Can you imagine back to when the first European explorers were crossing the Atlantic in search of the Indies and having the courage to lead men across waters that no one they knew had ever traversed across? Or the fear of thinking the earth was flat and at some point you would hit an edge and slip off to oblivion? Myths of sea monsters and other creatures that would eat a boat whole? And, yet, these men went on those expeditions anyways.
When I think about pastoring and planting a church, leadership is the one of the biggest lessons I’m learning and need to keep learning. In leadership, I think one of biggest parts of defining good leadership is doing what needs to be done even if those things are difficult and/or awkward. Usually, many of the difficult things the pastor has to do is put himself out in front of others at the risk of his personal reputation. When you lead others, you are taking people from one place to a place they have not yet gone. That involves risk and courage. Two things that every leader must possess. Here are several examples a leader must be willing to do.
1. Initiating difficult conversations.
When difficult conversations need to happen, they usually don’t just happen unless someone enjoys conflict. For those who hate conflict, initiating difficult conversations is something that requires a good deal of courage. This is a prerequisite for a leader and for those who can’t do this, they probably shouldn’t be in leadership.
2. Mediating conflict.
Sometimes conflict happens in your midst and doesn’t seem to have any positive outcomes. One of the responsibilities of a leader is to be available to mediate conflict when it needs to happen.
3. Setting ministry/family boundaries.
Those that pastor churches often feel like the work is overwhelming, and if you’re a type A personality, you want to finish your to do lists. The problem is that the ministry to do list is neverending. If you’re not careful, family will be the casualty of the neverending to do list. Being a good leader is setting appropriate boundaries and making sure that you’re taking care of life at home first.
4. Talking about money.
Money is always an awkward thing in church. Some pastors abuse their authority and use it as a way to manipulate people into buying them nice things like Armani suits and private jet. Many in the congregation have an attitude about pastors that seem that they just want to take all their money. Yet on the flip side, churches are supported by the gifts of their congregation every week. If a pastor never talks about money, many may not even know that their church does not operate from a magic pool of money.
5. Doing the work of an evangelist.
For those who are not natural evangelists, it can become routine to just focus on the needs of the church without actually talking to those who don’t know Jesus and sharing the Gospel with them. Good pastors will lead by example when it comes to doing the work of an evangelist. The needs of the church should never be an excuse for the pastor not to be an evangelist. It’s a cop out.
6. Preaching boldly.
There are many difficult passages in the Bible that are difficult to discuss (sin, hell, biblical sexuality, the exclusivity of Christ, etc) in today’s culture because those topics seem insensitive and close-minded. But, if you are a Bible-believing Christian, then you know these things are part of God’s design. If you want to be a good pastor, preach boldly on these topics. That doesn’t mean you preach an insensitive way, but you don’t shy away from the hard things.
7. Trying new things.
When you’re planting a church, you just have to try new things. Things outside of your comfort zone maybe, but you have to try. You may be unsuccessful, but the fear of being unsuccessful should not deter you from trying. I think many pastors live in an environment of fear when it comes to new things. They may think if they try and fail, people will point and say, “I told you so!” Bold leaders should also be humble in that they never claim to have all the answers, and when something does fail, they are the first to own the mistake.
8. Maintaining good relationships with others in spite of the above.
When you are a leader who has to deal with conflict, initiating difficult conversations, preaching boldly, and doing some of the other things above, it can be easy to have a calloused attitude towards people. Our job as leaders is to do the above humbly. If we’re leaving a wake of dead friendships in our past, we are not doing our job right. Our job requires humility, love, and grace as well as boldness. It’s difficult to do all of those well. However, that is the task of leadership.