One of the books I’m reading now is Neil Cole’s Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You  Are. If you’re a committed proponent of traditional ways of doing, structuring and leading church, don’t read this book. Keep it far away. In fact, you’d better do that with all Cole’s books. If you’re open to improving your leadership and becoming more effective for the Kingdom, check it out.

In the first chapter Cole says,

The church in the West functions in a pattern similar to that of a dysfunctional relationship. It is locked up in an unhealthy cycle in which the Christian leaders and the regular Christians are codependents. The Christians who are not the church leaders prefer not to take responsibility for the kingdom of God. They want to be free to invest in their own plans rather than Gods. They are the irresponsible party [like the alcoholic or drug addict] in the dysfunctional relationship.

The Christian leaders [that’s us pastors], on the other hand, want to be responsible – to a fault. They continue to do all the work of the church, when enables other Christians to be irresponsible. Leaders need to be needed and admired, and often this is the result when they take all the responsibility for kingdom work.

Pastors do all the work of the church? No way! We have Finance and Trustee people that do tons of work. They handle the money, manage the property, make big, important decisions all the time. Surely my theory that Cole is speaking to pastors here is misguided, surely the church has many more leaders.

My reading is that in traditional churches we have too often reduced “church work” to finances, property and management of other resources. We then pass that work off to the non-pastors while we do what we call Kingdom work, the work that seeks to directly influence people for Jesus. Pastors do the ministry, while the laity do the ADministry. Surely you have seen that pattern if you’ve been around traditional churches any length of time.

As long as churches have buildings, property and employees – and the money to maintain them – we’ll need people gifted in management. I don’t want to sell those gifts and callings short. But I don’t want to be part of a system that presupposes that that kind of work is all non-pastors can do.

In my church I have the role of pastor. In that role I have certain responsibilities. Those responsibilities do not include doing all the

  • Preaching
  • Teaching
  • Visiting
  • Encouraging
  • Praying
  • Evangelizing
  • Spiritual Stuff

The more of these things we give away, the more we equip or allow our people to do, the better. It’s better for the Kingdom since there are more workers in the harvest field. It’s better for the people since they get to experience the joy of seeing God at work in their lives. It’s better for the pastors since they are relieved from the burden of doing (or feeling like they need to do) everything.

If you’ve tried giving the ministry away, you’ve experienced the resistance Cole mentions. If you’re like me, you’ve felt it in yourself. Little phrases like, “If you want it done right, do it yourself,” or “I’m the one being held accountable here” may have flitted through your mind.

Perhaps you’ve also experienced resistance from church people who expect you to do everything. “That’s why we pay you! We have busy lives. You have the education and the calling, so go do it. You can give us a report when you’re done, if you like. When we hear complaints we’ll be sure and let you know.” If we don’t really hear phrases like those, we imagine that we do.

It at this point that we need to break free of our co-dependency, our need to be needed, our need for everyone to like us. We can learn from Ben Arment’s comment on allowing a “non-fan” base. Not everyone is going to like us our our ways of doing things. We can kill ourselves over their disapproval, whether real or perceived, whether passive or aggressive, or we can become apathetic. There’s no way we can make everyone happy. Jesus surely didn’t, and if he didn’t, why do we expect to do better? Jesus was so in love with the Father, so committed to the mission of seeking and saving the lost, that that passion (that pathy) made room for apathy in other areas.

“Jesus, Jesus! The Pharisees were upset by what you said?” Did Jesus care? check out Matthew 23 sometime.

“Jesus, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside. They want you to come out to them. ” Did Jesus care? “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters? The ones who do the will of my Father, that’s who.”

Can’t you hear the passionate, love-driven, apathy?

I know my own weaknesses in this area. I have a lot still to learn, plenty of room for improvement. But I’m choosing the Jesus way, whether it generates a fan base or not. I want his Kingdom purposes to prevail in my life and ministry.

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