the shape of leadership

No Excuses

Three ways of thinking that undermine leadership

Excuses are common in life. People give excuses for being late to work, not reaching their goals, failing classes, ignoring relationships, and more. In fact, human nature tends to drift toward making excuses.

Leaders aren’t exempt from excuse making. We make excuses for bad decisions, slow progress, unclear direction, and failure to hold team members accountable, among other things.

Three types of excuses in particular seem to surface time and again in ministry. These common excuses can handicap our leadership and undermine the churches we shepherd.


If We Had …

Have you ever found yourself saying, “If we had a bigger budget, we would … ”?

Or maybe you’ve thought, If we had a facility like that, we could … .

Such excuses usually arise from a perceived lack of resources. The belief that more money and more stuff would solve our leadership problems leads to a fixation on what we don’t have rather than consideration of what we do have.

In other words, a scarcity mindset distracts us from doing our best with what God has provided.

Instead of making excuses, consider your God-given strengths and how to leverage them for the glory of God and the good of others.

To defeat excuses, we need to embrace a stewardship mindset. When we stand before God, He won’t compare our resources with someone else’s. Instead, He will ask how we used what He entrusted to us.

Those who served faithfully will hear, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).

Instead of making excuses, let your limitations stretch your faith and innovation muscles. Maybe you can’t do something the way the church down the street does it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something different, new or even more effective in your context.

Pull together a team and prayerfully brainstorm how to meet needs, solve problems, and deliver ministry that makes a difference.


If I Were …

This type of excuse is all about inadequacies and insecurities. Moses made such an excuse when he reminded God of his stuttering problem. In Exodus 4:10, Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

In short, Moses was saying, “God, I’m inadequate for the job. If I were a better speaker, I could do what you’re asking me to do.”

It’s easy to obsess over what we’re not and what we wish we were, overlooking the gifts God has given us. We might say, “If I were a better preacher, I could … ” or, “If I were a more effective leader, our church could … .”

Instead of making excuses, consider your God-given strengths and how to leverage them for the glory of God and the good of others.

When you stop making excuses, you can also think more clearly about personal growth goals. For example, if you wish you were a better communicator, put together a growth plan to improve your communication skills. If you wish you were a better leader, find a coach or mentor to help you lead more effectively.


If Our People Were …

Another common excuse among ministry leaders is, “If our people were … .”

For example, have you ever thought something like this: If our people were more committed, we would be able to … ? If our people were more generous, we could buy … ? If our people would volunteer, we could start a new ministry for … ?

To begin, congregants are not “our people.” They’re God’s people; He has simply entrusted us with the responsibility of leading and shepherding them well.

Our job as leaders is to help people become fully surrendered followers of Jesus. We must model the way, teach what Scripture says, and provide practical next steps for growth.

People don’t naturally drift into spiritual disciplines. They don’t naturally coast into giving, serving and leading. Leaders must demonstrate these things and inspire people to rise to the challenge.

The danger of excuses is they paralyze us. They keep us from moving forward in faith and accomplishing what God has called us to do.

Author John C. Maxwell said, “It’s easier to go from failure to success than excuses to success.”

As long as we make excuses, we (and the churches we lead) will never reach our full Kingdom potential.

Tackle these excuses head on and choose attitudes and behaviors that keep excuses from undermining your life and leadership.
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