I have a speed problem and I always have. I walk too fast, I move too fast and I make decisions too fast. I was in San Francisco recently with a group of buddies and we did a lot of walking. Well, I did a lot of walking, and they did a lot of jogging. I have always walked fast. It's born of impatience and excitement. I want to get where I'm going and I don't want to wait for it.
Occasionally it becomes a problem. Not just for the people walking with me, but in all facets of my life. I apologize too quickly, my wife tells me. I get it, I screwed up, I was wrong, I don't need to think about it for too long. Let's just move forward with apologies and forgiveness and get back to business.
I move quickly in ministry as well. I don't linger over decisions that need to be made. I rarely agonize. I'd much rather make a pretty good decision quickly than the best decision if it takes too long.
Mostly, this is an advantage for my leadership. I don't hold things up, I'm never the bottleneck that some leaders can be. The churches and organizations I lead tend to pivot quickly in and out of trouble. We stay nimble and avoid getting bogged down in bureaucracy. It's mostly good.
Does it bite me sometimes? Yes. Sometimes I make a decision too quickly and it ends up being wrong. Sometimes if we'd waited for just a little more information or been a bit more patient, things would have been better.
Most of the time it goes wrong because I leave people behind. Not everyone moves as fast as I do and I'm not good at keeping people with me, so they get lost, or feel run over.
I rarely use this blog to tell you about something I'm doing well, but ever since I transitioned into this role at Context, I've noticed something that I think is a general weakness of pastors. You are slow and you make decisions slowly.
Some of you will balk at this, and I get it. Not all of you are slow, there are exceptions. But, as a rule, churches move too slowly. Often, the pastors know exactly what they should do but they get bogged down in unnecessary committees and processes that slow them down.
Sometimes it's the pastors themselves that don't want to move. Sometimes it's fear, other times its indecision, and sometimes they are just ill-equipped to make the decision in front of them. Either way, it's a problem.
If you haven't noticed, the world is changing, and it isn't moving slowly. I'm not suggesting that we have to keep up with the pace of the world, because that pace is dangerous and unsustainable. I am saying that we need to pick up our pace if we hope to stay in the same neighborhood.
The needs of our people are changing, the concerns they have, the questions that they need answers to, they're all changing. Many of us were trained to do ministry in a totally different world. We learned how to lead in a world that doesn't exist anymore.
I know I live in LA and so we are at the cutting edge of a lot of the cultural change, but no matter where you are, it's different than it used to be and it's only going to get more different.
So we've got to be ready to make changes, and quickly. How do we do that? Here are a couple of suggestions.
Are you ready to lead in the new world? Do you want to? I ask that honestly because I always meet guys who I am convinced just want to pretend it's still 1995 and their ministry philosophy will work if they just get more time or preach through Nehemiah.
So ask yourself, do you really want to lead in this new world? Because if you don't, you won't and if you won't, your church will suffer.
Depending on your church, this could mean your staff or elders, or both. If you haven't already started having the conversation about culture change and how your church will have to respond to it, start now. Some will resist out of fear and insecurity and others will wonder what took you so long.
Read some books together about culture change and leading an organization through change. Prepare their hearts and their minds for what is to come.
If you are going to take time in all of this, take the time to make a plan. Think through the changes you are seeing in your community and ask yourself and your team what it will take to address those issues in your church.
It might be changes to the pulpit, the music, the evangelism strategy, or your groups, but there will need to change. Make a plan that takes into account the new financial realities and the flattening growth curves.
And then do it. Now. Don't wait. Pray about it but don't just pray about it. Move. Get your people moving. Make the necessary staff and structure changes and go. There is no time to waste, no more time for deliberation.
Let's get moving.