By Jerry Harris
I’m tired of several culturally popular words. The term “new normal,” which I’ve written about previously, is one of them; it seems to carry a connotation of something “less than before” that we must reluctantly accept. I’m also tired of the overuse of the word “season”—it causes me to have “friends are friends forever” flashbacks! But the one I’m seeing more and more lately is the word “transition.” That hits close to home, as I have just “transitioned” from being senior pastor of The Crossing—a position I’d held for the last 24 years—to teaching pastor; the person I’ve been mentoring for the past 16 years has been installed as the new senior pastor.
Churches of all persuasions across the country are transitioning to a post-pandemic reality, even though it’s a bit premature to declare the pandemic over. These churches are navigating different weekend attendances, offering amounts, staffing, how to manage an online audience, and a host of other matters. Christian colleges and universities are also navigating some tough transitions (as we shared in our January/February issue).
We live in a culture that gives a title to every hard thing with which one might deal, and post-traumatic stress disorder frequently is the term of choice. It is traumatic when you’ve established a vision, a metric to measure the success of that vision, and a game plan to implement it . . . only to have it blown apart by unforeseen circumstances.
All this transition causes me to remember the talk about innovation that Craig Groeschel gave at the 2014 North American Christian Convention. He referenced Mark 2:1-5, which tells the story about a paralytic lowered before Jesus through a hole in a roof. Groeschel said, “Innovation isn’t as much about what we do but how we think. When we can learn to think differently, we can become what God has intended for us to be.” He then laid out an equation of creating an innovation environment:
Limited Resources + a Willingness to Fail + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation.
If your ministry is experiencing limited resources—whether that’s attendance numbers, money, staffing, or your personal position—you are in a great place to try new things. We must get away from the attitude that“we can’t because we don’t.” We have everything we need to reach everyone God wants us to reach in this moment. Limited resources don’t hinder innovation, they catalyze it! We need to let our limited resources become a breeding ground for innovation.
We need to embrace the axiom, “Failure is not an option, failure is a necessity!” John Maxwell says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly!” I couldn’t agree more! No one ever does anything new perfectly the first time. Our greatest accomplishments in ministry rest on countless big and small failures, but every failure brings an adjustment that moves efforts forward.
Transitions in life and ministry can put us into spaces that are far from the usual. In truth, these transitions lead us to places with plenty of opportunities to fail, but those same places are rich with personal and ministerial innovation.
Transition is where we test the strength of our passion. Some people decided to just stop working because of the pandemic. But how about those of us in ministry? Transitioning out of a senior role could cause a person to start thinking about taking it easy, but we must not forsake our passion. Instead, at such a time as this, we need to turn up the power of our passion!
If we still believe people are headed to a very real fate called Hell unless they come to Jesus, then our “want to” has to move to “have to”! We have to reach people for Jesus! We have to care more about reaching them than we do pleasing them, and when we do that, innovation is fueled up with passion.
We are a movement that must embrace innovation without compromising the sacred truth of the Word of God. Whether you are involved in a church, ministry, or university, let whatever transition you are experiencing lead you to a place of innovation where your area of ministry is one of the hardest places from which to get to Hell!