“I can’t” may be the two most liberating words missing from your leadership lexicon.
For years I’ve been told by well-meaning preachers and teachers that if I have enough faith, I can do anything I want to do.
But it’s not true. I can’t do anything I want to do. Neither can you. Knowing and embracing the truth of “I can’t” has freed me, my church and my ministry. And it can free you, too.
Sometimes I’m limited by my abilities (or lack of). I’m 6’ 6” tall, but no matter how hard I work at my ball-handling skills, I can’t play in the NBA.
Sometimes I’m limited by physics. I can’t flap my arms and float up into the sky like a bird.
Sometimes I’m limited by my choices. I can’t walk and not walk at the same time (as the confused traffic signal at the start of this post seems to be saying).
Saying “I can” in those situations isn’t faith, it’s schizophrenia.
It’s a simple fact of life, built into the fabric of how God created a logical world. When we choose one option, it almost always means saying no to another option – sometimes to several other options. And no amount of prayer or faith is going to change that reality.
So why am I telling you this? Because it’s not bad news. It’s good news.
The truth is always good news, even when we don’t like it. Because it’s real. And acknowledging reality is always the best first step to accomplishing anything of lasting value.
The Value of “I Can’t”
Today’s entire post could probably be summed up in one big, tweetable truth. And maybe it should have been. But I can’t go back on it now, since I’ve already hit the “publish” button. (See how that works?)
“I can’t” isn’t always a lack of faith.
Sometimes it’s a necessary first step in narrowing our focus.
Yep, that’s it.
OK, so maybe “I can’t” isn’t the phrase that works best for you. Try one that does.
- I won’t
- I choose not to
- I refuse to
- I’m narrowing my options
- I’m saying “no” to that
However you phrase it, at its root is one undeniable truth. I can’t say a full “yes” to what I’m called to do until I say “no” to what I’m not called to do. (Hey! I got two big tweetable truths out of this one! Sometimes you can have it all!)
But, however you choose to phrase it, they all mean the same thing in the end. We can’t do everything, so we have to pick the best alternative for ourselves in any given situation.
But many of us have been taught a false definition of faith. Because of that, we’re paralyzed by indecision. We’re unable to to say “yes” to good things because we’re unwilling to admit that this means saying “no”, or “I can’t” to other things.
What I’m Not Saying When I Say “I Can’t”
Obviously, I’m not referring to the “I can’ts” that come from fear or lack of faith.
The entire premise and title of my book, The Grasshopper Myth, comes from the Hebrews saying “I can’t” when God was telling them “you can!”
Never say “I can’t” when God says “you can”, no matter how ridiculous or impossible the situation may seem.
Yes, You Can
One of the founding principles of this blog and the ministry of NewSmallChurch.com is that not every church is meant to become a big church. But it’s not because I lack faith. It’s because I have enough faith to acknowledge reality.
Your Small Church can’t do what a megachurch can do. So stop trying.
But that’s OK. Because megachurches can’t do what great Small Churches can do, either. That’s why the world needs both/and, not either/or.
When we stop trying to be what we’re not meant to be, we’re free to be what we were meant to be.
I know it’s true because it happened for me, my ministry and my great Small Church.
The moment we realized that we can’t do what megachurches can do, we were OK with it. It was quite a relief, really. It freed us from a burden we were never meant to bear. And it put us on a road to discovering what a great Small Church can do – and we started doing that.
If we hadn’t narrowed our choices, gone against the prevailing “bigger is better” tide and said “we can’t” to big church ways of doing things, my church would never have become a great Small Church and the ministry of NewSmallChurch.com would not exist today. I might not even be in the ministry any more.
But we did narrow our choices. We became great at what we can do by saying “no” to what we can’t do – because we were never called to do them in the first place.
What Are You Holding On To? And What’s Holding On to You?
Not every “I can’t” comes from a lack of faith.
Are you, your church or your ministry paralyzed by indecision? Maybe you need to start with some God-guided NOs, I WON’Ts and I CAN’Ts.
Let go of what you’re not called to do. Grab hold of that unique, faith-filled idea you are called to do.
Then be awesome at.
So what do you think? Have you been paralyzed into indecision and inaction because you can’t say “I can’t”?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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