Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

5 common challenges overcome by movement builders around the world.

This article is part 3 of a 4-part series on spiritual leadership. Photo by Guy Gerrard

For most Christians, the desire to help others know God runs deep. It's why we teach a Sunday school class, host a prayer meeting or give financially to missionaries around the world.

We then embrace the hope for a long-lasting legacy. We want others to continue and even expand what we have started.

Common challenges jeopardize that foundation for the future, bringing discouragement and doubt. But they also provide opportunities for growth, inviting a complete dependence on God to change both hearts and lives.

Obstacle 1: The Comfort of the Status Quo

Already leading a women's Bible study, Jessica Wicks appeared to be doing just fine. She consistently prepared for each week's lesson. She prayed for God to work in the lives of her group members. She didn't shy away from intimidating subjects like personal evangelism.

After hearing the concept of spiritual movements explained though, she realized she needed to take her women's small group another step forward.

"It's not enough for me to simply teach spiritual truths, hoping the faith of the women will blossom," said Jessica. "My goal in leading them is so that they, in turn, lead others."

Practical Solution: 

As a Bible study leader, Jessica had the opportunity to teach and train her group members to lead groups of their own, not just stay a part of hers. A commitment to move beyond filling seats to sending people out separates movements from ministry.

Obstacle 2: The Expectation of Instant Results

Kelly Yen, campus director at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, daily sees the implications of how one student trusted God, leading to a movement. But he knows it didn't happen overnight.

Growing from a few students to what Kelly sees now took years of effort and commitment by involved students and staff members. "It's easy to get a couple hundred people in a lecture hall if you have a good band or speaker," Kelly said. "But it's more challenging to develop a room of spiritual multipliers."

Having the right perspective proved to be key. "It may not be realistic to expect to go from one person to 100 or 200 by the time you graduate," said Kelly. "It takes many generations to see where the hard work paid off."

Practical Solution:

Kelly committed to building a spiritual legacy by setting realistic goals and expectations for himself and others around him. Not aiming for quick results allows step-by-step obedience to God, trusting in His perfect timing.

Obstacle 3: The Unwillingness to Release Control

A college ministry team in the Philippines, led by Glenn Velasco, realized they wanted things done their way. Student leaders seemed lost when the staff members weren't present.

"It was very frustrating for the students," Glenn said. "We were deceiving them because we would let them plan and then change what they had planned. We already had something in mind."

The staff members began to allow the students to make the decisions on their own, risking failure or repeating the past. Mistakes mixed with the successes, but the gamble ultimately paid off.

Students sacrificed more and held a sense of ownership for their campus' future. Staff members played a vital role as encouragers and trainers. The entire dynamic changed for the better.

Practical Solution:

Glenn's team became more intentional with their young leaders while still providing the safety of their presence and availability. Giving others the freedom to fail develops stronger leaders and enduring commitments.

Obstacle 4: The Discomfort of Starting Over

Still a student leader on his campus in Southeast Asia, Basten hopes to work himself out of a job. He meets with 10 students who prayed to receive Christ with him, teaching them about growing in their faith, telling others about Jesus and training others to do the same.

"I believe our city can have many people who know Jesus and serve Him," Basten said. "I think at my university, I must build movements."

But Basten will have to begin again with a new group when his current students become leaders themselves.

For some, this process of repetition might feel like a giant step backwards. Building spiritual movements, however, is not a one-time event.

Practical Solution: 

Basten recognizes the value of starting over with a new group of people, entrusting others to carry on. He's not building his own kingdom -- he is helping others see their part in God's kingdom. Humility makes it possible to trade the comfort zone of a job well done for the potential for greater influence.

Obstacle 5: The Negative Pressures of Leadership

A senior at Radford University in Virginia, Hollie Courser knows the good comes with the bad when you commit to being a leader.

"One of the biggest obstacles is balancing school, ministry, personal life and time to rest," she said. "I want to see people grow, but can't help everybody."

Hollie knows that eyes watch and learn from her, adding pressure to being a leader. "You don't want to screw up because you are a role model to the younger students."

She has learned where to turn when the pressure feels too great. "I was never meant to shoulder these things," she said. "I see how big God is. He's powerful. That's encouraging and alleviates that weight."

Practical Solution:

Hollie turned to Scripture and the wise examples of those before her to see that it is God who changes lives, not her. Remembering that the Holy Spirit works in people's hearts prevents a leader from assuming responsibility for the wrong things.


 

Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a 4-part series on spiritual leadership. Part 4 will offer practical ideas for how you can help to build spiritual movements, not just ministry.