why something’s working when it’s working

As promised, the first of some college ministry thought-connections from Catalyst Dallas…

Andy Stanley spoke Friday morning about what he called Northpoint’s “secret sauce” to building great teams. But it’s something he said to introduce that topic that hit me the hardest for our field. The quote (or a close approximation thereof):

If you don’t know why something’s working when it’s working, you won’t be able to fix it when it breaks.

I get the feeling that lots of very successful collegiate ministers haven’t taken the time to examine why they’ve seen success. Of course, ultimately, it’s God who has built the house. But it’s still likely that He has used principles, systems, methods, and patterns to bring forth fruit. (And not to belabor the point, but He does the same thing – use principles, systems, methods, and observable patterns – to bring out actual fruit in nature, too, right? Let’s not demand that God work in inscrutible ways; He often acts according to wise principles that we can discern and continue to use.)

Maybe you would put one thing or everything in the list of “What’s Working” within your ministry. Whatever the case, have you sought to discern why it’s working? Have you looked for reasons your recruiting went so well this year, or why your small groups seem to be humming along? Have you prayed / thought / talked through WHY your students grew in evangelistic fervor this year, or WHY that service project was so effective?

There will be occasions in our ministry when we simply shrug and say, “God did it, and we don’t know how.” But generally, we need to be learning alongside our victories (and not only within our defeats). We need to ask the God of All Fruit to reveal anything He wants us to learn about doing ministry in the future… lest we find ourselves at a loss when suddenly it’s not going quite as well.

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