A QUESTION: Ever been told to take the “Initiative”? What is it you were supposed to take? And to where were you supposed to take it? Storytime:

“DO SOMETHING? They were the first mentors of my wife and I after college. They pastored a small church in North Central Texas. We were the assistants and the only pastoral staff. Together, they were a steam engine. He was the engine. She was the steam. I can remember that he would be bending over his precious penny collection enjoying perusing each penny under his magnifying glass, and she, meanwhile, would be stewing about some problem she considered urgent.When the steam of her urgency didn’t move his engine, she would finally blurt out, like the toot of a locomotive, “Well, Elmer, don’t just sit there, do something.” His response would be to stand up, wiggle his arms at his side furiously like a wrestler warming up for battle and then ask, “Now, do you feel better?” and go back to his penny collection.

Initiative means to make a move, but not just to “do something.” Have you ever “taken the initiative”? If you did, what was it you took and to where did you take it? What is “the initiative”, anyway?

IITHE 80/20 – 75/25 PRINCIPLES

The 80/20 Principle: Initiative is the willingness to be moved to action on your own. Never mind that you may not see yourself as a leader. Most people aren’t. Ever hear of the 80/20 principle? It’s a bedrock fact that 20% of the people do 80% of the work! Most people don’t want to start something, or to take responsibility for something.The 75/25 Principle: In the church, I have observed that our record is a little closer to that of Jesus’ Apostles. It’s more like 75/25, twenty-five percent of the folks do and/or give seventy-five percent of all that is done or given. Look: Jesus had 12 apostles. Three (Peter, James and John), or 25% went up the mountain with Him, –and the same three (25%) went a little farther into Gethsemane with Him. The other 75% were at the bottom of the mountain and only a little way inside the Garden of Gethsemane. Principle? Most people are followers, not leaders, but I submit to you that everyone has to lead the way sometimes.


FOP* and FOF*: Frozen by *Fear oPeople and *Fear oFailure, many people refuse to make decisions or to start anything. They become victims of a negative principle: “not deciding becomes their decision” and for that decision they will be held accountable for the results all the same. Their motto seems to be “better not to have tried anything than to have tried and failed”. What a pity. These poor souls will never see the view from the top of the mountain or what is around the mysterious curve ahead. Like the children of Israel at the Jordan River, they listen to the mistaken majority of Israeli spies who say, “The land is full of giants (read “challenges“) and we are like grasshoppers in their sights (read “in our sights”).


Making decisions: Making decisions takes initiative. Taking the initiative means going on ahead and when you go on ahead, you have to turn your back on the crowd and your fears that follow. You see a need or an opportunity and you don’t wait for someone to order you to meet it. You move toward that need or opportunity because it is there and you see it. You allow yourself to be moved to meet the need, the opportunity.Initiative: Initiative comes from the word “initial” which means “first” or a “beginning”. It means that you make the first move. Sometimes even the most timid soul needs to “make a move”. Doing it may be “outside of your box”, leaving your comfort zone, deciding to do when it’s right to do instead of choosing to be a slave to natural timidity or ease because, for most of us, doing nothing is the most natural and the easiest.


Water: Water is one of the most powerful forces in the world. However, until outside force is brought to bear upon it, all it will do on its own is run downhill! The only real power that water has is when it’s under pressure. Then, and only then, can it be pumped up to a tower in order that it might “run downhill” into the faucets of the houses of the community. Most of us are a whole lot like water. We need some pressure to get us going or otherwise, all we’ll do is take the easy way and run downhill. We are like water…orFenceposts. Many pride themselves in the fact that they don’t “smoke or chew, or go with those who do” but neither do fenceposts. Initiative is defined not by what one does not do, but what one does, what one starts.

So start something. Wake up, look around, crank up your courage, –and just do it. When you do, you and initiative shake hands and become partners. It’s a good feeling. So figure out what you ought to do and just DO IT.

INITIATIVE – A Four-Minute Sermon

Faith Committee, Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Contributed by Clyde C. Miller
Senior Pastor (Retired), First Christian Assembly, Cincinnati, OH

September 1, 2001


This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.