Progression does not just happen. There are 4 major hinderances that stand against the progression of a mission, and pushing against these enemies is a constant battle. How can we overcome them?
The focus today is on the 4 Enemies of Progression. I taught this at our last staff meeting. When I teach this stuff, it is as much for me as it is for anybody else. Any organization or individual can be trapped by these things, and it is important to learn how to overcome them. Let’s get started.
Enemy #1: Weariness
My friend and mentor, Leon Fontaine, once taught me from 1 Samuel 30 about the 600 men that were with David when their camp was raided. Everything was taken from them, including their families. After David “strengthened himself in the Lord” and decided to pursue the enemy, only 400 of the 600 men joined David to recover their families.
Leon pointed out that they may have been too tired to continue on. They had been fighting all day and doing their own raids. But, then Leon made a point; all 600 were tired, but the 200 that stayed behind were weary. And there is a big difference between being tired, and being weary.
Tiredness is of the body and weariness is of the mind. We see the difference in ourselves all of the time. At our all-staff meeting, I picked on Cindy as an example.
Cindy, one of our staff members, has a mad obsession with shoes. Let’s say Cindy is extremely exhausted after a long day of work. She comes home and tells her husband Ralph that she is much too exhausted to make supper, and then proceeds to crash on the couch and take a nap. Just as she is about to dose off, the phone rings. Ralph answers it as quietly as possible. It was one of Cindy’s friends asking to speak with her. Hesitantly, Ralph hands sleepy Cindy the phone. Within seconds of answering the phone, Cindy jumps excitedly off the couch and heads for the door. She hangs up, hands Ralph the phone, and eagerly puts her shoes on. When Ralph asks what is going on, Cindy excitedly responds, “Aldo has a 50% off shoe sale going on tonight only!” And with that, she is out the door.
What happened to her tiredness? Well, it was overcome by a new focus. This is the difference between tiredness and weariness. Tiredness it of the body and weariness is of the mind.
Paul the Apostle warned the church in Galatia to “not become weary in doing good.” He did not say “do not become tired in doing good”. I think this important point is often misunderstood. The truth is, we will become tired, especially when we are working hard on doing good. However, tiredness can be pushed through and is much easier to recover from. Weariness though, is a battle of the mind. It will cause us to shut down, stop us from progressing forward, and is much more difficult to recover from. This is what people consider “burnout” or severe depression.
The opposite of weariness is a focus, driven by commitment to a vision, that is stronger than our physical feelings. This focus is fuelled by a passion that is must be done, no matter what. I am sure that David and the 400 were as tired as the 200 that stayed behind. But, they overcame their tiredness by keeping their focus on doing whatever it would take to get their families back.
There are four critical areas that weariness effects:
Weariness will affect your focus if you allow tiredness to overcome you. I often tell our church that what you focus on, you give power to. In this case, if you continually focus on how tired you are, you will empower those feelings of tiredness. It will then become weariness and often times, you will quit. But, if you focus on your “why” - just like the 400 focused on getting their families back - you will overcome your tiredness.
[bctt tweet="What you focus on, you give power to. #focus #leadership" username="kellystickel"]
A long time ago, I learned that I can push my body beyond what I felt was possible. That is why I hired a trainer for a time to help me with weight-lifting. It is not that I needed someone to teach me how to lift, it was that I needed someone to push me beyond what I felt was possible. When I felt like I couldn’t possibly do one more rep, he would push me to do just one more, and that is when I would experience the greatest results. I think the same is true in our leadership. We as leaders often need someone that will help us maintain our focus on the prize and push us beyond what we feel is possible.
Distraction is the opposite of focus. Focus is all about vision and what you are looking at. If you keep your eyes on the prize - your goal, your why - you will be able to do far beyond what you thought was possible to do. But, if you allow anything to distract you, good or bad, you will lose focus and will be overcome.
When you lose focus, it is very difficult to remain committed. Commitment to focus is not one dimensional, it requires a balanced approach.
When we say someone is “committed”, we often assume that this means they are singularly focused on one thing such as their career, a project they have been working on, etc. But, while there are seasons in which I believe we need to focus more on one thing, I think it is a mistake not to have a balanced life. If we are singularly focused on one thing over a long period of time, we might get short term results, but we will never reach the end goal.
For example, if you as a pastor are so focused on growing your church that you neglect your family, you will ultimately lose your family. Then, everything you have attempted to build within the church will come crumbling down. If you focus so much on your career but neglect your health, you run the risk of your health giving way and losing everything you have established within your career. We see examples of this type of “commitment” happening all of the time; great leaders you are like shooting stars - they are there for a moment, and then they disappear. I think it is wiser to live a balanced life. In fact, I would say that the best way to prevent weariness in the first place is to be committed to all of your priorities. You will have more endurance for the long haul if you are committed to your faith, your family, to your health, to re-creation, and to your career.
Responsibility is similar to commitment. We need to be committed to what we are responsible for, but I believe it differs in one major way. This is revealed in what I feel is the opposite of responsibility, and that is victimization.
If we always play the victim and make excuses for everything that is not working, then we have simply removed the power to change anything. Imagine if David had made excuses as to why he was too tired to press on. He had every reason to; he had fought all day, was very much grieving the loss of his family, and was all alone because all of his men had turned on him. But, he did not allow any of these problems to become excuses. He went and straightened himself in the Lord, and then asked God, “Shall I pursue?”. He was willing to go by himself if necessary, and I believe that sense of responsibility inspired men to follow him.
[bctt tweet="Excuses remove our power to change anything." username="kellystickel"]
So, my question is, where are we making excuses? Chances are, that is the same place we are feeling “weary”. If we take responsibility, stop making excuses, focus on our “why”, and recommit to making that happen, we will overcome our weariness. Maybe, just maybe, we will see the same results as David did when he and his men “recovered all”.
Passion can be restored when you go back to your “why”. Why did you start this endeavour in the first place? What did you envision when you first started? What will it take to get there? Some of the questions that I ask when I feel myself slipping into weariness and losing focus are: “If I were replaced today, what would the next leader do? What opportunities would they see? What problems would they solve? What would they do differently than what I am doing now?” Once I have an answer to any of those questions, I then ask myself why I am not doing those things. It is often because I am lacking courage somewhere to make a tough call. I have found that if I muster the courage to make that tough call, it often reignites my passion, my focus, my commitment, and my sense of responsibility.
I don’t think it requires constantly making the tough call to stay focused. I think focus is contingent on many other factors as well. In my own life, I have noticed that if my passion is waining, it generally comes back to some where I lacked the courage to make the tough call in order to keep things fresh and moving forward. For myself, that courage is summoned from within by looking ahead and envisioning the scenarios of making the call versus not making the call. Which outcome am I more afraid of? Usually it is the outcome of not making the tough call that is more terrifying, and so I summon the courage and make the decision to avoid the pain later.
Enemy #2: Entitlement
Entitlement is a disease that begins with the feeling that “I am owed something”. And entitlement is one of the deadliest enemies of the mission of the church. The moment we feel that God owes us, or that someone owes us, the focus is all on us. When the focus is on us, we are off mission.
Jesus rebuked the disciples immediately when they started talking about what they were owed when they got to heaven and who was owed the most. In Matthew 23, He told them, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”. In other words, the posture of the Kingdom is as a servant and preferring others. When we feel that we are above anyone, or that anyone owes us anything, then we cannot serve them, and we are off mission.
Enemy #3: Insecurity
We see God focusing on overcoming security in Gideon when He asked him to recuse Israel from their enemy in Judges 6. Gideon felt he was the least of the least, and yet God called him a mighty man of valour. God needed Gideon to see who he really was in order for him to walk into his destiny.
Insecurity is a struggle for all of us. We all underestimate ourselves, and this is because we do not fully realize who we are in Christ. While the Bible shows us who we really are, there are a number of things that fuel our insecurity and steal our true identities.
The Trap of Comparison
Comparison kills contentment. Gideon compared himself to others when he said, “I am the least in my family, and my family is the least in our tribe, and our tribe is the least in the nation.” But God would not hear of it. He told Gideon to ignore everyone else and to “go in the strength you have”. The tendency we all have to compare ourselves to others must stop.
This is made especially difficult with social media. I find it so difficult to feel good about myself when I see everyone’s highlight reels. I compare them to my “behind the scenes”. But, if I see comparison as a trap that fuels in security, I can fight it more easily.
The Trap of Validation
Whatever gives you validation must keep supplying affirmation. So, it is important that you check your sources of validation. If you look to certain people to give you validation, then they will have to continually supply you affirmation or you will become insecure. The only healthy source of validation is God Himself. If anyone, no matter how special they are, is your source of validation, it will not be a healthy situation. However, if God is your only source, then you will be able to have healthy relationships with anyone and instead, look to lift others up as opposed to looking to others to lift you up.
Enemy #4: Poor Leadership
All of us have an evil inner boss that creeps in when we are feeling weary, entitled, or insecure. The goal is to fire our inner boss and allow the leader within us to stand up. Our inner boss will motivate with fear. Fear is an instant motivator, but it is not a sustainable motivator. It will eventually lead to inaction, which leads to a lack of confidence, which results in more fear. It will drive people away from you.
Instead, a leader must promote confidence in their team. The team will know what you stand for, where the organization is going, and will have confidence in themselves and in their roles. This type of motivation is healthy and sustainable.
Also, our evil inner boss will assign blame, whereas a leader takes responsibility. When the team loses, the boss will blame, but the leader takes responsibility for the loss upon himself. The truth is, when you are always blaming others, you are often avoiding some important issue about your own leadership. I have challenged our team not to say “Our people just won’t…” and instead say, “We haven’t led our people to…” This is the language of a leader.
Craig Groeschel once said, “We can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both.” Controlling leaders is toxic to the growth of any ministry. Jesus more effectively moved his mission forward than any other leader in history. If we take him as an example, we must empowering people, giving them responsibility, not just tasks. When we give them tasks, we’re training them “to do”, but when we give them responsibility, we’re empowering them “to lead”. Jesus was a master of this. He empowered His disciples to lead, and they followed his example by empowering others to lead. The church exploded into existence all across the world and it is still moving today. So, in our generation, it is imperative for us to follow their example and lead in the same way because the church is the hope of the world and we’re on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurch people love to attend.
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