Friday, September 21, 2007


Many Christian leaders are afraid of the vacuum. Don't be afraid of the vacuum. The vacuum can be a powerful tool in your (or maybe better, God's) hands.

I'm not talking Hoover or Eureka here. I'm talking about holes and empty spots in your ministry. When some role is not being filled. Or some ministry is not happening. When this occurs, some leaders panic, and quickly try to "plug that hole." And you know who they get to do it, don't you? Yup. You guessed it. Themselves. They end up "filling the hole" until they can "find someone else to do it." What if they allowed the vacuum to exist? The vacuum may be precisely the energy you need to draw someone into the ministry. Give it a chance to work. When you plug the hole, you turn off the vacuum.

I saw a good example of this principle at work over 4th of July. For the last few years we have been going to Dave and Vange Von Allmen's for the 4th. They have a great beach location on a point. The Von Allmens operate an oyster farm so we've come to enjoy barbecued oysters as part of the celebration. Dave personally barbecue them for us, at least until this year. This year, Dave decided that he was not going to do the barbecuing (it's not a small job when there are 40 people), and then he let the vacuum go to work. For awhile, the party went on without the oysters. But soon, people started stirring, "Aren't we going to have oysters this year?" Dave would respond, "I have the oysters, if someone wants to cook them." You could almost hear the vacuum whirring. Within a couple hours, a neighbor named Tim was standing by the barbecue, with a mitt on one hand, and a pick in the other. Mission accomplished. Tim enjoyed cooking, Dave enjoyed relaxing, and the rest of us enjoyed oysters.

How can you put the vacuum to work for you?


I had a conversation with a man about a pastor who had recently stepped down from ministry. He was tired, and the ministry was not going so well. The man I was speaking with had been active in the ministry, and was reflecting on his experience. He said about the pastor, "He was working so hard, doing too much." He didn't say it as a positive, or a negative, just as a matter of fact. Later in the conversation, he gave this analysis of the congregation, "People never really got involved, never really became deeply committed." I connected the dots. When pastors over-function, they unknowingly cripple their congregation to under-function. There is no impetus for deeper involvement and commitment. The pastor is making the commitment for everyone. This is not healthy. The only way to reverse this pathology is for the pastor to cease and desist, and turn on the vacuum.


There are a limited number of ministry areas that you CANNOT NOT have. I know that this may sound like double-speak, but, for example, you cannot operate a successful Worship Center without a decent kid's ministry. I am not particularly in favor of putting a note on the kid's room door that says, "This class will convene as soon as there is a teacher willing to teach." Here, you're compromising the ministry, and with excessive suction! Better, in my humble opinion, to temporarily recruit someone to "fill that hole" so that the ministry can continue to deliver basic services and then let a lower level of vacuum go to work. Again this is just my opinion, but this is where leadership art comes in: knowing what is critical and what is discretionary; knowing when to turn the vacuum on and off, and knowing what level of suction you need.

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