Ready or Not?

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This coming Saturday, Tim and I will run the REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon in Las Vegas.

Often, when asked if I feel ready for this (or any) race, I’ll respond:

I was born ready.

Sometimes I really mean it—I know I’ve put in the work, and my body has demonstrated that it’s ready.

Other times, I’m simply putting on a brave face (working to convince myself that I’m ready, more than anything).

And then there are the times (like Twin Cities Marathon last fall) when I head into a race with utmost confidence, only to hit a wall on mile 18 in devastating fashion. Hindsight eventually reveals the signs that I wasn’t as ready as I thought.

I share this because we’ve experienced the same with many churches. They’ll approach us with an expressed desire to reimagine and repurpose their physical space.

We’ll ask if they’re ready.

We were born ready.

And yet we’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that no church is as ready as they think.

And some aren’t anywhere close to ready.

Now, in fairness, the significant cost of such change can’t fully be grasped until the transformation is about to become reality. Most of our work is walking with churches through this process—coaching them to a place of readiness so that, as hard as the road ahead will be, they can do it. They will make it.

But frankly, some churches aren’t ready. Not even close. And usually the biggest hindrance is that they’re running the race for the wrong reasons. They haven’t engaged this conversation because they want to more faithfully steward their asset; rather, they’re in dire straits financially and on the slow path to death. This is their last, desperate gasp for life.

And we’ve learned that no one wins when a church repurposes its space from a place of fear or scarcity.

They say yes to the wrong things.

Or yes to the right things for the wrong reasons.

Either way, they later regret the decision and everyone (the church, the partner organizations, and the community) leaves the situation scarred.

We want churches to not only run their race, but run it well and to completion. As we prepare them for the marathon ahead (after all, the race is theirs to run; we can only walk with them through the training process and to the starting line), we’ve become adept at identifying when a church is ready-ish (or not), and either equipping them with the necessary posture and skills or delivering the hard (but equally necessary) word that they’re simply not ready.

Ultimately—as is true for so much in the journey of faith—only when we die to our need for control and self-preservation can we run the race set before us, trusting in the God of resurrection to bring new life and see us to the finish line.

Ready-ish for the race,