There are two types of people in the world: those who bought their tickets months in advance, dressed in full Darth Vader regalia and dimmed their limited edition light saber during the opening credits of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night. And then there are those, like me, who might catch the movie between catnaps and commercials when eventually it’s shown on cable TV. In other words, there are those of us who from the start are sold out fans of what’s new and current and those of us that need a little (or a LOT) of convincing. This dichotomy does not simply apply to die-hard and slow-start Star Wars fans: it’s alive and well in our mission ministries.
As leaders you look out and you see the force of the Spirit awakening in your community. Perhaps there is a new housing development being built in the church’s neighborhood, a growing group of teens with little to do after school or a new international mission field you feel called to engage. Yet, when you share this Spirit-driven idea, an invisible dividing line appears: on one side are the “sold out servants” and on the other side are the “slow start skeptics”. The challenge becomes, how do we move mission forward when the “force” has not awakened in everyone?
While this can be frustrating and down-right difficult there are four strategies we can use to move mission forward without dimming our own light sabers:
- It doesn’t take everyone, just the right ones: As spiritual leaders, we want to lead with everyone on board. Too often, we delay the start of making God’s vision a reality by waiting for every single person to agree. The hard truth is that moving God’s mission forward doesn’t take everyone, just the right ones. Prayerfully discern which leaders’ buy-in and gifts are critical to moving forward. Resist the temptation to require everyone’s approval and move with Holy boldness into your mission field.
- Don’t convince, create: If a mission initiative is vital it will also be risk-taking. As leaders we want to assuage any fear of what’s new. We’ll exhaust ourselves trying to convince the skeptics that this mission is worth the risk and have little energy to actually carry it out! Instead of convincing others, create opportunities for them to experience the fullness of this vision. Where were you when this new idea came into your Spirit? Who and what did you see when you first caught the vision? Take them there! Allow others to see, hear and dream with you as you create new and vital mission in your community.
- Choose another angle: Fans of film notice that over time you can recognize a director’s signature. Maybe it’s a particular theme that their movies always reference, a group of actors they usually cast or an angle they always shoot from. Like directors, spiritual leaders have a “preferred angle” a particular way in which they present ministry. If you’re finding that people are not connecting with the vision, choose another angle. Empower and equip another leader whose style of communication may better express and ignite the force of the spirit within the congregation.
- Be patient: The Star Wars saga is still unfolding. The couple of hours that moviegoers were treated to on screen doesn’t reference the years of writing, planning, shooting, reshooting and editing. Your God-sized vision for mission will require your patience. Start with who and what you have but, be prepared for unexpected challenges. When they invade your galaxy remember there is a force awakened within that will carry the mission to completion “until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Until that day comes, We’re in this together.