The next instalment is here…
Time has passed, I am continuing my ministry story. The next instalment is here. Its entitled, “there is a time for everything, including emptiness”
It does not matter how old a man gets. He is still a son.
Every man I have ever met has been defined in many ways by their relationship with their father.
I was speaking to a person who trains tradies. Blokey young men. Many of them have had absent fathers. The fathers that are present have told them how useless they are. That they can’t do basic tasks. Things that a tradie finds necessary. My friend has to father them before he can train them.
It seems to me this generation has in many ways not learnt from the previous one. There are many great fathers. But there are many young men with absent, abusive, emotionally void and uncaring dads.
It felt like this generation would be different. But so many dads have never grown up themself. They spend time, money and attention on games. Games of all types. From video games to four wheel drive accessories. Pure selfishness.
It has been said that the best leaders are followers.
Others have put it this way, that the best leaders surround themselves with people better than them, particularly in certain areas.
In my team I have staff who are better than me at different areas. My worship pastor, young as she is, talks to me about stage transitions and on stage dynamics. I dutifully listen, because she is more than often right. Other staff members bring skill and thoughts to bear which make our church better.
Being a listener as a leader is the biggest skill I can bring. This can only work if I am not insecure. An insecure leader cannot listen because instead they need to control. After a couple of decades in varying stages of leadership I like to think I am not insecure. I know who I am, who God has made me, and more than that, I want to be better.
Sometimes robust feedback might be annoying. But you have to listen and reflect upon this. Is it annoying because it means you need to change? We like to see change, but change in ourselves is difficult.
In a church context we as leaders are not the point. Jesus is the head of the church. And what matters most is the church. Not us. Not our comfort. This is hard to take because if we are honest we generally like to make sure we are looked after. I have seen leaders reduce their church greatly because they have made it about them.
I believe all leaders should be listeners. It makes them better leaders.
All of us play the comparison game at some point. This is no less true of Pastors and Church Leaders. How often do I find myself checking out the website of another church to see what they are up to. If it fits my paradigm, if their style is on point, their music is relevant, their carpark is full.
It would not be hard for the carpark at my church to be full. Its not that large!
But in another way and perhaps more seriously, I sometimes find myself comparing myself to other leaders, particularly in the area of what they have achieved in a certain amount of time. Recent events with some high profile church Pastors remind me that quick spectacular success is not as appealing as what it appears. The dysfunction seemingly required in some ministries is a price I am not willing to pay.
My mentor reminded me that I need to lead out of the storehouse God has given me. I might put it that I need to lead with what God has placed in my hand. I like to think I can speak well. I like to think I lead with compassion and understanding. I wish I was more focused and strategic. Sometimes it seems I have led by accident, based on a ‘gut feel’ of what God is saying rather than a ten year carefully formulated plan.
Then there is the intangibles. God’s favour. Blind luck. A perfect storm of circumstances. These things provide growth and favour which cannot be manufactured.
Who am I? What do I lead out of? Well I love the gathering. I sense the atmosphere with some sense of accuracy. I know what works. What ignites my joy is seeing people engaged with God, hearing His voice and responding to the Spirit. I am confident in my ability to discern people. All these things are not necessarily or exclusively human. They are gifting from God.
I am not someone else. I am me. Out of this I seek to lead. This does not excuse me from needing to surround myself strategically with others who can resource what I can’t. I pray I am thankful for who I am, thankful for who others are, and faithful and fruitful with the time I have.
Being a pastor is a little like a marriage. It is not a job, it is a lifestyle. There is certainly work aspects to it. Things you need to do. There are moments of boredom, frustration and just plain hard work. There are also moments of spiritual exultation, ecstasy and joy.
It can be intoxicating, invigorating and infuriating, all in the same day.
Yet it is a call. For as far removed as the contemporary pastor may be from their first century counterpart, ultimately most pastors don’t do it for the pay, conditions or perks. Its all about God’s call. In my view, there are far easier and less responsible ways to make a living.
What is a pastor to do when they say goodbye to the church they have loved, cared for, prayed for and agonised over? Thankfully this is not something I have had to think about, and have no desire to need to deal with for the next decade or two.
But recent events involving prominent pastors have prompted within me this thought. How does a pastor say goodbye?
Can I suggest they keep it brief. The reality is that it is about the church. It is always about the church. It has never been and never should be about them. If they leave well, celebrate. And then say goodbye. If they leave badly, grieve, and then say goodbye.
Seeing some prominent pastors splash their grief, repentance, desire to start something new all over their not inconsiderable social media following makes me wonder. Who is this about? Them? Or the church?
I can’t answer the question when is it too soon to come back from a moral failure. It seems far too complex to be prescriptive to any one formula. Every situation truly is different.
But say goodbye. Move on. Allow the church to move on. It was never about you. Even when it was.
I think that people will just about do anything for others if they feel appreciated.
I had a former Pastor tell me once that he did not compliment or express appreciation to his staff or volunteers very much because if he did it would cheapen it when he did finally express something. The reality is though that people generally don’t hear appreciation anywhere as much as they hear criticism. What I mean is that in practice I think when a leader expressed gratitude, appreciation it is not heard anywhere as much as what the leader thinks it is.
I was talking to another Pastor and he was telling me what a good ministry a staff member was doing. However I knew how the staff member felt. They did not feel the Senior had ever really expressed appreciation or gratitude. In fact they described in detail how the Pastor continually made them feel unappreciated and unsupported.
Now there needs to be a balance. Some staff members are insecure, cannot take critique and need to be handled gently. That can be really painful in a leadership position. Reality is in a church context there needs to be robust feedback. And this need not be taken personally. We all want to be better.
People will generally rise to greater heights when you express belief in them. They may not even feel that they are qualified or able to achieve results. But your belief in them as their leader will mean they will aspire to be who you see them as.