Last week I had the privilege to learn from leaders all around the world via Willow Creek's Leadership Summit.
16 hours of people talking, about leadership, on a video screen. (I didn't get to go to Chicago, just watched it via satellite).
Although that much TV watching did make me tired, I felt non-stop encouragement, challenge, affirmation, and a call to step up and out to lead. It came at the crazy, right time for me. I'm excited to see how some of this shapes me in the next year.
Some take-aways and reminders for me from the conference included:
*Good, clear, and often communicated vision is essential. People need to know where they are going.
* We need to risk and try new things, for failure is a must, because we learn and grow from it.
* Bravery is a must, for we have been called into greatness, and it takes courage to change the world.
* Leadership is about multiplying our influence, but we must be careful not to diminish others in the process.
*We need to make room, equip, and invite new leaders to join us. We must pour into the next generation. Good leaders don't hoard. We need to make room for more leaders to emerge.
* Great leaders repeat their simple themes.
*Choose great people to serve and lead with so you are not alone in leadership.
* Great organizations/groups create new expressions and experiment with creating new organizations/groups
*If you are one who helps others, who must be one who allows others to help you.
*The church is God's unstoppable force, never forget it
One of my favorites, a featured TED talker, Brene Brown, called hundreds of thousands of people
to vulnerability, to being honest and finding strength and bravery by being honest (which can result in living with out shame).
There was all that, and more, and I will be a better leader because of it all.
But, I have to address and call out a message that I don't think this leadership conference meant to communicate.
Because the conference vision was to raise up and encourage godly leadership, many of the speakers were pastors who speak/preach on a regular basis. I noticed a trend in these speakers. Many of them shared and affirmed (with many heads nodding in agreement) how difficult it is to preach week to week. Preaching is stressful and with it comes a lot of pressure. For instance, the weight not only of prepping for Sunday messages week after week is burdensome, but delivering them, and dealing with the aftermath, particularly on Monday can be overwhelmingly problematic for pastors. A few speakers even commented they feel so insecure about how "good" their messages were afterward (or how they were received by their hearers), that they were inclined to drive their cars over cliffs. Or if suicide wasn't their first choice they'd opt to crawl under a rock to avoid people until they could make themselves valuable again by preaching a show-stopping message.
I get this, I really do.
We put so much effort and energy into preaching, pastoring, presenting, (bearing our soul) etc, that we think somehow we can mess it up so bad that the church will crumble because of it. I've been there.
In our minds, if the people don't laugh at all our jokes, take notes on everything we say, or come running down the aisle to give us praise, I mean, give their lives to Jesus, because they were so moved by our words, then we SUCK and we should quit.
But what are we really thinking here?
I'll tell you what we're thinking:
It's all about us.
Are we that important that we think our life is worth nothing after one bad thirty minute speech?
What about God's power, and the work his Spirit is doing? What about all the OTHER people in the room on Sunday with whom God has gifted and are called to build the church up? The work of the church is not about one pastor, it's about all of God's people.
When we pastors think the success of our church or ministry hinges on us, our abilities, our charisma, or our thirty minutes on Sunday, we need to have our own "come to Jesus moment."
This is where we need others, especially those not pastors and church leaders, to know how valuable and needed they are. Help out us pastors and remind us often, "It's not about you," because we need to call this what it is. This type of thinking is more about our ego and how good our "presentation" was, rather than if God moved in people's lives.
I love how Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 2: 3-5.
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
Honestly, I think I'd/we'd rather have people's lives rest in our wisdom and how creative we can be at presenting it. We may be too familiar with settling and judging our success by our persuasive words that we miss out on actually seeing supernatural things happen.
Now, please keep in mind, I'm writing this blog for myself, you just get to eavesdrop on my vulnerability-- (thanks to Brene Brown who said it's good to admit your all your emotional baggage).
I get this. I really do. And I'm convicted by it.
When I/we think like this, it just shows I am/we are consumed with ourselves. The whole deal about pastors saying they want to kill themselves on Monday is a whole other conversation...for more on that see my suicidal thoughts blogs one and two.
So....I made a note to myself, that funny enough, the week before I sensed God had already given to me.
I was praying and dreaming some things about the future when I knew God began to drop some knowledge on me!
This is what he said:
"My church is about me. You get to play a great part, and that part is equally important to all the other parts. so make room, invite, and empower all the church (God's people) to do it's part.
So, with urgency I share this with you my fellow leaders, pastors, speakers, worship leaders, chaplains, etc. You, what you do and what you have to say, is not the most important part of the Church and it's gatherings. (Whew! For me, that's actually very freeing.).
We need to intentionally make a way for all of God's people to live into their roles as disciples, to express their parts of the body. That's when God's church is functioning completely.
So I told myself again, and I'm sharing this with you- if you are a leader/speaker in some way:
You are not the most important person in the church, Jesus is.
That is so liberating. (Read Colossians 1:15-20).
When I/we think the church lives and dies off of what we have to say/do, we create this vacuum in which sucks all the life and power from the church and puts it right into us.
That is not necessary.
Here's what I think Jesus would say to us pastors/leaders if we let him look into our eyes and speak into us on this topic:
That youth intern who hasn't been to seminary yet is just as important to the Father's work as you. Invite him to hang out with you and affirm his passion for prayer and the love he has for people on the margins. Invite him to teach the church about what he's learning with the students and that those students are just as important as your mission trips around the world. The music leader shares equal worth with you. So value her and empower her to share her stories as she strums that guitar to lead others to express their love for me. Tell her the Church needs to hear how she came to know me because they can learn from what I did in her life. And that quiet, stay at home mom trying to quiet her baby in the back of the room, is just as important to my mission as you. Invite her to see her worth in my kingdom and her discipleship gifts as just as important as your preaching. Ask her if she wants to share a message on a Sunday some time, and train her to see her voice is just as valuable as yours. And that high school student with braces and acne texting while you're preaching? He is just as important to my church as you. Call him into using his tech abilities to serve and get the word out to others via Social Media and other creative means. Spend time listening to his questions and doubts, encourage him that his thoughts are valuable and that you need him to fulfill my call on the church and that you all serve together. And that guy who always arrives late to the worship gathering and interrupts you with his loud motorcycle friends in the parking lot? He's just as important as you. Teach him that his relational compassion to reach out to his fellow biker buddies is just as important as your twenty hours of Greek interpretation. Remember I love you, and I live in you. Remind all my people that I died so that the Holy Spirit would come dwell and empower all of them. All of my people together, make up my Church. So lead with grace, in my power, as I lead you.
So, I'm making this note for myself and sharing with you Reverend so and so, Minister she she, Chaplain he he, etc.
May you be free to live in God grace on you, and privileged to serve Him, knowing you are loved, and called to be A PART of His body, completed by many. And may I, may you, never forget, Jesus is the true leader, the true pastor of His Church. May we let him pastor us so we can live in his love, free from the need of our ego. And remember, you ARE IMPORTANT, just not the most important.