Hardly a month goes by that I don’t hear about another lead pastor who has resigned or been asked to step down for one reason or another. As I coach leaders around the country and in a few other countries, I hear about dysfunctions among top leaders which is causing a great deal of pain and lots of problems for staff and the church family in which these leaders serve.
I can deeply resonate with Paul when he says, “And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28, ESV).
I don’t believe Paul is speaking of an unbiblical anxiety that he refers to in Philippians 4:6, but more of a genuine concern which bothers him deeply. Since I spend so much of my time coaching and working with leaders in local churches, it indeed is of great concern to me as well, when I hear of churches where a top leader has voluntarily stepped down or has been asked to step down due to sin of some kind.
A few years ago I was coaching a leader and just recently found out that some very unfortunate things had happened at his church with one of the top leaders. I asked him to share what he could without being a gossip or breaking confidentiality in any way.
He told me that he had learned a lot through the pain and disappointment over what had occurred. He then shared three things with me that were at the top of his list. I thought I would share them with you. I will elaborate a bit on each of them from my own experience.
1. Doing the right thing is always the right thing, even if it could cost you your job.
It’s not always easy to know what the right thing is which needs to be done. We all have our blind spots. Additionally, we do not always take responsibility for our sin and weaknesses. We also tend to shy way from “speaking truth to power” fearing it could cost us our job. We can be very skillful at rationalizing almost any sin of commission or omission.
I don’t know many leaders who would do or say the right thing even at the cost of their job. But when it’s clear as to what’s best for the entire church or organization, I should, by his grace, do what’s best regardless of the cost. I want to be a person of integrity and do what’s right instead of remaining silent because of the price I may have to pay.
2. Tough love is always the hardest love to follow through with, but it’s worth it.
Isn’t it great to be part of a team or organizational culture where people speak the truth in love as opposed to playing games and pretending everything is okay, thereby creating an artificial harmony not based on reality? Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to speak the truth in love. I have concluded from this verse that I don’t want to be so loving that I’m not truthful nor do I want to be so truthful that I’m not loving, I appreciate Proverb 20:28 in The Message in this regard: “Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity.” It’s not easy to be lovingly honest, but I always like to be on the receiving end of such Christ-honoring communication and want to be able to give it as well. It takes a lot of grace and courage does it not?
3. The health of the church depends largely on the health of the elders and distributed power among them.
John Maxwell has said that, “…everything rises or falls on leadership.” This includes the overall health of any church or organization. If the leadership is unhealthy, unsafe, unwise, unreasonable or unloving, it’s just a matter of time until the whole can be characterized as such. This statement also speaks to the advantages of a “Plurality of Elders” in a church as opposed to a single individual with too much authority, too much power and too little genuine accountability.
My friend has indeed come away with some incredible insight and hopefully will be a better leader going forward as a result of what he’s learned, as painful as it was.