One of the questions most often asked of me by pastors when we meet is, “What are the mistakes you made when you were a young leader that you wish someone would have talked to you about?”
Five mistakes always come to mind:
1. I thought people who did not believe just like me were stupid, ungodly and should be avoided and rebuked.
This attitude stems from pride and arrogance, which are a danger with any leader. When I first began leading, I thought I was right, and if anyone deviated from anything I believed it was because “the enemy had taken hold of them.” What is unfortunate is that I didn’t think this way in regards to major theological issues (which should be fought for), but rather music preferences, rated “R” movies, drinking alcohol — you know, the “important” things that Jesus fought about all of the time.
It took several years for God to break me of this, and He did. He showed me that majoring on the minors isn’t really something that Jesus did, nor did those who followed Him. In fact, the people who majored on the minors were actually the ones who murdered Him.
It was a humbling process, but I have pretty much come to the conclusion that if we can at least agree on the basics found in the Nicene Creed, then we should be able to love one another and learn from each other.
2. I defined our church by who we were NOT going to be, rather than who we were.
It’s easy when a person plants a church because we already know everything we’re not going to do. We left a world that we felt was a little dysfunctional, and we are commited to doing it “the right way.”
But the danger in that mentality is that when we begin, it is easy to launch a ministry based on attacking what is wrong with the church rather than proclaiming strong vision and declaring what we will do as a church.
Sooner or later, people get tired of a ministry that is always in attack mode. They want to hear not what’s wrong with other churches, but rather what your church is doing to make it right.
Vision must begin with a burden and passion to do what God places inside of us. A part of that is identifying what is wrong, but when all we do is focus on the wrong (any idiot can point out a problem) and refuse to get involved in making what is wrong become right, well, that usually means we are not leaders, but rather people who love to tear down but have no desire to build up.
One of the best things we can do as leaders is define who we are as a church by what God has called us to do — focus on that with intense passion — and allow God to drive us with His direction. Don’t focus on what is wrong with everyone and everything and point out the faults to make us feel so much better about where we are and what we are doing.