A few years ago I met with a group of pastors and we enjoyed a time of sharing the struggles of leadership, but the conversation quickly turned serious when we talked about change. We had preached from our pulpits how other people should change, but we seriously disagreed on how change comes about and what role the leader plays in that process. Every one of these pastors have moved away, six men who became frustrated with change had all dealt with the change process differently. It was at this time that I became even more entrenched in my belief that things that are of real worth, genuine, and will have longevity require a fight and take serious life long effort. In the following discussion I would like to share two characteristics that I believe leaders must possess if they are going to see long term and meaningful change take place.
First, there must be a recognition that easy fixes and flashy light shows are not going to bring about long term change. There are so many leaders who are drawn to the newest fad, current book, or whatever someone else has told them was cool and would turn things around. So they put much trust and effort into bringing about this effort â€“ as if a sermon series, a projector, a slick brochure, or web site is going to change everything. Iâ€™ve tried it and it doesnâ€™t work. One new thing (change in dress, turning down the lights, turning up the lights, videos, handing out post cards, having a special event, etcâ€¦..Ad nauseam) will not have a lasting change, so quit waiting for that new, big, cool thing to come along to fix everything â€“ itâ€™s not coming.
True change requires that we seek the face of the Lord and wait on Him. He will give you eyes to see the true problem (sin, rebellion, shallow devotion to Him, a lack of holiness, etcâ€¦). We get so focused on wanting to grow so that we donâ€™t deal with the genuine problems. They only get worse, and covering them up with a flashy slide show wonâ€™t fix it. So pray and ask God to help you identify what the real issues are, and not what so-and-so said would grow your church/ministry over night. LEADER, what has the Lord told you that needs to be addressed, and what does His Word have to say about it?
Second, are you willing to stay put until the Lord brings it about? Psalm 24:14 says, â€œWait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!â€ (ESV) I only know of a hand full of church planters that have remained where they were when Kimberly and I first came to Frederick almost ten years ago. Many of our friends from seminary have moved several times to several different churches. In talking with them, there is a predictable pattern. There is a honeymoon period (1.5 to 2 years), then there is the first push back or crisis and suddenly they donâ€™t feel â€œcalledâ€ there anymore. So they move on, and on, and on, and on.
Leaders have to have the courage to stay the course, and sometimes all you can do and accomplish is to stay, and keep trying, keep pushing. Every true leader understands that they carry a burden, it is always with them, and they always feel it. It never ever goes away. I am always a pastor, I am never â€œoff the clockâ€ and the burden is never lifted, and as much as I may want a break, itâ€™s always there. We become so consumed with pride as time passes by and we feel as though we arenâ€™t going to be the next Andy Stanley, or Ed Young, or Mark Driscal if I canâ€™t deal with (insert your problem), and I should be writing books by now not (insert another problem), and I have to accept that this is where God has called me, and this is what God has tasked me to do. Pride, pride, pride.
I believe that if God wants me to be Andy Stanley, then as I seek to serve the Lord, and give Him all that I am, He will work it out. Enter ambition. How do I balance my godly ambition with prideful arrogance? What have you been called to do? If that is unclear please stop what you are doing, and pray â€“ go away, come back after you have heard from the Lord. No really, stop reading blogs, reading books, and pray and spend time with the Lord. LEADER. If we donâ€™t know where we are going, how do we expect people to follow us? Did we think leadership would be easy? If we run away when the load becomes heavy, how will those who God has called become the people God has designed them to be? Let someone else do it? LEADER?
Paul said, in Romans 10:14 â€œHow then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, â€œHow beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!â€ 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, â€œLord, who has believed what he has heard from us?â€ 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.â€
Did you see it? Someone needs to be there to preach, and eventually they will preach it. they have not all obeyed (rebellion, push back, and gossiping), but faith comes from hearing (thatâ€™s you leading, teaching, preaching, again, and again, and again). This process takes time, and it wonâ€™t happen over night.
It is this calling that will give you courage to get out of bed, to put your feet on the floor and face â€œthemâ€ one more time. To preach with all your heart to â€œthem,â€ and to keep pushing what God has shown you even though â€œtheyâ€ keep saying, â€œit wonâ€™t work, it costs too much, or weâ€™ve done that and it didnâ€™t work.â€ Your center of this calling will give you a long term vision and ability to see down the road, where no one else can see yet, and to stay put, and keep pushing on. One day, it will happen, you will see â€œthemâ€ taking the next step. If you leave too soon you will miss the wonder of their first steps â€“ when â€œtheyâ€ learn to walk, runâ€¦â€¦.preach!
Leader, we are kindred spirits you and I. We know something others donâ€™t. We feel the weight others donâ€™t understand. Let me encourage you, I am here, and Lord willing I will be here tomorrow, and the next day and I am waiting on the Lord. Let me encourage you to stay one more day, keep pushing, you are changing your world and making a difference â€“ stay focused on the long term vision of seeing your people not as they are today, but what God is shaping them to become.