When you come into leadership, there is plenty of wisdom available though not always necessarily true. Dave Gilpin looks at some commonly known nuggets of wisdom and gets the real truth out of them.
OLD WISDOM #1: PEOPLE ARE NOT REJECTING GOD, THEY’RE JUST REJECTING THE CONTAINER THAT GOD COMES IN!
They say that it’s not God that people have a problem with it’s the Church. Because people are presented with a Church that’s out of touch, marginalised, out of reach and full of hypocrites, we are told that that’s why people don’t go to Church anymore. The Church has no attraction to them and therefore people are leaving (and not coming) in their droves. If that is true the opposite must then be true if the Church is trendy, approachable, friendly, relevant, within reach and filled with people who actually do what they believe, then people will come flooding back to Church because it’s not God that they have been rejecting.
Even though there is an element of truth in this ‘old wisdom’, I have found two things far more overwhelmingly true. Firstly, in leading a really contemporary Church, people still haven’t flocked to us in droves. Personally, I have not found people knocking on my door in high numbers because I wear ‘Top Man’ clothes and I’m really, really friendly, relevant and anointed. Secondly, when I got saved through the influence of friends who were committed Christians, I attended churches that were vastly different to the ‘pop’ culture that I was used to. My revelation overlooked the cultural disparity.
The truth that supercedes ‘presentation and packaging’ is that the answer to reaping the harvest that Jesus told us about, is not so much Church style, as it is individual faith and accessibility to search out and connect with the harvest and see it successfully reaped. The growing hunger of the lost will cause them to open their hearts to yours and those who ‘go’ will see God do great things.
People will rarely just come into a Church meeting because they’ve heard that it’s ‘hip!’ Nothing will ever replace the power of faith, prayer, generosity, friendships and the gentle presentation of the gospel through life and testimony. The gospel remains the power of God that causes people to shift from darkness to light.
OLD WISDOM #2: WHEN YOUR CHURCH BUILDING IS OVER 80% FULL, PEOPLE WILL STOP ATTENDING.
They say that the size of your hall will put a cap on the number of people attending your congregation. Many examples are cited that suggest that not long after a new, bigger facility is introduced, the congregation begins to grow again. Even though it is often true that to ‘go large’ ushers in a larger congregation, the reason for it is not the reason given. Often the completion of a larger venue, as well as the expansion of the congregation, are the manifestations of the fulfilment of a word from God. It’s the faith and the action attached to it that precipitated the spiritual manifestation – the growing congregation. As well as this, the growth arises from the results of proven ministry. Paul told Timothy to entrust truth to ‘reliable men’ who will in turn do likewise. Proven reliability is not just a characteristic for the church to get hold of, but also a characteristic for leadership to really get hold of. People ought to follow ministry that has proved itself through its actions and its fruitfulness. The larger congregation often indicates the proof of greater leadership reliability. Great teamwork, great faithfulness, great generosity are all manifestations of this. No wonder the church begins to grow again.
There is no such a cap as 80% full if faith is abounding and all systems are go, the Church will continue to outgrow the hall. New wisdom, though, moves to double services or to a larger facility before this ever takes place.
OLD WISDOM#3: PEOPLE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR SUPERSTARS
They say that the age of the superstar Christian leader is behind us and now is the time for authentic team building with the leaders who blend into the fabric of their teams. They say that there are inherent dangers in putting your hope on one man and inherent dangers along the pathway of any leader who stands out from the rest. Stardom is a thing of the past and there’s a lot of damage to show for it.This is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Paul told people to follow him – thus setting himself up on a pedestal for others to be inspired by and to imitate. The crucial difference between Paul and Robbie Williams is that Paul added ‘as I follow Christ’. People are in desperate need of more heroes of the faith. In a 21st century of very few Christian leaders who stand out from the pack (leading to some ‘off the wall’ type Christianity), the answer isn’t ‘no superstars please’ but ‘please give us more’. Every mountain climber needs a Hillary and every long distance runner needs a Bannister. Every Christian needs to be inspired by leaders stepping out into unknown territory and coming back with the spoils of war. It is the devil’s aim to allow Church organisations to keep going with little inspiration. Inspiration will always result in increased motivation. A motivated team is invincible. An unmotivated team will always be a low achieving team.
We need both great teams and great individuals who will inspire us to climb the high peaks and endure the deep valley. This is the day for multitudes of superstars blazing a trail of glory to the King.
OLD WISDOM#4: THERE SHOULD BE NO BARRIERS BETWEEN THE CLERGY AND THE LAITY
Ancient wisdom built pulpits that rose twenty feet above the people to give a clear demarcation between the priest and the pew gatherers. Ministers were told to have little to do with the people and to keep well away from forming friendships with the laity.
Old wisdom which, in the past three decades, has swept away this ancient wisdom, has told us to get close to the people by making sure that you’re accessible, vulnerable and always available (except at meal times).
New wisdom says that if you want to have burnout, be regularly abused and abandoned, stay with the old wisdom. Jesus spent most of His time with twelve men. Out of the twelve, He had three closest, and out of the three, He had one that was most special. Jesus defied political correctness. Not only were the twelve seemingly selected from one particular area, they were mostly young. It can’t be right! There were times He opened up His ‘home’ to the crowds, and times He moved away from the crowds. New wisdom says that it’s important not to intimately share your life with everyone outside of the pulpit. Not only are pearls often cast before ‘swine’, but people so easily mistake the ministers warmth and accessibility as a promise that they’ll be their best friends forever. The greatest mistake Church planters make is in the forming of close relationships with all of the wrong people. Many people who suddenly find that they are able to run fast on the journey, find that they are unable to sustain the pace for a lengthened period of time. The ‘promises’ that they gave through the impression that they made may have artificially linked them to leaders. This only leads to a failure to deliver and the creation of a thwart relationship.
The problem with many churches isn’t that they splinter or split. The problem lies in the initial formation of the relationships and friendships. They should never have been formed. In our society, marriage breakdown is not the number one social problem – it’s marriage creation. They simply should never have got married. Many relationships form out of personal insecurities. Often, this is the case in Church life. Many teams are established out of the leaders’ insecurities. The fear of being seen as ‘dictatorial’ leads many leaders to let go of their leadership responsibilities and delegate to people who are unproven, unknown and unaccountable. This will always lead to splintering. A revelation of the love of God and the call of God is always at the root of excellent leadership.
It is essential that leaders take control of the relationship that they develop using discernment and wisdom in knowing what limits to place on each level of intimacy created. Leaders should be secure both to win new friends and influence people, as well as lose old friends and infuriate people!