We had held one of our many leadership seminars just a few weeks before. Jim and Betsy Hayford had come to speak to some of the local pastors, whom we had gathered together. It was a wonderful time, and everyone learned much.
I was sitting at a table in my office, listening to the tapes from the seminar. I was trying to glean what I could from the time they spent with us, and hopefully, incorporate it into my life and ministry.
Sometime during my listening and absorbing, I experienced a “significant moment.” (It was Joseph Garlington, whom I heard use that wonderful phrase.)
I don’t remember what Jim was saying on that cassette tape, but I remember clearly how God translated that moment for me. As the cassette tape continued to turn, God seemed to turn to me and say, “You have learned what not to do. Now, I am going to teach you what to do.”
Oh boy, did that ever hit home. I knew that it was fundamentally true. I had learned how to treat people to avoid unnecessary confrontations. I was fairly masterful at the daily diplomacy of church life.
I suppose there is a lot to be said for knowing what not to do. Keeping the peace is mostly accomplished through avoiding the fights. Keeping free from the entrapments of the devil is mostly done through avoiding the appearance of evil. Keeping the church out of debt is a task of not overspending.
One of the platitudes I live by is, “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything at all.” I’ve learned that doing the wrong thing, can be more devastating than waiting on God.
Yet, these elements of leadership are not sufficient in themselves to make a good leader. So, after about five years of pastoring, God was letting me know that I still had a long way to go.
A good leader must take positive action. He must lead the way. Yes, he must avoid the pitfalls, but he must be going somewhere if he is truly going to be a leader. I had learned to avoid the many pitfalls. Now, it was time to learn to lead the way more deliberately.
The small church pastor often is more adept with knowing what not to do. We deal with so many of the little things, which a church staff might handle for the senior pastor of the larger church. We have to learn to let things go, just to survive, to keep people coming to the church. The guys who don’t learn the lessons of what not to do either build large churches and create large problems; or they mess up small churches and leave the ministry.
But, there is more to leadership than diplomacy and discretion. There is vision, modeling, training, etc.
The lessons of “what to do” are forged in the fires of prayerfulness and pain. In seasons of quietness before the Lord, we discover His ways of leadership and His desires for our lives. In the furnace of difficulty, we discover the things which we have done wrong or the things which we have neglected to do. In those times, we learn more lessons concerning “what to do.”
Most people do not want a church where they are told what to do. However, they do want a church where the leadership is leading the way and calling back to them and saying, “Follow me. I do know what to do, and I know you can do it too.”
Be patient in the process of learning the lessons of leadership. If you keep your nose clean, if you are nice to people, and if you don’t overstep your boundaries, then you will have learned much of what not to do. But, the rest of the lesson is a life-long challenge, and it is God (and maybe some hard knocks) who will have to teach you “what to do.”
Phil Wyman, pastor of Church on the Coast in Carlsbad, is compiling this material for a book. If you have any questions or responses, or if there is a subject you would like to see addressed; You may write to Phil Wyman at 4740 Dalea Pl. Oceanside, CA 92057. His e-mail address is [email protected]