“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein was a man who made a living off the problem on the blackboard before him. I can picture him now, chalk in hand, the eraser hot from work, staring and mulling over all the letters and numbers. Einstein’s point is simple: Solving is important, but it was the problems themselves that brought him purpose. Without knowing the problem well, a solution would have never come.
When it comes to the church, we are always finding ourselves turning our attention and energy to the problems before us. We spend “fifty-five minutes” on the problem, too. A fair share of ministry blogs build their portfolios by identifying, exposing, and addressing the problems before us. In many church business meetings nationwide, it is the problems that take center stage. Our sermons are crafted to address problematic thinking. I would argue that it is in our day-to-day church ministry where we see the most “church problems” as they are brought before leadership. A volunteer’s Sunday school complaint here, a discipleship concern there. As a church body, pastor and new member alike, we spend a majority of our time thinking through and being affected by what’s going wrong.
As I have thought about how God designed His holy Church to work, I feel that, while I appreciate Einstein’s commitment to knowing problems well, it’s pertinent that we spend significant time on solutions, too. In fact, I would argue, especially in ministry, that it is crucial to present problems with solutions, no matter your role in the church.
Here are a few reasons why I think becoming what I will call “solution-makers” can positively impact our ministry at multiple levels:
Becoming solution-makers protects us from professionalizing pastors.
This is one of the most important components of why we need “solution-makers” at every level of the church. When we schedule coffee with our pastors to give them our laundry list of concerns that are missing steps towards action and answers, we are communicating to the pastor that it is his job to fix it. This not only puts more weight on the pastor’s shoulders, but it creates the false notion that pastors are the ones who fix church problems, not the body of Christ. Certainly, many problems need a pastor’s input and guidance. But in a culture that already tends to treat pastors as the “experts,” we cannot contribute further to the epidemic. The solution here (I’m learning, see?) is to ask our pastors not how they’re going to “fix it,” but how we can be of help. The pastor’s goal is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:13), not bear the workload on his own.