Last year I went deer hunting with a friend of mine up in east Texas. I really enjoy hunting and being outdoors. Hunting was going pretty slow, then it came a gully washer of a storm. We must have gotten close to two inches of rain an hour. Needless to say, the ground was saturated with moisture. Finally, after a couple of hours the rain stopped, and the sun came out. So much for hunting that evening. I thought we would just hang out at the cabin until morning and hunt then. Nope! My friend wanted to go throw corn and deer supplement on the ground for the next morning’s hunt. I said man, it is too wet, we’ll get stuck! We were in his truck, and he was going to do it whether I wanted to or not. Oh, I forgot to tell you that my friend had a stroke years ago and is very unstable on his feet. So, guess who had to go along to dump the corn and all on the ground? Yes, it would be me. Again, I tried to tell my friend let’s not do this – it is just too wet, and we will get stuck. He would have nothing to do with it. Needless to say, we loaded up his dodge 4×4 truck with the corn and proceeded out to the deer blinds.
All was going well until he decided to try and do a 3-point turn in the wettest part of the trail. I tried to tell him just go straight, do not try to turn around here. Nope! He was going to turn around right there. Well, you guessed it, we got stuck. Not just a little stuck, he buried the truck up to its rear axile! Of course, he tried to use four-wheel drive to get out. Nope, he just got deeper. So, then he says, hey someone must dig us out; uh huh and who would that be? You guessed it again, it was my responsibility to dig us out. I got out, and quickly saw we would need a backhoe to dig this truck out. Anyway, I tried to put branches and wood under the tires, nope – way too stuck.
We spent the next three hours trying to get the truck out of a place it should have never been in the first place. Finally, we got someone close by to get us out, not without spraying mud everywhere and putting a dent in the front bumper where the guy ran into a tree when the truck did come out. Then my friend tells me we must pay the guy for getting us out. What? I did not get us stuck you did! We are hunting together, that mean you have to help pay this guy for getting us out. Now not only am I caked with mud, I also am out $100 to pay for getting a truck unstuck, that I did not have anything to do with in getting it stuck!
I say all this because when I think of how comical the situation was, it is much like a church that is stuck. They really have no one to blame except themselves. Bad decisions, regardless of when they are made, they are still bad decisions. Just like my friend who thought he could turn around in an impossible place, so churches will think the same way. Churches will try every available scheme to get unstuck by themselves, but to no avail. I could not tell my friend anything while we were getting stuck – ditto for a church. You cannot tell a church anything until they are exhausted and way in over their heads. Here are some similarities in both situations:
Churches will get stuck going places they should never have tried to go.
Churches will get stuck deeper than they ever dreamed was possible.
Churches will get into a deeper mess thinking they can get themselves out. Finding themselves in a tough situation or faulty decision, churches will continue to “drive forward” thinking they can get out if they just keep going in the same direction.
Churches like 4-wheel drives, think because they have power/resources they can get themselves out of the mess they got themselves into. Just because a church has resources does not mean a thing. Improper use of resources is as bad as not having any to begin with.
Churches will get stuck going off the beaten path.
Churches that hesitate before assessing the gravity of the situation causes them to get sucked into the surrounding environment.
Churches will eventually have to call someone else for help; but only until they have put themselves into an unmanageable situation.
Churches will have to accept unorthodox means to get unstuck.
Churches will blame someone else for why they are stuck.
Churches will have to pay for their bad judgments and mistakes.
Churches will expect everyone to pay for their mistakes. This includes those that tried to counsel them in the process.
There is a moral to this story. Churches must know what they are up against. It is essential to know what needs to be done, but also when can it be done without jeopardizing the whole mission. Doing the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. While there needs to be a sense of urgency, there must be clarity and ability to accomplish the task. My friend could have waited until later for the ground to dry up, but he placed a false urgency in getting the corn out on the ground that caused him to ruin that evening hunt and cost both of us money we did not have to spare.
One of the most significant points to this story that I have not mentioned it this: the truck and the church must be aware that they are stuck. My friend refused to believe he was stuck; also, churches will be in denial of their condition. Now when it was finally acknowledged that the truck was stuck; there became a sense of urgency because if we did not get that truck out of the quagmire, it would have been sucked into the mud and we really would have needed a back-hoe to dig it out. A church that hesitates to get unstuck will make it just that much harder to dig out of the hole they put themselves into.
Finally, what did I learn? Not to go hunting with my friend anymore because he put us in situations that kept us from being able to accomplish our task – hunting. I also learned that you cannot put all your trust in someone who has no idea what he is doing. I also learned that someone else’s bad judgements will cost me in the long run.
I hope you got a good laugh and valuable insights at my expense!
Dr. Jim Grant