Never underestimate what you can achieve! Advice from a guy who knows.
- Posted on Sep 8, 2010
Years ago I was the pastor at a small church in Irving, Texas, when I got restless.
I kept getting the feeling I wasn’t supposed to stay there, but what was it God wanted me to do? It was a good church.
Still, the prospects of reaching more people were limited and I had so many ideas that didn’t fit the congregation. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a preacher at all.
I was going to seminary at the time and there was a big oak tree on campus I liked to sit under, daydreaming and pondering my future. One day, lounging in the shade of that oak, I came up with the idea of starting a new church. A place where I could preach the Gospel and reach people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church, like the guys I knew in high school and college who would have stared right through me if I mentioned the Bible or invited them to worship. Instead of trying to change a place, why not start something from scratch?
That dream, hatched under the oak tree, has come true in ways that still astonish me. Our church, Bay Area Fellowship, is one of the fastest growing in America. What the whole experience has taught me is how dreams are just the first step God uses to change us and help us grow. Something powerful gets unleashed in us when we start pursuing our dreams. We become partners with God and real change happens—not overnight, but little by little, until we are utterly transformed. Here are some tips for making your dreams come true.
Listen to the pain.
Pain can be a powerful motivator, more so than pleasure. It has an amazing way of making us hear God more clearly and focus on what’s really important. Whatever you’re struggling with right now can help you. Let it be your wake-up call.
Not long ago I glanced at a photo of myself with my wife, Jessica. I couldn’t believe how heavy and unhealthy I looked. It’s just a bad angle, I told myself.
“Don’t let anybody see that picture,” I told Jessica.
Finally it occurred to me that bad angle was exactly what everybody saw—a man who wasn’t taking good care of the body God gave him. That hurt. And it convinced me to go to the gym and start eating right.
Pain can be emotional, financial, physical or, more often, a combination. If you don’t pay attention to it and stop charging stuff on your credit card to assuage your insecurities or using alcohol to numb your anger, for instance, things will only get worse. Imagine your life is a movie, then fast forward into the future and ask yourself, “If I don’t change now, where will I be?”
Are you waiting on God to improve your situation? What if God’s waiting on you? God loves us right where we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay there. He wants to deliver us out of the messes we create, the mediocrity we tolerate, and help us reach our full potential.
A man recently came to me with a problem. He was about to leave for a sales convention with a group of colleagues.
“There are things that go on there that make me uncomfortable,” he said. “I have to go to this convention for my job, but I don’t think I have the guts to stand up and say I don’t want to be a part of those extracurricular activities. Will you pray with me?” We prayed then and there for the courage to do the right thing.
At the convention, he quietly but firmly turned down invites to questionable activities. He didn’t condemn anyone for their behavior; he just said that carousing didn’t fit with the kind of person he wanted to be. At first his coworkers wrote him off as a prude, but eventually the stand he took made the entire group rethink their priorities. Several coworkers came up to him and thanked him for speaking out. The salesman acted out of faith, not fear, and it not only transformed him, it changed the whole group.
Ask for help.
A huge part of success is having the willingness to ask for help.
“I don’t need anybody. I can do this on my own.”
That’s not independence talking, that’s arrogance. The reality is, you can’t do it alone. Look at the many examples of teamwork in the Bible. God himself is three persons—the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit—working in community. Adam had Eve, David had Jonathan. Jesus had his disciples. To accomplish great things, you need others.
I’ve experienced that with Bay Area Fellowship. The first and biggest part of my team is Jessica. Not only is she an amazing wife and mom, but she has great vision and leadership skills. I run every idea by her. I also have a phenomenal executive staff, each of whom brings unique strengths to the table. What we’ve been able to do together to grow our church is proof of that old saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Teamwork is important at home too. Jessica and I have realized that for our household to keep running, we need to give each of our three children tasks they’re responsible for. Otherwise, bedrooms disintegrate into hazardous waste sites, kids turn into video-gaming robots, tempers flare, doors get slammed and the next thing you know, we’re all having a meltdown.
If you want to experience God’s best, at home or at work, you have to learn to delegate responsibility. When you insist on doing everything yourself, you inevitably end up losing control. Worse, you lose the opportunity to empower others.
Time it right.
You may have the right words, the right people, the right strategy, but if you have the wrong timing, forget it. Timing is everything. A pastor friend called me this past summer. He was frustrated. “Church is going so badly,” he said. “Attendance has been terrible; everything is down.”
I said, “It’s July. Don’t count on high attendance. People are on vacation.” For everything, there is a season, right?
So often we make a decision at the wrong time, either just before a victory or just after a setback. Don’t get too caught up in the highs and lows. Keep the big picture in mind.
“Wait until you’re on an upswing,” I told my pastor friend. “Then you’ll be able to make a better decision about what to do next.”
Learn from criticism.
Maintaining success means dealing with criticism. If you’re not being criticized, then you’re probably not aiming for excellence or attempting anything beyond the norm. As the saying goes, “If you stick your head above the crowd, expect to get hit with a few rotten tomatoes.”
Look for the kernel of truth in any criticism and make appropriate changes. If you listen carefully to your critics, you can improve drastically. Even when they’re wrong, you can learn something, maybe gain an insight into yourself.
Once, a family left our church and they were saying very negative things about me. I called a mentor of mine, Scott Weatherford, for advice. “Is anything they’re saying true?” he asked.
I told him no. “But it still hurts,” I admitted.
Then Scott said something that only a great leader could say because he had already lived through many similar situations. “Bil,” he said, “I’d be more worried if it didn’t hurt, because then you would no longer be a lover of people.”
Go for a redo.
My favorite teachers in junior high school were the ones who would give us a redo. I’d turn in a math worksheet, and after the teacher looked through my answers, she’d say, “Bil, come up here. Take another look at problems number four, number twelve and the last one, and try again.”
Sure, I wish I could have solved all the problems correctly the first time. Still, I was so grateful to have the chance to go back and get it right. God is like that. He’ll always give us another chance.
With the first church I started, nothing went right. We had 50 members and we weren’t growing. I met with the leadership and discussed our options. Ultimately, I decided to chalk it up to experience and move on. It would have been easy to give up at that point and decide that God didn’t want me to plant a church. Been there, done that, failed miserably. Yet I still had a strong sense of purpose. So I took the lessons I’d learned and tried again. This time, the church we planted was Bay Area Fellowship, and it has blossomed.
When successful people fail, they think about what went wrong and what they can do differently the next time. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make or even how many times you fail. What matters is that you use each failure as an opportunity to grow.
Failure isn’t necessarily an indication that you should give up. Sometimes the difference between someone who receives God’s blessing on a dream and someone who doesn’t is that the first guy simply sticks with it longer.
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