A couple of Sunday’s ago we celebrated our 4th birthday as a church. 4 years ago we stepped out to start Awakening Church to reach this generation.
I can still remember the butterflies I felt our very first service.
A couple years into planting Awakening I started a list of what I would do differently if I could do it all over again. Many of the lessons I was learning, I was learning the hard way. I wanted to make sure that I did not miss the lessons God was teaching me or repeat the same mistakes.
I thought I’d share 4 lessons I learned over the past 4 years. These have deeply shaped my life, my leadership and as a result our church.
- Really listen to those who are older and wiser.
When we set out to start Awakening Church there was an older gentlemen by the name of Ken Dean. He is a wise sage known as Father Dean. He generously gave me his time and wisdom. I would sit at his feet and learn. The problem was I wasn’t really listening. I only listened for the things that confirmed what I was already thinking and dismissed the things that challenged my thinking.
Before there was Awakening Church, there was Awakening ministry. It was a college and young adult’s ministry of Westgate Church. I remember Ken telling me that I needed to stop our evening services for at least 2-3 months so that we could restart something new. This would’ve given us the space and time to thoughtfully launch our new church. As well as, it would have marked the ending of a sweet season for those who journeyed with us in Awakening ministry.
Oh that I wish that I had taken his advice. It would have saved us so much pain and heartache. Instead, we limped along as a church those first couple of years even though we had a crowd showing up.
- Have the courage to have the necessary conversations.
My wife thinks I like confrontation. It may be because I’m a fairly blunt person. But the truth is, I hate it. I do my best to avoid it. Looking back I realized I wanted to be liked or thought of well more than having the tough conversation. I had a tendency of avoiding necessary conversation and hoping things would get better on there own. They often get worse, not better. I now realize that my aversion to the necessary conversation was actually limiting my leadership and others development.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
- Lead from your knees, not from your own strength.
There is something about the crucible of pain, especially self-inflicted pain that moves good ideas to a conviction for life. When we started Awakening I liked the idea of leading from my knees. It sounds good. It’s what a pastor should say.
Truth be told, in the first two years, I didn’t come close to leading from my knees. I led out of my own strength and energy. I thought if I worked harder, smarter and more hours then we would be “successful.” Sure I would pray but only to check in with Him to bless my agenda and plans. It took the toughest year of ministry I’ve ever experience for this to become a soul shaping conviction.
Today, as a staff we take 30 minutes out every work day to stop and seek the heart of God. Not because we have to but because we need to.
- Do what only you can do and give the rest away.
I have a really hard time asking for help. My mode of operation often has been if I can do it then I should do it. I never realized until recently how much that actually held back our church. In the early days, I was apart of everything. Setting up chairs. Sound system. Lights. Café. Tearing down. Organizing our trucks. We have great people serving but I felt guilty not being there. How could I focus on the one thing that only I could do, preach a great message, while people were sweating to setup for Sunday service.
Unfortunately, this communicated to our amazing teams that I didn’t trust them. It also kept me from bringing my best contribution to our church. As a result I taught mediocre messages, I didn’t keep the vision white hot in front of us and I was too overwhelmed to raise up and develop key leaders.
Part of growing and learning is making mistakes. It is part of the process. We all have things we wish we could go back and do all over again.
The key is to learn from the pain of our past and apply the lessons we learned.
“Though you cannot go back and have a brand new start. You can start now and have a brand new end.”
– John Maxwell