Many times, as leaders, we are blindfolded by the experience we have gained over the years. We assume everyone knows what we know, but we forget what we once didn’t know.
I feel what I’m writing is elementary in the field of leadership. But what is elementary to one is high school or even college to others.
I’m not at all saying you can stop learning. That’s a dangerous thing for a leader to ever do. I’m saying to be conscious of the fact that if you are a leader, chances are you’ve learned a few things along the way to getting where you are today.
This is not a good story, and I apologize in advance.
In between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked the call-in desk for the Seaboard Railroad ticket office in Birmingham. Located downtown on 20th Street South, this was an attractive office with pleasant people.
The year was 1960 and during the heyday of Jim Crow laws. The police commissioner in the city was named Bull Connor, a man destined to make headlines a couple of years later when he turned the fire hoses on blacks (and maybe a few whites; I’m not sure) protesting the harsh laws and customs in our city.
There is a lot of talk about discipleship these days—and it is about time. Jesus seemed to think discipleship was a big deal, putting it as the heart—and the verb—of the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations." Yet it seems discipleship has fallen on hard times in many churches in the West—for example, English-speaking places like the U.S., Canada, Australia and England, where there are Christians who are just not as desperate and committed as their sisters and brothers in the Two-Thirds World.
I would go so far as to say that our discipleship model is broken. I would like to suggest some areas where we are broken and hopefully provide some solutions about how to fix them.
Let me state the obvious: Pastors are human. That means they have preferences, likes and dislikes. So I did an unscientific Twitter poll to find out what pastors really don’t like about their job.
By the way, one pastor cautioned me about calling their ministries “jobs.” I understand, but it’s hard to fit “God-called vocation and ministry” into a 140-character Twitter question.
I was surprised at the variety of responses. Pastors are certainly not monolithic. No one response was greater than 20 percent of the total. And I was surprised at some potential responses that did not show up.
This might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint-by-numbers kit, and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet.
That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper, and it contained intricate detail.
I painted for weeks and then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish.
Here’s what I noticed: I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership, it rings true.