See how you can manage your perspective on your trials and learn how to overcome obstacles in your ministry.
When I talk with pastors in person and online, there is a common theme: we all face challenges that threaten to undo us.
It may be church members or staff leaving painfully. It may be a budget shortfall that threatens to slash ministry. It may be a lack of commitment or momentum. It may be struggles and losses in our families.
After all, ministry is an uphill battle.
What I’ve discovered, though, is that knowing what the Bible says doesn’t mean that I know how to navigate the obstacle I face. I rely on Jesus and stand strong, but I still need wisdom to find my way through the trial.
That’s where perspective comes in.
How Perspective Enables you to Navigate Obstacles in your Life and Ministry
Early Greek and Roman Stoics got this part right. Successful leaders in government, like Abraham Lincoln, and in business like John D. Rockefeller, managed their attitudes about what was happening around them to turn the difficult obstacles they faced into opportunities that changed their lives – and shaped history.
What if you could learn to turn your obstacles into advantages?
6 Practices that Shift your Perspectives and turn Obstacles into Opportunities
Ryan Holiday’s best-selling book, The Obstacle is the the Way, tells the stories of these leaders who took control of the narrative they were telling themselves about their circumstances to turn trials and defeat into overcoming and victory.
How you perceive the events in your life dictates the size of the obstacles you face.
1. Recognize your Power over What is Happening
What’s happening, and what you tell yourself about it, are two separate things. You choose what story you tell yourself about the situation.
We had a $100,000 shortfall in our budget two months before the end of the year. A budget in the red weighs heavily on me. I can choose to feel stressed, think about quitting, and tip into discouragement. Or I can make a plan to address the shortfall with the congregation and with year-end gifts from our major donors. I can be sure that our Christmas Offering is a priority.
You also choose what you say about the obstacle to those around you.
You can make drama around the church or you can make drama go away. You can manage the narrative by focusing on the opportunity or you can lead those around you to be equally as overcome by the obstacle as you are.
You may have had a $40,000 budget shortfall at the end of the year, or a $400,000 shortfall. Is it a disaster or an opportunity? Your choice.
2. Control your Emotions
We chew on our troubles and feelings and give into attitudes that aren’t helpful. Let go of the harmful feelings and learn to control your emotions.
Say things like this to yourself:
- Am I going to die from this?
- Don’t freak out.
- I’m not going to get excited or upset.
You will still feel the emotion, but don’t let harmful feelings rule you. You can choose to worry and panic or you can decide that you’d rather focus on solving the issue.
3. Practice Objectivity
Instead of seeing your issue through the lens of your hurt or despair, try to see it realistically.
That’s easier if you put yourself in another’s shoes.
Pretend that your problem is really your friend’s situation. What would you logically and rationally tell them? What advice would you give if you weren’t in the middle of it and you could see it clearly?
Try to see it from the eyes of God, and what He might be up to.
4. Alter your Perspective
There is very little fact in our perspectives. Our perspectives are how we understand the facts and what we decide they will mean.
With the wrong perspective, the obstacle looms over us like an attack from outer space in a science fiction movie. It’s horrifying, but you can’t look away.
The right perspective shrinks the attack so you can find a way to win the battle.
5. Live in the Present Moment
Deal with the situation right in front of you. Don’t worry about other issues in your church or bigger issues in our society. Don’t bundle it with other problems and overwhelm yourself with drama and grief.
Narrow your focus: work at seeing what you’re going through as just a moment in your life… in your present life… not your entire life.
Lay aside all the other obstacles and long-term burdens to focus on what is right in front of you right now. Sharpen your focus down to this one thing and answer the question, “What is the next right thing for me to do?”
Focus on your workout. Focus on your family time. Focus on Jesus. Find the way through your current obstacle. That’s all you need to do right now.
6. Find the Opportunity
One reason Jesus gives you new mercies every morning is because everything you face is a new opportunity to learn, to experiment, and to grow.
It may take multiple tries to find the way through the obstacle.
You may try something that doesn’t work, but don’t let yourself get defeated. You’ve probably heard how Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. He tried a thousand things that didn’t work. He tried them each one at a time until he came up with the solution – and then the light came on! When something you try doesn’t work, rule it out and move on to another potential solution.
You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! Believe that, with God’s help, you can find the way through the problem in your ministry. Keep trying and praying until you do.
That’s how I approach inviting newcomers to church. Attracting the attention of the community, getting people through our front doors, and getting them to come back is one of the biggest obstacles in my ministry. It’s never solved. I’m aways tinkering and trying new ways, looking for new opportunities to attract my city to church, and to Jesus.
Wise leaders trust Jesus, stand on God’s Word, and manage their perspectives.
- 8 Easy Ways to be a Resilient Pastor
- 12 Simple Ways to be a Pastor Who Prays Like a Warrior
- 7 Good Questions that Will Help you Handle Criticism
- The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.