A friend of mine just lost his job. He’s in his 50s with two kids in college, and he’s worried. Another friend just laid off a large number of employees. And a surprising number of recent college graduates that I know are not landing jobs.
That’s a negative headline—but it’s a true headline. There are some job openings, people are getting hired, and there is hope! But we must admit it’s tough out there right now.
I talk with pastors around the country every week and “church finance” is all over the place. Some churches are doing well financially, and many are not. Few are just holding steady, it’s more like holding on.
Consider 2 Timothy 3:1-5. It’s a pretty powerful and prophetic scripture:
“But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self … boastful, arrogant, revilers … ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited... Avoid such men as these.”
Veteran Christian workers get this a lot. People tell you of a conversation they had with you years, or even decades ago, in which you either said the magic words that changed their lives or came out with something that infuriated them back then, and continues to bug them to this day.
You don’t remember any of it.
Call it intuition, call it instinct, but there’s a nagging sense in me that says “church is messy.” To be clear, what I mean by that is simply “untidy,” not perfect, can be disorderly. Even as a young man I was always suspicious of things that looked too tidy, too perfect—too sanitized, too "Stepford Wives."
Think Corinth, then Ephesus and Sardis, and you know that church is not perfect. That’s the reason young people get turned off by church. Self-righteousness, which projects an unreal piety that covers up mistakes—or worse, pretends to not make any—is nothing more than hypocrisy. Like preachers who call out errors in others, but have secret lives.
Herein lies the importance of discipleship, of life exchange, of being real, of acknowledging that while we are sinners, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is capable of transforming us into saints. Discipleship that speaks of a journey of ever-increasing trust blooms into faith as we encounter Christ’s love each day.
We all find ourselves in the position of “leading up” at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in the workplace or where we volunteer, we all have an opportunity to lead our leaders.
There are times when I’ve led my leaders well and times I have not. Here are three critical steps I’ve learned to take in order to lead up with success.
1. Meeting before the meeting. I watched this play out in a scenario I’ve been walking through. It’s brilliant. Have a ‘meeting before the meeting.’ If you’re leading into a challenging topic with leadership, it serves you well to make a quick connection in advance, letting the other person know what the meeting is about. No details. Just a quick overview that gives them something to digest. A brief snippet that sets the stage for the conversation. This puts your leader in a proactive posture rather than a reactive posture.
Every leader faces overwheming moments. Elijah had one of those moments after he faced and killed the entire squadron of Baal prophets while simultaneously calling the people of Israel back into right relationship with God.
Elijah did everything right, but he was completely worn out. There are times in ministry when you just have too many critical issues at once. These times can wear you out.
So, how do you recharge and maintain stability in the maelstrom of ministry?