Somewhere down the road from where I am sitting, there is a church that is falling apart. The glory days of the 1980’s are long gone and the church is struggling to survive. The pastor has met with several consultants who all discussed vision and strategy, but missed the heart of the problem. There is nothing wrong with vision and strategy, but when there is a cancer in the body, focusing on them is a bit like rearranging furniture on the Titanic.
The cancer in this church might be hard to recognize.
She’s kind and elderly – a pillar of the church. Or, is she? This woman is an addict. She is addicted to the church. She gets her identity from the church. Her mission is not expanding God’s Kingdom, it is reminding everyone of how far the church has fallen since they did things right in those glorious days gone by. Her family is afraid of her, so are most of the people in the church. No one wants to cross her or tell her that she is killing the church (not to mention her family).
So where is her husband in all of this? Passive. A kind man who enables his wife’s addiction and watches his family suffer. This woman has her fingers in everything at the church from worship to children’s ministry, to the board, to the office staff. Fear of her disapproval has people paralyzed. So, what is a new pastor to do? Are strategy and vision enough to overcome this? I doubt it.
The scenario I just described is so common, several of you probably think I am describing your church. The names and faces change. Sometimes it’s a man controlling the church with fear, sometimes it’s the church secretary. It doesn’t really matter. John Maxwell says leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. Of course, the million-dollar question is how are we using that influence? Are we using it in a life-giving way or a life-sucking way?
There are leaders who use their influence to protect and those who use their influence to attack.
Leadership is really more about how we handle situations like the one I just described than about creating the right mission, vision, and values statements. These are important, but secondary to the people skills and emotional competence that define rare leadership.
If you or someone you know need these skills to discern and handle situations involving predators, get a copy of Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits that Increase Trust, Joy and Engagement in the People You Lead.