Carey Nieuwhof is one of the most influential leaders in North America. If you are a leader (in a church or anywhere else) and you aren’t listening, reading, or watching his stuff you are truly missing out. Last week I read a 2014 article he wrote on church growth. Specifically, it was about breaking through some of the lids that are common to most churches. In it he wrote something that struck me and stirred something deep within.
Churches that grow are churches that default toward what is possible when it comes to opportunity.
In the article Carey outlines 6 keys to breaking those barriers. Each is vital, each has it’s place, but the last one is the most important one in my book. Believing that with God’s help we can see impossible things happen is a central tenet of the Christian faith. It defines us and drives us, yet holding onto that kind of faith and nurturing that spark into flame is constantly one of the great challenges in ministry. So how do we build and maintain such a faith?
1. Keep yourself inspired.
Thank God Watty Piper entitled his book, The Little Engine That Could, instead of The Little Engine That Had Really Good Intentions But Was Afraid To Try Because It Had Never Been Done Before And No One Believed In Him. Not only would the other title be far too long, it isn’t very inspiring. We all know why we can’t do something. We are well acquainted with our limits, barriers, and obstacles in the path. We don’t need any help in understanding those realities of life. What we need help in, is surging forward toward the great things God has planted in our hearts even though we don’t quite see the path in how to get there.
So how do we stay inspired? It can be a challenge, because inspiration doesn’t last, but neither do the flames in a fire or the gas in your car. You have to add fuel to both to keep them going. If you want to stay inspired you will have to put yourself in situations where inspiration can take place. Personally I read books, blogs, and listen to podcasts to help maintain inspiration. I also have found another vital practice to stay inspired. You have to kill the depressing music on your playlist.
A few weeks ago my son asked me about what kind of music I listened to at his age. Mind you, when I was a young teen grunge rock was all the rage. I had forgotten about how angry, violent and dark those songs were and the longer I listened, the more I felt that negativity trying to take hold in me. Music has the power to lift us up or take us down, use it wisely! One study shows that listening to just 12 minutes of positive music (i.e. not Nirvana) has the power to elevate your mood. I like to find good jams and make playlists of music to help me when I work out, do chores, and relax around the house. Great, positive music is a treasure I make sure I keep around. (I would love to hear from you in the comments below on your favorite mood lifting jam!)
2. Set Progressive Goals.
One way to keep yourself discouraged is to set huge goals with short deadlines and no definable plan to accomplish them. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, why not take some time to define your end goal and then chart a course to get there by taking small clear-cut steps? We love to hear the stories of overnight success but that’s not how it typically works, and when it does the success tends to go as quickly as it came.
It takes time to build to your dreams, so embrace that part of the journey. Sam Walton may have had hopes of being an international business success one day, but he didn’t start there. He had one small Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, AR where he was able to pioneer the ideas that eventually became what we know now as the retail giant Wal-mart.
Don’t let big dreams rob you of the joy of small successes. Healthy things take time to grow so expect and plan for that. When your path towards growth is mapped out in bite sized chunks it’s easier to see and define your growth and mark the milestones along the way. Progress reminds us that growth can happen, we just have to keep working to get there.
3. Walk With Giants.
One of the best ways to inspire and maintain faith is to borrow it from someone else. Thom Rainer says that, “Faith and optimism are contagious.” So do everything you can to spend time with people who have dreams as big or even larger than yours. I find it essential to surround and connect myself with people who have and are doing great things for God. So I take every opportunity to go to conferences, take people out, buy their lunch, and pick their brains. I try to get in their lane, swim in their pool, and ask lots of questions, even if they sound dumb in my head. What I have found when I do is that, not only do I learn from them, but I build meaningful relationships as well.
One of my favorite things to ask these men and women is to recount their biggest or most recent struggle and tell how they overcame it. These stories are inspiring and remind me that if God can lead those people through the valley and up the mountain, He can do the same for me as well.
Ultimately it all boils down to simply trusting God. Faith is a muscle that has to be flexed, and there is no performance enhancing drug you can take to make the task easier. We have to take intentional steps to embrace faith, to believe in the call God has placed on our hearts, to lean into the impossible, and when we do, that is the moment we see God do amazing things! If I can help you take your next step of faith in any way I would be honored to walk with you through that, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.