When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. — John 16:13
While hiking in the lower elevations of the Alps, I saw small white clumps of sheep darting back and forth in the distance. Suddenly, among all the white spots I noticed a black border collie tenaciously herding the sheep. At first glance it appeared that the border collie was running randomly, chasing the flock around. It appeared that he was simply wearing the sheep to exhaustion. Upon closer examination, I noticed a man with a walking stick perhaps as far as half a mile away paying close attention to the collie. How was the collie receiving its directives from this shepherd? I stood very still and listened. Soon I heard a faint whistle: sometimes short, sometimes long, one high tone, one low tone. With every tone the collie changed his tack. I thought, He hears the whistle and knows it is his master's call. He has learned what each tone means and what his next move should be. He is completely synchronized with his master. The master and the collie worked in perfect harmony to lead and protect the shepherd's flock.
Unless we have our ears pricked high, we may very well be simply running our people and ourselves to a frazzle. Listening for the faint voice that directs our tactics and guides our words is absolutely essential. We may think that just plowing through will get things done more efficiently, but we are called to be in synchronized harmony with the Spirit. He will relay to us all we need to direct his people. Though there may be times when we aren't certain of the path, we can be certain that the Spirit is with us and directing us. We need only listen and obey when we hear. How well do you recognize the Shepherd's voice? How closely do you listen for the Master's whistle?
I am asked constantly by young leaders, “How do you handle the responsibility of leading something like Catalyst?”
The reality is, anyone who leads a church, leads a company, leads a community, leads a nonprofit ministry, leads a team or even leads a family feels and knows the pressure of responsibility. And responsibility is part of leadership. Always.
You’ve heard this before: “You’re responsible for what happens. Don’t screw up!” Right! We hear this all the time from our parents, from our boss, from our boards, from our friends, from our spouses.
Saddleback didn’t have an organized youth ministry until we had 500 in attendance. We didn’t have a singles ministry until we had 1,000 people in attendance.
And I’m glad we didn’t.
It’s not because those ministries aren’t important. They’re vital! But God hadn’t provided anyone to lead them. Never create a ministry position and then fill it. It’s backwards.
Your most critical component to a new ministry isn’t the idea to start it—it’s the leadership of the ministry. Every ministry rises and falls on leadership. Without the right leader, a ministry will just stumble along. It may even do more harm than good. I could tell you some horror stories about poorly led ministries.
Leaders, if you’re frustrated at the level of your team or vendor’s performance, look no further than the mirror.
Only in very rare cases will a team perform better than the level of their leader. Why?
Because the leader sets the boundaries, deadlines and guidelines. The leader creates the culture and sets expectations. As a result, no matter how gifted or creative a team is, if the leader is incompetent, insecure or inexperienced, the team can only work within that framework.
In the first post of this series, I began a discussion on the importance of pastors establishing healthy boundaries in ministry.
As it’s an area in which I have personally struggled—and one in which I continue to grow—I’m passionate about sharing what I have learned in order to help others not make the same mistakes I did.
In the next four posts, I will share keys to establishing these boundaries. Think of them as four fence posts surrounding a healthy ministry.
How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?
I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently, so I decided to write about it again. (I always note that this post is written about my experiences for people who may currently need it.)
Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life.