Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.

The word ‘grit’ is now fashionable in church leadership thanks in part to Bill Hybels teaching at GLS 2015  and Angela Duckworth’s book simply titled ‘Grit’ (see link below). People will define grit several ways but from my perspective it is the stubborn refusal to be discouraged when things don’t seem to be going well. Most pastors reading this will readily identify seasons of discouragement in ministry, times when but by the grace of God we would have thrown in the towel. The grace of God and sheer grit is what pulls us through sometimes. Many gifted people have given up on ministry because they didn’t have the necessary grit to persevere in the face of plateaued church attendance, uncommitted volunteers. poor giving and so on. I have also witnessed pastors burst into tears because of the sheer frustration and unkindness of church members. In a hostile ministry environment – internally and externally – grit is an essential ingredient.

I’d like to share two ministry incidents from my early ministry, times when I had to demonstrate grit – even before the word entered into leadership parlance.

As long as you’re preaching we’re not listening!

Early in my ministry I for a long time faced the ignominy of some church members choosing to openly read the newspaper when I was preaching. It was a visible demonstration of saying ‘we don’t want to listen to anything you have to say’ The church  was near empty, only about a quarter full and I was try hard to turn the church around. But of course some didn’t agree with the direction in which the church was going and so decided to show their disaffection Sunday after Sunday. It was a very difficult time but I was determined to preach my best even if almost a third of the tiny congregation preoccupied themselves with openly reading the Sunday newspapers

We hope your Purpose Driven Life campaign fails!

First time we ran the Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life campaign church not many were convinced it would work in our context – it was from a megachurch in America, nobody will read the book, the simulcast will not work, nobody will turn up and so on. Of course in an act of self fulfilling prophecy many of the church deacons came in very late to the event hoping to see a failed project. No prizes for guessing though – God had other plans and it was a resounding success. This singular spiritual growth campaign catapulted our church on to a growth curve and this has continued to this day. The lesson? Never give up. Just do it even if the majority doesn’t support you. Go with the few.

The video below is an excerpt from Bill Hybel’s presentation at the GLS 2015. Among other things he makes a few suggestions about developing grit.

  • Do things that stretch you physically. Sports, working out, running marathons etc. He argues that overcoming physical demands translates into overcoming difficult situations in ministry.
  • Take on challenging ministry projects. Persevering and succeeding gives you the confidence to tackle the next big task or challenge without giving up. Grit now leads to more grit later.
  • Practice over-delivering.
  • (from my perspective) always keep the vision in mind.

Finally, a quote – Hebrews 12:2

… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Bill Hybels on Grit – excerpt from Global Leadership Summit 2015 talk

Angela Duckworth book – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

(insert Angela’s video here)