The more I connect with pastors and leaders across the United States the more I am seeing a group fatigue in the ranks. This fatigue is not from busy schedules or stress-filled encounters with difficult people. This fatigue comes from a subtle resignation that says, “Is this all there is?”
This fatigue can deepen when the only leadership event on the horizon is the promise of another conference where the latest popular speaker is on tap or another training module is offered where we can learn a new skill. There is nothing wrong with good speakers and new skills sets, but they can’t make tired and fatigued leaders feel alive again.
After three decades of leading within the Church, I find a lot of what is promoted on the leadership landscape to be quite boring. As I talk with pastors and leaders in the Church about what is being offered, I hear their exhausted exhale that says, “Not again”.
What would happen in the next season if our goal were simply to experience an encounter with God? The Bible is filled with these encounter stories. All biblical turning points had a God-encounter.
Many of the people, who have left some of our churches in this last season, if asked, would say, “Where was the encounter?” Years ago a wise leader named Roger Whitlow said to a group of us young pastors-in-training, “You are just a lead sheep.” My translation of Roger’s words would read, “You might consider yourself a leader, but you should never forget you are also one of the sheep.” What is boring you as a leader is also boring the people you serve. We all need a fresh encounter with God before we can make plans for a new season. The encounter must precede the plan.
What would happen if our churches and leaders got passionate for a fresh encounter with God and that pursuit became their sole reason for existence? We have become so purpose-principle-product driven that a sense of passion has left some of our spiritual communities. What would happen in this coming new season if our conferences and gatherings could be weighted on the side of an encounter with God where the Spirit is free to speak to us like He did in Acts 13 where the modern missions movement was birthed?
Many people in the Church feel like they are standing on a spinning compass rose wondering which way to go. It’s never about direction – it’s always about Presence. Direction has to follow an experience with Presence or we will end up with another stale promise.
To lead the Church into the next season will require people who seek His presence above all else. This quest may violate corporate protocol and existing systems and could even make the managers in our midst uncomfortable, but the price must be paid if the Church and its current leadership are to feel fresh once again.
What would happen if in our next large conference gathering we politely canceled our speakers and simply paid them their honorariums and had them sit down among us and enjoy some rest in the Presence? What would happen if we canceled our skill-producing workshops and learned again how to rest and simply receive? What would happen if we told our worship teams to take us into His presence with liberty and continue to worship until the Lord spoke? What would happen if we could publicly declare we simply need a fresh encounter with the living God?
I think I know part of that answer. There would be a new freshness of heart and spirit that would turn our exhale of fatigue into a song of praise and hope. That would not be boring or predictable.