Friday, December 9, 2016

You can't lead sitting on a fence

Studies have found that many pastors do not see themselves as leaders. In fact, many of them do not want to lead. That's a shame because pastors are called to be leaders in their churches. Maybe their reluctance to lead has to do with a misunderstanding of what a church leader is to be.

Church leaders are not dictators nor are they CEOs. They are servant-leaders who recognize they are there to serve their churches and the communities in which their churches are located. In Mt. 20:28 we find Jesus reminding his disciples "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...." That is the model for pastors and other church leaders. We are not called to our places of ministry to be served but to be servant-leaders.

Another reason some pastors are reluctant to lead is that they've never been taught how to lead. As I've written before, many seminaries do not train pastors to be leaders. They train them to be managers. They are taught how to keep the machinery running and the church operating. They are taught how to prepare sermons and provide pastoral care. They are taught how to work within their denominational polity so as to not create waves. They are taught many good things, but they are not taught to be leaders.

A third reason I've found that keeps many pastors from leading their churches is that they have an intense desire to be liked. They don't want to upset anyone or cause any dissension in the church. If you have an insatiable desire to be liked by everyone you will find it impossible to lead. Inherent in leadership is the need to make tough decisions, and some of those decisions are not going to be popular with everyone.

I have found that many in church leadership are great at sitting on the fence. They remind me of the politician who was asked his opinion on a controversial issue. He responded that some of his friends favored one viewpoint and others supported the opposite viewpoint. When he was again asked his opinion he said he agreed with his friends.

 You can't lead sitting on a fence. There comes a time when a leader must make tough choices. Leaders have to sometimes say things that are hard for some to hear. Leaders have to take risks if they are to effectively lead their organizations. Some Christians will threaten to leave the church if they do not get their way. Leaders have to be willing to watch them walk away if they want to lead the church forward. Leaders refuse to be held hostage by church controllers. Leaders will take a stand and defend it.

Although everything I've just written is true, we must be careful. Timing is everything. Just because someone is the pastor of a church does not mean he or she is a leader in that church. In most churches it takes time before the pastor actually is able to lead a church. This is especially true in smaller churches. We also have to be careful that we don't try to force our ideas on congregations. Trying to force church members to do something they don't want to do is like trying to push a rope. We also have to determine which mountains are worth dying on. Sometimes the rewards of accomplishing something isn't actually worth the risks involved in doing so.

This is what servant-leadership is all about. We do not need to tiptoe around on eggshells, but we do need to work with the people in our churches to accomplish the tasks God has given us. We never want to come across as arrogant or mean-spirited or give the impression that we will get our way by whatever means possible. We are there to serve, not demand, but at the same time we are to lead.

 No one ever said leading a church is easy, but if this is what God has called you to do, then lead. Get off the fence and lead your church to accomplish the vision He has for it.

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