When you had a vision to start a church or ministry, you must have envisioned what it was going to be like. You probably said to yourself, “Self, have realistic expectations. It will take you at least 5 years to reach your vision.” That isn’t realistic. God-sized visions take a lifetime. It’s kind of like waiting in line at the DMV.
It’s Harder Than You Think
Starting a church or ministry is the easy part. It really is. All you have to do is file the paperwork and pay the fee to be “officially” organized under the state. My guess is you mean to do quite a bit more. How do I know this? It is because you have to be insane to try such a difficult and thankless thing as starting a ministry or planting a church. You wouldn’t do so if you didn’t mean to accomplish something worth all the effort and risk. I’m here to be insane along with you. Here is my insanity:
I founded Vituramis with a mission to empower ministries around the world through software and the internet. Did you catch the around the world part? That would take one seriously large organization. That would take an incredibly strong infrastructure. So my vision is to create a ministry which merely provides cloud systems to ministries all over the world. Easy right? You might not be surprised to learn that most days I feel like I’m only one-tenth of one hundredth of a percent there. I’m okay with that. Here’s why:
Before you can understand this analogy, you need to know what a fly-wheel is. Some people don’t. A fly-wheel is a big, heavy, metal wheel. Because it is so heavy, it is difficult to turn but once it is spinning fast, it is hard to stop because there is so much energy stored in it. Planting a church or starting a ministry is like trying to turn a great big giant flywheel. You put in a lot of effort and it turns slightly. The only way to get the fly-wheel spinning fast is long sustained effort.
It may seem the same with your ministry. You may be dismayed because you and your team put so much work into the ministry only to see it progress a little. You may believe that if it is not growing, it will never grow. The fly-wheel begs to differ. Few ministries have explosive growth right away. It takes time. It takes strong and consistent effort towards a consistent goal to build up momentum. In the first few years you will see very little. If you are making some progress, though, don’t give up. Persistence counts. It counts for a lot. It is all about making some progress and not giving up. I once heard it said about ministry building that you will accomplish far less in two years than you had hoped, and you will accomplish far more after 5 years than you ever thought possible. Your ministry may have a different time-frame. Keep pushing that fly-wheel. Eventually you will see it spinning so fast you can’t keep up.
Enjoy The Ride – It’s Not About the Destination, It’s About the Journey.
This may surprise you. It shouldn’t. You are serving an eternal Lord. He takes a long view of things. He is in no hurry. Your destination is on your mind but it might not be the destination He intended. He is intensely interested in developing you though. Whether you reach those goals or not, the journey itself is where all the great things happen. It’s on the journey where you learn to deal with setbacks. It’s on the journey where faithfulness is applied. It’s on the journey where others learn to join you on your mission. There they learn about serving Christ with their life as they volunteer. It is the journey where God does great work. In fact, in ministry the end never seems to happen. As soon as you are even close to accomplishing your vision, you find yourself expanding it. Why? It is because there is no vision if you rest on your laurels. The end looks like this: You reach some milestone, hold a little celebration, then continue on pursuing the new, expanded vision. In truth the end only comes when you get run over by a truck or something. It doesn’t come when you are alive. When you are alive you keep striving to the next thing. That’s as it should be. Enjoy the ride.
If reaching the end isn’t really the end, then how do you define success? It seems like we keep moving the bar. If the journey is the thing, then consider this rule: People are more important than visions. Don’t get forget this rule. If you do, you find yourself using people to accomplish your vision. The interesting thing about people being used is that they realize they’re being used and they resent it. The minute you start considering the needs of your vision above the needs of the people who are serving with you, or the people who you are serving, you have gone off vision. It doesn’t matter how noble your vision is, it doesn’t matter what it will mean for the Kingdom. People are more important than visions. Your vision should set your direction, it shouldn’t drive you. People and their well-being should drive you. If you remember this rule, you will shepherd people instead of use them.
Here are some definitions for success:
- Are the people you affected closer to Christ? Have they become more godly?
- Were you faithful to your calling?
- Were you faithful in your service to Christ?
At this point, then, I come to the focus here. Be persistent. Keep at it every day, even in discouragements. Don’t keep changing direction. Focus like a laser on a specific vision and turn that fly-wheel. In time, others may join you and you will turn that wheel together. After a few turns you may find your ministry struggling to keep up at times.