Last April I had the privilege of attending The Big Little Church Conference in Washington state. I shared the platform with Karl Vaters (The Grasshopper Myth…if you haven’t read his book yet, you really need to). During one of the main sessions I was listening to Karl speak. I’m thinking to myself, “Man, this is good stuff. Karl always has good stuff.” But then, instead of remaining focused on Karl, I drifted off into dreamland, or thinkingland or some land other than where I was sitting. The thought came to me:
There are some pastors here, and many who were not able to attend, who would not be able to implement the great ideas Karl was sharing because back home, in their church, there were so many problems and obstacles they were facing that it was like they had one, maybe even two hands tied behind their backs.
So many pastors are trying to lead with one hand tied behind their backs. Here are some examples:
A board that is difficult to work with
An influential leader who opposes them
The threat of losing their job
A church that refuses to change
A church that is sinking financially
One or two individuals, or families, that are really the ones running things and they’ve made that very clear
A congregation with a long history of chewing up and spitting out pastors
I bet you could add to this list. Anyway…
If you feel you are trying to lead with one hand tied behind your back, let me offer these suggestions:
- Pray. I shouldn’t have to say this but let me remind you anyway. Pray. Pray for strength, pray for patience (this isn’t going to go away over night), pray for wisdom and insight (Often times there are dynamics at play that we are unaware of, becoming aware of them can be a great help.) Pray for the removal of the obstacle. If the obstacle is a person then pray that either their heart be changed or they leave. And finally…pray for a plan.
- Develop a plan that will move you in the direction you need to go no matter how small. Don’t give up and accept the fact that you have one hand tied behind your back. What can be done? Any movement in the right direction, no matter how small, will eventually get you where you want to go. I can help you with this.
What if you have two hands tied behind your back? Some of you might feel this way, and you might be right. If this is the case, you might need to move on. There are some dysfunctional and toxic churches out there and they will probably never be anything other than that. If God has called you to be a martyr then by all means be a martyr. But if not…move on. You must live to fight another day. The kingdom of God needs you. However, don’t make a decision as important as this without talking to a wise, experienced, and trusted colleague before you do anything. I can help you with this.
Here’s my latest.