Reservations Accepted

Photo by Ricardo Jimenez on Unsplash

Reservations are not the same thing as cowardice. The most confident leaders — the best ones — often are worried that they won’t do a good enough job. They go into the job knowing it will not be an easy one. But they do proceed.
~Lives of the Stoics, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Five years ago, my family and I moved to a new church in a new town. This is not an unusual occurrence in my denomination. Long tenures are the exception, not the rule. (Although, I do think that is somewhat changing over the last couple of decades.) It’s the fourth appointment that I’ve had in my nearly fifteen years of ministry. However, this move was different in a lot of ways.

I have previously asked for a move to get out of an untenable situation. I have expected a move simply because it felt like it was time to move on. This move, however, was unexpected. I actually had a conversation with my superintendent a week or so before about how I didn’t think it was time for me to move yet, but in another year it might be. And, of course, then I got the phone call.

It’s a great church in a good location. But what really caught me is the history of this church. It’s over 200 years old. It’s been around for a long time. It has a (recent) history of pastors leaving to go into a superintendent’s office. It’s in one of the oldest towns in my state. Everything about this place is steeped in tradition and history. And here I am, some 36 year old, with 10 years of experience and two young kids (my oldest was 2, and the youngest was 6 months at the time of the move), moving into this place. I felt unprepared. I had my reservations.

On July 1st, I’ll be starting my sixth year at this church. It’s the longest I’ve been in any appointment, and I hope it’s just the beginning of my tenure here. There has been some incredible times. We’ve started a new worship service with the express intention of reaching a different group of people than we normally reach with our one service at the time, and it really took off for a while there. We started a ministry where we offer a free meal to the community, and it was going great, serving around 70 meals. Then the pandemic hit.

We adapted to a certain extent. We went virtual, and I learned how to record and edit videos. But everything else shut down. If anything, I could be accused of being too cautious during this time, but I wasn’t about to put any of my congregation, or my own family, at risk unnecessarily.

More recently, with denominational drama taking hold on an international level, there’s something else through which I’m going to have to lead and navigate. It’s going to be difficult. People will leave, no matter what we do. We might as well do what is right, and go from there.

Through all of this, I’ve had my reservations. Am I really the right person to be leading during this time? What in the world do I bring to the table? The self-doubt whispers to the back of my mind. But in the midst of it, I trust that God knows what God is doing. We’ll find a way.

I have my reservations. I know that this is a difficult job. And, perhaps, that’s okay. I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. And I’m not going to abandon this church in the midst of difficult times. Even though I feel unprepared, I’m going to see it through. As today’s quote says, “Reservations are not the same thing as cowardice…”

In your own life, you may come across times that are scary. You may come across situations that seem untenable. But you can see it through as well. The fear and self-doubt don’t have to take over. They have their say, but not the final say. Good leaders carry on because they must. There is no way through this, except by going through it. You can do it.

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Matt Swisher

Matt Swisher

Just some guy who is looking to make my pocket of the world a better place. Life is a journey; let’s walk together and help each other along the way.