FOREST … TREES: A LEADERSHIP FOCUS JESUS VALUES

From Blake Coffee

forest-for-the-trees “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34

I believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees. They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing. I suspect you know a leader or two like that. You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it. After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?

The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way. They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws. Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology. He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard. He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing. I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12. This was a rare moment when Jesus actually commended one of those teachers, and it seems to me to be because this teacher was actually able to keep the details in perspective and to see the forest for the trees.

When I work with congregational conflict, I am never particularly surprised at how out of focus we church people are capable of becoming, how tunnel-visioned we get, particularly in matters of doctrine and theology. We can get so zoomed in on the differences among us that we completely lose sight of the major worldview we have in common. But I get particularly disappointed in shepherds among us who lose their focus on what is important, because they are who set the focus for the rest of us. Show me a church which is overly focused on money and material possessions, and I will show you church leadership who is out of focus that way. Show me a church who is overly focused on politics and I will show you church leadership who is leaning out of bounds in that same way. In matters of focus, we truly are a “follow the leader” kind of people.

Leadership vision which allows discussion on the finer points but which maintains its focus on the larger points is a vision Jesus commends. He saw it in this teacher of the law. He will acknowledge it in you as well. Keep your eyes on the forest, pastor. Always remind us and help us to see it. There will always be plenty of people around to point out the individual trees. You keep us focused on the major stuff. Jesus will be pleased.
© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

COUNSEL TO A CHURCH STAFF FROM A LEAD PASTOR

Perry Noble shared this post today that is well worth your consideration and discussion. – Steve

Four Things I Want From Those Who Serve With Me

June 8, 2011

#1 – Don’t let me be surprised.

If something goes wrong, if a mistake has been made or if we have dropped the ball then the last thing I want to do is find out about what has happened “through the grapevine.” And…I don’t want half of the story either. (Many times just half of the story is told in order to “protect” the leader…when actually quite the opposite is true. “Protection” is knowing all of the facts…ALL of them.)

Tell me the truth…always.

(AND…leaders, it is up to you to create this type of environment. If you have a nasty habit of “shooting the messenger” then it is quite likely that you do not know the whole story in regards to what is happening in your organization.)

#2 – Don’t let me be the emperor that has no clothes!

I don’t know if you have read “The Emperor’s New Clothes” lately…it is a really funny children’s story that, unfortunately, isn’t so funny when it is played out in church world.

Once again…I need the truth from the people around me. I do not view those who God has placed around me as a liability but rather an asset…and I can honestly say that I have had numerous bad ideas as a leader over the past several years that have not made their way towards implementation because there are men and women around me who are willing to say, “Dude, we love you…but…that’s a bad idea.”

Leaders…it takes a secure person to be able to create this type of environment. You can either do this and reap the benefits…or you can surround yourself with “yes men” who refuse to tell you the truth because they fear you more than they fear the Lord.

#3 – Keep short accounts with me

We are a team…God has called us to serve Jesus together and the enemy would actually love to divide our leadership team way more than he wants to divide our church. (Because…he knows if he can divide us…the church will follow!)

As a team we will have spirited debate. We will disagree on decisions that have been made and/or how things should be done in the future. When this happens let’s be respectful, honest and refuse to allow a root of bitterness to develop among us. Life is too short and hell is too hot for us to allow anger and frustration with one another to continue to fester.

#4 – Be willing to put your personal preferences aside for the greater good of God’s church.

When people’s main filter of making decision is ran through their personal preferences the entire organization will always gravitate towards comfort and conformity because doing so is always easy…and as human beings we have to be aware of this natural tendency to drift in this direction.

Jesus didn’t call us to take up our mattress…He commanded us to take up our cross. This is hard…and many times it will mean putting our personal preferences aside in order to see God’s precepts carried out. We always have to be serious about putting pride aside and embracing whatever it is the Lord wants for us.

There has never been a church on the planet that has made a significant difference because the leaders were obsessed with always having their own way (this includes the senior pastor!) Let’s continue to beg God to conform and transform us so that we can do all HE has in mind for us to do…even when it places us in a perpetual state of discomfort.

MINISTRY SHOULD NOT BE SAFE

Mark Batterson speaking October 6 at Catalyst 2010 shared this challenging observation:

“Too often Christian leaders make the assumption that ministry should be safe. But how can this mindset be supported when 11 of the disciples were killed because of their faith and only John died a natural death after surviving being boiled alive, he questioned.

“I think we need a moment of reality check. I think we made an assumption that ministry should be safe. And I don’t think it should be,” said Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., to a crowd of young Christian leaders at the Catalyst conference.

Citing Matthew 10:16 (“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”), Batterson challenged Christian leaders to examine the verse and determine if that sounded like Jesus was sending his followers to a comfortable ministry.

“I’m not suggesting that we necessarily put ourselves in physical danger, because we live in a very different time and period and place,” said the pastor, who is known for using movie theaters as church space. “But should there not be an element of danger to our ministry?”

“Maybe it is a vision beyond your ability to accomplish. Isn’t it dangerous to risk your reputation?”

I resonate strongly with Mark’s challenge.  One of the traps of professional ministry is to value the predictable, systematize the Spirit’s work, secure outcomes that are acceptable instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I am reminded over and over that God calls us to take risks to be obedient to His will.  I didn’t say to be reckless, but obedience demands a willingness to trust in God’s protection, power and provision and then follow where He is leading.

Moses had to go back to a land where there was a price on his head.

The priests carrying the ark needed to step into the flooded Jordan before God parted the waters and they walked into the Promised Land.

Joseph had to go ahead and marry Mary.

Peter and Andrew needed to leave their nets.

Ananias had to go knock on Paul’s door in Damascus.

The list goes on.

Pretty compelling, isn’t it?

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY

Sharon Hodde Miller shared these thoughts on Ed Stetzer’s blog that I thought were worth our reflecting upon. She has a blog also worth checking out called SHE WORSHIPS:

Christians, Social Media and the Loss of Privacy

Before I really get started I want to be clear about two things. First, I willingly admit that I am a proponent of social media. I use Facebook to stay in touch with long-distance friends, and I’m an avid blogger. I am not here to promote social media asceticism.

Second, this post is not about Ed Stetzer. 😉 Yes, Ed is the first person I ever met who “tweeted.” And yes, he tweets in a manner that can only be described as “prolific.” But my primary purpose is to consider how we use social media, not whether or not we should.

Bearing those two points in mind, I want to examine a particular “abuse” of tweeting/posting status updates. It is the practice of posting at (what I would consider to be) inappropriate times. No, I’m not trying to be the Emily Post of social media etiquette here to lecture you on the rudeness of tweeting during a meeting or meal. The kind of “inappropriate” I’m referring to is one that not only impacts the quality of Christian discipleship but the authenticity of our church leaders.

I began to notice this misuse of social networking when friends updated their statuses while on dates with their spouses, or even on their wedding nights. Such an anti-social by-product of social media is ironic, to say the least. Yet out of those habits emerged a more troubling one: Tweeting about deeply personal, intimate moments. Although I understand the desire to share one’s life with community, Twitter has gradually become a window into private moments and experiences that, in the past, would have been reserved for God and family.

The consequences of this trend are two-fold. First is the increase of superficial engagements with flesh-and-blood people. When the world audience is always at your fingertips, you’re never going to be totally with people. But the main consequence I want to focus on here, the one that has far-reaching ripple effects but is rarely discussed, is the loss of privacy and spiritual solitude.

This may seem like a strange critique given the rising emphasis on community over individualism, but we cannot forget the value of withdrawing from the public eye. In Scripture we learn that solitude can be a subversive act against the cultural and social pressures that come from constantly subjecting oneself to the opinions and judgments of others. Jesus and numerous prophets exemplify this for us. When they sought to have quiet, uninterrupted fellowship with God, they withdrew from the masses, even dwelling in the wilderness for extended periods of time.

From their example we are reminded that isolation and privacy are an important form of resistance against a culture that bombards us with ungodly ideals. Without a conscious break from the onslaught of worldly pressures–including the sinful enticements of serving an imperfect Christian community–there is no space to step back and question what is influencing us and how are we being shaped.

So while Twitter and Facebook are great communicative tools, we are naïve to ignore the temptations they present. Social media provides us with the option to live life on constant display, which has potential for both good and bad. While we do have the opportunity to be a kind of “city on a hill” in a new and different way, we must also be cognizant of the temptations that such visibility brings.

We need to consider the wisdom of tweeting private conversations or intimate moments with loved ones. While the motivation is often pure–namely to praise God or to honor the person we’re with–this practice can result in a long-term lack of authenticity. There will develop in the back of your mind a constant audience, resulting in a constant need to perform, to always be “on.” Church leaders, who are already visible and already struggle with this temptation, are in greatest risk of this temptation. When you are driven first and foremost by the audience awaiting your updates, you can lose touch with the God you’re always tweeting about.

Is this a blanket statement against all forms of social media? Certainly not! Technology is a gift from God that can surely be used to edify believers. The question is whether we are controlling our use of social media, or is social media controlling us? Are we allowing Man-oriented expectations to invade our private moments, the moments when we used to be most ourselves? Are we placing ourselves in the public eye so often that we no longer discern the difference between genuine discipleship and performing for a watching world? If we are to maintain our spiritual authenticity, our intimacy with God, and a clear vision for leadership, these are questions to which we must give sober consideration.