Paradigm Shift

I know many people have heard this story:

This man goes to his pastor one day and says, “Pastor, I’m at the end of my rope. I have lost everything!” The pastor listens as the man breaks down and tells the story of what happened and how he suffered financially. After awhile the pastor looks at the man and says, “I’m sorry you have lost your salvation.” “No,” said the man, “I haven’t lost my salvation.” “Oh,” the pastor says, “well, I’m sorry you have lost your hope in Christ.” The man said he hadn’t lost that either. The pastor goes on to say how sorry he is to hear the man lost his faith, God, the Spirit within him, his health, etc. The man hadn’t lost any of that. The pastor concludes and says, “Well, it seems to me you really haven’t lost anything.”

Isn’t this just like us though. When something does not work out the way we had intended or planned for it to work out, we begin to speak and think negatively. I am not saying here that positive thinking is the answer and will fix our “problems.” What I am saying here is there is another way to look at problems; firstly, by calling them “challenges.” This way we can begin looking for a solution to the “challenge,” rather than just complaining about the “problem.”

“Where are all the people? Why don’t we have more people here?”

We all have heard questions like this in any organization or group we are part of. The intent of the question is really asking and showing, or at least I hope it is, a genuine concern for the ones that are absent. But, what we do not realize is that we actually demean or devalue the people who are there. It’s almost as if a person might be saying, “You’re not good enough without the others here.”

Now, I know (or I hope) this is not what is meant; but this is how it can sound. If we take the time to look at who is there and see the giftedness they can bring, imagine the work that can be done. Instead of taking valuable time complaining and trying to think of what “other people” should be doing to bring in more people, we could simply look at who is there, thank God for each person and bless each person, then allow them to do what they know needs to be done.

This would require a drastic paradigm shift. We live in a culture that says higher numbers (money, people, projects completed, taller buildings, large stadiums, etc) are the answer and show success. I propose that we take some of the examples that come from the Bible and see what is really able to be accomplished with a “small” group of people:

  • Gideon (in the book of Judges) led an army of 300 Israelites (after an angel from God told him to) and defeated a larger Philistine army
  • David’s smaller group of soldiers was able to defeat larger armies than King Saul’s army was able to
  • We cannot forget the 12 apostles that went out into the world and turned the world upside down spreading the message of Christianity to everyone.
  • There are other examples in the Scriptures as well

The point is that we have much more going for us than we have going against us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Just because the size of the group, bank account, task list, etc. is not where we would like it to be, doesn’t mean it has less value or is immobile.

I challenge each one of us (especially me) to look at what we do have and focus on that. This way we are not coveting or being jealous over another person, group, organization and we free ourselves to allow God to work through us (large number or small number) and see the great impact God, through us, will have in this world.

Last Saturday, I was able to preach a message called “Lasting Legacy.” We explored a few ideas from John Wesley’s life and final days to help us understand how his legacy is still revered the world over and how we can leave a legacy behind that outlives us and our family. I invite you to check it out.

May God continue to richly bless you in order to make an impact in this world for the Kingdom of God. We have all we need because we have the very presence of God with us and in us.

Published by Ryan Stratton

Ryan Stratton is a pastor in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Amanda, along with their children. He writes about life, faith, and leadership through his blog.

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