Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was around church and ministry all the time. And being around church so much, it wasn’t until I went to college, and eventually launched out as a pastor myself, that I started to realize ministry was so much more than just ‘having church.’
In fact, this one aspect of ministry that I want to focus on, is one of the more incredible components of the gospel and God’s work to redeem mankind through His church. Here it is: God can teach old dogs new tricks. What does that even mean? Well, as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s not talking about an ‘old person’, but rather that once a person has a way of doing things, it’s pretty impossible to undo that way. Because of this in the church world, we often label people. Because while we preach and say we believe that God can transform, we are far too often hesitant to practice that truth.
And this is one of the things that often frustrates me about how ministry is done in some circles…or as Andy Stanley illustrates from Popeye’s perspective…this is one of my “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands it no more” issues.
Here it is: those that have messed up, not measured up, or screwed something up in the past are bound to do it again, so don’t give them a chance to even try it again.
When this approach is taken, it’s usually from the perspective of ‘we want to do things with excellence.” And I am totally on board with that! But what if God wanted to develop something ‘excellent’ in that person that you just wrote off? What if God was actually dropping a ‘diamond in the rough’ right into your lap, and you just labeled them ‘damaged goods’?
If you’re in a leadership role in a church…can I encourage you to give that guy or girl another chance? That doesn’t mean you’re naive to that person’s shortcomings, but are you willing to help them work through them, or is excellence such a strong value that the ‘old dogs’ aren’t worth your time?
I’m so thankful that God didn’t see me that way, and I’m sure you’d say the same. Take time not just to recruit talent to your team, but take the time to develop talent in those that are already there. You might be surprised what God can do when you allow him to teach ‘old dogs new tricks.’