So I was watching my favorite soccer team, Tottenham Hotspur, take care of (as in beat handily) lowly Portsmouth 2-0 when something amazing happened. Now I must admit that watching the Spurs play, there are lots of things that happen that I might find amazing, but this thing was objectively pretty hard to believe. The Spur’s taller than life player, Peter Crouch (he really is tall for a soccer player and pretty skinny too) got trapped in the corner of the field with a defender blocking his way. As if by some kind of magic, he was suddenly on the other side of the defender and running across the field with the ball. This was not supposed to happen. There was no way to get around the defender. In this case, Peter Crouch did use a bit of magic, foot magic, to fool the defender and get around him. The key to his footwork was pivoting. He pretended to go one way and then reversed course and went the other, all in the blink of an eye. Some of the best soccer players in the world like Ronaldinho have perfected this type of misdirection. Watching the gangly Peter Crouch pull it off, however, was something to behold.
As I was reflecting on this bit of magic, it dawned on me how often I feel myself trapped in a corner or caught by surprise by the events around me. More often than not, I tend to panic rather than pivot. Lately, though, I have been experiencing some pivot moments too. Trusting God when he says to go a certain direction rather than trusting my own instincts is not natural. I want to run straight ahead at the obstacles in my life rather than seeing how pivoting and going in a different direction might make all the difference. The apostle Peter seemed to have the same problem that I do and wanted to trust his own instincts rather than follow Jesus’ directions. In one memorable story from the Bible, he had just spent the whole night fishing and caught nothing. Jesus told him to pivot and throw the net out of the other side of the boat. Trusting and obeying led Peter to catch more fish that his boat could hold.
Our ministry recently hosted a Vacation Bible School workshop for the teachers and directors from various churches. We have faced a number of financial challenges as a ministry lately and decided not to mail postcards, but to try other methods of marketing the event. We sent out an e-mail blast, handed out post cards in the store, announced it on our Facebook fan page and made personal phone calls to churches in the area. The night of the event, we were still not sure how the attendance would turn out and all of us were amazed when over 100 people came out – our largest attendance at this event in several years. Not panicking in the face of no money for marketing led us to pivot and try new methods that may prove even more powerful than the old ones.
At this crucial time in the history of the Christian retail and publishing, I am more convinced than ever that it is time to pivot and not panic. Satan is having a field day as one store after another closes and one more community light house is extinguished. We just published a new book by Warren Wiersbe that sums up my feelings on this subject in the title, Too Soon to Quit. Too often business leaders in the Christian publishing and retailing arena seem more timid now that at any time that I can remember. Does God really want us to pull back like this or to advance in new ways? Maybe we will not open lots of new 20,000 square foot mega stores, but should we be opening 200 new 2,000 square foot stores in strategic Kingdom locations to combat the darkness? I am preaching to myself as I write these words.
God has provided all the creativity and innovation that we need to pivot into a new day of global impact for the kingdom. Reading is not obsolete, books are not dead and bookstores are not finished. Much can be accomplished as we seek to do things in a new way. I am greatly encouraged by the recent promotion of Curtis Riskey to the Executive Director of the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and Kirk Blank to the Presidency of the Munce Group. These men are poised to help the whole industry think outside the box and try new things as we present the truth of the gospel in fresh, new and exciting ways.
This past week, I had the privilege of taking one of our store managers to visit several churches in our community. What a great time we had of reconnecting as I introduced him to old friends and key partners to our ministry over the years. As we finished the day together, I realized that it had been a while since I or anyone on our team had visited these particular churches in person just to see how they were doing and how we could support them more effectively. Maybe, part of our pivoting will take us back to the partnerships and relationships that got us started and motivated in the first place. There is nothing like catching a lot of fish to get a fisherman excited. I am looking forward seeing a harvest of souls take place this year as our team chooses to pivot and not panic in the face of all that is before us.