Ministry can be frustrating. It sometimes feels like herding cats. Everyone wants to do their own thing. When things don’t go my way, too often in the past I’d get angry and try to push my members towards my desired outcome. What I discovered, however, was that when I pushed, sometimes my people did what I asked but not because they wanted to. The end result was that I would get short term action but no long term change.
When I used coercion to get people to do what I wanted, it was like throwing a pebble in a pond. Sure, at first it causes ripples. Something is happening. Long term though? Everything goes back to the way it was once the waters calmed. It bothered me that my ministry could end up having no long term, lasting benefit to the churches in which I served.
Are we growing people or a program?
It is really easy for us as pastors to use our people for our own selfish benefit. We can lead people in order to get praise from them. We can make leadership decisions that will be easiest or most convenient for us at the expense of the greater good. Our own sense of insecurity and unworthiness can lead us to suppress dissent and criticism and lock out those leaders who don’t see things the way we do. After all, who needs to be reminded regularly of one’s faults?
While the temptation is to remove such people and surround yourself with like minded individuals, that is rarely what is best for the organization you serve. Chances are, these ‘troublemakers’ are leaders. There can be a number of reasons why someone is criticizing you beyond simply being a negative person.
Ask yourself the following questions about these ‘troublemakers’:
- Have you taken the time to invest in them as a person apart from ministry?
- Do other people look to them for counsel and direction?
- Are they known by others as having the wellbeing of the organization in mind over the long term?
Zig Ziglar famously taught that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is impossible for one person to have a strong relationship with more than about 12 people. People can respect you from a distance but real trust and connection happens at a limited level because of natural limits of human beings in general.
Invest in people and results will follow. Focus on growing people and you’ll reap the rewards for eternity. Focus on programs and ‘getting things done’ and your results will be temporary.
Leadership is Influence NOT Manipulation, Force or Control
I learned from John C. Maxwell a long time ago that at its simplest, leadership is influence. The ability to influence others to follow the leader in any given course of action. I also learned from him that the Chinese have this proverb that says, “He that thinks he leads and has no one following him is merely taking a walk.” Given this basic definition, even evil people of history like Adolf Hitler qualify as leaders.
Some of us find influencing others easier than others. A good leader can often present things in such a way that others see the wisdom / logic / benefits in what the leader is proposing and decide to join the cause. In the context of Pastoring and church, we must have a definition of leadership that is a little more specific than simply ‘leadership is influence.’ We must consider the moral aspect, the biblical aspect of leadership.
It is natural for us to approach leadership as a perk, a benefit to be earned. An accomplishment for our trophy case. Jesus modelled leadership very differently.