In the opening story, the pastor did take Bob’s check. Ultimately, it cost him his job. Too much influence slid into the wrong people’s hands, and he lost leadership of the church. The story is a sad one, but it doesn’t have to be for you. Just say “Thanks, but keep the check.”
2. Develop a culture where character matters. Kevin Myers, the senior pastor at 12Stone Church, where I serve, has done an outstanding job keeping the church nearly free from politics. I do my best to carry on what he has established as I lead the staff.
I believe the central thing that Kevin did over the years to make this a reality is to insist on a culture of no pretense and character that is above reproach. The courage to confront and truth-telling is non-negotiable. We’re far from perfect. In fact, the staff is pretty sure that sarcasm is a spiritual gift! We well recognize our flaws and laugh a lot because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But we take God seriously and deeply believe that character matters.
One example is Chris Morgan, the worship pastor at our central campus. Chris is a good friend and amazing worship leader. He’s a killer guitar player, can sing like James Taylor, and will take you out on a basketball court.
But here is where the story really gets really exciting. When it comes to musicians and singers, Chris will never allow competence to override character. Chris always says no to that check, no matter how big it is. Further, he works with his team to keep ego in line, hearts set toward God and worship as the genuine objective. He will confront pride and coach for godliness. All the while, he and his team have a blast. If you sneak in to a rehearsal just a little early while they are warming up, you might hear them busting out with a hot rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
3. Refuse to engage in or allow gossip. Church leaders can get caught up in gossip. Of course leaders talk about people, but only for the purpose of developing their spiritual life or overall welfare. Leaders should never talk about someone for the purpose of tearing them down or to make them the blunt end of a hurtful joke. More often than not, the person becomes aware of the conversation.
The difficulty in this process is that it’s easy for noble purposes to descend into purposeless or even hurtful gossip. Negative things get said about people, and then they get repeated. No harm was intended, but it was said. It takes so much time and effort to repair the relationship, and trust still remains at risk. When trust is at risk, destructive politics is nearby.
Keep it real. Stay positive. Speak well of everyone. And when you need to have a conversation about someone, then speak with that person face to face and make it solely for the purpose of that person’s best interest and personal growth.
4. Practice generosity. Let me close with a simple thought. Generosity is the opposite of politics. I know that if you consult Webster’s Dictionary, you won’t find them to be linguistic opposites. But consider that if political people in political environments are about getting something they want, then the act of generosity and giving yourself away will do much to deflate the air out of political tires. Can people take advantage of you? Yes. But do it anyway. Jesus would, and I believe it will come back around for God’s favor in the end.
Church politics is likely here to stay, but you have the opportunity to reduce it substantially in your church, if not nearly eliminate it. Whether you need to hit it head-on or you proactively keep politics to a minimum, my prayer for you is that God would help you in this process so you can invest your time in the things that really matter.
Dan Reiland is executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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