How does a minister develop tenacity … particularly when the surrounding culture is increasingly committed to relieving tension—in the short run—without regard to the long term consequences?

Tenacity is defined as the capacity to stick—like super glue—to one’s commitments.  The word comes from the Latin tenere which means “to hold”.

In a culture that, over the last fifty years has elevated feelings to the top of the decision-making hierarchy, Americans seem to hold to whatever might satiate their momentary emotional anxieties.

This isn’t new.

The collapse of just about every great empire has been presaged by a similar shift.  These once-great societies collapsed from within. Like tall trees hollowed by pine beetles, when opposing winds came, they lacked the fiber to stand.

I’m reminded of a moment early in the “Battle of Carthage” scene in Gladiator when Maximus draws his fellow gladiators into a tight circle, shields surrounding them. As well-armed chariots approach—and their every impulse is to run—he urges them to “Hold!…Hold!…Hold!” ‘till the charioteers are almost upon them. As a result, they overthrow their attackers and win a most improbable victory.

It is this act of holding that is essential to pastoral leadership in our day.

With my CRM teammates, I facilitate a leadership development and change process with Senior Pastors and their churches. Our goal is to strengthen the leadership character of pastors so they can lead their congregations through a massive cultural change: from consuming religious education and entertainment to ministering influentially to the un-churched in their communities. It’s been my privilege to work with dozens of churches all across the denominational spectrum. Initially, almost everyone agrees to become a missionally-effective church.

Yet, saboteurs abound!

Like the pine beetle, their largely covert opposition eats away at the church’s commitment to what it knows it must become.

Quick-fix fantasies emerge and gain a ready following. People take sides.

The lead pastor’s tenacity is essential.

So, from the outset, we work to strengthen the pastors’ capacity to hold

How?

By creating scenarios that invite opposition on a small level while monitoring, via coaching, the pastor’s responses to it. Over many months of facing gradually-increasing resistance, reFocusing pastors increase their capacity to tolerate anxiety—first in themselves; then in their congregations.

Walking with a coach and several other senior pastors who are encountering the same challenges in their congregations, the pastor develops the fiber to Hold!…Hold!…Hold! to what God has called them.

 

Coaching distinctions #41.doc