My week on a Montana trout stream, with only my fly rod and my Bible – and without television, phone, or internet – was a total immersion in renewal. But leaders can’t live from break-to-break and expect to be effective.

Rather, we must create an ongoing culture of renewal for ourselves, and those under our influence that is (1) dramatic, (2) deliberate and (3) discerning.

1. Learning from the dramatic moments triggers renewal.

New Year’s resolutions don’t cause many people to eat right and exercise long term, but a heart-attack scare often will. Any life-pattern adjustment that moves far beyond teeth-gritting determination is usually born out of a dramatic moment.

Those dramatic moments are more often negative than positive, but we can have assurance that God is using the hard times to prepare us for what is yet to come. When life comes against us, we need to be looking to where God wants to push us rather than only pushing back. 

Sometimes the trigger comes because the Lord is testing and preparing us for something. Other times the stress comes because we’ve made bad choices and there are consequences to our actions.

Ideally, renewal is ignited because of the opportunities provided by insightful leaders.  A leader can craft challenges that bring about lasting renewal by orchestrating teachable experiences. Adding responsibilities, broadening the scope of supervision, or even celebrating accomplishments can become dramatic events that trigger direction-changing renewal in employees.

Oftentimes the gigantic shifts in our lives, ministries, and society begin with a small moment of drama. God will use the dramatic moments to launch us into renewal if we are willing.

2. Deliberate action energizes renewal.

While the dramatic moments of opportunity or disappointment may trigger renewal, the real work is carried out in careful day-to-day follow-through. Without ongoing implementation, our desire for renewal is fairly empty.

Renewal is not a one-time event. Like the life of holiness, renewal begins with a commitment, but then we must deepen, grow, and recommit ourselves continually. Living in the center of God’s will is not a destination as much as it is the journey.

If we are going to be renewed people, sometimes it is best to “just do something,” even if it is not the ultimate change that needs to be made. To get renewal moving, you need to look both inside and outside your normal job responsibilities, so maybe the best thing you could do for your ministry is to . . .

  • Take a day to see your ministry from a bird’s-eye view rather than focus only on your own area of responsibility.
  • Rewrite a long-proven ministry program that you know is staler than you want it to be. 
  • Put the same level of energy into loving family that you put into your job.
  • Get back into a routine of daily devotions.
  • Make a list of ways you can work smarter.
  • Take the time to fix something you’ll never get credit for doing.
  • Read something new in your field or, if you can stand it, outside your field.

Some action, even if it doesn’t focus on the area needing attention, can trigger renewal in other arenas. Just getting the ball rolling is sometimes the key to grooving a path for change.

3. Discerning relationships accelerates renewal.

To develop a culture of renewal, you must become comfortable living with the ambiguous balance of growth and pruning in your working relationships. Change in people will come with a grind of starts and stops, ups and downs, surprises and embarrassments.

Renewal is never easy. It is complex and messy, and only in hindsight is it usually attractive and admired. But our calling demands a commitment to the disruptive work of renewal if we are to utilize fully all our gifts.

It would more orderly to go out and hire “perfect employees” who fit our needs for the moment. But we will have missed our calling in leadership if we run from the disruptions necessary to allow every employee the opportunity to grow and be pruned to become all God intends.