How to Avoid the One Fatal Mistake That Can Sink Your Project

As a speaker, these are the invitations I thrive on:

From a retired couple: “When you are next in the area, please come and stay with us, and this time bring your wife.”

From a pastor: “Please let me know if you are available to speak some Sunday. My church needs a greater vision for missions and Bible translation.”

From the principal of a Christian school: “Our students need hear from people like you who have done something significant with their lives. Come any time.”

From a denominational leader: “Only a few of our churches have caught the vision of Bible translation, I’d love to see you help spread that vision throughout our denomination.”

I had been on a short speaking tour in a province 3,500 km (over 2,000 miles) from home and nearly every day had been receiving these invitations. When I returned home I mentioned this to the person who had organized the trip, and he instantly volunteered his services to set up a full six-week tour. I was delighted since I’m no good at setting up tours.

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I was full of energy, enthusiasm and brimming with story ideas, but then I made a fatal mistake. What I should have done was sit down with my wife and plot a six week tour on our planning calendar for the following year. I should have given the tour organizer the official go ahead. I should have emailed or phoned all those pastors, principals, leaders and potential hosts and told them of our firm plans to tour the area.

I should have. But I didn’t.

Instead, as I conversed with some people about the short tour, I, on the spur of the moment, mentioned the plan for a much longer follow-up tour. Unfortunately these people had not been to that province for years, they had not seen the people I had seen, nor had heard their invitations. They were not antagonistic, they simply did not share my vision. I dissipated my energy trying to convince them, and my enthusiasm waned as they brought up problems and objections, advising me to wait until things could be sorted out.

Before anything was resolved the organizer got involved in other work and . . . my wife and I never did go on that tour. We were deeply disappointed as were probably all those who had given us such hearty and urgent invitations. My foolish and fatal mistake quenched the Spirit, wasted ministry opportunities, and killed the project.

I should have known better. I’m a practiced writer. I’m an experienced speaker. Writers of articles, authors of books, and preachers of sermons know you should never talk about your new idea until the article is in first draft, the story is plotted, or the sermon is outlined.

We need to use our God-given energy to create these new things, not to defend or explain them to people. I’m not saying we should just independently push our way through to the end without getting any input from other people. The Lone Ranger, “I can do it by myself” attitude might sound heroic but it is far from biblical.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 (NIV)

Exactly! We all need advice, help, input and even critique from other people. But not just from anybody. They have to be people who share our vision. Those are the people we need to invite to ask the penetrating questions that will reveal potential weaknesses. We need to ask for advice on how to improve the plan, or the article, or the sermon. But not until later. First we must pour our pent up creativity into the project. Once it is well-developed, we should look for more input.

I failed to do that. I made that one fatal mistake. And I sank my project.