Thursday, December 20, 2012

The loyalty of a leader

I am currently reading Albert Mohler's book The Conviction to Lead.  When I finish the book I'll review it on this blog, but it has been a great read.  I just read a passage that talks about the need for loyalty to the organization that a leader must have if he or she is to be successful.  Mohler writes

The movements that make history are those that breed loyalty, and leaders who want to see that kind of loyalty must first demonstrate it themselves.  Are the people who follow your leadership afraid that you are only looking for the next opportunity?  If so, you can forget loyalty.  Do they see you living with less commitment to the mission than you are asking them to have?  Congratulations, you have just undermined loyalty.

So many of our smaller churches have had revolving door pastorates, and this is one reason that many remain small.  When congregations have been conditioned to expect their pastors to leave every 18-24 months we should not wonder why they are not enthused about change.  This is the scenario many of them have seen played out for years, even decades.  A new pastor comes in excited about being in the place where "God has called me to serve."  A couple of years later he or she announces that "God has called me to a new place of service" and abandons them.  During that time he or she has asked for commitment, dedication, and sacrifice from the people, but they have not seen such things from their previous pastors nor do they anticipate seeing them from this individual.  Such churches will never make history nor have much impact on their communities.

We have too many ministers who never unbox their belongings.  Almost as soon as they arrive at a new place of ministry they begin looking for the next opportunity.  I once had a young pastor call me within months after starting a new pastorate to tell me he felt God was leading him to another church and wanted my help in finding one.  His reason was that he didn't feel the church was following him.  I asked him how long he had been there, and the answer was eight months.  I then asked, "Why do you think they would follow you?  You haven't been there long enough for them to trust your leadership?  I know for a fact that they have paid for some of your education, bought you a new computer system, and done some other things to invest in your ministry there.  They've demonstrated their commitment to you, and now they are looking for the same commitment from you to them, and you're talking about leaving."  I refused to help him find another church.  He soon found one on his own, and within a few months it blew up.  To my knowledge he's out of the ministry now.

This same church then called an older, bivocational minister who has now been there for several years.  The church has a solid ministry going on in its small community and is supporting some missionaries both in the US and overseas.  This pastor has demonstrated a loyalty to the church they have not experienced in recent pastorates, and they are gladly following his leadership.  They are willing to go the extra mile because they see him doing the same.

It's time we in the ministry stop blaming God for our wanderlust.  If you want to leave, then leave, but stop acting as if God is so confused about what He wants to do with your ministry that He changes his mind every couple of years.  Climb the ministerial ladder if that is what you want to do, but don't be surprised if when you reach the top you find it's not what you thought it would be, and don't be surprised when you close out your ministry that you don't look back with regret at what your ministry could have been if you had only remained somewhere for an extended period of time.

More pastors need to fall in love with their congregations.  In my book The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry I wrote these words found in the diary of a pastor many years ago to express how I felt about my congregation.  "This morning I prayed hard for my parish, my poor parish, my first and perhaps my last, since I could ask no better than to die here.  My parish!  The words can't even be spoken with a kind of soaring love."  Do you love your place of ministry like that?  Do the members of your congregation know of your love for them?  Do they see in you the kind of loyalty that such love should create?  When they are convinced of your loyalty towards them, they will return that loyalty and follow your leadership.

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