By Tim Massengale
The American Indians tell a parable of a brave who found an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up as one of them.
All his life, the changeling eagle, thinking he was prairie chicken, did what prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. And he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and slurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground. After all, that’s how prairie chickens are supposed to fly.
Years passed and the changeling eagle grew older. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.
“What a beautiful bird!” said the changeling eagle to his neighbor. “What is it?”
“That’s an eagle – the chief of birds,” the neighbor clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.”
So the changeling eagle never gave it another thought. And it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.
Success Involves Risk
What a tragedy! Built to soar into the heavens, but conditioned to remain earthbound, the young eagle pecked at stray seeds and chased insects. Though designed by God to be among the most awesome of all birds, he instead believed his neighbor’s counsel: “You’re only a prairie chicken . . . come on, let’s go find some insects.”
Right now, you may be finding yourself in a situation much like that of the changeling eagle. You know God has empowered you with the ability to have a far greater church than you have right now. You know you are filled with a Spirit which enables you to reach and obtain the impossible. But for some reason, a voice in the back of your mind keeps saying, “But you are only a Pentecostal. You’ve always been small. What hope is there of growing now?”
You try to shrug off the voice of the enemy, yet he persists, “It’s so much easier to scavenge for insects than to soar among the heavens. It’s so much simper to just do like everyone else than to venture out and risk failure.”
Of course it is. It’s also easier to read book after book and attend seminar after seminar on “How to do it” than to sit down, roll up your shirt sleeves, and get the job done.
Sure you risk failure. Risk is a part of it. As a wise man once observed, “The only thing in life that’s achieved without risk is failure.” Nothing worth obtaining and striving for ever comes easy. Not even for the so called “natural geniuses” of our world.
J.C. Penney once observed, “Geniuses themselves don’t talk about the gift of genius. They just talk about hard work and long hours.”
Edison believed that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Remember, it took Thomas Edison over seven hundred attempts before he saw the light. Why wait? Do it now! Make 2014 the year that you stepped out by faith and tried something different. Today is yesterdays tomorrow, and you’ve been telling yourself “tomorrow” for a long time.
He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few thing ill, but he will do very few things. – Charles Baudelaire
Dr. David McClellan, professor of psychology at Harvard wrote, “Most people in the world can be divided into two broad groups. There is the minority which is challenged by adversity and opportunity – willing to work hard to achieve something. Then there is the majority, which really does not care all that much.”
People do not like change. Most people shy away from adversity. It does not challenge them, it repels them. But the successful pastor is aware of people’s normal resistance to change and is willing to put forth the effort in spite of it.
Hundreds of years ago, Machiavelli, the famous Italian politician wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” It is for this reason that no pastor will fight his way to consistent growth without exercising the fullest measure of faith, courage, determination, and resolution. The man that gets somewhere does so because he has first resolved in his own mind that this direction is the will of God, then has enough stick-to-it-iveness to transfer God’s will into reality.
Church growth requires three basic elements: (1) Organize, motivate and train your saints to become involved in active, productive ministry. (2) Sow much Gospel seed upon many waters, utilizing the most effective evangelism methods available. And (3) retain your new converts and help them grow into strong, stable Christians willing to labor for God.
To fulfill these three principles may require you to strengthen existing programs or implement new ones. You may need to launch new ministries, appoint and train new leaders, or branch out into new fields of harvest. You may need to revise your organizational and management structure. You may need to launch a comprehensive new convert care ministry. Putting these new elements into practice will not be easy. Most will require considerable changes and adaptation to fit your situation. Research has shown that growing churches are able to embrace and accept change as a needed part of growth.
In working with churches I have found that most churches go through four distinct phases in launching a new program of growth. These are:
- Confusion – This is the initial learning stage. People will not fully understand at first. Mistakes will be made. You will find yourself explaining the new ministry or program three, even four times. This is why it is important not to go too fast. The pastor needs to have a firm grasp upon what he wants accomplished and how he is going to do it. Put your plans in writing but be sure to stay flexible. Keep your eye on the end result, regardless of the opposition – press on!
- Communication – After several months of struggle and misunderstanding, people will begin to get a grasp on what you are trying to do. They will begin to give you feedback as to how they understand it – some positive and some negative. Be patient. Evaluate the suggestions and make changes if they are needed. Few things fit fresh out of the box. During the next several months you will adapt the ministry or program to fit your needs. Let communication flow both directions.
- Cooperation – After six or eight months, the resisters stop resisting. It’s hard to “kick against the pricks,” and, after all, you are tougher than they are. With cooperation will come results. You will now begin to see the fruit of your labor. Souls will begin to be saved (because you’ve sown a lot of seed). Your organization will begin to flow, your outreach will be effective, and your new converts will stick. The pastor that gives up too soon will never see the final revival that results from applying the solid evangelism principles of the Word of God.
- Commitment – The last stage begins after about a year of consistent use of the new ministry. You have custom designed everything to fit your specific needs. Most all the bugs have been worked out. You know you have reached this stage when you begin to hear comments like, “now we’re really moving” and “this is the only way to go.” The longer you use it, the better it gets.
Make It Happen
So the question a pastor must ask himself is, “Am I willing to pay the price of hard work, patience, sacrifice, and endurance to have a growing, thriving church?” Your answer is important, because the cost is great. The true definition of the word “commitment” is “being willing to give up something to gain something greater.” That is the “cost” that lies within the word “Pentecost.”
In his book, Making It Happen, Charles Paul Conn writes:
Whatever it is;
However impossible it seems;
Whatever the obstacle that lies between you and it;
If it is noble;
If it is consistent with God’s kingdom;
You must hunger after it;
You must stretch yourself to reach it.
In the midst of the gathering storm, in the heat of the raging battle, the people of God must stand firm. We must heed the words of the prophet in saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet!”
We do not have time for rationalization and debate. We, the church, are responsible for this generation. This coming year, should the Lord tarry, will present even greater opportunity in the midst of crisis. We must be equal to that challenge.
One day a veteran missionary in Taiwan, was faced with tremendous demands on every side. Depressed, she broke into tears, saying, “I just can’t meet all these demands!”
A voice seemed to whisper, “Who can’t?”
She later recalled, “I was stunned by such a thought. Did I presume to think it was I who had this mission burden by myself?” Would I dare to say what the Lord can’t do?”
Pastor, the battle is not yours, but His. This is His church. He will return for His bride which shall be dressed in white, without spot, nor wrinkle. How is the garment washed clean except by agitation? How are the wrinkles removed except by heat and pressure? The road to revival is not an easy one – but, oh, how great the reward. Make 2014 a year of destiny!