was too late, I had to go or get rolled.

Pushing off the sand just as this massive wave started to release I could feel the waves massive power. But I was a fraction of a second late. And I was about five feet too far to the right… I was on the waves but in the wrong spot.

It’s hard to imagine how fast I was going… Imagine a fat dude on a boogie board going 30 miles per hour propelled by the biggest wave of the day. It’s a scary thing to imagine and an even scarier thing to experience. The first half seconds were perfect, I cut into it and was flying by as all the other boogie boarders and swimmers ducked as it went by.

In the next instant I was crushed.

The wave collapsed on top of me. I was completely powerless against it’s power. It shoved me to the bottom then flipped me and rolled me and held me under water. It didn’t just roll me side-to-side, my head hit the bottom then my knees then my head. Water rushed into my sinus cavities causing me to gag under water.

It’s a horrible helpless feeling.

Finally, it released me. I felt like I’d been spit out of Jonah’s whale. And I was back in knee deep water among the kids and moms and floaties.

The best leaders are powerless

There’s a silent allure to power in leadership. Early success leads us over our head. But we quickly find ourselves out deeper than our skill level.

We mislabel fear as following. We mislabel position as authority. We mislabel obedience as respect. But behind the mask of many “strong leaders” are very scared little boys. They’ve created a puffed up thing, manipulative, terrified, and tired. Others have mislabeled it as leadership.

Lord, make us powerless leaders who lead with love. Amen.