It's time to hit the gas!

 Even major accidents are caused by minor things. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that every year 16,000 car crashes occur because of what they call “pedal errors.” This is when a driver’s foot slips off the brake and presses the accelerator, when they hit the gas pedal by mistake, or when the driver accidentally steps on both the brake and gas at the same time.  This happens more often to very young drivers or very old ones, but the truth is anyone is capable of a mistake like this. When you hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time you risk running into something or someone.  At the very least you might do big damage to the vehicle you are driving.

Leaders of churches and organizations often make these same kinds of mistakes.  As the pastor or leader it’s our job to know when to hit the gas or when to hit the brakes, and messing them up can cause quite the spectacular crash.  There are too many stories to tell of pastors that came into a church and tried to change too fast only for it to end in a wreckage of the church or his ministry. Hitting the wrong pedal at the wrong time in ministry can cause great damage to a pastor and his church. 

In the same way there are many examples of pastors and churches who seem to love to “ride the brake pedal,” that are unwilling to move forward in ways that honor God and help the church stay on the path it needs to be. Those who hit the brakes too soon can hurt the church too. Everyone knows a leader whose favorite tool seems to be the brake pedal, and everyone seems to know a leader who loves to hit the gas. How can we learn when it’s the right time to use those pedals and avoid the “pedal error” that ends in a crash?

If you are like most people who drive a car, you don’t actively think about which pedal to push and when. It’s more of an instinct, something you have learned over thousands of hours spent behind the wheel.  In this way it’s hard to teach someone to drive as they have to learn to “feel the pedals.”  It’s the same way with leadership. It’s hard to set hard fast rules about when to push the gas when leading a church because the situations are so different.  Every pastor has to develop a feel for when to move forward, when to ride the brake, and when to shift gears to a higher speed.  

Even though learning to hit the gas is sometimes a matter of feeling, there are principles that can help us “drive safely” no matter how nice, new, old, or broken down your vehicle might be.  Each pedal is the right one at different times of the church. Every leader must learn to pay attention to the clues of the church culture, the time of year, the finances, the past problems, and the future possibilities in order to know when to hit the gas and brake.

The problem is that while living in the middle of a global pandemic it’s hard to know when to move forward and when to stand still. Every pastor I know right now has had to start and stop more times than they can count. We have scheduled events only to have them canceled, have rethought the way we did worship services, and had to rethink almost every single part of what we do.  It’s harder than ever to know when to hit the gas and the brakes in our ministries and churches.  But there are some things that it is always the right time to do. 

  1. It’s time to hit the gas on sharing the hope of the gospel.  Now more than ever people need to know that there is hope in Jesus Christ. The world seems darker than ever at the moment, but that only means the light of the cross will be that much brighter.  Whatever is happening at your church, continue everyone to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Our world needs it now more than ever.

  2. It’s time to hit the brakes on division and disagreement.  The world is more divided than it ever has been. Politics and recent events have given room for people to argue and fight. But the church needs to be the place that stands as a beacon of unity in a world of dissent.  We can be sure that in the cross we have the things that unites all of us, no matter our politics or beliefs.  

  3. It’s time to hit the brakes on being afraid of change. The bright side of the pandemic is that I haven’t heard “that’s not the way we do it” for six months of more. Now more than ever we need to embrace the fact that we are able to adjust in ways that we weren’t able to before.  We can try new things and experiment in different ways because the world is a different place than it ever has been. 

  4. It’s time to hit the gas on staying on mission. Just because the church is not able to do some of the things they could before doesn’t mean that the mission of the church is on hold.  The way we work as a church might change due to pandemics or time, but what we do as a church should never change. The how of our mission changes, but the why and what never do.  

  5. It’s time to hit the gas on working together. It’s tempting to see churches as competing with one another, but now more than ever we need to work to support each other.  We need to share resources, give support, and encourage one another as we work together in the Kingdom of God.

It’s a confusing time and it can be hard to know which pedal we need to step on. And as soon as we get it figured out it seems to change!  Every leader and pastor I know needs wisdom more than ever. Instinct seems to have gone out the window when the pandemic hit, but we can be sure that the Kingdom of God will always overcome.  Hit the gas on sharing the gospel, and watch God work around you.


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