Determine On What Hills You Are Willing To Die

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As a much younger leader, I wanted to fight about everything. Growing in this particular understanding may be more a factor of aging and maturing. I’m not sure. I just know that I’m not willing to go to the mat over the color of the carpet or whether the preschoolers use room 5 or 6 at the 10:00 service.

I am learning ever so painfully that the smart leader knows what hills are worthy of dying on and which ones are not. I believe the Spirit will show us if we ask.

What I am willing to fight for are our vision and values. Letting these slip is tantamount to falling asleep at the wheel. We must keep our compass set on true north. Keeping our temperature red hot for evangelism is worth taking some licks over. Being passionate about excellence or community is worth losing people over.

I know that at Grace Church I have often given edicts that later I had to renege on. I have used words like “never” and “always” that later, with my tail between my legs, I had to repent of publicly. I have pontificated about what we will and won’t do in worship, only to find later that flexibility would have been a better approach.

For example, in one of our worship transitions, we did the unthinkable when we moved our 11:15 a.m. traditional worship service to 8:15 a.m. It was necessary as the crowd was down to fewer than 100 adults, while at the 9:45 a.m. contemporary service, there was standing room only. It was time to make the shift.

The morning of this planned transition came. Before what was now the only traditional service at 8:15 a.m., I was making my way through our church foyer when the traditional worship diva of our congregation said to me “Well, are you heading back to put on your robe?” Inside I was fuming. “How dare she tell me to wear my robe! If I want to wear a robe, I will. If I don’t, I won’t.”

It was arrogance on my part. Just then I heard the Holy Spirit clearly. “Jorge, didn’t you just ask 100 people for whom I died to make the sacrifice of moving from 11:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.? Do you think that was what they wanted to do?” I was stunned. I stood there, my eyes filling with tears and then … I put on my robe.

I wish I could tell you I was always as attuned to the Spirit’s leading. It would be a lie. But I am learning ever so painfully that the smart leader knows what hills are worthy of dying on and which ones are not. I believe the Spirit will show us if we ask.


This article is from Jorge’s recently published book, Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World (Abingdon Press, 2013, used by permission), available at Cokesbury.com and Amazon.com.\

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About Author

Jorge Acevedo is Lead Pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site, United Methodist congregation in Cape Coral, Florida, where church attendance has grown from 400 to over 2,600 in the past 15 years.


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