Surrendering to the Head

Recently I was struck by two pictures. Both were of churches in prayer, a model for all of us, to be prayerfully embraced with one another petitioning the Lord together. Beautiful. But the position of the pastors was different in the two pictures. In one, the pastor was one the floor with the church, close to them and occupying the same space – in it together. The second pastor wasn’t close to the congregation. He was pictured high above the church as they huddled, he hovered as if looking over his domain.

Now just because these tow pictures have different pastoral postures means nothing about the reality in each church, and we can’t conclude anything about the pastors by the pictures. But the difference forced me to contemplate my own posture toward those I shepherd along with our team of elders. Then Jack Miller gave word to the reality in too many churches.

“It’s almost as though I try to act as the head of the church. I know that may sound silly. Who after all is so stupid as to think he can replace Christ as Lord over the church and its mission? Still, the history of the church has very few pages that are not blotted by the megalomania of church leaders. It is simply that we are prone to fall in love with our own authority as official leaders and unconsciously distance ourselves from Christ as the real Head of the church. We begin to try to control the church or the members of the team and end up in personality conflicts with brothers and sisters who either dislike our control or want to impose their own control on us. When this happens, we are inwardly swept by anxieties. For the irony of it all is that the more we try to control the work in our own name, the more the work and its problems control us. We begin by trying to own the work of God and end up with the ministry owning us. Perfecting the work becomes our bondage, and the bondage manifests itself by our losing the capacity to patiently listen to others and to be corrected by them.”

“Indeed when we get into this perfectionist frame, we can fall into some very nasty bondages in our leadership. We hate criticism; we get preoccupied with trivia and are willing to fight major battles over minor issues. We feel threatened when anyone disagrees with us or introduces an idea that is unfamiliar. I once knew of a church situation where a pastor and his associate gradually developed such a rotten relationship that more than once they beat on each other with their fists!”

“So I want you to join me in confessing our human depravity as leaders. Do not be surprised to find your corruption expressing itself in perfectionist self-will in your own leadership style. Expect to encounter in yourself defensiveness, dominance, and poor listening practices. But I also urge you to have much greater confidence in Christ’s capacity to release you from such bondages. He is the crucified Head of the church, the only One who knows how to perfect it! Just to know that fact, to rest upon it, and to build upon it, is to be released from the bondages which duty imposes upon out spirits. You find His liberating grace through honest confession of sin and fresh release by surrendering the government of the church to its Head.” – Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader.

May we surrender…

Leading by choosing what is right

“Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.” Job 34:4

The book of Job has a lot from which we can learn. God’s sovereignty. Suffering. Comforting the afflicted. Wisdom. And even a few clues on how to live and lead.

The words above are from Elihu. The youngest of the group counseling Job and the only one not corrected by The Lord. While we could camp on the piece of the story where those boasting in their “wisdom” actually have none and it is the young man that speaks truth, instead let’s look at how these words give us great guidance for life and leading.

Choose what is right and know what is good. Seems easy enough. But we know it is harder done. Thankfully we have grace given to us through the work of Jesus when we mess things up, but we are still to pursue what is good in all situations. Not what is expedient or even expected, but what is good.

How would this change how we lead? Our families? Our ministries? In our relationships? For me, as a member of our church’s leadership team, I know that I want to be able to say that as leaders we have chosen what is right and know ourselves what is good and glorifying to God.

Beyond ministry it also impacts how I relate to everyone around me. In Christ I have been made new and empowered to actually know and choose good. It is still a battle when the easy opportunity for cynicism or judgment arises. Or when I am selfish and demanding of those I am in relationship with.

I am thankful for Elihu’s reminder. The young among us can be so wise! But I am that much more thankful for Jesus’ declaration that “it is finished.” My attempts at being good can result in self-righteousness and pride or I just plain miss what is good. But my position is secure. My promise is guaranteed. And it is from that place that I, and you, can choose what is right and know good.

Is there One among you that does not belong?

In an article on productivity on Inc. Drake Baer shares nine tricks that influential execs use to improve the effectiveness of their meetings. It is a good list, mostly.

What stood out to me was this about Evernote’s chief:

“Evernote CEO Phil Libin always brings a high-potential employee to participate.”

At any given meeting at Evernote, there will be someone there who doesn’t belong.

This is by design. The cloud note-taking startup has an internal program called “officer training,” where employees get assigned to meetings that aren’t in their specialty area in order to explore other parts of the company.

“They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about,” Libin says. “They’re not just spectators. They ask questions; they talk.”

Libin got the idea from talking with a friend who served on a nuclear submarine. In order to be an officer of such a sub, you had to know how to do everybody else’s job.

“Those skills are repeatedly trained and taught,” he says. “And I remember thinking, ‘That’s really cool.'”

It is a discipleship mentality that I think we are missing at many of our churches (and other organizations as well). The mentoring, or at least exposure, of others to train them up. And it is not just watching, these officers in training are interacting and participating. Does this happen on your elder board, your staff team?

Not a bad idea. Bring someone with you that doesn’t belong…

Cloudy Vision

I appreciate Ryan Huguley’s words on vision. It seems that we have a lot of conversations about “vision” but rarely have one or implement one. Warning against a vague vision Huguley asks three questions; Can I communicate it? Do I have a strategy? & Are my next steps clear?

Key takeaway for me from the post is this ” Inspiration without implementation is daydreaming.” I am doing far too much daydreaming…

We should be asking these questions well and then get to the work of pursuing our vision as God leads us. Check out his whole piece here and get busy with some vision.