“The cost of leadership,” explains Lt. General George Flynn, “is self-interest.” ("Leaders Eat Last," p.65)
If you seek to lead change in any organization, especially the church, your motives will be called into question… and they should be.
People will wonder; “Why does he care?”
People will ask: “What’s in it for her?”
People will doubt: “He’s only interested in the numbers.”
People will question; “What’s this really all about?”
Why does a leader seek to lead a local church to reach the community around it and consequently, grow?
My friend, Dist. Supt., Rev. Greg Mason once said; “Nothing is more toxic to a church environment than a leader doing the right things for the wrong reasons.”
If you claim to be concerned about lost people, but are more concerned about your resume; beware, your motives will find you out. There will be moments when the outcome is unclear and the scoreboard is hard to look at. It is then that your true motives will be apparent. If self-interest is guiding, the journey will be redirected by your fears. Beware, your motives will find you out. If you have to get the credit, there will never be enough of it. Beware your motives will find you out.
Most leaders, I am convinced, start with the right motives, but leadership can be a slippery slope. Make no mistake about it. Security, acceptance and accolades from our peers matter. We are human.
How does a leader check their motives? We humans are prone to self-deception. Hence the warning from the Apostle Paul; “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” (1 Corinthians 4:4)
Prayer and accountability are useful here. An honest heart before God will always be open to the testing work of the Holy Spirit. A few leaders watching you, with permission to ask you about anything are also a tremendous safeguard. In addition, may I suggest considering these three questions.
- Why bothers me most about the fact that my church isn’t growing?
- How much of my concern is based upon my own desire to succeed?
- Would I continue to sacrifice for this cause even if I lost my current position of leadership?
The first two questions are interesting, but the third cuts clear to the bone.
In “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek says something about politicians that I fear may be true of us in the church.
“It is fun to watch the politicians who announce that if elected they will do all these good things because they care about us. And if they lose their election, many go on to do none of those things.” (p.66)
The issue most important to these political leaders wasn’t people, but their election. Consequently, when the election is lost, the cause is relegated to the sideline. The cause was just a horse to ride in order to win a position.
Before I relate the following story, let me confess that I have had to check my own motives many times. More than once I have had to plod through the muck of self-pity in order to be fit for service. Many times I have had to be reminded by Jesus that it really wasn’t about me. Each time the Lord has been gracious and faithful.
More than 20 years ago I sat before a group of leaders who were examining me as to fitness for ordination. After years of study and service, they would decide if I was “ready” to be ordained as an elder in The Church of the Nazarene. Their responsibility was great. I was humbled and felt truly unworthy. My path had not been typical, and there were a variety of reasons for them to recommend me back to the local church for service, or to the local retail store for a job.
I only remember one question from that interview.
“Rev. Wangler, what will you do if, for some reason, this board decides not to recommend you for ordination this year, or perhaps any year?”
My answer was quick and simple. It was what I honestly felt and believed at that moment.
“I would return to my local church and do everything I could, serve any way I could, to win lost people to Jesus.”
The Board of Ministry asked me a lot of questions over the five-year period it took to work my way through the process. Some of my answers left them shaking their heads, I’m sure. This one didn’t. Don’t think me noble, I wasn’t. Think me grateful because I was.
I think about that question often. Would my answer be the same all of these years later? I pray that it would be. I’m grateful for the platform I have to serve Jesus, but with or without the platform or the title, I’m in. All in. I don’t want a single person to spend a single day more in bondage to darkness.
God has promised to care for us as we serve Him and care for others. This truth unchains our hearts and sets out motives free.