July 03, 2018
Most acknowledge the difficulty of being in leadership. Whether church, non-profit, or the marketplace, the tension of leadership continues to grow exponentially. I don't see it improving anytime soon. Still, that doesn't mean we give up or give leadership less than our very best, but it would be helpful to have an awareness of what's coming.
I have to say that I feel especially concerned for those in church leadership, due to the ever-increasing animosity against anything christian. Given the cultural climate, the natural stress of leadership and a sense of growing antagonism, the challenges ahead are real.
Regardless, if we look forward with eyes open, and a deep sense of our own calling, we can easily navigate what lies ahead. Here are the areas we need to be aware of.
Let's get this one out of the way first. Trust has always been a leadership issue but the recent global climate has made this more evident than in recent memory. Look at the present state of politics. From the US to the UK, from Asia to South America, we are seeing a revolt of voters.
I personally can't recall a time when police were intentionally targeted. Social media is slowly becoming social mania with the voices of social activists advancing their personal form of justice. In the city where I live we've just experienced our third consecutive mayoral scandal, and as of my latest newsfeed another high profile pastor has been fired for personal impropriety.
We may feel the majority of these events do not touch us but in fact they do. Collectively, they create a climate of distrust, and the more prevalent these stories become the more it seeps into the consciousness of people. Trust is such an important commodity for a leader, and when its threatened globally, it affects us personally.
How would you fill in the blank? May I make a suggestion? From my experience, the predominant word which occupies that space is self-interest. It's the major filter that everything passes through. This may come as a surprise but I'm not a big believer in community. At least not the type that is advocated today. I know, the Bible teaches it and people always seem to voice it as a value.
The problem I have is the Bible teaches one form while most demand another. Unless the community serves the self-interest of the person, it's not a community they will willingly embrace. I recently read the media in 1967 promoted community, today they promote fame.
This is the subtle lure that's supplanted the idea of community as a shared collective of differing ideals with one purpose, to a loose grouping whose level of commitment and participation are determined by the degree it meets their needs.
3. From Herd to Heard!
This point advances the previous one. Beyond a shared community (herd) to a community based on self-interest is this redefined concept of being heard. It parallels what we've seen with the definition of tolerance. At one time tolerance was the ability to disagree but live amicably together. Today, its become a mantra for compliance, regardless of one's views or values.
I've noticed this subtle shift with those who want to be heard. Its not just giving their viewpoint, opinion, or perspective. To not do as they've suggested is paramount to heresy. I can't recall a time when not acting on a suggestion implied that a person was not heard.
True, every good leader needs to have his ear to the ground but the number of competing voices on any given issue is staggering. Here is the rub, as a leader, your main responsibility is to make decisions based on the benefit of the church as a whole. Special interest groups and those driven by self-interest often create an environment that not only decimates unity, but gives a false picture of what true community looks like.
4. Position and Platform
To say there is no longer a respect for position is so 1970! What I'm talking about here is the perception and the expectations that go along with them. For anyone who holds an elevated position or platform, you will naturally be judged by people's perception and expectations.
These can become a leader's deadly duo. Due to the predominance of the internet and social media, anyone, virtually anywhere, can hear, see, and remotely experience the best of the best on the web. Where does that leave the vast majority of us who don't have rock star status? Pastors get criticized for playing the comparison game, but its also true of the people we serve.
Please don't miss my point. Something is diminished when the people you lead see you in some way as less than someone else - someone who has a higher profile than you. Its subtle, but as we continue to move more of our lives into the virtual world, the more we will have to compete against.
5. Breakups and Grenade Launchers
Ministry is highly relational. At one time it use to mean sitting down with people and actually talking face to face. Today, I get emails telling me that people are breaking up with the church. Really? An email? More and more, the difficult conversations are being handled by impersonal and faceless means.
I call this grenade launching from a safe distance. If you are going to cause damage, what better way than to have the social equivalent of a drone strike do it for you. As I've stated before, we live in an L and L culture. We label and then we lash out.
Gone are days when you can sit together, disagree together, and still walk away being okay together. Conflict is certainly not what it used to be. To be relationally savvy in the future will become more challenging as people become more attached to their devices.
Erosion is defined as the gradual destruction of something by natural forces. Likewise, the erosion of faith in our culture equates to an erosion of respect for those who represent it. Conversely, those who do profess belief are shown to be statistically more biblically illiterate than previous generations.
Couple that with a growing syncretism within the church where people within are unidentifiable from those outside the church and you have quite the leadership dilemma.
The Bible has always had its detractors, but we are seeing it challenged as a book of authority even within the church. The ability for presenting strong apologetics for the basis of our faith will become more important as time progresses.
6. Diminishing Returns
There is something energizing about growth. Sorry, its just human nature. Conversely, there is something demoralizing about decline. Especially if it becomes normal. We constantly hear that most churches have either plateaued or declined. Every ministry experiences seasons of decline or subtraction, but when ministry becomes nothing more than holding back the inevitable as long as possible its torturous.
Leadership, in the future, is going to require new ideas, new initiatives, new ways of presenting the Gospel, new ways of planting churches. In fact, I believe Kingdom work should be the most innovative and creative, even becoming an example to other "industries." Leadership has always been challenging, but history has also proven that those who are aware of the cultural shifts are best able to meet them effectively.
September 12, 2018
Dear Pastor Jon,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and needs. Wonderful posts you have presented here; I am glad I’ve seen this site. I’m Yamile, one of the members of your church. Yes, a member is what I feel eventhough I am not formally considered a member by the church. Nevertheless, I am a member and grateful to God for granting me that privilege!
Pastor, I’d like to express my thoughts about your point 4 “Position and Platform.” I agree with you on that pastors are being compared to others by the people they lead, and this hurts and exerts pressure on pastors. I also agree with the truth that God is who calls you and equips you and prospers you as a leader, and if you are following His lead and counsel and master His rest, neither competition nor comparison will dominate your steps. Pastor Jon, you are incredibly gifted, you have what other so called rock or stars do not have for God has uniquely form you as a Pastor, as a teacher on His church.
Many are the stressors of this world that subtly affect us, and those who God place to pastor His sheep fall in the trap even without noticing causing discontentment, restlessness, and even discouragement to continue with their calling. But you have to know that you are the one that God wants, and whatever embellishment that could be added to your pastoring/leading He will provide it without competition on your part. Pastor Jon, lead us with a loving heart, by His Spirit, and we all will be led astoundingly.
Do not worry about the competitors, those who are running on the top list of the social media. But worry about being excellent, and running high on the platforms of our church, our beautiful church, the one that God is building through you. Yes, He is building our church through you and the leaders/servants of the Most High God in our church. Focus on teaching those who want, put your energy in deploying the resources God has already put in your hands, in our church, develop your own media for our church to unite in the Spirit. Call hands, feet, fingers, and every single member to the body, our church, because every true believer has something to offer, a function to fill, a place to occupy, and teach us Pastor, help us grow; we need to grow.
As for me I can say you are an extraordinary Pastor who teaches sound doctrine, who knows how to speak English so that people like me, whose English is the second language, can understand well as you preach; my mind is not running a marathon trying to catch up with your speed. Thank God for that virtue of yours that many preachers as denoted stars in the media do not have. You have a beautiful church that requires care and time to feed, patience to bring up, maturity to sustain, good seed to harvest.
Pastor, be abundantly blessed!
Yamile Cespedes Perez
A servant of the Most High God.
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