Almost every football team, in every practice, runs through their two-minute offense. You have to know what to do when the game is on the line and time is running out. The heightened sense of urgency demands immediate and intense focus.
For some churches, the clock is running out. You can’t literally see a clock, but you can see the signs pointing toward an end. You feel a growing sense of urgency that something has got to change.
Here’s a “two-minute warning” strategy that lays out the actions and attitudes necessary for you and your church in times of urgency: “But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Keep your head in the game — Tough times exponentially expand the consequences of our mistakes. That’s why Paul writes “be serious.” He’s saying “Be steady. Be consistent. Don’t be up one day and down the next. Focus on the task at hand.”
Fight through the pain — It’s hard work dealing with a church in decline or in the midst of struggles. That’s why we’re told to “endure hardship” that comes with the difficulties of ministry. The Bible doesn’t promise God will smooth everything out for you and keep you from suffering disappointment. If you are involved in ministry, you face hardship.
Carry out your assignments – Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” and “fulfill your ministry.” That means don’t quit until the end, keep doing what the Lord has sent you to do and what you have trained to do.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, We can see, from Paul’s own experience, three attitudes necessary for a “two-minute warning” strategy.
Readiness – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close.” (v.6) Paul was referring to his impending death. It appeared to be right around the corner. His attitude was one of acceptance for whatever was to come. It was an attitude of complete trust and reliance on the will of God. That’s the key to facing difficult change within your church. Are you really ready to receive whatever God chooses for your congregation?
Running to win – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (v.7) Notice Paul didn’t say, “I have fought a good fight.” He says, “I have fought the good fight” — i.e., the significant fight, the great battle that life had presented to him. Churches and pastors often get caught up in fighting about things that don’t really matter. When that’s the case, winning becomes more about fleshly, self-serving attitudes. Paul says, “I have kept the faith.” He means he has not been distracted from what is significant in eternity. That’s the winning attitude!
Receiving — “In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day ….” (v.8) This task is worthy of our best efforts. A football team turns up the intensity in those last two minutes because they know it is the difference between winning or losing. Paul envisioned the crown that would be handed to him by the Lord himself. What an amazing thing to have the Lord himself hand to us, with His pierced hands, the crown for which we have been waiting all our lives! It will be worth it all.
Now’s the time. Don’t panic. Keep your head. Endure the pain that will most certainly come. Execute the plan by carrying out your assignments. Maintain the right attitude. When the horn goes off, you’ll have done everything you could to win.
Dr. Bob Brown is the Church Revitalization Specialist for the TBC. He served as a pastor in the local church for thirty years before coming to the Convention. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.