I remember vividly the challenges that faced me on my first day as a pastor. The feelings were the same with both congregations that my wife and I led. While I was thrilled at the opportunity and kept using the word “potential” to keep my spirits up, there was a strong sense that we had a long way to go.
In fact, there were days when those feelings were so strong that I felt almost overwhelmed at the things I knew we couldn’t yet do. Like many pastors, I would attend conferences and other pastor events, enjoy the big name featured speakers, and then leave with an even greater sense of the impossible task in front of me.
What do you do when you’re convinced that you can’t do what others say will work?
Now, I have an answer to that question. After a couple of good experiences leading churches to health and strength, I know the answer to my question and believe in it strongly. BUT I DIDN’T KNOW THE ANSWER BACK THEN!
Like many, I lived in a culture of can’t. I wanted to see our music improve, but didn’t have the musicians to make it happen. I wanted to print a nicer bulletin, but didn’t have the equipment, design personnel, or financial resources to do better. I wanted to have a great Sunday school, but didn’t have the teaching personnel, classroom space, or any money to build more classrooms.
A culture of can’t proves devastating to most leaders. After awhile, anyone’s suggestion falls into the “can’t” pile even if some might argue its possibility. I genuinely tried to be glad for the success of others, but my smile was forced and my frustration mounted when I saw how their hands were full of resources and I had so little.
Somewhere amidst this “culture of can’t” I found an answer. While the list of things I couldn’t do was sizable, there was something I could do. There always is. I realized that I have gifts and abilities that can form strengths for my church. There’s always a CAN!
Much of the conversation in church life today focuses on the long list of things that one needs to be successful, but one day I woke up to the reality that, while the list is valuable, the momentum I needed wasn’t going to be found in someone else’s list. Instead, by discovering what I could do and what our church folks could do and do well, we found the momentum I longed for.
It makes sense really. We believe strongly that every individual has unique gifts and abilities that God wants to use. Why don’t we think that about our local church as well. Not every congregation is cut from the same cloth. There are things we do well and things we lack the resources to achieve. What good does it do to pine for what is beyond our reach when we could be giving our best to, well…our best!
I also discovered that as we focused our energies on our strengths, God brought people into our journey who could help us address weaknesses. Amazing guitar players joined our little family. Computer techs and graphic designers found Jesus with us. People with gifts of teaching came alongside and after a few more miles in the journey, we could check many of the boxes that had formerly been elusive.
The point is simple. If you’re trapped in a culture of can’t, you can unlock its grip by simply reaching for a different answer. Discover what you do well and do it for the glory of your Savior. He’ll take that capacity and make it something amazing in your community. Don’t listen to the “you can’t lie” one more week. Start living in the “can” of your capacity!
And don’t tell me you can’t! 🙂