I recently gathered with a few colleagues to covenant together about our learning for the next couple years. As you might predict, there was a range of ideas that people had about what we ought to study, what we ought to read, who ought to lead, etc. These reflected our diverse interests, learning styles and contexts.
I’m an active reader and I stay pretty well-tuned with current trends, and so I was having trouble coming up with a particular topic or writer or leader that would rise above all the others to help us learn what we need to learn to do this work. Any of several possibilities would be helpful, but none stood out.
Then it dawned on me. What I need most out of a covenant learning community are trusted colleagues who are willing to talk me into things. When I’m mulling over various options and have a notion of what needs to happen, I need someone to push me forward, to say “go for it!” When I’m counting the cost and measuring the resistance, I need trusted friends who say, “Be bold and audacious. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Take the risk. Don’t play it too safe. Just do it!”
Now if that sounds careless, let me explain. I actually think that people who talk us into things provide an added dimension to accountability. We often think of accountability as restraining negative behaviors, but accountability at its best stimulates positive and creative ministry. For instance, when Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs, two by two, he did so to increase their effectiveness and to strengthen them for the tasks they would face. What did a pair of disciples do as they walked the road to a place they’d never been before with a message they hadn’t yet preached to speak to a crowd that was resistant and antagonistic? They talked each other into going forward nevertheless! They mulled over the possibilities, prayed for each other, and challenged each other’s fears. They reassured each other, and pushed each other to greater boldness.
Coaching is the newest tool that many of our pastors are using to help them focus and grow in their work. A good professional coach doesn’t provide all the answers, isn’t a consultant, and won’t tell a pastor what to do. A good coach listens to the pastor as she or he talks about what seems the right thing to do, what seems possible, and what needs doing to move the church forward. The coach asks, “So, what’s stopping you?” and then listens to the host of internal fears and outer resistance that holds the pastor back. A good coach walks through each of those fears and asks the pastor to test them. Are they real? What would happen if the idea fails? What happens if it succeeds? What happens if you do not even try? In short, a good coach talks a pastor into doing what the pastor already has an inner stirring to do.
The ministries that have been most fruitful for my own work have been those I’ve risked because friends and colleagues talked me into them. Should I write a book? Should we try a new mission initiative? Should we finally face the painful decision with a conflicted staff situation? Should I invest the time to learn Spanish to increase my reach of communication? Should we change something in the worship service? For each of these decisions, there were a thousand inner fears to face. And in each case, friends and colleagues helped me sort through the real concerns from the perceived obstacles. They talked me into it. I already sensed the spirit prompting me, but my friends graced my life by nudging me past the fears and into creative and bold action. All my best mentors are my mentors precisely because of how they pushed me forward.
Who talks you into things? Who among your colleagues and confidants do you need to talk into doing something more bold and creative for the purposes of Christ?
Yours in Christ,