- On the football field, one of the things that makes a good quarterback is his ability to quickly assess a changing situation and make the necessary changes to gain as much yardage as possible.
The same is true for church leaders-- especially church planters.
Part of the reason why planting is often more difficult than we thought it would be is because things happen that we didn't anticipate.
- We get kicked out of our "great location."
- The people we thought would never leave walk because we didn't have a cool enough youth ministry.
- We, or someone in our families, have an unforeseen health crisis.
In a fallen world, stuff happens. In church planting, lots of stuff happens.
And just like a good quarterback, effective leaders turn these moments of opposition into opportunities for God to work.
- An opportunity to run a new play that hasn't been tried.
- An opportunity to hit a new receiver that hasn't put any points on the board.
- An opportunity to depend upon God like never before only to see Him do something we have never seen before.
Every opposition can be an opportunity if we have the flexibility to call the necessary audibles to keep moving the ball up the field.
To cultivate ministry flexibility, I recommend the following practices:
1. Assess your current "flexibility quotient."
How well do you deal with change in general? What are some situations that have required you to "shift on the fly?" How adaptable have you been in the past? What is not working right now that is in need of an alternative solution? All of these questions can be important tools in moving us from where we are to where we want to be.
2. Stretch out.
Study the flexibility of the church in Scripture. Watch how they responded when something unexpected happened. Though there are a number of instances, perhaps the two most obvious are the Holy Spirit editing Paul's preaching tour in Acts 16 and the scattering of the church by persecution after Stephen's death in Acts 8. In both cases, Scripture records ministry flexibility in the life of God's people as they seek to fulfill His mission. We would be wise to follow their example.
3. Watch some film.
If you are like me, things always go better if I know what I am getting into before I step on the field. It allows me to pray, plan, and prepare to do what I can to ensure as good an outcome as possible. This is why I encourage church planters to learn to expect the unexpected. If we go into the process knowing that anything could happen at any moment, when those things happen, we are far better able to take the hits as they come.
4. Ice it when it hurts.
Life always runs smoother when we need to put our high view of God's Sovereignty to work. Romans 8:28 tells us that "all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." Obviously, this doesn't mean that everything that happens is good, but that God has a good purpose for it--to use it for His own glory and to further conform us to the image of Christ. We need to rest in this truth when things don't go as we planned.
All ministry, especially church planting, requires flexibility.
How flexible are you?