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Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option.

2 Corinthians 4:8 TPT

My first and most significant moment of quitting occurred at a summer basketball camp. As the camp came to a close, a one-on-one tournament between the hundred or so kids began. My confidence grew with each round as I won game after game. This was new for me; I was by no means a star.

Surprisingly, I ended up being one of the final four contestants. Every camper and coach sat courtside for these final games and watched us play. My match was first, and everything went great until I missed a shot. At that moment, I became fearful of losing. My opponent was the son of the coach whose camp I was attending. My coach was the protégé of this head coach, who was watching me. Pressure mounted.  

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How to Not Quit When Everyone Else Is Quitting 4

My thoughts raced as I considered my options. I had outperformed expectations to get this far, and it would be no embarrassment to lose to a coach’s son. Even if I made it to the championship, I would likely face one of my best friends and there was no way I could beat him. 

Entertaining these thoughts, I gave myself permission to quit. I eased up on defense as my opponent scored and won the game.
I often look back on this game and other moments of quitting to understand and accept this truth: quitting is an option for me. Contrastingly, 2 Corinthians 4:8 teaches that quitting is not an option for Christians.

We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out.

2 Corinthians 4:9 TPT

When knocked down, Christians are supposed to get back up. I write all of this for myself and anyone who might share my weakness, but especially for leaders. Leaders are increasingly faced with a cultural acceptance of quitting when things become hard. The Christian—at least the spiritual Christian—cannot embrace this culture of quitting.

[3] And we are also happy with the troubles we have. Why are we happy with troubles? Because we know that these troubles make us more patient. [4] And this patience is proof that we are strong. And this proof gives us hope. [5] And this hope will never disappoint us. We know this because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit he gave us.

Romans 5:3-5 ERV

When we as Christians live life according to Scripture and rely on the power of the Spirit, we can be “happy with the troubles we have,” because those troubles make us grow to be more like Christ. They make us more spiritual and allow us to secure our destiny—the purpose for which God chose us.

[12] Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. [13] Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

Some will ask whether there is ever a time to quit. My answer is there are occasions when we need to “stop doing” so we can “start doing.” This is not “giving up” but refocusing our tenacious efforts on a path more suited to pleasing God and building his kingdom.

What we are addressing is the quitting which says, “I no longer want to be uncomfortable, experience failure, have to wait, or have to work, so I am going to quit. I will find an easier way to get what I want or settle for something less because I am unwilling to endure until my character meets the opportunity when success will be possible.”

“How To Not Quit When Everyone Else Is Quitting” is about examining the cultural forces of quitting at home, work, school, or in the spiritual communities of which we are a part. Our goal is to resist the temptation to quit, choosing instead to imitate Jesus who through perseverance became the ultimate finisher!

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to completely finish His work.

John 4:34 AMP

There are three levels to conquering quitting.

First, we must address quitting among leaders because they have an outsized impact on our culture, whether it is at home, work, school, or in our spiritual communities.
Second, we need to learn how to create a culture that produces spiritual leaders who know how to finish.

Third, we need to commit ourselves to developing the eight qualities of spiritual people and leaders who don’t quit. By the time we complete our study, we will have a foundation for knowing “How Not To Quit When Everyone Else is Quitting.”

The leadership crisis of quitting

Leaders who quit when things become difficult create cultures of quitting. Every facet of life has been difficult since the pandemic began four years ago. This has caused a number of leaders to quit leading. Again, there are reasonable and even noble reasons to quit, but what we are talking about here is the choice to do what is easy because we don’t want to do anything hard.

When cultural forces encourage quitting, we need leaders willing to endure rather than quit, but this means accepting the fact that leadership can be dangerous.

To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear—their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking—with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility.

Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading

Leadership is dangerous. This is why so few want to lead. Rare is the individual who wants to accept responsibility for anyone other than themselves. What healthy individual would welcome criticism for their personality, appearance, personal failures, or life choices—including everything from parenting to purchases?

As Heifetz and Linsky point out in their book, Leadership on the Line, there are numerous ways in which forces of resistance are marshaled against the leader—especially if they seek to lead change:

Moreover, leadership often means exceeding the authority you are given to tackle the challenge at hand. People push back when you disturb the personal and institutional equilibrium they know. And people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game: pushed aside, undermined, or eliminated.

Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading

There are hundreds, if not thousands, who will point out the problems with and foibles of leaders, and not without justification. Unfortunately, however accurate or inaccurate negative assessments of leadership might be, those who are not yet leaders are often dissuaded from leading because of the price they presume they will have to pay. These are often the young or next-generation leaders, which endangers the future of every organization.

Equally concerning is the condition of current leaders. Many of the people I have observed or known leading in public or private organizations are growing older and quitting. Worn down by responsibility and resistance, they choose a different path and begin the search for the financial means to live without having to lead.

Because of the withering effects of these leadership pressures, many noble leaders of exceptional character refuse to lead, quit leading, or—having failed in leadership—decide never to lead again. This creates a leadership crisis, which was the condition of Israel at a time of spiritual decline when social chaos and disorder reigned.

[1] See now, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, [2] the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, [3] the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter. [4] “I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them.”

Isaiah 3:1-4 NIV

In the absence of spiritually competent and courageous leadership, the nation began to collapse under the guidance of unspiritual and inexperienced leaders.

[5] People will oppress each other—man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored. [6] A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say, “You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!” [7] But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people.”

Isaiah 3:5-7 NIV

The result of this leadership crisis was the spiritual collapse of the nation. This collapse that would have been avoidable if they had developed a spiritual culture that supported spiritual leaders, rehabilitated fallen leaders, and nurtured future leaders.

[8] Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. [9] The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.

Isaiah 3:8-9 NIV

Quitting will become our culture unless we make it possible for spiritual leaders to remain strong, recover from failure, and grow from inexperienced to experienced without faith-crushing penalties for immature mistakes. This is the only way for the world, and especially our churches, to develop leaders capable of delivering on the description of God’s servant in the book of Isaiah.

And though he faces obstacles, resistance, and great pressure, he will not crack; he will not give up until things are set right. Even the coastlands wait patiently for his instruction.

Isaiah 42:4 Voice

We can look to Moses to understand how we can create a spiritual culture capable of producing these types of leaders.

Creating a culture capable of producing spiritual leaders

[13] Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. [14] The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” [15] Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

Exodus 14:13-15 NIV

Moses was one of the most spiritual leaders found in Scripture, but this didn’t happen overnight. In Exodus 2-13, we learn that his journey to becoming a spiritual leader was filled with as much failure as success. What saved him was a God who was willing to support, forgive, sustain, and nurture his growth.

The culmination of Moses’s spiritual growth over multiple decades is seen in Exodus 14, where his faith allowed him to stand firm against the grave threat from the Egyptians. He led all of Israel to move forward rather than quit.

And while God nurtured Moses’s growth in Exodus 2-13, he also created a culture in Israel to support the growth of multiple spiritual leaders. Here are four principles to apply at home, at work, at school, and in our spiritual communities to help us develop spiritual leaders who never quit.

1. Spiritual cultures develop rather than undermine leaders

The next day Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long, from morning to night. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”

Exodus 18:13-14 MSG

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, didn’t criticize Moses; he sought to understand him. He was trying to understand the thinking behind what Moses was doing. He didn’t want to replace Moses. His goal was to help Moses be effective and successful.

We can learn from this by asking ourselves what type of culture we have at home, work, school, or in our spiritual community. Do we seek to develop or undermine those who lead? Focusing on developing leaders is how our culture produces an ever-increasing number of spiritual leaders.

2. Spiritual cultures limit rather than burn out leaders

Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone.

Exodus 18:17-23 MSG

The second thing Jethro did was introduce some sobriety into Moses’s life. As a leader, I often overreach in my effort to do my job. I need someone to point out that my self-reliance and pride are going to lead to burnout because I am trying to do everything on my own.

Spiritual cultures make certain that leaders have help and that they rely on it even when they don’t think they need it because they know a leader who burns out will burn others out as well.

3. Spiritual cultures focus on God, not on leaders

Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God.

Exodus 18:17-23 MSG

One of the most challenging things Jethro communicated to Moses was that if he didn’t change the way he led, God couldn’t be in this with him.

Spiritual cultures don’t focus on the leader’s style, strengths, and weaknesses, but on how God wants things done. People who create these cultures take pressure off of leaders. They remind leaders that we need a move of God not a move of men, and that acceptance of spiritual change is not about being right or wrong but making sure God is with us.

4. Spiritual cultures create spiritual leadership pipelines

Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten.

Exodus 18:17-23 MSG

Finally, Jethro taught Moses that a spiritual culture is going to have multiple leaders who are spiritually competent. In fact, a spiritual culture is one where the leaders understand they are constantly working to reduce not increase their responsibilities.

The key to developing a culture with these four qualities is creating an environment of spiritual leaders who do not compete or become entangled in power struggles but make the building of the culture more important than any one person. For this to happen we can look at the detailed examples of a competent leader outlined in Exodus 18 above.

Eight qualities of spiritual people and leaders who don’t quit

competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

Exodus 18:17-23 MSG

Creating a spiritual culture requires spiritual leaders capable of working together as a team. The Scriptures call these “competent leaders,” and here are their eight qualities:

  1. They fear God – Spiritual leaders are spiritually humble
  2. They have integrity – Spiritual leaders have spiritual conviction. 
  3. They are incorruptible – Spiritual leaders have spiritual courage. 
  4. They are organized – Spiritual leaders are spiritually disciplined.
  5. They are responsible – Spiritual leaders have a spiritual conscience.
  6. They work – Spiritual leaders embrace spiritual service.
  7. They can make good judgments – Spiritual leaders practice spiritual decision-making.
  8. They share the leadership load – Spiritual leaders have spiritual confidence.

Let’s look at each of these qualities in more detail to learn how we can develop them.

1. Spiritual leaders are spiritually humble

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?

Micah 6:8 AMP

The first quality found in Exodus 18 describing competence is the quality that makes all the other qualities possible: the fear of God. When someone fears God, they are humble first and foremost with God, as pointed out in Micah 6:8. They set aside “any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness.”

Spiritual cultures are destroyed by people whose selfish ambition, need for position, or need for attention becomes more important to them than pleasing God. When we are humble with God, our priorities are not based on ourselves but on what God is trying to accomplish. This quality is the key to creating families, small groups, and teams that can work together in unity regardless of role.

2. Spiritual leaders have spiritual conviction

How much longer will you sit on the fence, refusing to make a decision between the Lord and Baal? If you believe the Eternal One is the True God, then devote yourselves entirely to Him. If you believe Baal is your master, then devote yourselves entirely to him. All the people who were gathered together atop Mount Carmel were completely silent. They didn’t know what to say to this.

1 Kings 18:21 Voice

Second on the list of character qualities for the spiritual leader is integrity. This was a quality possessed by the prophet Elijah. Integrity is the ability to keep the important things important. Whether these leaders are dealing with themselves, family, close friends, or an organization they are involved with, they will hold to their biblical convictions without compromise.

3. Spiritual leaders have spiritual courage

[6] “Be strong and confident and courageous, for you will give this people as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers (ancestors) to give them. [7] Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do [everything] in accordance with the entire law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper and be successful wherever you go. [8] This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful. [9] Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:6-9 AMP

“Incorruptible” is a powerful word because it means we are not for sale. This quality requires courage, which is what Joshua needed to replace Moses as a leader. Those who are incorruptible do not give in to fear when threatened, intimidated, accused, or bribed. As a result, they can be trusted to be just and fair.

4. Spiritual leaders are spiritually disciplined

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

2 Timothy 1:7 AMP

The failure to be organized can undermine even the most spiritual leader, which is why spiritual leaders must be disciplined. Discipline is the ability to say “no” to ourselves, and to control our emotions, thoughts, and desires—all of which bring order to our private lives.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit makes us disciplined, as described by 2 Timothy 1:7. The more we rely on God and listen to the Spirit’s prompting, the more disciplined we will become.

5. Spiritual leaders have a spiritual conscience

[3] I care very little, however, if I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. [4] My conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who judges me.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 BSB

One of the most stressful aspects of leadership is taking responsibility, especially for people or tasks that fall outside our role or purview. This is why spiritual leaders need a spiritual conscience, which is a moral compass made sensitive by reading and obeying God’s Word. Our conscience guides us to take the initiative to be responsible even when it isn’t our responsibility.

6. Spiritual leaders embrace spiritual service

[1] We who are strong in faith should help the weak with their weaknesses, and not please only ourselves. [2] Let each of us please our neighbors for their good, to help them be stronger in faith. [3] Even Christ did not live to please himself…

Romans 15:1-3 NCV

Spiritual leaders embrace the everyday work of leading when they have the spiritual heart to serve. In one sense, service is the most difficult quality of Jesus to imitate unless we become unselfish people, and becoming unselfish people is one of the best signs we are actually walking with and relying on God.

7. Spiritual leaders practice spiritual decision-making

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel [28] without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Philippians 1:27-28 NIV

The quality of “judging” in the Old Testament can be confusing, and yet Exodus 18 points out that it is one of the eight qualities of competent leaders. Those who are called to judge are being asked to make spiritual decisions. Since a significant part of leadership is decision-making, a critical quality for competent leaders is knowing how to make decisions that put God first. This results in them living lives worthy of the gospel. Knowing how to make spiritual decisions, these leaders can then teach others to think spiritually and make spiritual decisions.

8. Spiritual leaders have spiritual confidence

[22] Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. [23] If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Exodus 18:22-23 NIV

Spiritual leaders have the spiritual confidence to lead. Their spiritual confidence stems from a character that refuses to yield. They relieve the burden on any one leader because they possess the first seven qualities of spiritual leadership that will not let them quit. 

They fear God (have spiritual humility) and have integrity (spiritual conviction). They are incorruptible (spiritually courageous), organized (spiritually disciplined), responsible (have a spiritual conscience), willing to work (embrace spiritual service), and capable of making judgments (practice spiritual decision-making). Because of their unyielding character, they are capable of sharing the leadership load.

When the culture we create is spiritual, we endow people and leaders with the eight spiritual qualities that make us unyielding and unwilling to quit. The result is a home, workplace, school, or spiritual community capable of changing the world.

Conclusion: Competence comes from God

Now the leaders were surprised and confused. They looked at Peter and John and realized they were typical peasants—uneducated, utterly ordinary fellows—with extraordinary confidence. The leaders recognized them as companions of Jesus …

Acts 4:13 Voice

“How to Not Quit When Everyone Else is Quitting” has been an opportunity for us to understand quitting and the prevalence of it in our culture. We were able to examine the leadership crisis created when leaders quit. The solutions we found were creating a culture capable of producing spiritual leaders and the eight qualities of spiritual people and leaders who don’t quit.

Throughout our study and reflection, we might feel inadequate or incapable of creating a spiritual culture or becoming spiritual leaders. This is why it is important for us to consider Acts 4:13 in the Voice translation, where we learn that the extraordinary confidence of the apostles came from being with Jesus. In short, their competence came from God and so does ours.

[4] Such is the confidence we have through Christ before God. [5] It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. [6] He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:4-6 CSB

Now more than ever, Christians have a unique opportunity to profoundly influence society. However, to realize this potential, we must reject the prevailing culture of quitting. Instead, we need to cultivate spiritual communities dedicated to developing spiritual leaders who are skilled in transforming lives and making a global impact. May God bless our endeavor to grow and fulfill his dreams for a world in need of change.

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As the editor in chief for Deep Spirituality, Russ Ewell writes, teaches, and innovates with his eyes on the future. His teaching is rooted in providing hope for those turned off by tradition and infused with vision for building a transformative church. His passion to inspire even the most skeptical to view God through fresh eyes can be found in his book, He's Not Who You Think He Is: Dropping Your Assumptions and Discovering God for Yourself.

How to Not Quit When Everyone Else Is Quitting 8

As the editor in chief for Deep Spirituality, Russ Ewell writes, teaches, and innovates with his eyes on the future. His teaching is rooted in providing hope for those turned off by tradition and infused with vision for building a transformative church. His passion to inspire even the most skeptical to view God through fresh eyes can be found in his book, He's Not Who You Think He Is: Dropping Your Assumptions and Discovering God for Yourself.

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How to Not Quit When Everyone Else Is Quitting 9