After a particularly joyous Sunday at our church where I pastor (with a fellowship to follow), one of our dear senior adults came up to me and engaged me in a conversation about the service. Since I’m still learning the ebbs and flows of the church where Christ has placed me, I often use humor to scope out the lay of the land. This time, our service went somewhat longer than usual, and I preached a few minutes longer than usual. So I made a comment about having a talk to that “long-winded preacher we have.” This time, though, I followed it up with, “We say when we start, but not when we end. And God did something wonderful this morning.”
How this person responded not only encouraged me, but reminded me of an important lesson. He said, “Preacher Man, we have been trained here over the years to be done by 11:30.” (He paused, and I honestly braced myself for what was to come.) “But you’re just going to have to un-train us! Keep preaching the Word! It’s taking hold!”
When we parted, he said to me, “I’ll pray for your leadership—you pray for my ‘follow-ship’.” I hugged him and thanked him, promising him that I certainly would.
No church is perfect! At least, in my situation, if it was at one time, it lost it’s perfection the moment I set foot on the premises. But you can’t love Jesus and hate His bride. He’s called us to be a part of it with all its warts and wrinkles. We know that He is working in us to make it spotless and without blemish (Ephesians 5:28).
John Maxwell once said, “If you are a leader or want to be a leader, and no one is following you—you’re just taking a long walk.”
Are we leaders in our churches, but no one is following our lead? We can react in one of the following ways:
- “Well, these people haven’t got it together. They just need to get on-board. I’m right—can’t they see that? If they can’t, they must be so worldly as not to know better.” These folks suffer from self-righteousness. Don’t take time to share with them your struggles—they will subtly or not let you know that they just cannot relate to you. If you’re a Christian, you should never struggle with Scripture reading, prayer, witnessing, or any other myriad of activities along this line. You have to lead people from where they are to where they need to be with boldness mixed with compassion (speaking the truth in love—Ephesians 4:15).
- “Who am I to lead any of this? I’m only a sinner saved by grace, but that’s all. Who would ever want to follow my lead! I can barely lead myself.” Trevin Wax recently posted how dishonoring to the Spirit of God it is to say you’re “just a sinner saved by grace.” Take the ‘just’ out and recognize that the Spirit of God dwells in you through the atoning work of Christ. And recognize that God calls all Christians to tasks, and has gifted all Christians to certain tasks. We were not given a spirit of fear, but of “love and power and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Rest on the fear of Christ, not on the fear of man.
- “Before we do anything, let’s find out what others think because I’m afraid to make this decision.” This can be a good rule of thumb, especially with your key leaders. In our situation here with the hurt that has taken place over the years from various fronts, the key lay leaders here need to know that the ministry leaders hear them and have an avenue in which to contribute to a conversation. So whenever we make a key decision, they need to be in on the discussion. And when it comes to the congregation, they need to be communicated with clearly. But there is a balance in discussing/communicating, and balancing that with not leading at all until you know where the current is flowing (politicians get blistered for not saying anything until the latest polls are in, then lacing their speeches with those poll-driven talking points.) Leaders have to lead. If this is out of balance, then the leadership and ‘follow-ship’ become reversed. God has placed shepherds and teachers to lead in proclaiming the Word of God and to lead the sheep into His pasture. And we must lead the sheep boldly, instilling in them the confidence that they know the shepherd cares about them and their ultimate well-being.
One young minister lamented how people kept getting in the way of his ministry. The older minister replied, “People are your ministry.” There’s wisdom in this reply! Christ has called us to minister to actual people. May we ministers minister, and may all of us have a heart ready for others to minister to us!