Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Most of us heard this story as children. The hare and tortoise have a race and the hare, being so much faster, runs far ahead of the tortoise. He gets so far ahead, in fact, the hare decides to take a nap. The tortoise, slow but steady, eventually passes the sleeping hare and wins the race. The moral of the story, our teacher would remind us, was working at a deliberate pace would always bring better results. “Slow and steady wins the race” we were taught to repeat back to our teacher.
I’ve been a pastor for over 30 years and I’ve been to more conferences than I can count. Over the years, I’ve seen the same “tortoise and hare” pastors emerge. Each year, pastors are introduced to the “next big thing.” The featured church and leaders are creative, energetic and “edgy.” Attending pastors are told if they want to be part of the future church, then we must adapt these new methods.
Hare churches are exciting, but most of us pastor “tortoise” churches. Our churches won’t ever be “edgy.” We’ll never be featured at any conference. Change at our churches is painfully slow. It takes months or even years to get the most basic changes through. Sermons are preached, the sick are cared for and the ways of Jesus are taught over gallons of bad coffee.
Slow and steady… this year and the next…
The hard thing about all of this is that no one ever recognizes these “tortoise” churches.
No one ever celebrates them.
And pastors are never told that it’s OK to be the pastor of a tortoise church.
And it is. After all, tortoises live a long time and they’ll win a lot of races if you let them.