You have no doubt heard the expression, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Not only is this historically and literally true but it provides an object lesson for us all in leadership.
Not only should we heed this warning in the way we lead as we pursue our goals but we must also consider this when educating, training, and providing opportunities to those we lead.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Yes, this is true. It took a long time of work and effort. The same is true of any ministry worth doing and it is true of any success one may have in leadership. There are those who create ministries, there are those who grow ministries, and there are those who are just involved in ministry without necessarily leading in any capacity.
All of these groups have capable people that want to grow and want to succeed. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift and we are commanded by Christ to develop and use this gift in the church. In the church, we have pastors and teachers to help equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). The goal is to see the church grow in unity and to see individual Christians live up to their full potential and grow in their maturity in Christ.
As a Pastor, one of my greatest joys is to be able to provide training and opportunity for those that are pursuing God's will for their life and want to walk in it. To that end, one of my highest duties is to lead by example and to be in service to those under my watch as their Pastor. My ministry and my service is to the Word of God and to the preaching and teaching of that Word, for the equipping of the saints (Eph. 4:11-12), for the work of ministry.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
We all have goals. We all have dreams. There are a great many things I would like to accomplish in my ministry. There are a great many things that I would like to see others accomplish under my leadership. Not everyone struggles with this but many of us struggle with what I call the "Rome Complex." This is when you have a vision in your mind of what you want to accomplish, only in your mind it is the completed Rome and not the first block needed to begin to build Rome.
If we see our success only in terms of did we get Rome built and did we get it built as close to one day's time as much as possible, then you will live a life full of discouragement and feelings of failure.
If we determine for ourselves that the completed Rome is the only acceptable outcome and getting to that outcome as fast as possible is the only way we can feel successful, then we are beginning our ministry or service from the wrong starting line.
Furthermore, if we think that anyone who sets out to do ministry will always end up with the completed Rome, we are in error as well. Rome was massive. Rome was colossal! Rome was on a scale not seen since! There can only be one Rome and it wasn't built in a day. However, the small town I just moved from when I came here to Emporia to Pastor called Fuquay Varina, there are many of those in the world. You can drive 100 miles any direction and come across many towns similar to a Fuquay Varina but there was only one Rome.
Some Pastors struggle in this area too. We see the Billy Graham's of the world, we see the mega-churches, we even see the churches in our own town that we have deemed as being "more successful than mine," and we think we can only be successful if we match what they are doing. However, there is only one Billy Graham. There are very few mega-churches in comparison to the thousands of smaller churches.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Even if we assume that a mega-church is in my future. Even if we assume that a ministry that is grand as Rome itself in your future this still does not mean you will achieve it in a day's time.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
So, what are we to do? How can one go about ministry and service to Christ and the church with the proper perspective? What is the proper perspective?
The proper perspective involved finding out what your spiritual gift(s) are, developing them under the biblical leadership of a qualified elder/pastor, taking advantage of opportunities that God brings your way, and letting God work in and through you to grow your ministry to the level that He desires.
Not everyone can be a Billy Graham, but then again, you shouldn't want to be a Billy Graham. Billy Graham wouldn't want you to be Billy Graham. He would want you to be you! Because that is who God created. You! You are unique! You have specific and special gifts that God has given you and He wants you to learn what they are, develop them, and use them for His glory!
With that in mind, what strategy can one employ to see this come to pass in their life?
I believe the best way to do this is by following a short 3 pronged approach that I have been preaching at my church in regard to ministry.
1. Start Small.
As I have already articulated, Rome wasn't built in a day. You won't build your ministry overnight, you won't learn all that you need to learn to fulfill your ministry overnight, and you won't have all of your successes and failure in ministry (yes, there will be failures) overnight either.
One of the biggest errors we make, that I personally have made, is to think we have to shoot for Rome on day one. You won't accomplish a completed Rome on day one, so you shouldn't try. Now, this does not exclude a passionate mindset about what you do that says, "I'm going to give it my all, I'm going to shoot for Jupiter and if I only make it to Mars, well then at least I made it off the earth!" There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, daring to go big and strive to be the very best! In fact, I encourage it and God expects our best. The point here is that need not trap ourselves in a thinking that is not based in reality.
After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
So, start small. Plan, dream and make practical decisions that are based on the reality of the moment. This is aimed at people who are just starting out. Of course, if you are one day away from having a completed Rome, then the only goal left is to put on the finishing touches and have a completed Rome.
However, if you are starting new or fresh then you need to start small in your thinking. While it is ok to have grand long-term goals, you need to have realistic, manageable, short-term goals that can be achieved on the journey to your grander, long-term goals.
2. Do Something!
It does you no good to have all the plans in the world, all the best intentions in the world, all the resources in the world, and all the ambition in the world if you never actually do anything. We need to avoid laziness and be productive! While it is certainly true that Rome wasn't built in a day, it is also true that Rome was actually built and it didn't happen but just simply sitting around and hoping it would be built. Somebody had to do something!
If you want to see any measure of success in your ministry, in your Christian walk, and in your life's work, you must do something! Nobody, including me, is suggesting that you accomplish everything you want to on day one. I have already said that you can't but what I am saying is that you will never get to any of your long-term goals if you never take the first step in faith and obedience and do something!
It can be something as simple as having one meeting, writing one email, writing that first blog post, making that first phone call, building the first page on that website, having that first Bible study, signing up for that first class in school, or any other number of activities that won't equal to a completed Rome but will certainly begin your journey to your own personal completed Rome.
Before you can get to where you want to go, you must do something!
3. Build & Grow
This is the 3rd step not by default but by design. You can't build anything that has not been started and you can't grow something that doesn't exist. Something that is in its final form doesn't need building or growing, so naturally, you can't build and grow until you have first, started small, and do something.
As you grow in your ability to use your spiritual gift, as you grow in your walk with the Lord, and as you grow closer to your long-term goals, what you actually find out along the way is that the journey is much more rewarding than any destination you have in your mind. Some of the sweetest moments in the Christian life can come just after a failure in ministry when God wraps His arms of love around you and His Holy Spirit testifies to your spirit that everything is going to be ok, God still wants to use you, and He can make all things work together for good.
Once we have planned, started small, and began to work, then we can evaluate everything. We can take a look at the whole picture and the parts that make it up and make pointed decisions about what is working and what is not. Then from there, growth can occur.
It is on this journey that we find true closeness to God. It is by learning from our mistakes and celebrating our successes that we see God's hand in every aspect of our life. His plans and His ways are perfect. The journey is where we come to trust Him.
If we could skip straight to the completed Rome that might seem favorable to us especially in the beginning when we haven't completed anything to date. However, having been through my own journey of starting small, doing something, and then building and growing, and seeing what all I have learned from it; I wouldn't dare rob you of the joy that comes from the journey.
It is the on the journey that true growth comes. It is on the journey that the true essence of our "Rome" finds any real meaning. It is on the journey that God discloses Himself to us and He becomes real to us in ways that were previously thought impossible. It is on the journey that we learn who we are and what God wants to truly accomplish in us. It is on the journey that we are truly equipped to love the brethren and serve them in the building up of the body of Christ.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Your ministry will not be built in a day.
God has a ministry for you.
The Holy Spirit has gifted you.
Then under wise, biblical counsel, build and grow.