The “L” word, pt. 3

I am getting ready to write about a subject that no aspiring full-time pastor wants to read about, and what a full-time paid pastor shouldn’t write.

So, I’m talking to my brother over Christmas and he says this about his very ‘famous’ church with a very ‘famous’ pastor, “I’m highly considering leaving my church for one closer to the house.”  I was a bit taken back, because that was the last thing I expected to hear, so wanting to know more I asked, “why?”  His response may have been the most mature response I have ever heard from a church member, “I have to ask myself, if the lead pastor/speaker wasn’t there, would I be there?  The answer to that question is, ‘no’ and I think the ‘speaker’ is a pretty lame reason to pick a church…”

I was amazed at this maturity, as there are many people who would go to this church simply for the speaker.  But this sent me down the dark tunnel of self-analyzing-mode, “would I pastor the way I do, where I do, how I do,  if it weren’t for the check?”  Because that too (the check) is a lame reason to do, be, or determine how I am or if I am a pastor.  I think it is healthy to always have one’s own motives up against the firing squad of the heart.  I have a friend who asks at the beginning of his classes (my paraphrase), “the question is, would  you do this if you didn’t get paid?  would you do it the way  you do it if there was no check attached to it?  the answer to that question will tell you the motive of your heart.”  The way I narrow that question down, is simply this – if I am doing it for, because of, or due to a check, then no matter how much I want to hide behind the label of leadership, it isn’t leadership, it’s salesmanship…

Well, this took be back to that famous, yet scary “L” word, simply because I question mine all the time.  I’m beginning to wonder if the word ‘leadership’ is the word we like to use when we want to cover up for ‘salesmanship’.   Then when we get called on ‘selling it’, we simply debunk that argument by saying, “nope, that’s leadership…” but I have to ask, “is it?”

When it comes to church leadership, can we ever really be pure with our leadership if a pay check is tied to it?  I honestly believe if everyone who depended on a paycheck from their church no longer was “paid”, church would look different, because I honestly believe we have a very unhealthy hybrid between salesmanship and leadership, and have probably compromised one for the other, more than we want to admit.  Here’s the bottom line, and not many people want to admit this, won’t admit it, nor say it like this, but this is the formula: butts in seats = paycheck.  So, is it possible to never compromise our leadership when the security and livelihood of our families rests in the amount of seats that are filled?  I often feel more like a salesman than I do a leader, which makes me feel very dirty.

Think about words we use, like “measurables“.  I’ve seen many people attempt to cram different scriptures into this word to prove it is biblical, but let’s be real, there is nothing in scripture that ties the idea of measurables to being a pastor or church planter…but hey, if you are looking at return on investment then you have to have them, right?  Think of the church planting systems we have set up…we will ‘fund’ someone for a year, and if their church isn’t ‘self-sufficient’ then we pull funding and say, “their not leading well“, again, where is this a biblical idea?  It’s not. On top of that, think about what it promotes if the planter realizes, “If there aren’t enough tithing Christians in the seats by the end of the year then I loose my salary?”  Nine times out of ten, the thought is going to be, “I’ll spend the first year getting butt in the seat and then we have a bigger pool to use to do things right” – at this time, the deception has taken root.  Or think about the churches that can’t hire from within their already existing church, but have to always go outside of the church walls to hire their leaders – this may be one of the hugest indictments against the church and what they call spiritual formation and leadership development – we’d rather grow fast (remember the equation) as opposed to plan for slow but deep growth – do we love the purity of the church so much that we just might be willing to risk and dive into the unknown for the sake of real leadership, one that looks more bibilical like prophet, priests and kings as opposed to managers, CEO’s, and investors…

I’m more and more convinced that our church structures, ideas, and goals (even in the missional church) are much more ‘us’ oriented than it is scriptural.   Please understand, I am in no way saying, that someone shouldn’t get paid for being a pastor, I can’t prove that textually; all I’m saying, is that I think when money is involved then we will easily deceive ourselves by calling salesmanship, leadership  – maybe we need to blaze into the new frontier of church leadership, and stop compromising it by hiding salesmanship behind it.

I ask myself, or you, “what is a good litmus test” to help us separate salesmanship from leadership, as not to compromise who the church is for what we need her to become so I can provide a living for my family?

I read in a blog today this amazing quote:

When the gospel is allowed to grow naturally in China, without forcing processes of development, the “church in the house” is usually its first form of organization. God grant us faith and courage to keep “hands off” and allow this new garden of the Lord’s planting to ripen in the rays of the Divine Love, free from human interference!

– Lottie Moon, Pingtu, September 10, 1890

Is this possible when our lives are depending on the growth of a church?  I’m not convinced it is.


One thought on “The “L” word, pt. 3

  1. Matthew, this indeed is a tremendous blog, one I would wish to foster upon many so called leadership minds. One of which I, as well ,have given considerable thought too in past church planting ventures.
    The value of the church is never in it’s size, rather it’s “spiritual life”. One notes in nature that anything living, grows, to some extent. But as with nature,proper growth happens by nature, and when man “fixes” with a hybrid seed for best production, the result is a crop that cannot produce self propagating seed. Perhaps this is where the church has arrived, a place where only non-populating members exist, with perhaps a mere “club mentality”. Every living thing excretes waste, and as one late man of God said 20yrs ago “God puts the church through a good bowel movement now and again”. Are leaders ok with God depleting the resources, so to speak, or is the temptation to keep the numbers with “salesmanship” more the trend?
    The litmus test must always be the living word of God.
    Does the leader hear the word of God from men he must be accountable too? I see one major problem in strong minded leaders. They tend toward not hearing God from those they consider less spiritual than themselves. When setting doctrine is it “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and US”(Acts 15:28? Shouldn’t the same be said for vision and direction and application? :22 “it seemed good to the apostles and the elders and THE WHOLE CHURCH…” why do we question God?
    Leadership is not by consensus for sure, however, wisdom would be to hear out what may be God in another ‘s voice. Perhaps we have to protect our projects from nay sayers because they really are more products of sales than Spirit?

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