Yesterday we invited Joe Beckler to come speak to our regional MHP gathering. It was another excellent time together and Joe really brought the kind of wisdom we are craving. Joe is a church planter who is helping forge a church planting movement in the Denver area that crosses denominational and socio economic lines. Most of all, Joe is a down to earth guy who has gone through the fire and has a lot to offer.
His topic: Overcoming discouragement that comes from perceived lack of momentum or growth.
Discouragement is definitely a black hole in ministry and it can skew your perspective if you allow it. We intentionally described the topic as “perceived momentum” because often times God is actively at work, but you can’t perceive it when you’re so focused on what is not happening.
Joe brought much wisdom to us. Here are some of the highlights:
1) The only impressive thing about the church is Jesus. This sounds obvious on the surface, but when a leader seeks to be impressive in subtle or obvious ways, discouragement can soon follow. Sometimes discouragement is the trigger to refining who the spotlight is really on. The best news a leader can hear is, “you don’t have to be impressive, because Jesus is.”
2) Make discouragement a community experience. The temptation for a leader is to hoard all the discouragement for him or herself, but Joe challenged us to let others share the discouragement load. Then, when God does step in and work, the celebration can also be a community experience. A word of warning: there is a canyon sized difference between discouragement and feeling defeated. Feeling defeated should not be treated the same way!
3) Marking moments is critical to encouragement. Some leaders can tend to only focus on what is not going well. In group meetings, we often start each meeting by celebrating wins and what God is doing among us. We spend 20 minutes or so letting people notice what God is up to and celebrating that. Its always amazing to hear what people have noticed.
4) When you are discouraged, do the opposite of your natural tendency. This piece of advice resonated with us very strongly. If, when you’re discouraged, you tend to brood, or get angry and withdraw, build the discipline of moving away from all those things as they all only feed discouragement. Joe shared how important it is to “know thyself” and know your own tendencies and bad habits so you can intentionally move the opposite way. Lots of wisdom in that simple nugget.
5) God showing up amidst your discouragement is a worldview changer. Our church has experienced this most recently. After a pretty tough 18 months, we’re seeing monumental of evidence of God’s work and the best part is, we can’t take credit for any of it! It turns out that Jesus really is impressive and we really are not and this is both encouraging and liberating for leadership.