Bill Hybels once said if he was on his death bed, one of the last things he would say to church leaders is “Pace yourself for the long-haul.”
It reminds me of a conversation I had in 1980 with the pastor of a new church.
They had just finished their building on the outskirts of town. I asked him, “Why in the world would you want to move out here in the middle of nowhere?”
He said, “Because in fifteen years this neighborhood will be in the heart of the community.”
He was right. In 1980 they were in the boonies. By the mid-nineties they were surrounded by Target, Kroger, a Super Center, and dozens of other businesses, and hundreds of new homes.
And the area is still booming, even today. The church has benefited from the growth, and, of course, the community has benefited from the church’s presence.
Back then, fifteen years seemed like forever. But those years have come and gone, and twenty more besides. This pastor’s long-haul strategy paid off in a big way, even though they had to endure a few years of being the church in the boondocks.
As tempting as it is to direct all of our energy to the urgency of what-needs-to-happen-now, we cannot forget that the greatest (and most enduring) success comes when we settle in for the long-haul.
Ready or not, the next ten years will come and go. And though you can’t ignore completely the needs of today, don’t make the mistake of failing to look beyond the immediate horizon.
In the midst of the necessary now-centric busy-ness, make sure you’re doing something today — and every day — that keeps you moving forward in the decades to come.