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Feel like you’re spinning your wheels?
Not catching any traction in leadership?
Maybe here’s a few reasons…
1. You Don’t Know Yourself: Often times people who lead know their audience but don’t know themselves. Take a few moments and get to know yourself. Self testing like Jung Typology Test, Myers-Briggs and StrengthFinders are just a few personality tests that will help you see where you are gifted and how that ties into leadership. Then contemplate your motivations for leading as well as personal goals to make sure you are really interested in helping people or ultimately just in leadership to help yourself.
2. You’re Not Sensitive to Followers: This is one area I wish I would have learned a lot sooner in ministry and honestly (like all of these) am still working on. Will Schutz said people come into any relationship situation with three questions related to inclusion, control and openness. They ask…
- Inclusion: Am I in or out?
- Control: Am I on top or on the bottom?
- Openness: Am I open or closed?
How much you think about these questions in regards to the person you are trying to lead is essential to gaining traction.
3. You Don’t Listen: Sure you heard what that person said with your ears but did you really listen to what they had to say with your brain? A few ways to listen to people involve…
- Wait to speak – “The wise listen” Proverbs 12:15
- Ask good questions – Go for clarity
- Overcoming the Impulse to become Defensive
Remember, what we say to others, says much about how we view ourselves.
4. You Don’t Accept People for who They Are: Everyone wants to be accepted and feel valued. Are we making people feel a part of the team or simply in this for ourselves. Ask, “How can we work to show the people we are leading more appreciation?” “How can we help motivate instead of manage?”
5. You Run From Difficult Issues: Conflict teaches us much about ourselves. Great leaders run to conflict in order to learn about themselves and better their leadership.
“Recognize that you will spend much of your life making mistakes. If you can take action and keep making mistakes, you gain experience.” John Maxwell
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The 8 Destructive People in Your Church
AGGRESSORS: Aggressors are always on the march for their own ideas. They push their viewpoint incessantly, regardless of merit. Often they win just by wearing others down. Their battle cry is, “The best defense is a good offense!”
SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDED: These people seem to be against everything. They attack others ideas with ferocity. Sometimes they attack other people directly. When they are around, you know you are always in for a fight. Their battle cry is, “They may win, but we’ll make ’em pay!”
COMMANDERS: Commanders are those who need to be in control, to call the shots. They are also known individually as the “church boss.” Commanders feel that without their control, the church will falter and die. They are therefore indispensable and must be consulted on all decisions. Each commander is the power broker in the church. Their battle cry is, “I’m in charge here at the church!”
SNIPERS: Snipers operate from hiding places. They hide behind others, or they talk secretly behind your back, sending deadly bullets to destroy your credibility, damage your reputation, and undermine your influence. Because they camouflage their efforts so skillfully, you seldom know where the shot came from. Nor do you know when or from what angle the next one is coming. Their battle cry is whispered as they tighten the trigger, “Watch your back, Jack!”
SMART BOMBS: These are the perfectionists, the people who are always right. On whatever issue, theirs is the only correct approach.’ No other approach is rational or biblical or spiritual. Those who do not agree are seen as obstacles. Since, to the Smart Bombs, these are issues of right and wrong (they are right; others are wrong), there is almost a moral obligation to remove the obstacles, and any means of doing so is justified. They often employ snipers. Smart Bombs must win. In the end, they blow up the ministry. Their battle cry is, “I’m right! You’ll see!”
STEALTH BOMBERS: These are the people who simply try to destroy you because they disagree with you. When you least expect it, they will roll a hand grenade under your door and feel relieved to have you out of the way. They also like letter bombs. “Dear Elder Bob, I don’t like to say this, but I feel that I must tell you that…” Their battle cry is, “Yea, though I walk through the valley, I will fear no evil, for I’m the meanest man in the valley!”
PSY-WARRIORS: Psy-warriors win by spreading misinformation. They are experts at “spin” and know how to make a lie sound believable. They rewrite history with such bold artistry that eyewitnesses to the same events are left scratching their heads in bewilderment. They are experts at making you feel like you were in the wrong. Their battle cry is, “And there are lots of others who feel this way!”
STRATEGISTS: Strategists are the power players who are skilled at getting what they want. They are adept at finding and exploiting weaknesses that open the way to achieve their goals. They are the manipulators who devise clever strategies to build their power base or get the votes they need. They skillfully use the other types of problem people to further their own strategies. Their battle cry is, “My ends justify any means!”
It’s easy to see this in others but which one do we see in ourself?
God help us learn how to love and lead these people as we grow to become more like Christ…
- Edgar Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987), 270.
- Calvin Miller, The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 130.
- K. Morrison, Leadership Skills (Tuscon, Ariz.: Fisher, 1983), 149.
- Norman Shawchuck, How to Manage Conflict in the Church (Irvine, Calif.: Spiritual Growth Resources, 1983), 23.
- Glenn M. Parker, Team Players and Teamwork (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990), 42.
- Shawchuck, How to Manage Conflict in the Church,
- Morrison, Leadership Skills,
- Shawchuck, How to Manage Conflict in the Church, 269.
- Andrew Seidel, Charting a Bold Course, 267-269
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Busyness is highly regarded in our society. Ambitious men and women are admired and rewarded for their dedicated focus on their careers. Mothers who juggle all their kids’ activities while caring for the home and pursuing an occupation are labeled “supermoms.” Overloaded students who run from school to sports to enrichment activities are promised bright futures for their efforts.
It seems that we have bought into this world’s value system and hopped on the “busy bandwagon,” hoping to find rich and meaningful lives. But how many of us fall into bed each night completely exhausted, only to get up the next day and start the race all over again?
Why Am I So Busy?
Maybe it’s time to step off our treadmills of endless activity, grab our Bibles, and sit down with the Lord for an honest time of self-examination. People overload their schedules for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the chief one is that we live in a fast-paced culture. There is simply more to do in one day than there is time to do it. Many of us feel overwhelmed by our hectic lifestyles yet don’t know how to slow down.
But some people with driven personalities actually thrive on overcommitment. They find great personal satisfaction in completing each task and are always eager to add more challenges to their day. Every accomplishment gives a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. Then, there are others who stay busy to avoid dealing with painful experiences or unconfessed sin. By keeping themselves active, they hope to silence the ache and emptiness within.
What Does God Think About Busyness?
Regardless of the reasons, we need to pause and consider what God thinks about our unceasing activity. By stepping back and viewing our lifestyles from His perspective, we can determine whether we are living according to His will or have gotten off track.
First of all, let me point out that being busy in not always a bad thing. God has entrusted each one of us with responsibilities, such as providing for our families, ministering at church, and serving the community. Although we are not to neglect these duties, we must guard against letting them push aside the most important things.
To determine what God considers top priority, let’s examine His purposes for mankind. He created us to enjoy a personal relationship with Him—to really know and love Him. He also planned specific tasks for us (Eph. 2:101. Christians usually refer to these individually designed responsibilities as “the will of God for your life.”
Knowing all this, we need to consider whether our busyness is helping or hindering us in fulfilling the Lord’s desires. Does your schedule include time for building a deep relationship with your Creator? How about your activities—are you doing the work God planned for you or just muddling along, unsure of what His will is? If you want a life that the Lord can bless and reward, take some time to evaluate your pursuits.
What Are the Consequences of Busyness?
Overcommitment damages our relationship with the Lord. Have you ever considered how your busy schedule makes God feel? He longs to have a close connection with us, but when our activities crowd Him out, His heart is grieved by our lack of interest.
Although an intimate relationship with Christ is available to every believer, each one has a responsibility to actively pursue it. To help us understand what this requires, let’s consider what it takes to destroy a relationship. That’s very simple: don’t meet with or talk to the other person.
Sadly, this is what many of us are doing when we let the things of this world take priority over time with God. The only way busy people will grow in relationship with the Father is by giving Him their most precious commodity—uninterrupted, unhurried time alone in His presence.
Even serving the Lord is not a substitute for quiet moments of intimate communication with Him. In Luke 10:38-42. we read that when Jesus dropped by to visit His good friends, “Martha was distracted with all her preparations,” but Mary “was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Although Martha was doing a good thing in serving Christ, she had lost sight of the best part—being still and listening to Him. As Christians it’s easy to become so busy doings God’s work that we no longer have time for simply being with Him.
Busyness also keeps us from participating in God’s will. Remember, the Lord has personally designed specific tasks for believers to undertake during their stay on earth. However, there are two ways that we can miss what He has in mind for us to accomplish. First, if we are too busy to set aside a quiet time to seek the Lord’s direction for each day, we will have no idea whether we are doing what He want. Second, if we are intent on achieving only our own plans, we will have no time for His.
Who is controlling your schedule? Have you let the values of the culture determine your agenda? God’s plans for you will never align with the plans of the world, which is Satan’s domain (2 Cor. 4:41 and managed according to his goals and values. Society’s influence is powerful, stimulating our desires and promising y pleasures and rewards that seem irresistible. But if we fall for such lies, the world will dictate our activities and enslave us to unproductive busyness. ”
In addition, some people yield control of their agendas by letting others have too much influence over their I choices. Since we are all inundated with requests for our time and energy, the ability to say no is invaluable. Not every opportunity is God’s will for you. That’s why staying connected to Him is so important—then you can discern His good and perfect will.
As strong as outside forces can be in contributing to a hectic lifestyle, self-will may be the biggest culprit. We all have this inner urge to be our own boss and determine our own schedule, but the only way to live in God’s will is to surrender our calendars into His hand. Just keep in mind that His plans are always good and perfect, which is much more than you can say about your own. Although the Lord’s plan may not be easy, you can know with certainty that following it will produce a sense of well-being and fruit that lasts throughout eternity.
What Is the Cost of My Busy Lifestyle?
The world believes that busy people are productive people, but this is not always true. From God’s perspective, busier does not necessarily mean more fruitful. Unless we are occupied with the tasks He has for us, our efforts will have no lasting value. After working our fingers to the bone, we could arrive in heaven only to discover that we’ve lost rewards because our time and energy were wasted on worthless activities II Cor. 3:10-15.
Busyness is a thief that steals precious opportunities to enjoy and serve God. It would be tragic to disobey the Lord and then wonder for the rest of our lives what He might have done in and through us. How much better to submit our time and plans to Him now and know the fulfillment that comes from accomplishing what we were created to do.
How Do I Get Off This Treadmill?
Many people feel trapped by the speed of life but see no way to slow down and escape the maddening pace of this world. Some basic biblical principles can guide us as we learn to say no to busyness and begin to live in the freedom of God’s will.
- Become very familiar with Scripture. One of Satan’s most effective tactics to keep us entrapped is ignorance of God’s Word. If we are too busy to read the Bible, we will automatically follow the flow of our culture and spend our lives chasing after it’s hollow treasures. How can we make good choices if we never seek the Lord’s guidance? Only by knowing the truth will we be able to discern the Enemy’s lies and recognize his snares.
- Wait on the Lord. This is a difficult assignment for a busy person, but rushing ahead without clear direction ^ from God will put you right back on the treadmill—going nowhere fast. If you want to invest in that which is eternal, get your Bible and set aside time to be alone with the Father. Ask Him to evaluate your present activities and show you what He desires for your life.
- Obey and leave the consequences to God. Once you have received clear direction from the Lord, step out in obedience. Our human tendency is to want the entire plan revealed before we move an inch, but that’s not God’s way. He says His Word is a lamp to our feet (Ps. 119:105) not a searchlight.
If your car was in a parking lot at night, you wouldn’t sit there waiting for the sun to come up so you could see all the way home. No, you would turn on the lights and drive in their beam without knowing what lies ahead in the darkness. In the same way, the will of God usually comes to us in small increments. After we-take one step, He reveals the next.
The Lord’s goal is to teach us to trust Him for every step of our journey. Qnc of the greatest advantages of such dependent obedience is the freedom of leaving the consequences to Him. Once we obey, He assumes full responsibility for what happens next. Because we can never lose when we are following the will of God, there is no need to fear.
However, the moment you commit to follow the Lord by slowing your pace and doing things His way, Satan will shoot anxious thoughts into your mind: If I give God the first part of the day, how will I ever get everything done? If I take a less demanding job, how will I provide for my family and pay my bills? But by relying on the truth of Scripture, you will always have a powerful answer: “My job is to obey; God is responsible for the consequences. He is faithful and will provide.”
Although altering a busy lifestyle may not be easy, it’s worth the effort. The quest for acceptance, fulfillment, and purpose can drive us to overload our schedules. But the frenzy will end when we find the joy of an intimate relationship with Christ and the thrill of pursuing His will for our lives. Let’s get off the treadmill and go for a long walk with the Lord. The end result will be a life well lived.
Questions for Further Study
The Most Important Pursuit
- What is the most important pursuit in life 9:23-24)?
- How did Jesus stay connected with His Father while He was on earth (Mark 1:35: Matt. 14:23)?
- Who determined His schedule of activities for each day (John 5:19-20. 30: 8:28-29)?
- Read Luke 10:38-42. Are you more like Mary or Martha?
- What did Jesus recommend as a remedy for weariness (Matt. 11:28-30)?
God’s Evaluation of Our Work
- What does James 4:13-17 say about planning presumptuously without giving thought to God’s purposes?
- According to Luke 8:11-15. how can preoccupation with the things of this life affect your fruitfulness (v. 14)?
- What was God’s assessment of a man who spent his life pursuing his own plans (Luke 12:16-211?
- How will Christ determine whether your work has been productive or wasted (I Cor. 3:10-151?
Living in God’s Will
- How did Paul fulfill the Lord’s purpose for his life (Phil. 3:7-14:2 Tim. 4:6-81? What was the apostle’s highest priority and chief pursuit?
- According to Ephesians 2:10. what has the Lord planned for you? How can you discover His will for your life (Rom. 12:1-21?
The following is an except from the book “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome” by Kent Hughes called “How the Congregation Can Help”.
The wife of a close pastor friend of ours enjoys telling how she awoke one night to find her husband asleep on his elbows and knees at the foot of the bed. His arms were cupped before him as if he were embracing the base of a tree, and he was muttering.
“George! What on earth are you doing?” she cried.
“Shhh,” he answered, still asleep. “I’m holding a pyramid of marbles together, and if I move, it’s going to tumble down. . . .”
A classic pastor’s dream! First, because it was the subconscious revelation of a pressured parson. Second, because the pyramid of marbles is an apt metaphor for a pastor’s work.
The pastor’s inevitable knowledge of the forces at work among his people—the individual sins of some, the hidden family problems, the conflicts between members, the dissatisfactions, the life-style inconsistencies, the differing perspectives on what the church should be—can make the pastor feel as if one wrong move will bring the whole thing down. This feeling is not a sign of weakness, nor is it new to the church. It is typical of the heart that cares.
What is it like to be a pastor? What can a congregation do to help him and encourage his success?
Understand Your Pastor
As we try to understand something of what it is like to be a pastor, we must realize several things: First, the following are generalizations, and no one pastor experiences or feels all that is here described. Second, the following is descriptive of a serious, hardworking pastor who is trying to do his best. We’re not talking about ministerial dilettantes or sluggards here. Third, what follows emphasizes the “heavy” side of pastoral experience (when the arms are supporting the pyramid), and must be balanced by what has already been said about the joys and supreme privilege of the call in chapter 12.
Your pastor’s calling is uniquely absorbing. A minister’s calling is naturally absorbing precisely because it is a call. He did not choose his vocation, however willingly he pursued it. Rather, he was chosen for the vocation. Therefore, he does not regard his ministry as simply a job.
A pastoral colleague once quipped, when asked how he was doing, “Things could be worse; I could be doing this for a living!” thus making cheerful reference to the fact that his was not a job but a calling. A dedicated pastor cannot, and dare not, approach his calling as a nine-to- five proposition, or even a career. God’s call is upon all his life. It is impossible for him to separate his calling from the rest of his life as is possible in some professions. A divine call to ministry demands absorption.
The call is further absorbing because the pastor regularly deals with life-and-death issues. Other professions may require one to focus on the outcome of a business transaction, an athletic contest, or even the diagnosis of a disease. But the outcome of the pastor’s preaching and counseling can mean, humanly speaking, life and death for eternal souls. This reality alone requires vast concentration. And more, it is compounded by the intensely personal nature of pastoral work; so much of it is eye to eye and heart to heart.
Then there is the time factor that further promotes absorption. No dedicated pastor, regardless of the size of his congregation, can do his job in a forty-hour week. To begin with, if he takes his preaching seriously (which he must!) it will require nearly half that time. My own schedule requires a twenty-five hour commitment, though I have been preaching for years. In a forty-hour week, that leaves fifteen hours for prayer, counseling, administration, staff meeting, visitation, and emergencies. A total impossibility! By definition a shepherd’s time is not his own. He must always be available for the unexpected. Furthermore, most pastors of smaller churches do not have enough office help, so they find their time diverted from their main pastoral responsibilities.
The time-consuming nature of the pastoral calling, coupled with the fact that it is a divine call that deals with life-and-death issues on an intimate, personal level, makes the ministry uniquely absorbing. This in turn, presents great dangers to the pastor.
Foremost among the dangers is that he takes himself too seriously. Some preachers, though thankfully not so many today, fall into this error. Spurgeon once characterized them as having their neckties twisted around their souls. They are the doleful parsons whom novelists delight to caricature. A helpful pastoral epigram here is: While we cannot take our xvork seriously enough, we must never take ourselves too seriously. The Master’s servants are at best clay pots—cracked, at that!
Another similar danger is the messiah complex. This is seen in the pastor who is so engrossed in his work that he imagines nothing can be done right without him. He is the ubiquitous preacher, present at every committee meeting, presiding at every function, a voice on legs. He has lost touch with the liberating truth that he is expendable.
An allied danger of ministerial absorption is a preoccupied soul. Such a minister’s mind is always somewhere else. He faces you when you speak, but he always seems to be looking past you. It is an ugly trait.
The classic symptom of pastoral absorption is overwork. He puts everything into his work and thinks that he is justified in doing so. And the tragic result of such absorption is neglect of family.
We say all of this because the congregation must realize that absorption is endemic to the pastoral call. One cannot be a good pastor without it, but unchecked it can ruin him. The congregation wishing to understand its pastor and help promote his success must understand this and take proper steps to assist him, as we will later see.
The Difficulty of Your Pastor’s Calling
In 1925, when Karl Barth was offered the church of Neu- munster near Zurich, Switzerland, he remembered his previous pastorate and demurred:
I am troubled by the memory of how greatly, how yet more greatly, I failed finally as a pastor of Safenwil. . . . The prospect of having to teach children again, of having to take hold of all kinds of practical problems … is really fearful to me.
Karl Barth, whom many (though they may take issue with his theology) consider to be the greatest theological mind of the twentieth century, found the pastorate to be terribly difficult.
Likewise, William Barclay, professor of New Testament at Glasgow and well-known popularizer of biblical scholarship, wrote candidly of his memories:
I began by being the pastor of a congregation. I can honestly say that that part of my work was the most difficult and exhausting that I ever had to do . . .it was also the most humiliating, in that it could have been done so much better.
Thus two men, whose names today are veritable household words among pastors and students, testify to the difficulty of the pastoral ministry, publicly affirming what all pastors know from their experience.
Why is the pastorate so challenging and difficult? Because it is opposed by Satan. The devil hates Christ, his church, and those who lead it. And because of this, church leaders are regularly subjected to special attention from his demonic hosts. This is especially true if one’s ministry shows particular spiritual progress. There is a diabolical wisdom coordinating the forces of evil that makes ministers inevitable targets for difficulty. Every congregation must understand this and accordingly pray for their pastors if they wish them to succeed.
But apart from this fundamental spiritual reason for ministerial difficulty there is also a natural reason, namely, that the pastorate demands that one do so many things well. The pastor is called to be a competent leader, administrator, counselor, and preacher all at the same time. This may not seem daunting from the outside, but from within it is formidable.
To begin with, the pastor functions as the chief executive officer of a volunteer organization! No one, except his secretary and his assistant (if he has either), is compelled to do anything he says. His situation would prove impossible for a business-world CEO, whose wish is his subordinates’ command. The pastor cannot lead by command but must lead by example and influence. And if at any point a parishioner disagrees, he can tell his CEO what he thinks and walk out or form an opposition movement. This functional egalitarianism makes leadership a most delicate art.
This is compounded by the fact that the church, so simple to the uninformed, is an immensely complex structure. The church, though the names of the boards and committees will vary, will normally have separate boards of elders, deacons, missions, and education, which in turn will have a welter of standing and ad hoc committees. The hierarchical structure may look good on paper but the daily functioning will reveal a web of confusion of responsibilities and territorial breeches that would tax the diplomacy of Benjamin Franklin.
Not only must the pastor lead a complex volunteer organization, he must also be a skilled personal counselor. In more than twenty years of ministerial counseling, I have dealt with just about every sin and problem conceivable. I can no longer be shocked. The idea of a naive pastor is a laughable myth. It is doubtful if a professional psychologist has confronted things any more complex and bizarre than I. And as any counselor will tell you, such counseling is intensely draining. There are psychologists who will book no more than fifteen hours of counseling per week because of the emotional stress. Most pastors have several hours of counseling in their weekly schedules! And because sins often affect other members of the congregation and the sociology of sin can extend back for years, pastoral counseling can be even more stressful. Counseling is a major element in making the pastorate difficult.
But perhaps the greatest challenge in pastoring is preaching. This first issues from the huge responsibility one bears in preaching the Word. C. H. Spurgeon gave eloquent testimony to this when he said:
It may be light work to you men of genius and learning; but to me it is life and death work. Often have I thought that I would rather take a whipping with a cat-o’-ninetails than preach again. How can I answer for it at the last great day unless I am faithful? “Who is sufficient for these things?” When I have felt the dread responsibility of souls that may be lost or saved by the word they hear . . . [it] made me wish that I had never ventured on so bold a life-work. How shall I give an honorable account of my commission at last?
For Spurgeon and anyone else who sees the greatness of the responsibility, preaching becomes difficult because it can never be good enough.
In this connection, preaching is difficult because it demands the best of the preacher. Uncovering the exegetical meaning of a text in its context can take hours of work; giving the central idea of the text sermonic shape takes even more hours; applying and illustrating it, still more. And then, even if the preacher is St. Augustine, the sermon may not measure up. “My preaching,” said Augustine, “almost always displeases me.”
Not least among the challenges of preaching is that the pastor speaks to the same people week after week. In awe of this, John Bright, the famous English statesman and orator, said, “Nothing that I can think of would induce me to undertake to speak to the same audience once a week for a year!”6 Nevertheless, God calls his pastors to do it once, and often twice or three times a week. Any congregation that has sat under a pastor for several years has heard just about all his “silver bullets,” favorite stories, anecdotes, and illustrations. The challenge of preaching to the same people increases with time!
Finally, preaching is intrinsically difficult because of the self-exposure it entails. Phillips Brooks, the redoubtable preacher of turn-of-the-century Boston, said, “Preaching is God’s truth mediated through personality.” Brooks was stressing the necessity that the preacher internalize the truth and then present it through his own experience. Ultimately this involves some exposure and pain. Bruce Thieleman puts it this way:
The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises, and does not rest. … To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time that you must do it again.
This is not to say that preaching is an onerous task. Far from it—it is a glorious calling! Rather, it is to stress that preaching is a uniquely difficult task because it is so personal, so time-consuming, and such a vast responsibility.
Any congregation that cares about understanding its pastor must understand and believe that the ministry is uniquely difficult; first, because the pastor is a special target of Satan’s opposition; and second, because he is called to do so many required things well—lead a volunteer organization, give discerning counsel, and preach God’s holy Word. In this connection, the congregation must believe that the pastorate is work. Every pastor has heard a variation of this line innumerable times—”What’s it like to work one day a week?” It is almost always a good- natured, playful remark and should be regarded as such. But it also voices the common folklore (no doubt deserved by some) that the pastorate is a soft job.
A young teenage girl once asked Barbara, “What does Mr. Hughes do?”
“You know, Suzi,” Barbara replied, “he’s pastor of College Church.”
“Yes, but what does he do the rest of the week?” My wife suggested that she go ask her parents, who were missionaries!
The bottom line, in terms of understanding your pastor, is that the difficult nature of his job makes him a likely candidate for stress. Moreover, if he does not learn how to cope with the pressures of his work, his divine calling can tragically bring harm to both him and his congregation.
But, happily, there are things that both he and his people can do to avoid this, as we shall see.
The Vulnerability of Your Pastor
C. S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket— safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you will be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is hell.
Certainly Lewis is right. The greater one’s love, the greater one’s vulnerability. And for the Christian especially, a safe, insulated life is not an option, because a Christian is commanded to love (Mark 12:30-31). This is emphatically true for the pastor, because he is charged with an official love relationship with his congregation. By giving himself to his people in ministry and involving himself in their lives, he multiplies his vulnerability. This is no sacrifice, because love normally begets love (1 John 4:19). But it does make the pastor’s heart vulnerable to a sea of sorrows from which an unloving heart is safe. When one of his flock hurts, he hurts; when one is bereaved, he is bereaved; when one backslides, he agonizes. As Paul says: “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). It is a privileged vulnerability because it is a vulnerability to joy as well as sorrow; for as Paul also says, his beloved brethren are his joy (Philippians 4:1). The pastor is profoundly vulnerable because of his office. This must be believed by those who would understand him.
The pastor is not only vulnerable because of involvement with his people, he is also vulnerable because he leads a public life. Though it is not nearly as intense as it was in past decades, the pastor and his family still lead a fishbowl existence. Almost everything the pastor does can be scrutinized by church people—selection of house and cars, tastes in clothing, choice of entertainments and vacations—to name a few possibilities. This fishbowl syndrome has given rise to the circulation among pastors of some inside humor about the “Ideal Pastor”:
The Ideal Pastor: is always casual but never underdressed— is warm and friendly but not too familiar—is humorous but not funny—calls on his members but is never out of the office—is an expository preacher but always preaches on the family—is profound but comprehensible—condemns sin but is always positive—has a family of ordinary people who never sin—has two eyes, one brown and the other blue!
This overdrawn parody gives expression to the vulnerability all have felt at one time or another. And this fishbowl factor can have a debilitating effect on the pastor, especially if his family senses that it is under the microscope.
Another similar hazard of being the focus of public attention is that it can open one to irrational hostility. That happens through transference. Someone may be suffering intense anxiety or anger over a personal problem, possibly an illness or a professional conflict, but there is no safe outlet for the anxiety. So a safe subconscious transference is made to the church or the pastor. This can be destructive emotionally and sometimes even physically.
Finally, we must mention that the pastor is vulnerable simply because he is human. Despite his pressed suit and starched shirt and his weekly ecclesiastical air of wholeness, he is a sinner who wrestles with his temper and self- discipline. He has his dreams, foibles, and blind spots. He has insecurities and irrationalities.
In short, the pastorate increases one’s vulnerability because, though it is a divine calling, it is intensely human and public. But most of all, it increases vulnerability because it is a calling to love God and man—and to love at all is to be vulnerable.
The Onslaught of the Success Syndrome
Pastor Brown had served First Church for fifteen wonderful years. During those years the church had experienced slow but steady growth. It had become a rather large church of more than a thousand. The pastor was grateful for the growth and looked forward to more. But numbers had never been Pastor Brown’s thing. He liked to preach, was a good preacher, and sometimes was invited away to speak. But he best enjoyed being with his people and involved in their lives. He had performed so many marriages that he had lost count, and it was the same with funerals. Only he never forgot the people. Many in the church owed the health of their marriages to his prayer and counsel. Missions was his special joy. Most of First’s missionaries had gone out under his ministry. Pastor Brown was a man who loved his people and was loved by them.
He had no reason to expect what was coming. It began when several executives of a large corporation became elders. Their energy and interest in First Church’s ministry was refreshing, though sometimes Pastor Brown sensed their shared impatience. The bombshell came over a business lunch with one of the men. “Pastor, several of the elders and I have been discussing your future with First Church—and let me be frank—we do not think you’re the man to take us into the next decade. In our business, we are expected to show a designated percentage growth per year. We’ve done some research, and in the light of the demographics. First Church ought to be growing 10 percent annually. Under your leadership it’s been between 2 and 4 percent. In our opinion, your style is excellent for a shepherd, but what First Church needs is a rancher.”
And so it began. The people wanted Pastor Brown, but the leadership did not. It was too much for the pastor. Infighting was not his style, and there had already been some innocent casualties. After two years of struggle. Pastor Brown, a man faithful and hardworking, one who loved and served God with a servant’s heart, a man of prayer and holiness, a person whose attitude was upbeat and positive, resigned. The quantifiers had their day. First Church has never been the same.
Tragically, Pastor Brown’s experience is not unique, for secularized ideals of success, straight from the business world, are increasingly being applied in the church. A church must “turn a profit,” so to speak. Thus, whatever else can be positively said about a church, it is not succeeding unless it is growing numerically. Big, growing churches are, by definition, the most successful. In some instances, a secularized competitiveness grips the church. If Second Church outgrows First, it is more successful. And, in some, like Pastor Brown’s church, a cold quantity- based pragmatism is in the driver’s seat.
How does this affect the pastor? Incredible as it may sound, he is treated differently according to the size of his church. This may be expected in the business world, but not in the church! I well remember the change that took place when I went from a small to a large church: how a new light of recognition came to people’s eyes when I was introduced and how my opinions became more cogent and important. Respect, it seems, is proportionate to the size of one’s ministry.
This means that there are untold numbers of pastors whose self-worth is affected by the size of their churches. This means that many pastors of smaller churches feel discouraged and insecure. In a word, this means pressure.
Your pastor’s situation, his disposition, and his maturity will determine how much pressure he feels. But it is there. Believe it, if you wish to understand him. The unhappy goddess of secular success is taking its toll in the church.
All Those Marbles
Every pastor has times when he feels as if he is holding a mountain of marbles together because the pastorate is an intrinsically difficult, absorbing, and vulnerable position, and because he is sometimes assaulted by wrong thinking about success.
A congregational understanding of this can go far in encouraging him—and keeping all those marbles in place.
We have given lengthy consideration to understanding your pastor because that in itself will ultimately encourage him. A congregation that understands the ministry will support it intelligently and practically. But there are some more specific ways in which a congregation (especially its leadership) can encourage its pastor.
First, you can encourage your pastor by living biblically successful lives yourselves. There is little that will lift the pastoral heart more than people who are successes before God (faithful, serving, loving, believing, praying, holy, and positive), for this means that the fullness of Christ is active in the congregation and that the vision and burden of ministry is being shared. It means that the pastor will have some people around him who are cheerful, hardworking, selfless, and supportive. The heartening effect of this cannot be overemphasized.
But it is more than heartening, for it also encourages the pastor to pursue ideals and programs consonant with true success. The presence of just a few people, even if they are not in leadership, who understand what success is and live it out, will be of immense help to the pastor in keeping his perspective. It is a fact of life that character and ideals are most powerfully communicated from life to life, rather than imposed.
So in encouraging your pastor, the place to begin is with your own heart. As a layperson and not a professional, you perhaps have read the preceding chapters with interest, but without thinking of personal application—much like reading someone else’s mail. If so, we must emphasize that the teaching is transferable and applies in principle no less to you! And we must ask you: Are you committed to a truly successful Christian life? If not, we suggest that you turn now to the end of chapter 10 where the elements of success are applied, and confirm your commitment before proceeding.
Second, encourage your pastor by your personal commitment to help him know true success. In doing this we are not encouraging self-righteous presumption: “Now pastor. I’m concerned that you be a success. So I’ve committed myself to help you live out these seven things”—whether lie likes it or not! Never do anything like this, ever! Such an approach projects a proud, condescending spirit that has sat in judgment on the pastor and found him wanting.
Rather, we recommend that you work out your commitment practically. To begin with, commit yourself to freeing him from a ministry of numbers. This does not mean that numbers have no significance. They do. The Scriptures record that three thousand were converted at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and that Jesus fed five thousand (Mark 14:21). Numbers of souls saved and ministered to are important. They are substantive causes for rejoicing, because they indicate that the gospel touched many. But, as we have seen, numbers do not mean success. In point of fact, if only three had responded at Pentecost and a mere five were fed by Christ, neither would have been less successful.
This does not release the pastor from the significance of attendance as an aspect of the evaluation of ministerial effectiveness, but it does release him from the delusion that numbers mean success. Neither does it mean that the pastor is free from accountability in matters of work habits, administration, creativity, preaching, and even spiritual discipline. Many ministers would profit from the church’s caring enough to demand more accountability.
Positively, this means that the church must commit itself to creating an environment in which its pastors are encouraged to be men of God and to pursue biblically defined success. And here, the congregation, apart from being people who understand what success is and live it can do some specific things to create an encouraging environment, as the next points will show.
Third, encourage your pastor by not expecting (or allowing) him to be involved in everything. Reject the ubiquitous pastor fallacy—that the good minister must be present and presiding, if possible, at everything. Some congregations think that this is what the pastor is for, and apparently many pastors agree, or at least appear to. Such clerics feel it is their duty to attend all the meetings of every church board and committee, and even conduct a kind of divine shuttle service between those that meet at the same time! They are present and hovering at every church event whether it be volleyball or a bake sale. Every decision must have their imprimatur—from the color of the ladies’ powder room to the logo on the baseball uniforms. Such pastors are perspiring, kinetic figures, the only ones who know where anything is from the church records to the kitchen’s large saucepan.
This tendency may be the result of pastoral absorption brought on by the intense demands of the ministry, or possibly a faulty doctrine of the church that ignores the shared nature of pastoral ministry (see Acts 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-12). At worst, such behavior may indicate personal insecurity (“My work makes me indispensable”), or a distrust of people (a terribly destructive attitude, though, alas, often founded upon some unhappy ministerial experience in the past).
How should the leadership of the congregation proceed to help the omnipresent pastor? Again the approach must not be officious or heavy-handed but loving and sacrificial—for the congregation must be willing to assume much of the burden. This being so, the pastor can be reminded, if necessary, of what the Scriptures teach and of the church’s desire to free him so he can give himself “to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The leadership must help him divest himself of the things he does that could, and should, be done by others. The minister should understand which boards and committees he must regularly attend, and those which he should only infrequently visit, say, at the request of the chairpersons. The leadership must insist that as their minister streamlines his schedule, he include ample time for his devotional life, family, sermon preparation, exercise, and leisure.
To be sure, the compulsive pastor may not at first view such concern by the leadership as in his best interest, but if he adjusts his life accordingly, the day will come that he and his family will thank God and the church.
Fourth, encourage your pastor by loving his family. As we noted earlier, the fishbowl life of the pastoral ministry can take its toll—especially on the pastor’s family. Not a few PKs have reacted to the feeling of being under the congregation’s microscope. Sometimes the reaction is unfounded, even irrational; other times it has substance. What can the congregation do to minimize this effect? Simply, love his family. By this we are not emphasizing a public display of compassion but a quiet familylike love that recognizes they are people in process like those in one’s own family. This love does not demand more from them than from other children; it does not say, “Why you’re the pastor’s son, I would have expected …” This love honors then- individuality and gives them space to grow. This love refuses to gossip, believes the best, has a kind word, and prays for the pastor’s family.
The congregation will do well to realize that it is likewise under scrutiny by the pastor’s family. Children who sense that they are loved rather than judged by the people their father serves will have a greater opportunity to become the kind of young people their family and church hope for. This, of course, brings vast encouragement to the pastor—and the congregation.
Fifth, encourage your pastor by treating him with respect. A pastor should be treated with respect because of his divinely given position. This, of course, does not suggest that he be treated with an obsequious obeisance as some nineteen century clerics were—”His Worshipful Lordship, Rev. Dr. Pangloss. …” Nor does it suggest undue deference—”Whatever you say, pastor. . . .” What we mean is that because the pastorate is a divine office, a minister should never have to earn his congregation’s respect unless he has done something to lose it. Furthermore, he should be respected no matter how great or small, grand or humble his ministry is! The church must dismiss the world’s rung-dropping, numbers-counting way of according respect. True, your pastor is to lead by being a servant, but such a call is intrinsically honored.
This understanding must be extended to churches that have several pastors and multiple staffs. The tendency in large churches is for the people to think of the senior pastor as the pastor, and everyone else as almost-pastors. Youth pastors are special victims, for they are sometimes asked by congregants when they are going to become pastors! A huge insult. The implication is that they are something else—possibly zookeepers. Understand that a pastor is a pastor is a pastor regardless of his station, size of ministry, or public exposure, and should be treated with due respect. How so many pastors need this encouragement today!
When the congregation, and especially its leaders, have encouraged the pastor by (1) living biblically successful lives, (2) committing themselves to help him know true success, (3) relieving him of the expectation that he do everything, (4) providing adequately for him and his family, (5) loving his family, and (6) treating him with respect, the church will have done almost everything it can to encourage him—except for the most important thing, which is to pray.
-Kent Hughes (Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome)
What went down last week on social media for Jordan Muck.
- Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15 MSG)
- Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be. (2 Thessalonians 1:2 MSG)
- The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you! (1 Thessalonians 5:28 MSG)
- Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. (Ephesians 4:30 MSG)
- My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG)
- Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG)
- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
- So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)
- Advice for this morning that helps me keep focused: “Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation. (1 Timothy 4:11-16 MSG) // just keep at it! #listen
- How can you pray for Jordan? That “whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.” (Ephesians 6:19)
- “Prayer is surrender-surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but aligning of my will to the will of God.” E. Stanley Jones
- News travels at the speed of boredom. -Carlos Zafón
- “God is not so interested in our being the star of the show as much as he is that we do our best with the part he has given us.” Hughes
- God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary work.
- Have standards. You’ll never regret it.
- You’ll always stay young if live honestly, eat slowly, sleep sufficiently, work industriously, and worship faithfully.
- Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you.
- You are here as a Christian so that others will see the light of Christ by what you say and what you do. #sharethegospel #livethegospel #lovethegospel
- It is easier to build a boy than to mend a man.
- How to trap an atheist: Serve him a fine meal, then ask him if he believes there is a cook. –Anom
- Ideas are funny little things. They won’t work unless you do. -Unknown
- God knows if you love him… It is something that only your heart can profess. Nobody else truly knows #searchyourself
- Awesome to play for “Dutch Cleaning” in the Nappanee Indiana Softball League this year.
- Looking forward to Community Gospel Sports Camp in July 2014.
- Great to have Jeff Miller and Lacey Elliott as new Facebook friends.
- My friend Mykaila drew me for art class and nailed it! She is such an inspiration for continuing to… http://t.co/1mEdTJ095I.
- Larry Moyer is one of a kind. Thank you so much for the care package today! http://t.co/afOclQsfXT.