Church Leadership is an Island

March 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I talk to Church leaders I find a common thread that shows itself in the majority of our conversations. It doesn’t matter if they are leading thousands or just a handful, they are lonely. The irony in this is that so many Church leaders are incredibly charismatic and possess a great ability to connect with people. They have personalities that people are attracted to. So why are they lonely? Why do they feel fulfillment in their work but lack satisfaction in friendships? It is because we choose to be lonely.

It breaks my heart to see church leaders that choose to do life alone because they are not only missing out on fulfilling friendships, but they also miss out on a huge resource that keeps them sharp and effective, each other. The choice to keep everyone at arms length isn’t made because we really love being alone. The choice is made because we fear vulnerability. We are afraid of being used. We fear being authentic and transparent because someone might judge us and we could potentially lose influence. Our own insecurities keep us from allowing someone to get too close. We feel the pressure of a certain image that we need to uphold and we know that when people get close they may realize that we aren’t as put together as we appear from the fringe. All of these things are true and it is likely that you will have a friendship or two go bad, but it is worth it.

The purpose for this post isn’t just to encourage leaders to have friends for the sake of having a friend. I have watched as so many church leaders have isolated themselves to their own island. They succeed alone and they fail alone. There is no one close enough to really celebrate their wins with them, but most importantly there is no one there to help pick up the pieces when they fail. There is a shortsighted invincibility that a lot of leaders own. They convince themselves that as a leader they are strong enough to fight temptations and discouragement alone. There is no safe place where they can be vulnerable. It is all smiles even when times are tough. The result is a tormented mind and a leader that is on the brink of their demise.

The people you lead need you. Do not fall prey to the prideful notion that you can do this on your own. No one can. Weigh out your options with me. We can choose to do life alone and risk the consequences that come with relying on your own ability to sort through struggles and discouragement. Another option is to stretch ourselves, let go of our pride and ego, and build transparent relationships that may be uncomfortable at first, but could ultimately save you and the people you lead.

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Vicarious Dreamers

March 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

Church planters are arguably some of the most exciting people to be around. They have this ecstasy about them that is contagious. If you analyze their situation you will discover that most of them are moving to a city with very little resources, a small team of leaders, and the haunting awareness that most dreamers who have dreamed the same dream they have ultimately fail within three years. What causes a typically cautious person to forfeit the income that provides a comfortable lifestyle for his family and move on to a context where the only thing that is guaranteed is sacrifice and hard work? I am confident that there are a variety of reasons that would be given if we interviewed a lineup of church planters, but one answer that would become a trending theme among them is this, “God planted a picture of the Church he died for in my mind, and he has told me to build it.” You can’t hang up the phone or walk away from lunch with a Church Planter without a bizarre unrest coming over you. A feeling that can only be described as a challenge to every part of your being to break free of normalcy. I wish I could say that this feeling eats at us until faith pushes us to jump into the unknown, but as we ponder the implications of what it would be like to leave the safety of job security and family we consequently color over the picture that God is trying to plant within us. We nestle back into our safety net. From time to time we will allow our minds to take a peek at the dream God has been trying to plant in us. It feels good to dream. In our dreams we determine the ending.  We always succeed with very little sacrifice, but the quandary that we are in is that dreaming only satisfies us until the dream ends. Reality looms at the completion of our dream. The cruel but honest realization that we are afraid. We have positioned ourselves in a place to deem temporal security more valuable than eternal triumph.

It has become unmistakeably clear to me why we have such an infatuation with courageous church leaders. It is not because they have been given a bigger dream than we have. It’s not that they are more talented or possess a greater arsenal of giftings. The simple truth is that while we converse with those who have stepped out into the unknown we can, for a few brief moments, live vicariously through them and experience the ecstasy for ourselves. It gives us a small window to experience the satisfaction that would come with putting legs to the picture God put in your mind.

Is that enough for you? Are you willing to excuse yourself from the dream God painted for you? Are you satisfied with watching others take giant faith leaps and stand in awe as God transforms hundreds of lives? Is that really okay with you? Or are you ready to leap?  Are you ready to become the canvass on which God paints an incredibly sublime portrait? The irony is that as you soar into the unknown there is a certainty that comes with knowing that God can take better care of you than you can. The sacrifice and hard work seem to produce more fulfillment than any luxury or security can. It is living life on mission.

Every person who has ever accomplished anything noteworthy didn’t jump as soon as they were given their first glimpse of the picture God had for them. They all wrestled with it. They all made excuses for why they couldn’t do it. They all feared failure. But everyone of them kept going back for one more peek at the dream until they were overtaken by it.

Inside of you rests a revolutionary. I know that you may not see it but others do and most importantly God does, he put it there. Unleash it. Take a faith dive into the unknown and trust God for all of the uncertainties. Join the mission. One by one lets each deploy and follow the command, because after-all we only get one shot at this thing called life. Why not make it count?