Moving Beyond Excuse Making

“We can’t do that because…..”

I’m really tired of hearing this statement.

And I’m not the only one.

Haven’t we had enough of self-limiting viewpoints which prove to be obstacles to growth and mission advancement?

What congregations really mean when they say this is that we cannot do that (explore being and doing differently) and maintain our current way of being and doing church.

What we believe, what we tell ourselves, really does determine our reality. Those who recite their litanies of excuses rarely lead or even follow into God’s future. Churches at this point in time are well rehearsed in reciting this litany.

What helps congregations move beyond excuse making to spiritual invigoration?

Recognizing the past is past.
The past really is gone. The present is not the past. In times of continuous change, a congregation can simply improve the quality of what it does, reaping great harvests. We are in a time of discontinuous change, wherein former paradigms and models for church life are mostly irrelevant. In fact, those congregations who try harder to improve the quality of their irrelevant church paradigms will actually increase their crisis…and eventual demise. We have to release the illusion that the way we did church back then will somehow become relevant to this vastly different environment in which we find ourselves. Recognize the past is past, grieve it, and let it go.

Recognizing the present brings great opportunities for the church to be the church.
Isn’t it fascinating that people who are no longer religious still want to be identified as spiritual? There is an innate spiritual hunger within humanity, regardless of the time in history in which they live. So this is the perfect opportunity for the church to get in touch with its heart, its spirituality, and then engage the world with it. We can’t do that the same way we used to. Yet the need, desire, and hunger for authentic spirituality continues.

Recognizing that the congregations who learn and adapt the quickest will be those who survive and thrive in this new environment. Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline), back in the 1990s, predicted the organizations who would thrive are those who learn the fastest. Radical change is happening for all kinds of groups of people; corporations, educational systems, non-profits, etc. Why would we think the church’s paradigm and methodology should be the only one not required to adapt? This would be foolish. Instead it’s time to embrace the learning opportunity right before us.

Recognizing the way forward is engaging new endeavors, holy experiments, and untried paradigms. It’s time to give ourselves permission to experiment. The congregations who embrace experimentation will find new life. Improved quality in the old paradigm won’t do it. Former methodology is insufficient. Embrace a permission-based attitude, trying holy experiments. God’s people have reinvented themselves over and over. We are not the first ones to face this challenge. Embrace the opportunity to chase those wild thoughts. They may be Holy Spirit inspired.

Recognizing authentic engagement as the way forward.
I’m so encouraged when I observe teams of people in churches who develop the courage to say what they really know. Honesty, love, courage….these lead to authentic conversations and dialogue. This leads to discovery of new ways forward. If you are determined to hang on to your self-prescribed expert status when it comes to doing church, you will limit your congregation. Thinking we know the answers already, along with timidity, anxiety, fear… Life is too short for these things. Authentically embracing the challenges of our context, environment, and time in history is invigorating.

When congregations move beyond excuse-making to authentic engagement…well, the world opens up again. They put faith into action, give themselves permission to be and do, fail and succeed, and embrace a learner’s perspective. This leads to a life of invigorated spiritual engagement. May we be those kinds of disciples and churches; those who have given up the litany of excuses.

Mark Tidsworth,
Pinnacle Leadership Associates