Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Leadership (part 3)

This is the third in my series of articles on leadership. A leader helps people move from where they are to where they want or need to be. In my last article I emphasized the fact that the Christian life is all about change. Everyday and in everyway God is in the business of shaping our lives. Most of us do not like change, even when we are involved in the decisions about the change. Change is difficult. That is one of the reasons personal growth is difficult. It requires change. Remember Barker’s definition of a leader—A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. We don’t go by ourselves, because the journey is uncomfortable. It requires change.

Barker said, More than anything else, leaders build bridges that help us move from where we are to where we want to be. Leaders need to understand the nature of change and how it impacts those they lead. If you are going to help those you lead move into the future God has planned for them, you will need to help them cope with the changes coming their way.

Much of the time church leaders are playing “catch-up.” It seems the world is moving much too fast. Sometimes we find it difficult to minister to our church members, let alone those in the community who are outside of the church. Just about the time we feel like we have a handle on our ministries, the world around us shifts and the rules all change.

Churches seem particularly vulnerable to this leadership “time lag” because we are so easily tied to our traditions and the “way we have always done it.” Barker said, The future always shows up before you need it! Most pastors could say “Amen” to that statement. If we are going to be successful leaders we must be open to the future and to those who bring it. I have worked with and observed hundreds of churches through the years. Many of them are locked in their past. I shared with one group of leaders, If the 1950s come back, we are ready for them! The problem is they are not coming back. While our message and mission remain the same, our context and methodologies change.

Who are the people most prepared to help your church get in touch with the world where you minister? Usually, it is your newest converts and newest members. They may not only have a fresh and vibrant relationship with Christ, but they also come with a unique perspective of the community where you serve. Early in his ministry Rick Warren said, We need to learn to think like a lost person. The problem is the longer we are a Christian and active member of a local church, the less we think like those we want to reach. Many times we have fewer non-Christian friends and contacts. Most congregations allow their newest members only limited input or leadership in the life of the church. We wait until they are “mature” Christians (which means, we wait until they think and act like the rest of the members). Barker said that when profound changes take place, the rules for the new paradigm almost always come from “outsiders.”

I am not suggesting that every new believer should be given a key leadership role in their new church family. However, I am suggesting that leaders have the courage to look outside their “comfort zones” and remain open to new ideas and opportunities. They need to see the world with fresh eyes. Some of you have seen Barker’s paradigm videos. They described the impact of major paradigm shifts on industries and our world. (If you have not seen them, we have a copy available for loan.) Many times the businesses were blind to the changes taking place around them. They continued to function as though the changes were not taking place, and it cost them their future. Church leaders need to understand the nature of change. Otherwise, we may miss our opportunity to lead God’s people into the future he has planned.

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