Leadership Trends to Watch

Leadership Trends…

Leadership Trends

Feb 21 2018

When it comes to leadership trends, once again it’s safe to say that “It’s the best of times and the worst of times!”
The “Worst” Indicators
  • Alcohol use is increasingly common among leaders, despite the growing documentation that it is a “dangerous liberty” and a questionable example.
  • Worship at the technological tower of Babel is rewiring our brain and causing us to lose our capacity for concentration and contemplation. Reflection is in short supply.
  • Facebook and the avalanche of internet distractions are not only leading to discouragement but crowding out life-giving, face-to-face relationships.
  • Arrogance among gifted leaders is deceiving them to believe that their exceptional abilities make them the exception. Every leader needs the humility to welcome feedback and to consider that he might be wrong.
The “Best” Indicators
  • Prioritizing family life and setting personal boundaries are leading to greater sustainability among leaders. Self-care is no longer considered selfish.
  • Journaling, using paper planners and taking notes by hand are making a bit of a comeback and increasingly common habits among those seeking focus. Writing is helping leaders to both plan and remember better.
  • Soul Care is no longer considered to be optional. There is a growing hunger for authentic relationships with other leaders that not only encourage transparency, but even allow vulnerability.
  • Humility is motivating leaders . . . not only to build and lead effective teams but to honor them by at times deferring to them. A solitary leader is at best a naive leader and at worst a leader at risk.
Once again when it comes to trends it’s neither all this or that . . . it’s both.I continue to find more joy in focusing on the best leadership trends of our time rather than the worst! How about you?
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Alan Ahlgrim
Director of  Covenant Groups
The Center for Church Leadership

Are you goo enough?


Are You Good Enough?


When I was younger I often struggled with the question of being good enough, and even now that I’m older the same is sadly sometimes still true. As a skinny, insecure kid growing up in Chicago, I never felt that I quite measured up. I was never good enough to make the high school team, impress all the cute girls or earn straight A’s. Maybe you can relate. But what’s worse is that I never felt that I measured up in the eyes of God either. When I was baptized at the age of eight, I wanted forgiveness for not being good enough and to avoid the penalty of hell. Most people today don’t seem to have that concern.

In many ways we live in a grace-saturated culture. These days few people, young or old, seem to struggle much with the salvation issue. Perhaps it’s just assumed that most everyone deserves an eternal trophy just for showing up at death’s door. Now, it seems, the issue of “good enough” has a new twist. Here’s how Anthony Bradley of The King’s College put it when describing the attitude of our time among young Christians:

It’s not necessarily, ‘Am I good enough to escape eternal punishment?’ It’s rather, ‘Am I good enough to fulfill the mission that I’ve been told constitutes being a good Christian or a great Christian?’ So, ‘Am I a good Christian if I’m not a senator, a judge, saving orphans from sex slavery in India? If I’m not doing something extraordinary for God, then I’m not good enough. So my life has to be Snap-chat or Instagram-worthy to be impressive and sufficient for the Lord.’

Few seem to be content with their level of influence. That’s not only true for young college students but also for seasoned leaders. For example, not one of the many pastors I know thinks his church is large enough, social media platform popular enough, or influence broad enough. We live in a world of constant comparison, and we often feel that we just don’t measure up.

This is a debilitating and world-wide problem. I recently read an article in World Magazine on the topic of Japanese “Shut-ins.” It wasn’t about old folks in their declining years confined to home; it was about young men who failed to succeed in the highly competitive Japanese business culture. These young men have become hermits, hiding at home in shame with no jobs, no friends and no hopes for their future. Sadly, their parents are also embarrassed by their son’s failure to excel and try to keep it a secret from the world.  Christian missionaries are now seeking to reach these forgotten young men with the gospel—the message of acceptance that is not based on performance.

We all need to hear that message because we all have our limitations. No one is always going to be in first place in every category. That’s why we all need to hear, ponder and apply the gospel daily. Personally, if I am important to God only if I’m doing or leading something really big, then I’m in really big trouble! You see, I no longer lead an impressive and growing ministry because I now work behind the scenes as a sort of undercover pastor. That means I’m no longer in the lead role. Now I’m in a support role. I’m learning to embrace obscurity and find my fulfillment in service, not in leadership. My approval is no longer coming primarily through successful accomplishments, but through satisfying relationships, first with God . . . then with others. This is the gospel I preach daily, not to thousands, but to myself!

Everyone is valuable to God regardless of performance, even pastors, even you! The gospel compels us to strive, serve and even succeed – not in order to impress God and others, but rather because we are loved by God and have already been declared to be of immense value to Him. Here’s the shockingly good news: Our value is not based on our achievement, but on His acceptance. Jesus made that clear when He said, “. . . you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Mathew 10:31 NLT). Since God takes note of sparrows and values them, then there is hope for us all!

I’m now accepting that only by the atoning death of Christ and God’s declaration that I am His beloved child will I ever have confidence that I am finally good enough!

 

Grace and Peace,
Dr. Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Covenant Groups
The Center for Church Leadership

 

Are You Good Enough? When I was younger I often struggled with the question of being good enough, and even now that I’m older the same is sadly sometimes still true. As a skinny, insecure kid growing up in Chicago, I never felt that I quite measured up. I was never good enough to make the high school team, impress all the cute girls or earn straight A’s. Maybe you can relate. But what’s worse is that I never felt that I measured up in the eyes of God either. When I was baptized at the age of eight, I wanted forgiveness for not being good enough and to avoid the penalty of hell. Most people today don’t seem to have that concern. In many ways we live in a grace-saturated culture. These days few people, young or old, seem to struggle much with the salvation issue. Perhaps it’s just assumed that most everyone deserves an eternal trophy just for showing up at death’s door. Now, it seems, the issue of “good enough” has a new twist. Here’s how Anthony Bradley of The King’s College put it when describing the attitude of our time among young Christians: It’s not necessarily, ‘Am I good enough to escape eternal punishment?’ It’s rather, ‘Am I good enough to fulfill the mission that I’ve been told constitutes being a good Christian or a great Christian?’ So, ‘Am I a good Christian if I’m not a senator, a judge, saving orphans from sex slavery in India? If I’m not doing something extraordinary for God, then I’m not good enough. So my life has to be Snap-chat or Instagram-worthy to be impressive and sufficient for the Lord.’ Few seem to be content with their level of influence. That’s not only true for young college students but also for seasoned leaders. For example, not one of the many pastors I know thinks his church is large enough, social media platform popular enough, or influence broad enough. We live in a world of constant comparison, and we often feel that we just don’t measure up. This is a debilitating and world-wide problem. I recently read an article in World Magazine on the topic of Japanese “Shut-ins.” It wasn’t about old folks in their declining years confined to home; it was about young men who failed to succeed in the highly competitive Japanese business culture. These young men have become hermits, hiding at home in shame with no jobs, no friends and no hopes for their future. Sadly, their parents are also embarrassed by their son’s failure to excel and try to keep it a secret from the world. Christian missionaries are now seeking to reach these forgotten young men with the gospel—the message of acceptance that is not based on performance. We all need to hear that message because we all have our limitations. No one is always going to be in first place in every category. That’s why we all need to hear, ponder and apply the gospel daily. Personally, if I am important to God only if I’m doing or leading something really big, then I’m in really big trouble! You see, I no longer lead an impressive and growing ministry because I now work behind the scenes as a sort of undercover pastor. That means I’m no longer in the lead role. Now I’m in a support role. I’m learning to embrace obscurity and find my fulfillment in service, not in leadership. My approval is no longer coming primarily through successful accomplishments, but through satisfying relationships, first with God . . . then with others. This is the gospel I preach daily, not to thousands, but to myself! Everyone is valuable to God regardless of performance, even pastors, even you! The gospel compels us to strive, serve and even succeed – not in order to impress God and others, but rather because we are loved by God and have already been declared to be of immense value to Him. Here’s the shockingly good news: Our value is not based on our achievement, but on His acceptance. Jesus made that clear when He said, “. . . you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Mathew 10:31 NLT). Since God takes note of sparrows and values them, then there is hope for us all! I’m now accepting that only by the atoning death of Christ and God’s declaration that I am His beloved child will I ever have confidence that I am finally good enough! Grace and Peace, Dr. Alan Ahlgrim Director of Covenant Groups The Center for Church Leadership

Survival

Hurricane-imageSometimes success is simply surviving! Last week we had dinner with friends who just returned from San Juan. Dave and Kim had endured the terror of Hurricane Maria while on the 14th floor of their beachfront apartment. Windows were blown out as their entire building swayed under the force of the ferocious storm.
My buddy Cam Huxford says, “In Savannah we’ve learned that you can prepare for a storm, but you can’t prepare for a hurricane . . . you can only hope to survive!” I’m no expert when it comes to literal hurricanes, but I do know something about emotional ones. I’ve experienced my own share of nighttime terrors, public panic attacks and heart- wrenching torments. Things such as stress fractures with elders, immorality among staff, litigation in Federal Court, abandonment by friends, not to mention two IRS audits! Here are a few of the survival tips I’ve learned.

  • Anticipate weather changesdon’t assume the sun will always shine. Jesus warned His people to prepare for the worst with the parable of two houses, one built on the rock and the other on the sand.
  • Store up provisions in advancedon’t go shopping in a storm. Solomon said, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets . . .” (Proverbs 21:20 TLB)
  • Keep filling your tankdon’t be caught running on empty! Retreating, reading and reflecting are the “refueling” stops needed for on-going health.
  • Reach out to your neighborswe take turns being strong. “Two are better than one . . . if one falls down his friends can help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
  • Be alert to lootersthey’ll steal your joy! “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16)
  • Put your trust in Godthe sun will shine again! During several of my “hurricane” seasons I daily recalled the words of King David, “Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:14)
One of my friends is an expert on hurricanes. Rick Grover led a church through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Then he also led two other churches through their own ministry hurricanes as well. I know of no leader who has a stronger testimony on endurance. Rick has repeatedly put on leadership clinics on how to survive and is now flourishing once again.
This I know ~ when you encounter “the perfect storm,” success is simply to survive and get the ship you are leading safely back to port! “. . . the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wit’s end. ‘Lord, help!’ they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.” (Psalm 107: 25-31 NLT)

Even if you’re simply surviving today, it’s a good time to praise the Lord!

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Fraternity Covenant Groups
The Center for Church Leadership

The Risk of Vulnerability

Alan and Shan-3Without the risk of vulnerability we will never enjoy true loyalty. One of the great delights of my life has been a five-year friendship with my successor,Shan Moyers. I never imagined that Shan would ever be on staff with me, much less the man that I would bless to lead the ministry we launched 29 years prior into the next season and beyond. My desire was to find a man with three qualities:

  • Character I could trust

  • Competencies I could respect . . . and a

  • Personality I could enjoy

By God’s grace I’ve found that and more. I’ve found a friend who has returned my blessing multiple times over. Shan and I are not exactly alike. He is far younger, taller and balder. None of that surprises anyone–well, maybe the balder part. What has surprised many is how close we are and how much we appreciate and honor each other. 

It’s all rooted in trust and common values. Here are three we share in common:

  • Love for the Lord 

  • Devotion to the Word  

  • Passion for the church 

Shan is a great fit for now and for the uncertain future. While Shan’s style of leadership is much different than mine, I believe that his approach is serving the staff and church very well as we face the new and increasingly complex challenges of our day. That’s why it’s not hard for me to continue to be a raving fan not only of Rocky Mountain Christian Church, but also of my successor. From the very beginning of my transition I made it clear to all that I didn’t want Shan to merely succeed me, but to exceed me. I want the next season of ministry to be our best!

We all move in the direction of affirmation. I love to affirm Shan both publicly and privately. I’ve got his back. Maybe that’s why Shan trusts me to the point of being vulnerable with me. He is surprisingly candid in our monthly marathon conversations. He not only tells me much of what he is thinking and planning, he also readily asks my opinion. It’s only on rare occasion that I’ve offered any unsolicited advice. Frankly, I’ve rarely needed to, because Shan is hungry for feedback and counsel. 

Feedback is not only the breakfast of champions; it is the lifeblood of leaders. However, no leader is able to receive “feedback” well from a critic or self-appointed expert. By contrast, when we know that we are loved, accepted and affirmed it opens up both our heads and hearts. We’re not defensive, we’re receptive. 

This morning after I celebrated with Shan, I then put on my big boy pants and challenged him. Once again he not only humbly received it, he actually accepted the validity of my counsel. Shan knows and believes that I’ve yet to have a day of regret about him coming on board five years ago. Even more, Shan knows that I actually believe that the next five years will be better than the ones before. I believe that the best is yet to be!

There is no success without a successful successor, and that is rooted in relationship. I don’t want my successor to be my clone, I want him to become far more than that. I want him to be God’s man and to always know that I will be his friend. After five years, I’m delighted to say that by God’s grace, so far so great!

Five years is a great start, but we’re far from finished. While Shan and I are no longer “in transition” we are still in partnership. It’s a partnership that is rooted in mutual trust. Yes, that’s risky, but the rewards are more than worth it. 

With whom are you vulnerable? When you answer that question I will tell you where you will enjoy your greatest rewards.

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Pastor at Large


The 3 R’s to Reset

ResetEven the best life is a stressed life these days. The constant bombardment of noise, nonstop media-driven bad news and the unrelenting busyness of ordinary life all combine to drain my emotional tank. By contrast, three types of consistent activities especially fuel and replenish me.

One of the books I’ve recently appreciated is simply entitled
Reset. It’s subtitled Living a Grace Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. At first I didn’t realize just how beneficial the book would be, but now I’m ready to recommend it far and wide―especially for highly stressed leaders. Here are my own 3 R’s anyone can use to reset themselves for living a grace paced life.

1. Read more good books and watch less TV. Lately I’ve noted that reading real paper books vs. digital books is far more relaxing and rewarding. David Grothaus observed, “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.”  He confessed that his life was in a rut until he read the classic tome, War and Peace. The 1,500 pages took him two months to conquer, but in a weird and unexpected way it sort of gave him his life back. Among the 30 books I’ve appreciated so far this year were two surprising jewels of history. I highly recommend them both, Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose about the Lewis and Clark expedition to open the American West, and The Man Who Could Be King by John Miller, about George Washington and how this amazing man was used to save the nation.

2.
wRite” to recall and reflect well. In the Doctor of Ministry class I taught at Emmanuel Christian Seminary last month, I not only required the students to journal, but encouraged them take handwritten notes in class. What we now know is that writing engages a different part of the brain and actually helps with retention. Several of the students mentioned how surprisingly beneficial that simple tactile shift was for them. My own daily journaling has been a lifesaver for me and a source of continual insight whenever I pause to ponder and review.

3
. Relate face-to-face, not via Facebook! I’m increasingly burdened by the unrelentingness of social media. I find Facebook not only to be a chore but a drain on my spirit.  Frankly, if it weren’t for family updates and occasionally checking on friends around the country, I would probably cut the Facebook cord completely. That’s because most on-line stuff leaves me feeling depleted and sometimes even mildly depressed. By contrast, face-to-face connections are just the opposite―they feed and refresh me. I’d love to tell you more about the deep rewards of my regular connections, but I’m heading out to lunch with my friend and successor, Shan Moyers, right now. I always treasure time with guys like Shan because when we finish up I not only feel more grateful, but more energized!

What might you do to reset for greater health and fulfillment?
This I know . . . a year from today, the news you are consuming right now, the entertainment you are experiencing and the professional success you are achieving will do little to enrich your soul. What will change things for the better and add value to your life? It will be the books you Read, the “wRiting” and reflecting you do and the rewarding Relationships that you enjoy. Are you ready to reset?
Blessings on your head and heart,
Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

Wise Up!

PiedandicecreamAs they say―growing old is inevitable . . . growing up is optional. Now that I’ve just celebrated my 70th birthday I realize that I still have a lot to learn. That’s why I read and reflect every day. Almost without fail, I discover (or sometimes re-discover) a rich insight or two that is really helpful to me. Some of these learnings inspire me, others convict me, and many even affirm me. 

Here’s one that gripped me recently and won’t let go. It’s from I Samuel 26:23. Even though he was once again running for his life from King Saul, David refused to retaliate. Instead David said, “The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal.”

Yesterday I was talking with a good friend who serves as the HR director in her company. When I shared this verse with Lori I suggested that the twin values of “doing good” and “being loyal” just might serve well as guidelines for any healthy team or business. She agreed. We both see that these two standards would also help in any marriage or any ministry.

What if before making any significant decision we asked ourselves these two questions:

  1. Is this the good and God-honoring thing?

  2. Is this the loyal and loving thing?

I can guarantee that if those two questions had always been my guiding lights, I would have avoided some embarrassing mess-ups. In addition, those two standards are helpful in setting the guardrails, not only for better decisions, but also for better disciplines. For example, I just finished eating two pieces of pie with extra ice-cream, and I’m thinking that the way I’m feeling at the moment just might be the result of something less than one of my wiser choices!

Living wisely is a never-ending challenge. As I dare to coach and encourage leaders, I am always reminded that just as I remind them to practice daily disciplines, I need to practice them myself! Here are a few that I daily seek to follow:

  • Begin each day slowly by reading and reflecting on Scripture.

  • List and journal five specific reasons for gratitude from the day before.

  • Enjoy some physical activity, averaging at least 10,000 steps per day.

  • Encourage others with a conversation, phone call, note or email.

  • End the day giving God the last word by reading a little more from His Word. 

I still have a lot of growing to do . . . how about you? Consider this, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.” (Proverbs 1:1-2

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

 

Pinch Hitting

HomerEven All-Stars sometimes need a rest. I’m occasionally called on to pinch hit for another preacher. That’s what I’ve done in Florida recently for a couple of churches. Last weekend I was at a mega church with four services.
It was exhilarating . . . and exhausting! I almost forgot what it was like to be batting in the cleanup spot most every week for over 43 years. While the response that comes from young and old is always deeply gratifying, preaching also comes at a high price.

What’s the preaching price? For me, one price of preaching is “PMS.” That’s what I refer to as the stress of the “pre-message syndrome” and the aftermath of the “post-message syndrome.” Linda doesn’t miss my PMS struggles at all!  Virtually every preacher’s family understands. While we all celebrate the privilege of stepping up to the plate, the opportunity is an emotionally depleting one, especially after several intense services.

My hat goes off to all who step into the batter’s box every week with so much at stake. No preacher I know takes that lightly. Maybe that’s why not one of them ever strikes out, or even struggles with a sermon slump.

Every pastor I support and encourage these days is an All-Star! I’m grateful for all those who consistently honor Christ by giving their best, especially when they might not be feeling their best. Even when they may be stressed or struggling, few (except those closest to them) ever have a clue.

Preaching passionately is not as easy as some make it look. That’s why I usually pray for a couple dozen preachers every weekend. From my experience, a sermon presented merely from the “neck up” isn’t all that demanding or draining. Passionately proclaiming a message from the “gut up” is a different story.

A compelling message that grips both heads and hearts is surprisingly demanding. But from my experience that only happens when the one speaking is gripped himself. I was personally gripped by the message last weekend. Even if no one else resonated deeply with the text and theme, I know that I did … four times over!

It’s never too soon . . . or too late to pray for a preacher; and it’s always a good time to encourage him as well. And when you do, don’t merely tell him that you “enjoyed” it. Let him know what actually gripped you from it, and especially what you are going to do about it. The next time he steps up to the plate, the reminder of your heartfelt encouragement could be a game changer.  Preaching passionately is not as easy as some make it look.

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

Stay Gritty

SandpaperrollThis church is going to make it, even if I have to get a job selling shoes at K-Mart!” I’ll never forget sharing those words to a worried leader early in the life of our new church in Colorado. We had just finished a sobering meeting in which the plans for our first building were presented. After everyone had left the hotel conference room, my friend Grant and I were staring at the blueprints and calculating the costs. We were both more than a little scared. That’s when I surprised myself with a bold declaration. 

Have you ever been challenged by your own words? Dallas Willard once said, “In my experience the illuminating word given to me by God is often spoken by me.” I’m not saying that “God told me” to make that bold declaration. What I’m saying is that God used my own words to convict and even challenge me to do whatever had to be done to see that our fledgling ministry made it.

Fast forward 33 years and the church we were privileged to launch is no longer a mere dream or in danger of failing.  But even back in 2008 when we built a second massive campus and the economy collapsed we didn’t know if we would make it. Not long after that, our key administrator warned me that within six months the church could be defunct. That was not exactly a zippity-do-dah day. Once again I was more than sobered, but still determined to trust God to finish what He had begun.

There is no substitute for the power of passion and perseverance. I’ve been reminded of that again in Angela Duckworth’s New York Times best-seller, Grit. After extensive research she repeatedly points to the twin virtues of passion and perseverance as the game-changers in life. “In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.”

Grittier people get the greatest results. Time and again we see that the great accomplishments of life rarely come quickly or easily. My life calling now is to help pastors to serve well and to finish well.  That’s my passion. This week I’ll be meeting with yet another group of gritty guys. Each one has served with distinction in a difficult situation. There are no easy ministry assignments left. It seems that all the easy ones have been taken. The only ones left require grit, especially on Mondays.

The most difficult day for most pastors is Monday. Resignations are often pondered during the post-adrenalin let down that follows a major investment of effort and emotion. Yet, it’s the continued effort that is required for lasting results. I love the two simple equations that Angela Duckworth uses to explain how you get from talent to achievement. 

       Talent X Effort = Skill

       Skill X Effort = Achievement

Lots of people have the talent to speak in public and the personality to lead with boldness. However, it’s rare that we see talent matched with on-going effort that results in skill, or to see that skill multiplied by effort resulting in lasting achievement. That’s why most new churches, as with most new businesses, close within three to five years. Even though they all began with enthusiasm, it wasn’t enough. They didn’t have the God-blessed grit to make it.

How is it with you? Do you have the grit that it takes to see your God-honoring dream to reality?
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” (Psalm 78:72)
No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Don’t let post adrenalin discouragement distract you. As the apostle Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Stay gritty!

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

The Shelf Life of a Miracle

breads-shelf-Every miracle has a shelf life. It doesn’t matter how amazing the provision of the past, we still have the capacity to doubt God’s provision for the future. I just heard a friend of strong faith say, “In light of the miracles I’ve seen, you’d think I’d never struggle with any doubts, but I’m embarrassed to say that I do.”

It’s almost like watching a movie once, then wondering whether the rerun will be the same! Even if we believe that God can meet a need, we often wonder whether God will meet a need. I don’t know anyone who never doubts God’s willingness to intervene. I’ve experienced it, you’ve experienced it and Scripture illustrates it.

Take the familiar account of the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000. Every Sunday School kid has heard the heartwarming story of how a little boy’s lunch of five small loaves and two small fish became the catalyst for a massive miracle. We all love that story, but we often miss what happened shortly after that. In some ways there may have been a greater miracle in the one that followed―at least for me it was a more intriguing one.

While the next miracle wasn’t greater in size, it was greater in impact. It was the feeding of 4,000. These were separate events: one taking place in the spring and the other in the summer. However, even though the first miracle had unfolded a mere six months earlier, the disciples still wondered, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” (Matthew 16:33)

That reminds me of me. I can resonate with the doubts of the disciples. Even though God has abundantly provided “bread” in the past I still wonder about “bread” for my future. After all, that was then and this is now!

Bread always has a shelf life no matter the shape. The bread provision may be financial, relational or even inspirational. I remember driving home after a particularly inspiring Sunday worship service, thanking God for His provision, only to anxiously wonder what I was going to preach the next Sunday. That’s not all. Even after seeing God work in amazing and even miraculous ways through one of the largest cash offerings ever received in a local church, I soon wondered what the financial future might bring. Even though God had grown us through a series of tumultuous pastoral challenges, I still feared what the next crisis might bring.

When it comes to “miracles” I have a very short memory. It’s easy for me to be just as doubtful as the early disciples in the New Testament or even the Israelites in the Old Testament―to whom Moses said, “. . . be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.” Forgetting is not a new problem. It’s the reason Scripture is packed with the sort of reminders that we all need. Reminders like this one in Lamentations 3.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
 
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

Every time I experience a major breakthrough of “bread” I need to remember that it’s time not to dread the future, but to anticipate that yet another will soon be on the way.

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries