LEADING WELL, TIPS #1 & #2
by George W. Black
Introduction: Help! I’m a pastor!!!
I have prayed that prayer many times.
Before we start the tips, let me give you a little background.
Cathy and I answered the call to the ministry in 1974. That was 41 years ago. We started out in youth ministry for five years, and God blessed us with a wonderful season of serving our church and senior pastor. It was great being a part of a pastoral team. But then…we launched out into pioneering our first church in 1980, and life became very different.
Since that time we have served in a total of eight churches, some large and some small, and have also helped plant other churches and ministries along the way. Because I am “hard-headed” I am sure I made more mistakes than most, but I learned from them, and eventually found God’s wisdom and solutions to most of them.
In recent years God has been leading me into an apostolic ministry, and I finally gave myself permission to say yes to what I have known a long time. It was fifteen years ago that Bishop Timothy Ifedioranma first placed a demand on my apostolic call, telling me at an ICBM conference in Tulsa OK on the campus of ORU, that God told him to submit his ministry and his six churches to me.
Wow. Really? I reluctantly agreed but never embraced the call until about five years ago. Now I am leading an apostolic organization known as the Rejoice International Network. It is humbling to lead members of my church, but it is even more humbling to lead other pastors and ministers who lead their members. I do it out of obedience and not ambition.
At age 63 I am no longer at my physical prime, but I am at my spiritual prime. And with good health, having seen this in others, I know I can remain at a hight level of spiritual productivity for two more decades, maybe even longer. Billy Graham did not retire until his 90’s.
I am a father to three wonderful grown daughters who continue to love and serve the Lord, and six amazing grandchildren. But along the way I have also become a spiritual father.
As a younger pastor I always wanted to be a spiritual father. looked up to spiritual fathers and saw the incredible impact they had on mine and others lives. But even though I wanted to be a spiritual father, i really never was.
Jesus said we can’t add one cubit (inch) to our height by taking thought or wishing for it. There are just some things that take lots of years, gray hair, and enough scars we didn’t die from, to make us what we previously hoped we could become.
Of course no one wants to go through what you went through to get what you got. The truth is we never wish for the journey it takes to reach our destination. Like Jacob, we never envision the conflict with a brother that can strike terror into the deepest recesses of our heart, and lead us to such dark moments that we wrestle with God’s angel all night out of a desperation driven by despair, until we finally surrender to God’s sovereignty, and forever walk with limp and a cane from that time on.
But it is these crisis moments where our nature is changed, and God changes our name. Jacob the supplanter was changed to Israel, a prince who has power with God and has prevailed.
It is a gift from God that we don’t see the future clearly.
God has given me the gift to believe in other ministers, and to help them find the path, and answers, that God’s grace helped me to find. I find this to be as natural as breathing. It is who I am now.
This article is the first of several that I hope will be a blessing to those who are pastors, ministers, and leaders in the body of Christ, and are looking for God’s path and the wisdom to walk it. Paul said “everywhere and in all things I am instructed…”
Humility makes the wisdom of others accessible.
Experience is not always the best teacher. Sometimes it is only necessary when we can’t learn any other way.
Wisdom teaches us that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel…we can learn from those who have already made the mistakes and learned from them. To this end I share these “LEADING WELL” tips and humbly hope they are a blessing to you.
Walking with a “limp” and leaning on Christ,
George W. Black, September 2015
LEADING WELL TIP #1 – YOU CAN’T PASTOR EVERYONE!
Jesus didn’t keep everyone that wanted to follow Him, and neither can you.
John 6:66-67 NKJV “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
When God sends your church new people, it is a gift that must not be neglected. Everyone needs to be contacted and welcomed, the goal being to connect them to their place in the body. A lead pastor can have others help with this, but in the beginning the lead (senior) pastor must be intimately involved in this process.
It is in this process that every pastor’s metal is tested.
It is amazing how easy it is to tell people what they want to hear.
When our churches are small, and the empty seats are many, a pastor can feel compelled to try to become Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, able to stretch and bend himself to fit the expectations of everyone.
Good luck with that. There have been a few times I let people stretch me to the point I didn’t recognize myself. It was one of those times when I was sitting across from my wife at a breakfast table on one of the rare mornings I wasn’t gone at 5:00 AM. In her serious but loving voice she volunteered this thought, “I don’t know who you are anymore.”
The one person in this world that mattered to me the most had never said anything resembling this comment, ever. So I listened. I let it soak in because no one else loved me the way she did. And I already knew what she was saying was true, because I had been living in denial.
She didn’t have to yell, or argue with me about it. I got it the first time, because I already knew I had lost my soul somewhere along the way trying to serve God in my own strength, and I was looking for a way back to who I used to be.
It took time, but I reversed course, and eventually found the terra firma for my life that I had previously forsaken.
Everyone brings their own baggage to your church. If you aren’t grounded in who you are in Christ, and what God has called you to do, and who God has called you to be, you can get confused by the demands of their baggage,
…and their garbage.
This is not to say we shouldn’t be sensitive to people’s concerns. Quite the contrary, a discerning pastor wants to help people find their way into the fellowship of the church so they can be blessed and bless others.
However, to use a musical metaphor, not everyone likes “country music”, and no matter how hard you try to be “country”, if you are a “rock & roll” kind of pastor, you must understand the “country music” folk will not stay. Especially if there is a high-flying “country” kind of pastor down the street.
I hope you realize this really has nothing to do with musical tastes. This is about personality, gifting, education, and a dozen other aspects of your calling and anointing that you really cannot change.
No one can pastor everyone. There is only a certain percentage of people that you are called to pastor. The rest belong to the other pastors in your city. The Bible says God places us in the body as it pleases Him.
1 Cor 12:18 NKJV “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
Pastors can beat themselves up over not keeping everyone that visits their church. Whats worse, they can stop being true to themselves in an attempt to keep them. (Shakespeare)
This doesn’t mean that we can’t become a better version of ourselves, because we should always be growing and developing in Christ.
But we cannot become hostages to the whims and demands of people who don’t love us, who are not loyal to us, who are not called to us, and will still leave us after we have given them everything they have asked for.
Dr. Larry Lea once told me, “Those who are called to you cannot leave, and those who are not cannot stay.”
BAM! True words that I have recalled many times when I am being tempted to become Mr. Fantastic for someone who is really pulling on me.
One person wanted to know if I preached against drinking (alcohol), because they didn’t feel you could be a Christian otherwise.
Another person wanted to make sure that we didn’t allow “women preachers.”
Still another didn’t want me in the church foyer greeting people before church…they felt I should remain in prayer, private and out of service, until it was time for me to preach. The mystical pastors I guess.
Occasionally people want to know about our doctrine, are we a “grace” church, a “faith” church, a “charismatic” church, etc.
Still others have been leaders in other churches, and their mock humility is a tell-tale sign that you will have to use them or lose them.
Tell them the truth. Don’t go “politician” with a lot of double-speak. Tell them the truth in love, and with conviction, and your chances of winning their respect are much great than if you try to tell them what you think they want to hear.
Don’t take a “poll” to see which way the wind is blowing. Share who you are, and what your vision and convictions are. Even if they don’t agree with you, at least they will respect you.
And chances are when you share WHY you believe what you believe, they will learn and grow and become open to a different perspective than what they had before.
And if not, oh well.
Our church offers a membership course before anyone becomes a confirmed member. It’s only 4 classes. I tell new people our church is like a “bus.” The new members course is to let you know where the bus is going. If you don’t like where our bus is going, now’s the time to get off.
Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.”
Pastors are called to care for broken people. You didn’t break them. They were broken when they came to you. But if you are not careful, you can be made to feel that you failed them when they leave you.
Don’t put yourself under that pressure. It is not mentally healthy. They are God’s sheep. If they leave you, bless them and move on. God will take care of them. The next one may become your “Timothy”, and one of those makes up for a lot of the others.
Realize that not everyone that visits your church is called to your church. They are looking for their family. Help them find it, whether its yours or someone elses. I know, this is counter-intuitive to our hoarding tendencies. But it’s all about the Kingdom, not your church. This will also save you a lot of unnecessary pain.
Be diligent, make the most of every opportunity, love and serve people to the best of your ability, but don’t put on Saul’s armor to keep them. When you do, you become a false you, and you are no longer loyal to the people who loved and believed in the real you.
God bless, GWB
What did God say to you in this Pastoral Tip? Write it down. Pray over it. Ask God for wisdom to activate it in your life.
LEADING WELL TIP #2 – YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING!
You aren’t anointed to do it all, be it all, lead it all, etc, so you must not hold yourself captive to unrealistic expectations.
Ephesians 4:16 NLT “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
As a younger pastor I felt tremendous pressure to perform at a very high level, and most importantly, to not fail. This fit my workaholic tendencies, but I could never find the superman cape to go with it. LOL.
Whenever I was challenged about this, I usually would throw down the “spirit of excellence” card.
Excellence is important. Obedience is more important, because it is better than sacrifice (“sacrifice” being giving God what I want to give Him, rather than what He has asked for).
I am the son of a workaholic dad, and a spiritual son of a dear man of God that was raised old school (no such thing as a 40 hour week). I learned early in my ministry to work half-days…I just had to decide which 12 hours of the day that would be.
Unfortunately I find this to be the case with many pastors. Their work consumes them, and they lose their joy.
I was and am blessed with a very understanding wife that wanted a husband that ran after Jesus more than a house full of things (quote from War Room), but I didn’t find the balance until much later, and my family suffered from an overworked, overstressed, underpaid, and sometimes absentee husband/dad.
I preached discipleship, but didn’t always make the connection with training others and delegation. Fact is, others can often do it better if we will take the time to train them in our vision, which is time we don’t feel we have, so we keep repeating the cycle of self-abuse.
I finally heard God telling me to stop doing everything by myself. At first it was VERY hard to ask others to help. Pride, reluctance to inconvenience others, etc. But once I realized I was not only stealing their blessing, but that I was also stunting HIS ministry (Law of the Lid – John Maxwell), I began exercising a little more boldness.
Ephesians 4:11 & 12 NLT “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”
Every member is called to be a minister at some level. The word “minister” often meant “servant” or “deacon”, and not necessarily a platform ministry. As a leader, it is our job to dig the ministry gifts out of our people, harness them to the will of God, and deploy them into active service.
In the traditional church, the pastor/minister is paid to do the work of the ministry. However, the Biblical pattern is for the five fold ministry to train the church to do the work of the ministry. I am talking EVERY PART OF IT, not just the Sunday morning stuff.
It’s not just about preaching or leading. It is about taking of the education, training, and vocational ability of our members and helping them connect the dots as to how THEY can be in the ministry too. Websites, building maintenance, lawn care, clerical duties…this is all the little gears that makes the big gears possible.
Until we begin calling people into their assignments, we can never expect to see a mature church.
Apostle Fred Bennett once told me that Jesus had to call His disciples, and so do we. Until we call people into their anointing, we are teaching them to remain passive.
I once had an elder tell me, “Pastor, as long as your willing to do it, we’re willing to let you.”
For a long time I was willing to do it. Then God told me I was violating the Sabbath principle.
Mark 2:27 NKJV “And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
The Sabbath Principle is a vital truth for all Christ-followers, not just pastors. God is our Creator, and His Word gives us His wisdom on every area of life. One of the first things He taught His people was the importance of hard work, AND the importance of having regular intervals of rest.
I will share more on this under another LEADING WELL TIP in the future, but the obvious take-away for now is we have to engage the body if we are to have necessary down-time.
Every pastor, minister, etc, MUST have a day every week where they disconnect from the work of the ministry, where they don’t take phone calls, texts or messages; where they don’t check email (or social media), and are basically unavailable, except in a real emergency.
A ministers Sabbath is obviously not Sunday.
You need to tell your people what your Sabbath day is, and train them to respect it. Have other leaders on a rotation to cover. Mentally let go of the burden and responsibility of your ministry.
My faithful wife corrects me the second I began to bring church work up on my day off, or on my vacation. You will need help setting boundaries.
The benefits of the Sabbath Principle are numerous, but one in particular is that you will never burn out. You will find your joy restored. You will look and feel better. And you will love your church more.
And most importantly, your spouse will thank you!
We have to connect people to their ministry in the church and their mission in the world by placing a demand on them, because we love them and want them to grow up in Christ, and because many hands make light work. God has called them to us as our partners.
We then have to accept what they are willing to offer.
Sometimes you will be really blessed by what they offer, and sometimes you will be frustrated beyond words. Chasing unruly, irresponsible, and undisciplined sheep is one of the most demeaning tasks I do. But this is a necessary part of pastoral care.
Today I have a functioning leadership team that can do almost everything without me. I can be gone for weeks at a time on missions trips, or ministering in other churches, and I am virtually never missed, and I don’t nave to bring in a guest speaker to cover the pulpit unless I want to. Besides Cathy and me, we have six others who are very capable of preaching a Sunday morning message. This takes a mature ego, but it is growing the church in important ways, and will lengthen my years of effective ministry.
It will do the same for you.
God bless, GWB
What did God say to you in this Pastoral Tip? Write it down. Pray over it. Ask God for wisdom to activate it in your life.