Effective pastoring demands special qualities. You must be willing to be accountable. You must be able to let others “run with the ball.” Sometimes you have to even let them “call the shots.” The hardest thing is to trust them. But that is effective pastoral leadership. Trust them.
Your style will be different than other pastors’ styles. Yours is not necessarily better or worse than anyone else’s. You may be impulsive, decisive and energetic; others may be more contemplative, analytical and methodical. There is no essential difference. God created these styles; He can use either just as effectively as the other. Just lead. Let God give the results.
You will learn your job on the job. There is no other way. Thus, trial and error will become a familiar pattern and your constant companion. As you gain experience, the challenges will become greater. The trials will require great risk. They will undoubtedly entail possibilities of great–even tragic–error. Confront the challenges in faith and learn those lessons God has planned for you.
From God’s perspective, perhaps the most important thing is not so much what happens in the organization called the “church” so much as the transformation which ministry will effect in you. God will send the testing of adversity. Satan will send the heartache of antagonism. On your own, you will undoubtedly mess up…repeatedly. But, under the gracious, watchful and caring eye of God, such circumstances of trial will be the circumstances which God may use to transform you to higher levels of spirituality, connectedness, and faith. This experience will be repeated throughout your ministry as God leads you to experience greater transformation.
Now that you’ve made it to the “top”, remember who you are. People may take more note of you. They may treat you as if you have a special spiritual “aura.” Remember who you are. That’s why you don’t have a limousine and executive trappings. Remember the words of Tom Watson, Jr., former CEO of IBM, “I think a sense of humility is vital to running [IBM]…well,” he said, “and the more humility the better.” A good rule for pastors, originally stated in Thomas Horton’s The CEO Paradox (New York, Amacon, 1992) is, “Though you may seem different to others, try not to be different. Be yourself.”
Don’t abuse the “silent pause.” There’s a mystique about the ministry. There’s a mystique about pastors. You will have access into the personal, confidential areas and times of people’s lives unlike any other individual on earth. Because of your ministry, some will think you are a “god”. Seeing you, they will have a “silent pause” as you pass by. Don’t let them fool you. You are nothing but yourself. Be yourself.
Though over-simplistic and unjustified, people will judge you unfairly. They will do so because they will believe they “own” the church. Though they don’t own the church, it is important that the people know what is happening in a timely, forthright fashion. The best operating rule is to have no surprises. Let’s say it again. No surprises. None!
The world honors explorers, risk-takers, adventurers, entrepreneurs, and rugged individualists. The church does too. Unfortunately, the honor only comes from a historical perspective. Thus, don’t expect accolades for the amazing breakthroughs which occur in your ministry. Don’t expect the crowds to follow and applaud those new ministry initiatives.
By the same token, when the Lord raises up others to bring up these initiatives, don’t squash out those effective individuals either. You, pastor, can succumb to the same “honor comes only from a historical perspective” phenomena. Give others the same length of rope to carry out their ministry initiatives which you desire for you ministry.
Pastors, be the first in your congregation to give present and instant encouragement to those who fail, those who succeed, and those who try. Celebrate them. Celebrate God’s power working in them. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate….and rejoice in God’s working in you and them!
Forget minutia. That’s right. Just forget it. Really. Just forget it. After all, that’s why it is called minutia. It’s too small to bother with. It detracts from the big picture. Forget minutia. All of it. It’s just little stuff anyway.
There are only five questions you need to ask of your leaders in your position as pastor/leader.
1) Who has the information needed?
2) Who will be affected and how?
3) What are the long-term consequences?
4) Who should–and is authorized–to make the decision, and
5) Is it pleasing to God and in conformity with His calling to us?
Most decisions are not based on facts, they’re based on opinions of the facts. For many decisions, there is no right or wrong. There just varying shades of degrees of better or worse. Since decisions are based largely on assumptions and opinions–and not so much fact–be especially aware of your assumptions and opinions.
One of the hardest parts about leadership is that leaders make the decisions that must be made when they must be made, not when it is popular to make them. In order to do this you must have three things: conviction, enthusiasm, and an unshakable trust in God’s will. Thus, as Ralph Lazarus said, “whatever decisions you make, make them with conviction.” Stand firm in faith, be unswerving in your conviction, and unshakable in God’s vision for your ministry.
Another difficult lesson about leadership is that when decisions must be made, your mind will be saying, “no,” and your gut will be saying, “yes.” When tough calls have to be made, leaders who yield to rational arguments above the calling of their “gut” often regret their decisions. According to Harry Levinson and Stuart Rosenthal’s studies of CEO’s and organizational leaders, the “single note of self-criticism struck by all leaders was that they hadn’t followed their intuition and instincts as assiduously as they should have.” (p. 18) “Go where no man has gone before.” Go where left to himself, man will fail. Go to where God leads and unfailingly trust His power to achieve all that He desires to achieve. He is faithful. He will do it…through you. Stand firm.
Remember the following principles…
1) The easy decision is usually an unnecessary decision.
2) The popular decision is usually an ineffective decision.
3) The right decision will probably cause the greatest hurt.
4) The right decision will likely make you un-liked and unpopular.
Since you are called to make right decisions, you can expect immediate uproars, rebellion, inconveniences , unpopularity and rejection. What counts in the long run, however, is the respect you gain for doing the right thing against all odds. If you don’t get that respect, remembers the only thing that matters: what you do for the Lord is not in vain. He rewards His faithful servant. Be faithful…and receive His gracious reward.
Thomas R. Horton said, “Remember, if your decision is to hit a home run, you still need to touch all the bases.” Hit well, hit strong, hit the home runs. But don’t forget to run–and run hard–to victory at home.
Remember, if your decision is to hit a home run, you always need to remember that you do not control the game, the rules, or whether you win or lose. You can’t control the home run. You can’t control the path of the ball. You can’t even control if the bat will hit the ball properly. God only controls that.
Even if you fail, be certain that His plans are to prosper and not to harm you. They are to uphold, affirm and strengthen you in His grace. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it can get, be refreshed by the peace and strength only He can give. Then, go back to the plate, give Christ the bat, and hit a home run!
Thomas F. Fischer
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