The WHAT Test – A Simple Strategy to Think Through Level of Commitment

Asian business people team drawing on white wall whiteboard with sticky notes creative real office

The WHAT Test.

Over the years, I have found numerous uses for this simple strategy of thought. The WHAT Test is an acronym of steps to force you to think through how committed everyone involved actually is to a project, relationship or goal. It doesn’t ensure success, but it can help you avoid the disappointment of not having thoroughly thought about the agreed upon direction and level of commitment before you begin.

Here’s The WHAT Test:Where

Where do you want to go? It sounds simple, but it’ serially not. Many times when one person is ready to celebrate success another thinks you’re just getting started. Talk through the end goal. What do you want to accomplish? Collectively define a win. Make sure it is very clear up front where you want to go and how you will know when you’ve “arrived” at your intended destination.

How?

How will you get there? What’s the plan? What are the steps to get us to our goal? Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge of what? What are the necessary steps involved? This is where you ensure there is a strategy in place.

Agreement

Are all parties in complete agreement with the previous two? This is critical. Don’t neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without knowing everyone is on board. Many times we agree to a vision on the front end and have reservations once the actual strategy is in place. It’s good to renew agreement before proceeding.

Tenacity

This may be the most important one. I always ask: Are you willing to pay the price to see it through? This is almost a covenant agreement type step – and may even involve an actual covenant. Most great ideas fail – not because they weren’t great ideas – but because no one had the commitment to see them through. This can be especially true when relationships are involved. Decide on the front end all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.

Obviously, each of these have multiple layers to them, but this exercise always seems to shake out some of the initial reservations which may not have been spoken and avoids some of the personal obstacles which may otherwise occur.

Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve used this:

  • Working with a couple trying to rebuild their relationship – could be after an affair or serious breach in trust has occurred.
  • Prior to attempting a difficult project or assignment.
  • Before a business partnership is formed.

At the beginning of any important venture – Take the WHAT Test

WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can easily pass the The WHAT Test.

There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is strategically thinking through these steps will help protect, build or rebuild relationships – plus help all parties avoid disappointment.

Solving a Problem is Often a Matter of Perspective – and how this principle impacts leadership

glass milk

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

Some days leaders feel as though all we do is address problems other people have. It could be a personal problem, a problem with a program, someone on our team, or it could be a problem no one can even identify – we just know it’s a problem. Leaders often serve the role of problem solvers.

It’s frustrating, as a leader, when you feel you’ve done your best to address a problem, but people still have a problem. The problem – from their perspective – still exists.

Ever been there?

That’s because fixing a problem – addressing the problem – doesn’t always solve the problem – at least in the mind of others.

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

I have a humorous story to illustrate this principle.

One time my family ate at a very popular chain restaurant in Chicago. I won’t tell you the name, but if I did you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a wonderful restaurant, somewhat fancy, and people often stand in line for hours to eat there. We continue to patronize the restaurant today.

Anyway, my son, who was probably 10 years old or so at the time, ordered milk. I don’t know why – who orders milk at a fancy restaurant? But, he’s always had a mind of his own. When they set the milk down on the table, my son noticed a huge fly floating in his glass of milk. He wouldn’t drink it! He can be somewhat picky about certain things – and a germaphobe – but, I didn’t blame him this time.

We called the waiter over and showed him the fly. The waiter simply grabbed a spoon off the table, scooped the fly out of the glass of milk, and tossed the fly onto an empty plate on the table and walked away, leaving us to stare at a fly half-drowning in milk on the plate in front of us.

Problem solved, right?

Seriously, this story remains funny to us today. In no way did we feel this problem was solved. It may have been fixed – there was no longer a fly in the milk, which was our only concern at the time, but the problem wasn’t solved. My son wanted a new glass of milk. I know – he’s picky. 🙂 We decided we weren’t up for an argument and instead made a funny memory together. We simply ignored it, my son drank his water, and we left feeling as though we had an unresolved problem at our table.

Our server, on the other hand, felt he had fixed our problem, so everything was good – no fly in the milk – no problem. He never apologized or addressed it again, but continued serving us.

That story – as silly as it is reminds me as a leader – just because you fix a problem from your perspective, doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem in the eyes of those you lead.

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

Understanding this principle means a few things for me:

First, as a leader, whether or not you’ve solved a problem – or even addressed it in some people’s eyes – may be based more on a person’s perspective, their personal interests or desires, and even their emotional investment at times, than it is on some measurable reality.

Second, I should keep trying to fix the problems I agree need fixing. It doesn’t mean I ignore them – I just need to be conscious of the fact I may not solve everyone’s concern with the problem. I may never make everyone happy – as hard as I may try to solve their problems. In fact, the day I make everyone happy I think my job as a leader will be complete. We won’t need leaders if everything was already fully solved. I don’t see this happening any time soon. (We call this job security.)

Finally, and more importantly, I should always attempt to understand the real problem from other person’s perspective. As much as possible, I should discover what solving the problem would even look like in their eyes. At this point, I can determine whether I can truly solve the problem to their satisfaction. This involves a leader asking good questions, repeating back what you think you’ve heard, and following up to see how you’ve progressed towards addressing their real concerns. Sometimes I’ll be able to and sometimes not, but everyone should at least know what’s considered resolution to the problem. This keeps me from spending time and resources attempting to fix a problem I can never solve.

In the case of the milk, if the waiter had asked, “Do you want a new glass or should I just scoop the fly out?”” – he would have learned how to move from fixing the problem to solving the problem from our perspective. And, though we did still tip him (because we are people of grace), his tip would have been considerably larger.

Have you ever tried to fix a problem but still experienced upset people?

5 Ways to Lead When You’re Limping

limping man

This is an encouragement to those who are limping in leadership.

I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences. Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss – where we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially – where God called me into ministry.

I entered ministry limping.

The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.

They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.

If this is your story – if you have a limp and you’re in leadership – I have a few suggestions.

Here are 5 ways to lead well when you have a limp:

Don’t hide your limp.

There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’ve lost their way – or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward. You don’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t true, either. Your story is your story.

Your limp may be God’s way of keeping you humble. Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past – I can’t change it or hide it, for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.

Don’t be a martyr!

No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’t wallow in your misery forever. It’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up – recognize it’s true – and deal with it. It’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.

Allow it to strengthen you!

You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again – and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it. There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things”. But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.

Be empathetic.

There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.

Keep limping across the finish line.

Don’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things. 

Limp well, my friend. Limp well.

Are you leading with a limp? How has it shaped your leadership?

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

chess play

I love organizational leadership. I especially love attempting to lead healthy organizations. I have been in both environments – healthy and non-healthy. I prefer healthy.

If truth be told, I’ve probably been the leader in both extremes. And, there are seasons when every organization is healthier than others.

Over the years of leading I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health. They keep health from happening and – if not dealt with – can eventually destroy an organization – even a local church.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. I’ve known leaders who think they can read a book, attend a conference, or say something persuasive enough so everything turns out wonderful. Organizational health is much more complicated. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity. Leaders must be committed to the process through good times and bad.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When an organization gets too comfortable – boredom, complacency and indifference are common results. The overall vision must be attainable in short wins, but stretching enough to always have something new to achieve. 

Selfishness – Organizational health requires a team environment. There’s no place for selfishness in this equation. When everyone is looking out for themselves instead of the interest of the entire organization – and this starts with the leader – the health is quickly in jeopardy.

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every one of my posts must be spiritual. (Just kidding.) Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect (and we all sin), but it doesn’t matter if it is gossip or adultery – sin ravages through the integrity of the organization. When moral corruption enters the mix, and is not addressed, the health of an organization will soon suffer. This is why it is so important a leader stays healthy spiritually, relationally and physically.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a rapidly changing world, organizations must act quickly to adapt when needed. Some things never change, such as vision and values, but the activities to reach them must be fluid enough to adjust with swiftness and efficiency.

Stubbornness – Let me be clear. There are some things to be stubborn about, again, such as vision and values. When the organization or it’s leaders are stubborn about having things “their way”, however, or resistant to adopt new ways of accomplishing the same vision, the health of the organization will suffer. Most people struggle to follow stubborn leadership, especially when it’s protecting self-interest rather than organizational interests.

Structure – As much as we need structure, and even though we should always be working to add better structure, bad structure can be damaging to organizational health. When people feel they are being controlled by rules, more than empowered by their individuality and passions, progress is minimized and growth stalls. People become frustrated under needless or burdensome structure. 

What enemies of organizational health would you add to my list?

 

7 Excuses I’ve Heard for Not Leading Well

exhausted man

In working with other churches and ministries, and in my experience in the business world, it seems we are desperate for good leadership. Organizations and teams thrive on good leadership.

As much as we need good leaders, it seems whenever I meet a leader struggling in their role, rather than admit it could be them, often I only hear excuses. It must be easier to pass blame than to own the problem as our own.

And, in full disclosure, I’ve probably been as guilty as anyone at times in my leadership career.

The excuses, however, are fairly common.

Here are 7 excuses I’ve heard – or used – for not leading well:

I don’t know how.

With each new season in leadership there will be a learning curve. If you’re leading, then your introducing change – you’re taking people somewhere they haven’t been before. This means there will be lots of unknowns in your world for a while. But, don’t use this as an excuse. Learn. Take a course. Get a mentor. Read some books. Ask better questions. Grow as a leader.

I can’t get people to follow my lead.

Well, we may have to check our leadership definition, but don’t give up. If God has called you to this – discover how to motivate people. Most people will follow someone if you’re taking them somewhere they need to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. Make sure you have a vision worth following, learn to communicate well and do all you can to help people attain it. In terms of communicating well – I often tell pastors – you’re best “sermon” may be the one you give to motivate people towards the change or vision. Early in my leadership career I participated in an organization called Toastmasters to help train as a communicator. 

I can’t keep up!

This can be a legitimate excuse at times – leadership can be overwhelming with the amount of change in our world, but we shouldn’t let it remain this way. Leaders have to learn to pace themselves. You have to surround yourself with others who can help carry the load. You can’t try to do everything or control every outcome. Learn delegation. And, don’t try to change everything at once. My rule of thumb is to be working on no more than 3 major changes at a time. This requires patience, because I may see 100 things which need to change. The only thing which works well though when I try to do too much at one time is I get to add to my excuses for not leading well. 

No one taught me how to lead.

And, that’s probably true. I have found many leaders are terrible at reproducing leaders. We don’t apprentice well. So, what are you going to do about it? Leaders find solutions to problems. They don’t let problems become the excuse. Learn from experience. It’s the best teacher anyway. Learn from trying. Learn from watching others. Just learn. It’s never too late to learn something new.

Times have changed.

This is true also. Times have changed. Cultures have changed. The workforce has changed. And, they will keep changing – fast! Good leaders adapt accordingly. They discover new approaches. They don’t make excuses.

It’s my team – I don’t have the right team.

Well, instead of using it as an excuse, you have a few options. Make them a better leader. Get a new team. Or, keep making excuses.

I’m burnout!

This excuse can be real also. It happens to all of us at times. But, don’t settle for this one. Get help. Heal. Rest. Renew. Regroup. Get healthier so you can lead again. Sometimes stopping for a while is your best answer – even amidst the busiest times. 

Honestly, I’m not trying to be sarcastic, arrogant, or unsympathetic. I realize each of these deserve their own post. I really do believe, however, good leadership is mostly finding a worthy vision, recruiting the right people and discovering ways to help people get there. And, we get better the more we practice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring a spiritual aspect into this – I am a pastor. My best leadership book is the Bible. My best leader example is Jesus. And, I have learned when I am being obedient to Him I lead better naturally. It doesn’t mean everything falls into place beautifully – it does mean I have all I need to lead – even when everything around me is a mess. 

Seriously, look over the list again. Are there any of them that can’t be overcome with a little determination?

Let’s stop the excuses and make better leaders!

12 Words of Encouragement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

caucasian business executive praising subordinate by giving a pat on the shoulder.

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

I frequently have pastors – or other leaders – ask me for my “best advice” for those in leadership positions. I have to be candid – it’s a difficult request. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all I’ve learned over the years – especially by trial and error. It could probably fill a book or two – but certainly more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one I would give to all pastors or leaders, to answer the question. I will address pastors, but wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words and I’d give this advice to any leaders. I decided my best advice deals with the soul of a leader – hence the title.

Here are 12 words of encouragement to protect the soul of pastors:

Choose your friends wisely – but make sure you choose friends.

Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it. And, it’s cliche, but to find a friend – be a friend.

The church can never love your family as much as you do.

Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (I’ve blogged several times on saying no, but you may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”)

If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you.

You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else – for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing – but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

You have influence – use it well.

The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t do it! Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry. Use your influence for Kingdom good more than for personal gain.

No amount of accountability or structure can stop failure if a heart is impure.

Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Allow others the freedom to speak into the dark places of your life, but, more than anything, keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

Let God lead.

You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours. This will take discipline, humility, and practice.

If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger.

Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time. When you ever stop being encouraged towards the seemingly impossible you may need to question whether you’re still walking by faith.

Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church.

You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus. Jesus always leads people following Him towards truth. So, lead people towards Jesus.

Your personal health affects the health of the church.

Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

The people in your church deserve authenticity.

As a leader, you set the bar of expectations, so your authentic actions encourage people to be transparent with you and others. When you’re authentic you help eliminate unrealistic expectations people may place upon you. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it – not just teaching it.

You’ll never make everyone happy.

Part of leadership is making decisions. With every decision comes different opinions of the decision you made. If your goal is to make people happy you’ll end up being very unhappy – and very unproductive. Everyone will suffer as you strive to be popular, but flounder in effectiveness.

People only know what they know.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made (and make) in leadership is assuming everyone will be on the same page as me – or they understand what I’m trying to communicate. This is unfair to people who don’t have the vantage point I have or who don’t even view the world as I view it. The more I grow as a leader the more I realize one of my greatest needs is more and better communication.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

20 Leadership Tips in Tweet Length

Colour pencils isolated on white background close up

A friend emailed me and asked for my “top 20 leadership tips”. They were doing a presentation on leadership and were asked to share 20 aspects of great leadership. The added catch – they wanted something short they could expand upon, so they suggested I share them in “Twitter length.”

It was like he didn’t know I’m the guy who only has “7” points in most posts?

I’m always up for a challenge though, so I wrote down the question and pondered it for a couple weeks. I added a few at a time. Then I sat down to compile the list.

Here are 20 leadership tips in Twitter length:

Build people – people are your greatest asset as a leader.

Believe in others – it’s the right thing to do and you can’t lead effectively otherwise.

Your life direction matters – you’ll likely end up where you point yourself and the team you lead.

Hold your methodology loosely – care more about accomplishing a worthy vision than how you do it.

Empower people – delegation is giving people real responsibility and real authority.

Keep learning – when you stop learning – you stop.

Renew your passion often – keep reminding yourself why you do what you do.

Learn to rest – so you can always do your best.

Value the word “No” – you can only do what you can do. Trying to do more lowers efficiency.

Prioritize each day – make every moment count – Because it does.

Let failure build you – not define you – it’s the best way to gain experience.

Be honest with yourself and others – what you hide will often trip you fastest.

Know your weaknesses – everyone else already does.

Listen more than you speak – you’ll learn more and others will feel valued.

Serving others always brings joy – giving back is the greatest vehicle to fulfillment in life.

Humility is attractive – people want to be around people who are. Applaud others louder than you “toot your own horn”.

Be intentional – nothing really great happens without intentionality.

Reject apathy – you’ll be tempted to settle for mediocrity. Don’t do it.

Communication is vital – people only know what they know. Same for you. Learn to ask good questions. 

Protect your character – even more than you try to protect your reputation. Do this and you’ll gain the other.

Feel free to Tweet one or two of them – they’re Twitter length.

Do you have one to share?

7 Things I Love About Serving in the Established Church

Bellfry of old Russian church against blue sky

I recently posted about the things I miss from church planting serving in an established church. Church planting can be daunting, but the rewards from seeing people far from God get excited about Him makes all the efforts worthwhile.

A friend of mine, Tom Cheyney, texted me with a challenge – and a needed one. Tom is one of the leading experts in the field of church revitalization. His Renovate Conference is the largest conference with a primary focus on revitalizing established churches.

Tom’s challenge – Ron, I enjoyed your article about what you missed about church planting Look forward to your follow up article about the local church!
Be blessed,
Tom

Touché! Good call, Tom. You’re right. I agree with you completely. I even wrote a post encouraging some who are considering planting to consider church revitalization.

There are some things I miss about church planting – some of those I even believe we could stand to see in the established church. But, there are also many opportunities and advantages to being in the established church, which is one reason I believe God has called me in this season of life into church revitalization.

So, here goes, Tom.

7 things I love about the established church:

Experienced servant leadership. One thing we were always scrambling to find in the church plant were people who had any experience leading within the church. It’s been refreshing to be back in an established church with leaders from multiple generations. Some of our lay leaders have more experience serving in the church than I have spent in my entire adult life. It should be noted we don’t always make the best use of this experience – which is one aspect of church revitalization – but, established churches often have good, capable leaders willing to help.

History to build upon. I love to find those high points in the life of a church – where everyone was excited – and renew the passion behind them. You can’t do this in a church plant. Everything is new. There’s a value in learning and building upon history. Some history will not need to be repeated, but most established churches have periods within their past where the church was vibrant, people were motivated, and God was clearly at work among them. If you can renew the excitement you can build upon these times.

Structure. I must be honest – I’m usually anti-structure. This is one of the attractions of the church plant. But, even then we had times where we knew we needed more structure. When I arrived back in an established church I quickly learned we knew structure well – perhaps a little too well. But, there are benefits, especially in the early days of revitalization. There were areas of the church I didn’t have to focus on because they were fully functioning without me. They may need improvement – at some point – but for the time they are working. In a church plant it sometimes seemed everything needed my attention as pastor.

Intergenerational. This happens some in a church plant – we had it some – but, it can happen more naturally in an established church. This is one area where the church must be intentional. It won’t simply happen, but we already had lots of seniors when we arrived. Since then we have found younger generations don’t shy away from a church because older generations are there. In fact, they like it. They want programs and ministries geared to their specific needs, but they love the intergenerational church. I tell our seniors – remember, grandparents are cool!

Resources. Whether it’s a building, or budget dollars, or people – established churches usually have more resources available than you will find in most church plants. When I arrived back at an established church my jaw was left hanging open the first six months just looking at the facilities we had available to us. There were budget concerns to those who had been there, but coming from a growing, budget-stretched church plant, I was so thankful to find the established church has established givers.

Community influence. Granted, the church may not be utilizing their influence to its potential, but if a church has been in the community for an extended period of time there are connections and built-up influence which can be leveraged to help the church grow. It’s been amazing to me the credibility with community leaders I found as a pastor of an established church, simply because our church has been here 100 plus years.

Restoration joy. There is something special about seeing new life in an older church. I’ve had the experience of seeing new growth in a church plant – twice. It’s awesome. But, seeing the established church thrive again – regaining momentum, restoring hope and potential to a church – there’s no way to describe the joy of knowing God allowed you a unique privilege of being a part of something special.

Thanks, Tom, for the challenge. Whether it’s church planting or encouraging church revitalization and growth of an existing church – if God calls you to it, and you are faithful to the call – you’ll feel His pleasure upon your obedience and service.

7 Common Excuses for Not Doing What We Know God has Called Us To Do

Excuses File Contains Reasons And Scapegoats

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.

I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I had to provide for my family. I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.

Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. 

And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?

But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.

The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong. 

Here are 7 of the most common excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t!

Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)

I don’t know how!

The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)

I don’t have time!

God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)

I’m all alone!

Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid!

And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it!

You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)

I won’t!

This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

5 Steps When the Changes Needed Seem Overwhelming

overwhelmed business woman sitting at her desk surrounded by many male hands holding different objects

The first couple years into church revitalization there were more opportunities than time. I was so excited about the potential we had to restore a historic, established church, but my calendar wouldn’t hold anymore and my mind was exploding.

One day I remember driving on the road which leads back to our hometown. I considered my schedule, the enormity of the challenge ahead, the dozens of emails awaiting a response and the people I was still having to say “no” to when they asked for my time – many who didn’t understand why the pastor couldn’t see them right away – and I turned to Cheryl and said, “Right now I wish I could just keep driving and this had been a nice little dream”. It wasn’t reality speaking or how I really felt. Plus, I knew to be obedient I was going to stay. It was emotions talking. I knew I was simply feeling overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself in that situation? When the changes are overwhelming – and you don’t know if you can do all expected of you – what do you do?

I hope you can learn from my experience. Here is what I did.

5 steps when the changes needed seem overwhelming:

Step back.

Take a day. Take a week. Pause everything. I realize it makes no sense to take a break when your schedule is packed, but stepping back gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead. Again, it may seem like you don’t have time to pause right now, but it may be you don’t have time not to do so. The time away will give you a better perspective, a clearer head and the rest will give you energy you need.

Get fit.

I used to tell our staff in a church plant that “you have to strive to be healthy to work here right now”. It was this way in this particular season in ministry. As much as it depended on me, I needed to be healthy spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically. I needed to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy relationship with my wife. I also needed extended time in God’s Word and prayer. This was even more than usual a time for intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.

Renew the vision.

When change is overwhelming you have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. The why is the key. It’s what fueled you in the first place and what has the best potential to fuel you again. I knew I was called here for a purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. If you are overwhelmed at something God called you to do, ask God to renew again the passion you had in the beginning before you were overwhelmed.

Chart a course one step at a time.

Baby steps. It’s how big change is accomplished. One foot in front of the other. The bigger the change the more methodical you must be. One day. One week. One month at a time. I had to ask people to be patient. I had to prioritize each day. I had to not feel bad about saying no. I had to get up every morning, create a list of things I could accomplish for the day, and realize tomorrow would be a new day. Learning to live a healthy pace may be a leader’s greatest challenge and most needed strength.

Invite people on the journey.

Delegation becomes even more important during overwhelming times in leadership. If you’re world is like mine this pretty much equates to every season of ministry. In church revitalization I was reminded over and over again the value of a team. I had to learn who I could trust, but I also have to take risks on people. I couldn’t then – and can’t now – be successful without others.

I made slow progress the first couple years. I was amazing how God blessed us in spite of our speed to obey. But, the process seemed to work. God has overwhelmed us – even in our times of being overwhelmed!

If you are overwhelmed at the changes occurring in your life right now, I suggest these 5 steps.

Ever been overwhelmed at the changes needed – what suggestions would you offer?