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Progress and Patience
by Tom Goodman
October 28, 2004
As leaders at Hillcrest, we all need to remember that the words “progress” and “patience” go together. That’s why I thought the following article would encourage you. Thankfully, in my first year with you I’ve only met one or two people like the impatient ones described in this article. Still, this pastor’s wife hits the nail right on the head: there’s really no such thing as “overnight success.” We’re in a daunting “renovation” process at Hillcrest: The renovation of our heart, our program, and our look (in that order). I described that renovation process in a previous Winning Ways series (Links to that series are provided at the end of this newsletter). It requires patience to make progress, as this article will remind us—
“No Shortcuts to True Success”
by Angie Ward
Craig Tiley became the interim coach of the University of Illinois men's tennis team in 1993. During the off-season he developed a detailed, long-term plan that included winning a conference title within three years, competing at a national level within five, and winning the NCAA championship and producing "impact pros" within a decade. In 2003, Tiley's team won its first national title. Tiley won the trust and patience of his supervisors because he had a clear plan and understood the steps and time necessary to make Illinois a contender.
Tiley's accomplishment shows that good work is hard work. And it takes time. . . .
The explosive growth of some church plants and megachurches has raised expectations at many established churches. Churches hire a new pastor and expect an immediate turnaround—increased giving, standing-room-only crowds, and a surplus of volunteers.
But time and patience are inversely proportionate. The more time that passes, the louder the murmuring gets. Unmet (often unspoken) expectations inevitably lead to frustration, and the pastor can go from savior to scapegoat faster than "requests" are passed on the prayer chain.
The senior pastor at my church has been around for three years. While there has been quantifiable change and growth during that time, it's been slow going at times and some people in the congregation have grown tired of the rebuilding process, of waiting for the breakthrough season.
One man sat in the pastor's kitchen months ago and promised, "If things don't change by the spring, we're leaving." I know of this conversation, because it's my kitchen, too. Another person told me she and her husband were considering leaving our church because it would be another three to five years before certain areas in our church demonstrated significant improvement.
The thing is, I didn't disagree. Change does take time. In the ministry world—a world full of committee meetings, congregational crises, busy volunteers, and dozens of personal agendas—it can take a long time. There is no shortcut to success in the church. It takes time to build a solid foundation for healthy growth. Long-term commitment is the best way to foster long-term growth.
I once heard a mega-church pastor say, "I can tell you how to grow a church, but I can't tell you how to grow it quickly." That pastor was Rick Warren.
Another pastor, Leith Anderson, is one of the strongest leaders I know. His church is well known and respected for its ministry effectiveness and culture of excellence. Anderson was once asked how long it had taken him to change the culture at his church after he was hired. "Twenty years," he replied. During his first years there, the church actually got smaller. What if he had resigned or been asked to step down for lack of results?
Theo Epstein, the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, once explained on a radio show how his club now has a "Red Sox way" of doing things. But implementing that philosophy took years—and Epstein was at the top of the organization, had almost unlimited authority, and didn't have to deal with half the committees that pastors do. Can you imagine how long those changes would have taken if Epstein had to run every significant change past the Red Sox faithful for their approval?
In the sporting world, coaches must be given time to gather the right staff, recruit or sign the right players for the team, and implement a new philosophy. Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden didn't win his first national championship at UCLA until his fourteenth season. Dean Smith's first national championship at the University of North Carolina took 20 years.
In the same way, church leaders need time to cast vision and build a ministry team of staff, volunteers, and members who are committed to the church's purpose. Foundational change requires patience. Get used to it, and help those in your church get used to it. . . .
In ministry, as in sports, there are no shortcuts to true success. Elder boards, leadership teams, church members, and pastors themselves will often face the temptation to seek the quick fix or to give up. But only long-term commitment will result in long-term effectiveness and growth.
This article was originally entitled, “Put an End to Trading Season,” and can be found at www.christianitytoday.com/leaders/newsletter/2004/cln41018.html
Links to the three Winning Ways articles about our “Three Renovations” can be found at:
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