On the bulletin board in my office I have a quote from Henry Cloud’s book Integrity. He talks about entering an office eighteen years before he wrote the book and seeing a large sign on the wall. It read:
No problems, no profit.
He says that he stopped and stared at the sign for so long the message became permanently etched in his mind. He talks about the fact that life is largely about solving problems.
My experience has been that the life of a church leader is all about solving problems. This is true in any field but it is especially true in the church.
The church and problems
Churches have problems. That is a fact of life. Each leader’s situation is different but one thing that you all share is that either right now or at some point in the future, you are going to face problems. How you handle them will largely determine your success as a leader.
If you are one of the lucky ones who is problem free, just wait a little while. The problems will come and you will be looking back at this problem-free stage in your life with more than a little bit of longing.
Think about it for a moment. Churches are made up of people and people bring their problems with them to church. To wish for a problem free church would be to wish for a church minus people. It is true that people are the greatest source of joy in a leader’s life but they also are the primary source of frustration for almost everyone who serves in a leadership role.
The Bible tells us that we are in the midst of a spiritual battle in which the forces of evil would like nothing more than to side track Christians from their mission. One way this can be done is to create a setting in which problems distract members from their ministry. I am not saying that every problem a church faces is satanic but no church can function in the middle of a spiritual battle and not expect repercussions. Wars are won or lost by how leadership responds to problems.
Our Canadian culture has radically changed over the past fifty years. It has moved from a place in which Christianity held a central place in the culture to one in which Christian leaders and the church as a whole have moved to the fringes. As leaders we need to rethink how we respond to the culture around us because the world around us is responding quite differently to us. As we work through these changes, our world is going to be filled with problems of different kinds and we need to figure out how to solve them.
Jesus’ ministry was largely about solving problems. He had disciples who were slow to understand what he was teaching. He had opponents who were constantly trying to trip him up and make him look bad in front of his followers. He had a family who didn’t believe in him. Eventually he died because his message was largely rejected by the people to whom he presented it. If his ministry was filled with problems, why should we expect to be problem free.
The good news
Problems can be solved.
Cloud, in the passage that I mentioned above, goes on to say that life is largely about solving problems. That is true in any church regardless of the size or type of church you may be serving. Church life is largely about solving problems.
The journey through the problem may be difficult but once a church works through it and finds a solution, it comes out the other end stronger than when it went in.
This is true when the problem is solved. Too often problems are ignored in the hope that they will disappear. Leaders try to go around the issue rather than through it but that never solves the problem. It just sort of gets pushed under the carpet and ignored but when the pile of dirt becomes large enough, it becomes difficult to walk.
I’m not suggesting that we should go looking for problems in our church but they do present us with the opportunity to solve them in a Christ-like way. This way the church comes out the other end unified and ready to move forward. As the sign, that changed Henry Cloud’s life, said:
No problems, no profit.