Stay Gritty


“This church is going to make it, even if I have to get a job selling shoes at K-Mart!” I’ll never forget sharing those words to a worried leader early in the life of our new church in Colorado. We had just finished a sobering meeting in which the plans for our first building were presented. After everyone had left the hotel conference room, my friend Grant and I were staring at the blueprints and calculating the costs. We were both more than a little scared. That’s when I surprised myself with a bold declaration. 

Have you ever been challenged by your own words? Dallas Willard once said, “In my experience the illuminating word given to me by God is often spoken by me.” I’m not saying that “God told me” to make that bold declaration. What I’m saying is that God used my own words to convict and even challenge me to do whatever had to be done to see that our fledgling ministry made it.

Fast forward 33 years and the church we were privileged to launch is no longer a mere dream or in danger of failing.  But even back in 2008 when we built a second massive campus and the economy collapsed we didn’t know if we would make it. Not long after that, our key administrator warned me that within six months the church could be defunct. That was not exactly a zippity-do-dah day. Once again I was more than sobered, but still determined to trust God to finish what He had begun.

There is no substitute for the power of passion and perseverance. I’ve been reminded of that again in Angela Duckworth’s New York Times best-seller, Grit. After extensive research she repeatedly points to the twin virtues of passion and perseverance as the game-changers in life. “In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.”

Grittier people get the greatest results. Time and again we see that the great accomplishments of life rarely come quickly or easily. My life calling now is to help pastors to serve well and to finish well.  That’s my passion. This week I’ll be meeting with yet another group of gritty guys. Each one has served with distinction in a difficult situation. There are no easy ministry assignments left. It seems that all the easy ones have been taken. The only ones left require grit, especially on Mondays.

The most difficult day for most pastors is Monday. Resignations are often pondered during the post-adrenalin let down that follows a major investment of effort and emotion. Yet, it’s the continued effort that is required for lasting results. I love the two simple equations that Angela Duckworth uses to explain how you get from talent to achievement. 

        Talent X Effort = Skill

       Skill X Effort = Achievement

Lots of people have the talent to speak in public and the personality to lead with boldness. However, it’s rare that we see talent matched with on-going effort that results in skill, or to see that skill multiplied by effort resulting in lasting achievement. That’s why most new churches, as with most new businesses, close within three to five years. Even though they all began with enthusiasm, it wasn’t enough. They didn’t have the God-blessed grit to make it.

How is it with you? Do you have the grit that it takes to see your God-honoring dream to reality?
“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” (Psalm 78:72)  “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Don’t let post adrenalin discouragement distract you. As the apostle Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Stay gritty!

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

"We were able to spend a week at Blessing Ranch Ministries. It was an amazing week! . . . . We learned SO much during this week. It was a great opportunity for rest, reflection, prayer, reading and seeking wise counsel. We were blessed beyond words! Each day we would have sessions with Dr. Walker, time to reflect, homework (a lot of reading), and amazing dinners each night. . . I grew so much in my personal faith journey during this week." Missionary, Dominican Republic
"Just wanted to say a quick note of thanks to you for jumpstarting our road to recovery. You told me before we went there that Blessing Ranch Ministries was a place of miracles, and we totally agree with you. God used you to begin our healing process, and for that I’m so thankful." Missions and Outreach Pastor, Illinois
"I was burned out, overwhelmed, and anxious when I arrived at the Blessing Ranch Ministries; I left feeling validated and hopeful, with a deeper awareness of who God is and who I am." Youth Pastor, Wisconsin
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