I just got off a cruise ship after having spent 3 days with my wife’s coworkers and their significant others as a gift from her boss. The first day as we met and enjoyed an evening meal together there was much excitement and delight over what was anticipated: a few days away from work, enjoying the sun, shopping, entertainment, free food and so on. From what I heard and overheard there was a lot of build up to “getting away” for many of those in our party. They were, simply put, looking forward to it. They planned their wardrobe, their activities and got wound up anticipating the trip!
That anticipation and excitement is the “delight” that a clear picture your future gives to you. It represents hope and what you want that is different from your current condition. For those in our party, it was getting away from work and spending time doing nothing except having fun.
That’s the way vision works. It has a magnetic “pull” toward the future. But for those with a “fuzzy” picture of the future there is probably some degree of “denial” going on. It is a denial – to some degree or another – on the present reality. It’s not that bad we tell ourselves. So we wade through another meaningless meeting, fruitless conversation, Sunday with more “wood” than people (in other words we see the wood of the pews rather than the people sitting on the pews). Saying, it isn’t a trend it’s a busy weekend for folks. I heard some were going to the lake, taking their kid to school, in the hospital, and so on.
But when our reality begins to come into focus we start to see things as they really are. There are indeed less people in worship, our meetings get nowhere and talk about nothing that will make a real difference. We chit chat with people about gripes and complaints but not eternal things. While we might do important things, they aren’t necessarily strategically important. We might even discover that our reality is we are stalled and even going downhill. Do you delight in what you see as your future? Not a chance. It is scary. It is depressing. So it is easy to live in denial. Our coping mechanism? Keep your head down. Keep preaching, teaching, more ministry, hopefully a different result. But don’t confuse God’s promises with the reality that your church or ministry could die. While God promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church and the gospel, there is no promise that your particular, individual church will continue on. Lots of good churches close. Will yours? Should yours? It doesn’t have to.
What to do? Instead of focusing on the denial or on what is discouraging, focus on the delight. Let the clarity of the present point to the possibilities of the future. The delight of that future will then begin to pull at you to do your present differently. What might that mean? Yes, starting new initiatives, new programs, new groups, nurturing new leaders and so on will be there.
But it also should mean the opposite: putting something to death. Yes. Killing something or at least letting it die. When reality comes into focus and you begin to see a preferred future that is very different from the trajectory you are on something should becomes very apparent. One cannot in good conscience keep wasting time and energy on those meetings, groups, conversations and activities that eat up a lot of time and energy and make little difference to the trajectory of the ministry. There is too much at stake to keep burning God’s resources where it is not making a difference. Sure you love the people but you don't have to give energy to everything that is going on.
What meeting will you stop attending (or attend much less)? What conversations are you going to stop having or intentionally shift to make them productive and in alignment with the future? What activities are you going to do less if not stop doing all together? In short, what are you going to say “no” to?
And if you put it off – then you are not facing reality anymore, you have drifted again into denial. Have a nice denial trip but one day that ship will dock back again on the shore of reality and it may be a shipwreck. Clarify your reality and delight in your future. Then determine to say “no” to wasting God’s precious resources and say "yes" to leveraging them for the future.
1. What is your present reality?
2. What is your preferred future? What do you delight in?
3. What are you going to say “no” to?
4. What are you going to say “yes” to?
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