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October 15, 2016

Press In or Push Away

By Adam Mabry

“It’s not personal,” they said. “It’s just that we think that this other church is better for us at this time.”

I tried hard to believe them. But man, it sure felt personal. The church was brand new, everything was on the line, and when a family left it was going to be noticed. But, in that moment I had a choice—was I going to press in and learn from this painful moment, or push away?

That was years ago. The church is bigger now, and so are the issues that get brought to my attention. But the choice remains the same. In my experience, working in ministry is intensely personal, and I don’t know how to take it any other way. But, I’m learning that the choice I face with each issue is the same. I can press in or I can push away.

Pressing in Means Not Pushing Away

As a pastor, planter, or minister, you will face problems. People will be offended. Someone will feel alienated. You’ll have to tell some well-meaning, passionate volunteer “no.” When that happens, you’ll have a problem to solve. When you find that there’s a problem in your team, on your staff, or in your sphere of influence, you need to press into it. Everything in our flesh hates this. Most of us hate conflict, asking uncomfortable questions, or pointing out elephants in the room. Yet, if we’re ever going to grow as leaders it’s going to mean pressing into those situations which we’d rather avoid.

Pushing Away Means Missing Out

Every time you choose to not press in, you’re pushing away. You’re pushing away people from whom you might learn. You’re pushing away people with whom you’ll be eternally dwelling. You’re missing what might be a perspective on the King and the Kingdom that you might not otherwise have. 

When I chose to press in to this conversation the couple was trying to have with me, I learned something. It hurt a little. I was bummed that I wasn’t quite the amazing leader I’d hoped I was. But, I learned something that made me better. Even the most acerbic critic may have a point. Humility demands we weigh their words, and humbly ask the Lord, “God, what in this would you use to chisel me into your image?”

Pressing In Means Needing Jesus

I’m not going to lie. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually showing up for relational conflict is hard. It’s made me cry, get angry, and want to quit. But, I’m in good company because as near as I can tell Jesus experienced all those emotions about his ministry too. And that’s good news for people like me, because if he did it then I know I can do it too. Not because I’m awesome, but because he offers his persevering, pressing-in grace to me. Thank God Jesus didn’t push away. Thank God that in Him, I won’t either.


Adam Mabry

Adam Mabry (@adammabry) serves as the Lead Pastor of Aletheia Church in Boston, MA. He lives in Boston with his wife, Hope, and their four kids. Fueled by a passion for the truth and grace of the gospel to change lives, He has spent his life up to this point planting churches and working with church planters. He speaks extensively on church planting and coaches various planters around the world within the Every Nation family of churches. His books, thoughts, and other resources are available at adammabry.tv.


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