Trading Blame For Congregational-Efficacy

Note: This is the third article in a three part series.

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Philippians 2:12-13, NRSV

“Whether you think that you can or you can't, you're usually right.”
Henry Ford

“I think I can, I think I can.”
The Little Engine That Could

The last two articles have traced the corrosive effects of blaming others for our experience. Blame lowers our motivation while raising our belief we are victims of our circumstances. Blaming shuts us down and narrows constructive options for action. Pastors, church staff, lay leadership teams, and entire congregations who choose blame as their approach to concerns will go nowhere fast with momentum grinding to a halt.

Yet, when we take responsibility for our experience, we start moving again. When we keep this movement going, we may even find our blaming is redeemed, turning into efficacy. When enough disciples in a congregation forsake blame and take responsibility, their congregation capability rises.

So just what is efficacy and how is it related to our faith? Social Scientist Albert Bandura introduced the concept of self-efficacy over thirty years ago. Not the same as self-esteem (feeling good about oneself), self-efficacy is the belief that one is capable of achieving what needs doing. People with high self-efficacy believe they can reach their goals, exercising greater perseverance and problem-solving. They are not controlled by the circumstances around them, but learn and adapt, moving ahead in goal-directed ways. Those with low self-efficacy do the opposite….blaming, quitting, and generally believing they are helpless victims.

Though social science can now name these concepts and observe them at play in our lives, God provided everything we need for high congregational-efficacy centuries before. The Philippians passage above reminds us that God is at work in us, empowering and equipping us to participate with God. So, high efficacy congregations believe they can live into who God is calling them to be. They perceive the challenges we face in this Postmodern context as simply part of the mix. Rather than blame the world around them for their lack of interest in church, high efficacy congregations move out of the comfort zones into God’s flow in this world. They are capable because of Christ in them. They are counter-cultural since they won’t play the popular blame-game. They are resurrection people who believe they can do whatever God calls them to do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So may we banish the blame, embracing our congregational-efficacy, willing and working for God’s good pleasure.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates