Perspective: What's Your Theme Verse?

April 6, 2020

By Josh Holdenried, NLI Executive Director

Replying to NLI Staff, "Stewardship: Protecting Your Faith-Based Organization During a Crisis"

Let us not grow tired in doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9

When your team is enduring a crisis, it’s easy to lose perspective as you find yourself putting out fires left and right. Perhaps your planning is no longer by month or quarter, but day-by-day as you fight to make payroll or keep your operations afloat. Consequently, you might find yourself losing perspective as your line of vision is lowered to doing what you must with what you can.

So how do you keep perspective when dire circumstances otherwise occupy your attention? How do you stay focused on your vision? Hopefully you already have a commander’s intent that guides your team members on the what (literally, what are we doing?), but you should also have something that captures the why of your organization (literally, why are we doing this? For what purpose?).

As a faith-based nonprofit, your why has the best chance of success when it’s tethered to a theme verse. By choosing a theme verse that communicates the ethos, or character of your organization, you can maintain perspective despite whatever challenge you may face.

For example, NLI board member Alan Sears chose John 15:5 as the theme verse for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization he founded over 25 years ago:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” - John 15:5

This verse afforded Alan the perspective to transform ADF into what is now the largest religious liberty law firm in the world. He knew that he could not accomplish a God-sized dream without God. As he describes it:

“From a one-person shop with meager funding came a ministry that stands today as a major advocate for life, liberty, conscience, and family across the globe. John 15:5. Only God could do this.”

Inspired by Alan’s  example, NLI chose Galatians 6:9 as the theme verse for our organization:

Let us not grow tired in doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9

We chose this verse because it captures the character of Napa Legal Institute. While we do meticulous and detailed work related to corporate education and legal resources, we do so because we know it’s what empowers faith-based nonprofits.

That’s why we will never give up, for we know the rewards outweigh the costs.  

One of motivations behind choosing Galatians 6:9 as our theme verse is because it communicates three virtues that help us carry our mission forward: patience, hope, and fortitude.

We encourage you to find a similar verse that will give you and your organization the perspective it needs, especially during times of great certainty such as the current pandemic.  

Let us not grow tired in doing good, (patience)

Many faith-based leaders might feel hopeless or frustrated during a crisis, which is usually followed by exhaustion. This is especially true when a crisis completely disrupts your organization’s usual way of doing work. You may be tempted to cut corners or be discouraged by the time it takes to adapt to new and evolving circumstances.

Or perhaps you’re doing great work despite the circumstances, but the return on your investment isn’t materializing right away. Maybe you’re publishing quality content or providing invaluable services that aren’t getting noticed. In other words, you may grow tired of doing good because circumstances are limiting your perspective.

Like the diligent farmer who labors in his fields for weeks and months on end, you too must afford your work the patience it deserves. As St. Cyprian of Carthage reminds us:

“What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is less.”

For in due time we shall reap our harvest, (hope)

As a theological virtue, hope is what spurs activity with the confidence that God has a purpose for us. Because of that purpose we can endure whatever hardship or difficulty, “relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”  

Hope also means we are always building towards the future because we know God is in control of the present. Having such confidence demonstrates our sense of perspective, and gives our friends and allies confidence that if the team is moving forward then so too is the mission.

A favorite example of mine is the perspective President Abraham Lincoln had during the Civil War. As he led the nation through its darkest hour, Lincoln knew it was important to give the American people a sense of hope. To that end, he ordered that the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. continue with construction despite the circumstances. “If people see the Capitol going on,” Lincoln remarked in 1863, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”

If we do not give up. (fortitude)

Fortitude is not merely the endurance of physical or mental hardship. Rather, it is a firm disposition that’s tethered to an wavering faith in God. As St. Bruno the Carthusian explains:

“Fortitude is not of the body, but is a constancy of soul; with it we are conquerors in righteousness, patiently bearing all adversities, and in prosperity are not puffed up. Fortitude is never conquered, or if conquered, is not fortitude.”

Fortitude as “a constancy of soul” requires the virtue of faith, which is also the source of hope and patience. In other words, times of great crisis and difficulty are not times to lose your faith, but rather, to strengthen your faith. As Fr. Charles Trullols recently wrote in “Keeping the Faith During A Time of Crisis,” a blog post published by NLI:

“In this time of trial, we are called to strengthen our trust in God through our prayer life. Then we will be able to help others with the generosity which our faith also demands of us. Jesus says that he ‘did not come to be served but to serve.’ (Mt 20:28).”  

A great way to renew your prayer life is to reflect on a verse from scripture. Through this process, you may find the Holy Spirit guiding you to a theme verse that will carry you forward during this crisis, and those yet to come.


Josh Holdenried serves as Vice President and Executive Director for NLI. Before joining NLI, he was Associate Director of Coalition Relations at The Heritage Foundation, where he focused on strategic partnerships and policy promotion. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy Leadership from the University of Mississippi and a Certificate in Applied Religion in Public Policy from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. He is currently pursuing an M.A. at Hillsdale College’s School of Government.

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