The Drowning Pastor: How to Trade Passive Hope for Active Hope this Advent

growth mindset Dec 13, 2022
The drowning pastor, trading active hope for passive hope

In this season of Advent, do you find yourself hoping for something more in your life, work, and finances? It’s natural and easy to hope isn't it? But there’s a big difference between having passive hope and active hope.

Do you know the difference, and how to make active hope work for you? We’ll talk about it in this episode of the More Than a Pastor Show.




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How to Trade Passive Hope for Active Hope this Advent

When I was a kid, it seemed like Christmas would never come. It couldn’t get here fast enough. But now that I’m over 50…it seems like we just celebrated Christmas a few months ago, didn’t we?

Can you relate?

And here we are in the season of Advent, a time to prepare for and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Advent is about waiting. We look back on how people waited for the long-promised Messiah. And on Christmas we celebrate that he came in the person of Jesus Christ. And now we wait for his long-promised return.

As I’ve begun to reflect on the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, I couldn’t help but think of how these 4 gifts are needed in our world now more than ever. And they’re needed in every church right now, and in every pastor’s life.

The last few years have been hard, haven’t they? I know a few pastors who are pretty worn out right now. Maybe you are too.

Worn out because of COVID for sure, and the steep decline in attendance and giving which many churches have experienced. But also because of the political tribalism that divides our nation, doctrinal debates that are dividing churches and denominations, and growing economic uncertainty that affects every church and every American.

If you’re a pastor, you’ve probably had hope that more people will come back after COVID. Hope that giving will improve so you don’t have to make serious cutbacks. And hope that your salary is not one of the necessary cutbacks.

You’ve seen how political and social issues have caused people to take sides, and you pray you could experience more peace in your community and congregation, and in your social media feed.

It’s easy to see how these issues can suck the joy out of ministry at times, and leave us wondering,“ Is it possible to find joy again in this place, or is it time to move on for a fresh start somewhere else?”

Because you’re just not seeing Christ’s love lived out in the church like you used to.

So if you’re running low on hope this Advent, hope that things can ever be different for your church, your life, or your finances, I have a question for you:

Are you waiting with a passive hope or an active hope?


What’s the Difference Between Passive Hope and Active Hope?

Passive hope means we’re waiting for external agencies or people - like God, for example - to bring us what we desire. There’s nothing we can do to change our situation. If it’s going to be, it’s all up to someone or something else.

But active hope is something different. It means we identify the outcomes or goals we hope for and then become active participants in bringing them about. We don’t wait until success is guaranteed. We take action now.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it pretty easy to default to the “passive hope mode,” in my life, praying for God to make change happen, and then waiting passively on him to do the thing.

Passive hope sounds spiritual, doesn’t it? Because we are totally and completely dependent upon God, there’s nothing we can do to make the thing happen.

Unless there is something we can do.

Unless God has already given us skills, talents, abilities, and passions that he wants us to bring to bear on the situation.

Unless he’s waiting for us to take a step before he takes a step.

And that reminds me of the parable of the drowning pastor…


The Parable of the Drowning Pastor

A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local pastor kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.

"Better get in, Pastor. The waters are rising fast."

"No," says the pastor. "I have faith in the Lord. He will save me."

Still the waters rise. Now the pastor is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication, when another guy zips up in a motorboat.

"Come on, Pastor. We need to get you out of here. The levee's gonna break any minute."

Once again, the pastor is unmoved. "I shall remain. The Lord will see me through."

After a while the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The pastor is up there, clinging to the cross, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.

"Grab the ladder, Pastor. This is your last chance."

Once again, the pastor insists the Lord will deliver him.

And, predictably, he drowns.

Then the pastor goes to heaven. After a while he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, "Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn't you deliver me from that flood?"
God shakes his head. "What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."


What if God Has Already Provided the Solutions to Your Problems?

That pastor waited patiently on God. And passively, wouldn’t you agree? And he waited so long that he lost hope and eventually lost his life. All because he was unable to see how God had already provided him with real solutions to his problem, and he was unable to embrace those solutions as his own.

We lose hope or become hopeless when we believe there’s nothing that can be done to change our situation. So we resolve ourselves to struggle to survive. And when things don’t go our way, we think we’re victims.

With passive hope, we believe a better future could be possible, but we don’t think we can do anything to help create it. Passive hope people feel like victims, and they look to others to come in and fix it for them.

People who have active hope believe their actions can make a difference. When we take action, we move away from a victim mentality.

When we experience massive disruption, our ability to find our active hope is essential to helping us create a better future. Finding and nurturing active hope is a crucial step along the way.

What’s my point? Hope can easily be construed as something that’s passive. We are waiting on others - even God, for what we desire. But I think God invites us to have an active Hope. To take action on the things we can do, and to trust him for the rest. Don’t wait for God to move when he’s waiting on you to move. Why would he do something that he’s already given you the ability to do?

So if you’ve felt stuck, broke, or unfulfilled lately in your ministry, personal life, or finances, hoping and praying that something would change, let me ask you...

  1. Do you have a clear picture of what you want for your church, personal life, and finances? I think clarity is so important for active hope. Be specific in your prayers, specific in your vision of what you want to see happen.
  2. Can you identify resources that God has already put at your disposal? Your skills, talents, passions, people connections, etc. that God could use to help change your situation? What are they?
  3. What's one action step you could take right now that would begin to move the needle forward, and take you one step closer to where you want to be?

Maybe the first step is just to believe that change is possible, and that God’s already planted those seeds of possibility within you.

If you’re not sure exactly what you’re hoping for, what change you want to see…maybe you know you need more income but you’re not sure what that looks like, let alone how you’d even get there, why don’t we have a conversation about it, and help you find the clarity and confidence you need to take your next best step.

Maybe you just need someone to listen - someone who understands because they’ve been where you are - and help you believe in what’s possible for your life. You’re surrounded by people who tell you how it’s gonna be but you’re not sure that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe you need someone to give you permission to life the life you were made for.

You can sign up today for one of my free “More with Rich” coaching sessions today at

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