Over the years, I've worked with a lot of church leaders in struggling situations. I hear their pain, and I even understand it when I learn about their situations. At the same time, though, I always get concerned when I hear these kinds of things from leaders, as they often suggest that somebody's about to give up:
- "They'll never change." That is, "I've pounded my head against a wall, and nothing's changed." Sometimes, leaders even begin to wonder if God can make a difference.
- "I've even stopped praying about it." You'd think no church leader would ever make such a statement, but I've heard it when I've pressed leaders a bit. Prayerlessness is evidence of hopelessness.
- "It's not worth it anymore." These leaders have given their all, and it's cost them more than they ever assumed. Moving forward in the same direction is just too hard to consider.
- "Maybe I missed my calling." I realize the debates about calling, but most leaders who've said these words to me are in pain and frustration. They're often looking for a way out.
- "I'm not going to rock the boat anymore." These words come from leaders who've rocked the boat before, but they got thrown overboard. The issue is that some boats still need to be rocked—just wisely and strategically.
- "I'm looking for a ministry job that doesn't require me to work much with the church." The problem is that the church is people—and most ministry roles still require us to work with people.
- "I'm just hanging on until I can find something else." Taking care of your family sometimes requires "hanging on" awhile, but every day of "hanging on" is usually one more day of emotional and physical drain.
- "I wish things were like they used to be." This leader is typically holding on to the past (perhaps even a great one). However, leadership is present tense.
- "I'm thinking about doing church in my house." I'm not opposed to planting healthy house churches, but that's not the point with these discouraged leaders; these leaders are saying, "I'm going to start something that allows me to hide and avoid the difficulties of an established church."
- "I don't care what they think." Usually, it's an exasperated leader who reaches this point. When he no longer cares what others think—even his opponents—that's a risky place to be.
What other troubling statements come to mind for you?
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. in addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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