Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Renewal: Step One - Think!

On Monday morning a friend was driving me to the Seattle -Tacoma airport after a long weekend of teaching and leading. On the way, he asked me, “What do you feel is the best thing about your new situation?”
The question caught me by surprise. I didn’t have a ready answer. My life had always been a busy and exciting journey. My early career years were spent as a corporate executive in the electronics industry, starting and growing business organizations. Then leaving that behind we transitioned into full-time ministry - planting and growing churches and teaching and leading seminars and workshops. My new situation was semi-retirement. We had left our church, moved to Mississippi, and started Aslan Ministries - a non-profit organization to encourage and equip churches and other organizations.
After about thirty seconds of thought, I blurted out the answer that had suddenly hit me, “Now I have time to think.” The answer seemed to stun me, and also my friend. But it was true. My life had become far more productive.
Too often, we get caught up with daily activities and do not take the time to reflect. Our lives have become too organized.
Today this starts in early childhood as parents begin to organize their children's lives. They fill the child’s life with organized activities - sports, dancing classes, and church groups. These are all worthy and teach, but they keep children, and the parents, so busy they have no time to think and reflect.
I grew up in a time when there was no television. We would sit on the floor in front of the radio and listen to the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, and other programs. You could shut your eyes and picture the great white stallion, Silver, and trusted Indian friend Tonto. When these programs came to television something was lost. No television set could equal the imagination pictured in a listener’s mind.
For many years I have been struck by an interesting fact. The state of Mississippi, which is often near the bottom of positive statistics, stands out above all other states in the number of creative people per capita. Was there something in the water? I have since come to the conclusion, that because of the poverty and slower lifestyle, people have time to think. When people have time to think, they can use their creativity.
When starting a company from scratch, there are few customers to serve. There will be a lot of marketing activities, getting out and meeting new people, and setting up your products or services. It is the same way planting a church. This leaves time for thinking and soul searching - sometimes wondering why you ever tried this.
As the organization grows, you have to get organized, because that is what everyone does. You start with the vision of the future, a significant purpose that will motivate the leadership to spend their lives for that purpose. Concerns for any difficulty are subjugated by the sheer power of the vision. The rewards will be greater than the risks. The family, employees, or members of the organization are able to foresee the significance of what they are trying to accomplish.
As the organization grows, the exciting adventure of achieving the vision dims, even in the best of situations. Somewhere along the way, the organization itself changes. Instead of being the instrument for fulfilling the vision, it now has become a consumer of valuable resources. Like an overindulged, spoiled child, the organization itself demands everyone’s attention. The vision is subjugated to the demands of maintaining the organization. Resources intended to serve the greater purpose are now consumed maintaining the organization.
Renewal can only come when the original vision is restored. If you feel that your life, your job, or your organization has become a drudgery, it is time to stop, get to a quiet place and spend time reflecting upon whatever happened to your dream. Several years ago we were teaching a group of missionaries, pastors, and evangelists in Costa Rica. It was obvious that many of them had lost their God-given vision. My advice to them was if their vision has dimmed, they should stop what they were doing, go up on a mountaintop, and pray for their vision to be restored. They should not go back into ministry until that vision was clear again.
If you are a leader of an organization, do not let the organization lead you. You should be led by your vision. If that vision is unclear, take time to think, reflect, and pray.

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