2020 . . . the toughest year ever for most of us. And yet, probably the year most of us learned more than we ever have.
At the beginning of every New Year, I like to reflect on the year that just ended, and identify the top three lessons the year prior has taught me. Narrowing down the lessons learned in 2020 to only three was super challenging for me. I learned so many things. But here are the Big Three:
1. The ministry I lead isn’t mine
It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God. It never was mine to begin with, but the uncertainty of 2020 brought that home in a powerful way. I’ve learned a deep lesson in 2020: Converge Coaching will grow to the size God wants it to, to a size that is safe for me and the team God’s given me. Safe meaning safe for our mental and emotional health; safe for our marriages; safe for our walks with God. And I’ve found incredible peace walking in this posture.
Yes, it’s still my responsibility to diligently plant seeds and water them. To work both hard and smart. But it’s God’s responsibility to make those seeds fruitful. He opens the right doors at the right time with the right clients. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (NIV)
2. I have nothing to prove
It feels liberating to just say these words . . . I have nothing to prove. I don’t mean that in a cocky, I don’t care what anybody thinks kind of way. This second lesson isn’t a summons to que sera sera (For you young-ins, this song was popular a long time ago and it meant a, “whatever will be will be”) type of fatalism.
What I mean is I don’t have to try to impress you with my gifts, my accomplishments, etc. I don’t have to give my resume every time I meet someone who has a lot of influence, and could “help us grow the ministry.” I don’t have to project a false image of myself to be respected. It’s exhausting when we try live up to an image that is incongruent with how God has wired and put us together.
I only need to be the best version who God made me to be. He’s impressed when I stay true to how He knit together my personality and giftedness. I’m at my best when I’m comfortable in my own skin with you and others.
3. God is shaking and pruning His Church
Here’s a prayer I wrote in my journal on July 24, 2020: “Lord as I think about where our country is and where it’s heading, I feel anxious. At times I feel hopeless. I wonder if we are living in the last days. Father I need Your perspective. Above all of the loud voices shouting right now, help me to hear your voice. To locate peace. To understand as much as possible the view from heaven.” And then after writing that prayer in my journal, I waited for a few minutes to listen.
Here’s what I heard in my spirit: “John I am shaking My church. The consumers, the pretenders, and the rebellious are being pruned away. I have divine purpose in what I’m allowing to happen!”
Here’s how I’ve been translating the above journaling moment to congregations since then:
If you bounce from church to church because you don’t like a decision your pastor made or you’re just not “being fed”, or if you only take and never give back . . . you might be a consumer.
If you’ve been attending a church for years because you have friends there, but have never really surrendered control of your life to Jesus . . . you might be a pretender.
If you care more about your rights than demonstrating love and concern for people . . . you might be a rebel.
God is pruning away from His Church the consumers, pretenders, and rebels. He’s separating the weeds from the wheat. It’s my belief those who remain will be easier to lead and pastor.
So there you have it. The ministry I lead isn’t mine. I don’t have anything to prove. God is shaking and pruning His church. Three unforgettable, indelible, and inspirational lessons from the chaos that was 2020.
What were the most important things you learned in 2020? I encourage you to write them down, reference them often, and let them shape your thinking and behavior in 2021.
I’m rooting and praying for you to have an incredible year!