A while back I was visiting with my dad, and he showed me a newspaper clipping he had saved. It was old – severely yellowed with some of the ink badly faded – but it was still legible. As I read it, I knew I wanted to share it with you all some time. Now is that time.

I didn’t write this, and I am not sure who did or where it was printed – but the events occurred around 1982.

“When the Detroit Tigers signed infielder Mike Ilitch in 1952, they sent him to their farm club in Buffalo, then later dropped him a notch to Davenport. At Davenport, Ilitch got bumped again. Davenport wanted to make room for an infielder named Harvey Kuenn, so Illich was dispatched to Jamestown. “Everybody liked me at Davenport,” recalls Ilitch. “When I got sent down, they said, ‘Mike, don’t worry, you’ll be right back. This guy Kuenn steps in the bucket and hits everything to right field.” Ilitch didn’t come back, and Kuenn, of course, went on to Detroit to launch a 15-year career that would include an American League batting title and a lifetime average of .303.

Two years later, Ilitch was out of baseball and was getting his feet wet in the fast-food business. Last Wednesday, Kuenn was named interim manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, who since have won three straight. The next day, Ilitch, now a multimillionaire pizza franchiser, bought the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League for $10 million.”

Perseverance whether by pushing on in the face of difficulty or moving on when things don’t work.

It’s not over yet.

It is unbelievably difficult to get a minor league baseball contract. One can imagine the bitter disappointment when Ilitch was finally and forever cut from the game he loved. But it wasn’t over yet. He didn’t know it, and he couldn’t read his own future, but there was this thing we now know as Little Caesar’s Pizza that was just around the bend.

One more tidbit. 10 years after this article was written, Ilitch bought baseball’s Detroit Lions, too.

This is obviously a one-in-a-million story, and your results may certainly vary. But I believe it’s the type of story we need to read and think about from time to time as we experience the ups and downs of life when we serve in the ministry of leadership in our Savior’s Church.

Perseverance is a highly touted trait for church leaders, and rightly so. The ministry of leadership in a local church can bring great joy and great sorrow to those who undertake that work. Its high points can be exhilarating; and its low points can be very, very low. Yet perseverance does not require us to keep banging our heads against the wall for the rest of our life when things are not working well. It can also mean persevering in serving the Lord yet in some other way or some other place.

How might we encourage one another to perseverance whether by pushing on in the face of difficulty or moving on when things don’t work? How might we discern the better of these options?

That’s something to talk about. 

Here are some ideas that can help you process and discern your own and one another’s paths.

  • What accounts are there in scripture (real events or stories) that describe someone whose failure was not the end of their story?
  • How did God work in their lives?
  • What were some lessons they learned in this process?
  • How might our faith and our hope work to lead us to persevere and to find what lies on the other side of a failure of disappointment?
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10(ESV).

Talk about a time in your life when you were down, and someone lifted you up.

  • Who was that person, and what did he/she do?

Talk about a time when you lifted up a colleague that had fallen.

  • What did you do and how did it help?

Encouragement to persevere need not be limited to some major event or decision.

  • Has one or more of the members of your team encouraged you when you were down? Can you share about it with the team and give thanks?

Sometimes perseverance through loss and disappointment may be more about faith and obedience to the broader call of Christ in our lives than the job or task immediately at hand. Sometimes God uses loss and disappointment to lead His children into new directions and blessings (for example, consider how God did not allow Paul to travel to Bithynia and instead was sent to Macedonia in Acts 6). Discuss among the team how God may have directed you to new dreams and blessings through loss and disappointment.

  • Have you ever mourned for the loss of a dream only to find that there was a different dream on the other side?

We all become discouraged at times, and there are lots of things that are discouraging about leading churches in this season. Hebrews 10:24-25 is often used as a cudgel to get people to come more often to church services. But the verses are more focused upon what we do together more than how often we show up.

  • How do leaders decide when to no longer “consider it pure joy” when facing trials and decide to escape rather than to continue to persevere through them? (James 1:2-4) Easy answers are not allowed and not helpful – be real!
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near". (ESV, emphases mine).

How might we incorporate stirring up and encouraging one another when leaders come together? There is indeed hope on the other side of our difficulty. Can we help one another find it and experience it? Helping one another experience hope in the midst of trials is something to talk about.

An upcoming opportunity to meet together and to stir up one another to love and good works is the EFCA One conference at Fullerton Free on June 20-22. Registration and more information are available at https://efcaone.com. This, too, is something to talk about – and to do.

 If we at EFCA West can be an encouragement to you, please let us know. We are here to strengthen and encourage you.

Let us know if we can help and how your conversation goes. Contact Bob Osborne by e-mail at bob.osborne@efca.org

This is one of a series of articles intended to facilitate and guide church leaders’ conversations about significant issues that often are not talked about among pastors, boards, and church leadership teams. Visit the EFCA West website to see prior Something to Talk About articles.