by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 4/20/2004.
Here is a six-step prescription for keeping Christ central in the lives and ministries of both congregants and leaders.
- Stay rooted in … the Word. Daily and generous doses of Bible reading and reflection are a beginning point for being grounded in servant leadership. God’s word should serve as our strategic guide (Psalm 119:105), because as Proverbs 16:17 reminds us, “the highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life.” But, allotting time for study only when preparing for sermons may rob Scripture of this meditative and regenerative power. Thus, make time for the Word in your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, your pastimes…and your plans.
- Stay rooted in … prayer. Prayer should be as pervasive as study of the Word, i.e. a part of your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, etc.. Eddie Gibbs calls this “respiratory prayer” for it is “the kind of regular, habitual praying that is the spiritual equivalent of breathing to sustain life.”[i]
- Stay rooted in … ministry. Regular participation in hands-on ministry can help thwart a misalignment of priorities. A leader who is repeatedly involved in addressing people’s most basic needs, and doing so in the uncertain climate of human imperfections and sins, will by necessity need to maintain a close link to his or her power source, God’s Holy Spirit.
- Stay rooted in … accountability. Some denominations utilize “staff-parish committees,” or “human resource teams” to provide an accountability link between the congregation and the pastor. Other churches have denominational oversight that provides this function. However, often these groups only address skill development, overlooking spiritual development. If they do so, they abdicate half of their responsibility. And, in some situations these groups may have evolved into an committee that cannot, or will not, do this. In all scenarios an accountability group is in order. However, the discomfort of such groups often causes Christians to avoid them. Researchers Dotlich and Cairo point out “discomfort signals that different viewpoints are being aired … that teams are grappling with difficult problems in the most open ways possible.”[ii] Proverbs confirms this, reminding us “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). A final excuse is that participation in an accountability group might damaging a valuable personal relationship. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Temptations of a CEO, warns that “ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate as team members begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations.”[iii]
- Stay rooted in … your mortality. Every leader should be preparing for the day he or she passes the baton to one’s successor. Though you bear the baton for a while, God’s picture is bigger, and one day (maybe sooner that you think) you will pass that baton. Researcher Jim Collins calls this “setting up successors for success.”[iv]
- Stay rooted in … your priorities. Following the above steps can help a leader keep his or her priorities aligned correctly: God, family, and ministry.
Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 153-161.
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[i] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 135.
[ii] Dotlich and Cairo, Unnatural Leadership: Going Against Intuition and Experience to Develop Ten New Leadership Instincts, op. cit., pp. 141-142.
[iii] Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002), p. 213.
[iv] Jim Collins, Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, op. cit., pp. 25-27.