If I were setting the courses for seminaries everywhere, I would make a course entitled “Patience 101” mandatory for every future church leader. Patience is absolutely essential in bringing about change in any church setting and often the lack of such is the reason why change fails.
I had planned on finishing my blog from last week by giving two more strengths of the small church but I read two quotes on the subject of patience that I am going to share this week instead. I hope that you enjoy them and find them as helpful as I have. Both quotes are taken from Robby Gallaty’s book Rediscovering Discipleship.
The late Carrie Fisher, in an article in Entertainment Weekly, catches the tenure of our society’s values when she said:
“Instant gratification takes too long.” (p. 130)
The computer has seriously eaten into people’s level of patience. My own patience level when I am looking for a site on line is probably about five seconds. If it takes longer than that, it had better be something really important because otherwise I will have moved on to something else.
We now don’t even want to get out of our car at a fast food restaurant because that would take too long. We go through drive ins that speed the process of fast food up so that it is even faster.
We want instant communications, instant friends on social media, and instant photos at a special event. For many people Carrie Fisher is right: Instant gratification does take too long.
Too often the church has bought into this mindset. People want instant growth, instant programs, instant friendships and instant change.
The problem is that almost everything worth having in a church takes time.
Change takes time. Churches have been split because someone has decided that changes need to be made right away. No seeds were planted. No preparatory meetings were held. No conversations took place with key leaders. No research was carried out. Someone simply decided that if the church was going to grow change had to happen and it had to happen immediately.
The result of such hurried action is almost always disastrous. People get hurt. Splits occur. Members leave. The church takes years to recover.
Change always requires patience. That isn’t a popular word in our instantaneous society but it is an absolutely essential word in the church. I would love to teach my course on Patience 101 to every church leader in our country.
The second quote comes from Richard Foster’s book entitled Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.
“Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years.” (p. 138)
A few years ago I had a friend who was given the impossible task of taking a church that had been struggling for many year and turning it around in just one year. He was told that if the church hadn’t experienced significant growth in that one year, the denomination would close it down. To make matter worse this was my friend’s first church in which he was the senior pastor. As you would expect, the church didn’t experience a turn around, the denomination stepped in and closed the church and my friend felt like a failure which was made even worse by the fact that he was out of a job.
There are very few churches in Canada that can be turned around in one year. To ask anyone even to attempt to make the kind of changes in a church that will produce real impact is to ask that person to do the impossible. Sadly I have seen more than one denomination ask people to do this impossible task and I must confess that I become a little angry every time that I see it because it is setting a young pastor up for failure.
On the other hand there are very few churches in Canada that can’t experience life-changing transformation over the course of a decade. A good leader can slowly introduce the changes that need to happen if the church is going to become a truly impactful church.
A person can walk around the world if she takes enough baby steps. It may take a long time but as long as she keeps putting on foot in front of the other, she will eventually traverse the globe. It just takes a huge dose of patience.
Your church can change but it takes patience. It won’t happen next week or next month or even next year but if you make enough small changes, you won’t recognize your church in ten years time.
I have a section in my library filled with books on leadership. I have another section on the church. I have a section filled with books telling me how to grow my church. I have a section filled with books on how to run the church.
I don’t, however, have even one book given over just to the subject of patience in the church. Someone needs to write that book because there are few topics that are more important to the future impact of a church than patience on the part of those that are giving leadership.
God did not create the church to be an instant society. He created it to be a place in which people are committed long-term to the people who attend and to the congregation as a whole. When God makes an oak tree, he takes a long time to do it. We need churches filled with oak trees and that takes patience on the part of those who lead.