When times are uncertain, you have to keep the dream big, like I said in the last post. But at the same time how you get from here to there may change. Our dream is our destination, and if it is a God-given dream then you must absolutely hold onto the dream and keep the same destination. But if times are uncertain, we have to be ready to innovate and change the way we get there. As leaders we must become carriers of change.
Even if you are teetotal, I would imagine you have heard of Jim Beam whiskey, it is one of the top whiskey brands, and is the most internationally available whiskeys. You can buy it anywhere in the world. Jim Beam was a farmer who made his first barrel of whiskey in 1795! The company has been selling whiskey for over two hundred years! It has been in business longer than anyone has been alive, it has been in business since before the car and aeroplane were invented, before trains, before computers, before tin cans, before photographs, typewriters, and fridges existed! Their dream of making whiskey is still the same, but the way they do it has had to be re-innovated over and over again.
In 1854 they moved the entire distillery next to a train station because they realized the easiest and best way to get the whiskey delivered across America was with the newly invented and built railway system.
In 1920, alcohol was outlawed across America, and the president at the time (also called Jim Beam) used the land to grow citrus fruits and mined it for metals. He kept the whiskey’s secret formula secret and kept planning for a future he could sell whiskey again. He was 70 years old when the Prohibition ended, and quickly came back, they built a distillery faster than any other whiskey company in the US, was selling whiskey again less than four months after the laws changed, giving them the edge over their competitors. In fact, most of their rivals had gone bankrupt. But Jim Beam did not fail, it increased during tough times.
He was capable of carrying change – the company over the years was capable of carrying change. This is something we in the church need to learn. When we face uncertain times, we cannot ignore the challenges, we cannot wish that life was magically better. We need to face the roadblocks in our paths and work out a new, fresh way to our dream and our vision!
Most of the things that impact the local church are utterly out of the control of the pastors. When we faced lockdown, there was nothing I could do to keep having church meetings, it was that simple. I was doing great, advancing the kingdom, and suddenly I had to become a carrier of change. We could be facing lies, a church split, lack of finances, a lawsuit, national pandemic – whatever it is, keep hold of the dream but be flexible on the path forward.
Many pastors claim to be living by faith during uncertain times, declaring boldly “all is well, we will just keep doing what we are doing” – but it’s not faith, it’s fear, it’s panic, it’s an ostrich response to the uncertainty, and it won’t help. We need to be people of faith but we must be people who realize we need to change routes often as we progress.
We have to accept that the way ahead is messy, it is not always comfortable, the road you want to take is not always open. Look up and look forward and walk forward knowing that we can innovate, we can survive. If the whiskey producers can handle the Prohibition, we can handle what is ahead.
The next time you are struggling to advance, think of Jim Beam growing citrus fruit on his land, keeping going, dreaming of a day in which his whiskey would be famous across the world. Keep dreaming, and plan an alternate route. Do not stop, do not retreat.