As I sit here with my cup of coffee and a biscuit I feel a sharp pain in my tooth. I have just had four deep fillings and my teeth are sensitive to everything that I eat or drink. The whole experience was an ordeal and I feel totally drained. In moments like this I always resolve to change my patterns so that I never have to go through it again. I promise that I will floss more regularly and cut out on sugary drinks. However, I know that once the pain subsides the chances are that I will fall back into my old habits. Resolutions aren’t enough without the discipine to follow.
Discipline is something that most of us struggle with. You can force yourself to do something for a while but gradually you get tired and ultimately stop. A lot of the time I don’t even realise that I have given up. I take a day off, I delay for a week and then the week becomes a month. Six months later I look back and feel a pang of shame and regret.
I have a trail of unfinished books, fillings in my teeth, flabby muscles and half-empty journals that I have left in my trail. What are the disciplines that you wish you were able to maintain?
The problem is that we think about discipline all wrong. We think that the key skill to developing disciplines is endurance. That if we can keep pushing then we will get to the point where we have won and can now floss, run, read the Bible, get up early, etc. without any effort. That imaginary day will never come and so we quit because no one sane chooses to endure something that they dislike when there is no outside pressure to do so.
The key to growing new disciplines is not to learn endurance but to discover passion.
The discipline itself isn’t a goal, it is what lies behind it that you really want. Perhaps you want to be the kind of person who is close to God, so you pray and read the Bible. Do you want to help people grow in wisdom? Then read lots of books. You won’t always feel like reading or praying but my passion for helping people outweighs my default to be unproductive.
This is the key to your discipline: your vision behind the discipline must be greater than your desire to have an easy life. In other words, how valuable is the destination and what will you pay to get there? If you want to win the race then you will practice. If the test matters to you then you will study. If you want to write a book, you probably won’t. However, if you have something to say that people must hear then you will find a way to keep writing. When the future hope is compelling enough the discipline will drive you forwards and bring you joy.
Of course, the day will always come when you feel sick, tired or slip up. If the discipline is the goal then you will probably quit. However, if your goal is greater then one of two things will happen:
1. You will get back up and continue at the next possible opportunity. You will remind yourself of the joy that you have found so far through the discipline. You will remember what is at stake if you stop and the possibilities if you keep going.
2. OR you will recognise that the lack of desire is because you have not seen enough fruit yet and you will innovate, edit and adjust the discipline to become more impacting. You will find better ways to achieve what you want. The goal isn’t to do something you don’t enjoy – this is a downpayment on a future that you love.
Before you start a new discipline ask yourself this and cement the answer in your heart: “what is the cost if I stop?”
When you find it hard you need to know what you are fighting for. There is no point wasting time with shame and negativity if you lose focus. That doesnt help, it just disempowers you. When you stumble remind yourself why this matters. The key to discipline is passion.
A shift in my focus
So, as I have been thinking about this, I recognise that I have struggled to maintain my discipline with this blog. I think that the reason is that I want to write more but I have never articulated to myself why. There needs to be a compelling reason to invest in this discipline of writing.
The conclusion that I have arrived at is simple: I have a passion to see a movement of new churches launched in the UK. New churches, innovative churches, passionate churches, relevant churches, loving churches. The kind of churches where people living around them are astonished by what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. I want to see hundreds of thousands of people come back to God over the next decade and I want to see the church walk in love and freedom. This is the kind of church that I want to lead. It is also the kind of church that I want to help other people to start as well.
Church planting has been the single greatest joy and challenge of my life. The emotional, spiritual and relational challenges are unexpected and exhilarating. It often feels like skateboarding – lots of fun and grazed knees. I want to make sure that I truly understand the lessons that I learn along the way. I also want to help other people who are involved in leadership or church planting and maybe even inspire a few new people to join this growing movement of pioneers. At my centre: I simply love the Church.
So my passion is to grow as a leader and to equip other leaders and church planters to find tools, resources and faith to build churches that love God and transform our cities. This means a shift in the focus of my posts. However, I also think that it will shift my discipline into the stream of my passion as well.
So, if you are involved in church planting and have topics that you want me to explore then let me know. Or if you have stories or lessons that you have learned then please share them with us. If you are a church planter or leader thinking about multiplication then I’d love to encourage you to follow the blog and join in our conversation as we look to step into a new season of faith, hope and love.
Thanks for reading.