Monday, September 24, 2012

Where are you taking the people you lead?

I recently spoke to a member of a church who was frustrated with things that were happening in her church.  Part of her frustration was that she saw the church repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  She didn't know what to do and called hoping I could solve her problems.  I'm afraid I made them worse.

A major part of her concern was over some in the congregation who were becoming very critical of their pastor.  She said she would hear complaints about aspects of the pastor's ministry from one person and before the day was out she would hear from someone else how helpful they found that particular part of his ministry was to them.  I tried to explain that although the church had a formal job description for the pastor, in reality there were 150 job descriptions he was expected to meet.  That's how many people attend that church, and each of them have different expectations for the pastor.  Those who are happy with his ministry are happy because he is meeting their expectations while those whose expectations are not being met are going to be unhappy.  I then explained this is due to a failure of leadership.  I asked her if the church leaders had ever worked with the pastor to develop a set of goals for the coming year.  When she said they had not I asked how could anyone be expected to properly evaluate the pastor if he has had no goals to achieve?

After giving her a quick overview of SMART goals and how important it was for the church leaders and pastor to agree on 3-4 primary goals for him to give priority to, I shared that before they could do that the church needed to have a clear God-given vision for ministry that he would be expected to lead.  Only with such a vision could the leadership develop and agree upon goals for the pastor that would enable him to lead the church towards that vision.

I told you I made things worse for the caller.  She was hoping for a quick fix to resolve the problem and I began explaining that their problems are due to a number of structure problems in the church that can not be resolved easily.  As a result of those problems the church has been wandering around for years with no sense of direction or purpose.  They merely open their doors each week hoping something good happens before the day is over, but they are doing nothing intentionally to help something good to happen.

At this point I took my caller back to Moses and reminded her of him leading the Israelites round and round the wilderness for 40 years.  Why?  Because the Israelites earlier had refused to live into the vision God had for them.  That refusal sent them back into the wilderness until the rebellious generation was gone, and when that generation was gone God called Moses to take them back to the edge of the Promised Land where they would enter it.  One translation has God saying to Moses, "You've circled this mountain long enough," it is time to go back to the land I have given you.  I told the caller that her church has wandered around in the wilderness for years because the church refuses to live into the vision God has for them.  They need their pastor to lead them to the place God has for them, but he cannot do that until the church has a clear understanding of where that is.  I explained to her that there was nothing wrong with her church that a unifying vision, a pastor who clearly understands what the church expects of his leadership, and a congregation willing to follow that leadership would not resolve.

Leaders, where are you leading your people?  Lay leaders, what exactly is God's vision for your church?  Is your leadership team on board with that vision?  Have you given your pastor the authority to lead you towards the achievement of that vision?  If so, are you protecting him or her from the complaints of those who believe the church (and pastor) exists to tend to their personal agendas?  Are you gladly following his or her leadership and challenging others to join you on that journey?

Pastors, where are you leading your people?  Are you leading them towards the destination that God has determined for them, or are you just circling the mountain, wandering in the wilderness, hoping something positive will eventually come?  Has the church given you the responsibility to lead them but withholds the authority to do so?  If so, who have you spoken to about this?

Both lay leaders and pastors need to understand something: while we play little church games people are dying and going to an eternal hell.  Families are falling apart.  Our young people are leaving the church and the faith in droves.  Our nation is moving further and further away from God.  False religions are growing rapidly as people look to other belief systems to feed their spiritual hunger as they become convinced that Christianity has nothing to offer them.  It is time that leaders begin to lead their churches to the place where God wants them or step aside and allow real leaders the opportunity to do so.

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