Leaders shape organizations, and organizations shape leaders. In honor of the 5th birthday of Christ Centered Church we celebrated this past Sunday, here are five ways I've changed as a leader in the past five years of Christ Centered Church.
Change #1: I’m more relational
One of my greatest leadership weaknesses in my 20’s was a high task orientation that often led me to be less relational than needed. It took some time for me to see this as a weakness, and once I did, I wasn’t sure if I could change it. In the two years leading up to the launch of Christ Centered Church and in the past five years, I’ve been forced to be more relational. It’s hard to build a team and raise support without building relationships, and while people might visit a church because of outreach and excellent facilities/programs/ministries, they stay because of relationships.
Some of you are reading this with a smile because you know me. And it’s not a heartwarming smile; it’s more of a smirk. You know me, and you know me well. You know that I’m still an introvert who doesn’t have the capacity to light up the room. You know that I put on a good front when I’m in a crowd, but that even in that crowd, I’m craving time alone. You know that I love my staff and leaders deeply but often forget to acknowledge birthdays, include all the right people in events, and keep track of important life details like who is dating who and who just got what new job.
I’ve known leaders who were like walking social media robots—they are so highly relational that they never forget anything about anyone. That’s not me, and it will never be me. God didn’t design me to be that kind of leader, and that’s ok. What’s not ok is valuing tasks over people, and by the grace of God, I’ve grown as a relational leader.
Change #2: I share the pain of others
While this is closely related to being more relational, there’s an important difference. I made intentional changes to my leadership style to become more relational, but when I started feeling the pain of others, I was surprised. Of course, I’ve always been sympathetic to those who were hurting, but over the past few years, the Lord has made me much more sensitive to the depth of emotional pain in the lives of those around me.
I remember talking with a first-time guest after one of our services a few months ago. As she shared the details of what she was going through, I felt deep grief for her. About a year before that, I heard of the death of a friend’s spouse, and I wept for my friend. Around the same time, a friend’s fathers passed away, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that family and their pain for several days. Even now, I’m moved whenever they share pictures on social media of their dad on special occasions like his birthday or Father’s Day.
Paul instructs us in Romans 12:15 to “Weep with those who weep” just as we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” The Lord has used dark moments in my life to make me more sensitive to the pain of those around me, and I believe it has made me a better pastor, preacher, and leader.
Change #3: I rest more
For years, I’ve used phrases like, “Our rest is in heaven,” or “Once we get through this season, we will rest,” but those were just excuses to use hard work as a defense mechanism. It’s not that I thought hard work would guarantee success; I know better than that. It’s smart work, and not hard work that most often leads to success. It’s that hard work is a defense mechanism against shame. If I fail as a leader, I can still garner some pride and respect if I’ve worked hard.
Recently, I’ve learned the value of rest. Real rest. Disconnected rest. For almost one year, I’ve taken Fridays off, and I’ve turned off my computer and cell phone on those days from 8 am until 8 pm. That’s been life changing. The last thing my family and church needs is a leader who is running at maximum capacity all the time. Like a computer running too many programs at once, a leader running at maximum capacity continues to function but does so at a frustratingly diminished level of efficiency.
Change #4: I focus more on the church we have now
There are so many things I’d like for our church to do someday. But today is not that day. Some of my greatest leadership frustrations over the past five years have come from leading a church of 200 like it’s a church of 1,000. While there’s some truth to the old maxim that you should lead the organization you have like you would lead the organization you want to have, there’s also a subtle danger in constantly pushing a church to do what it’s not ready to do.
There are so many great opportunities to make disciples and develop leaders in the current season of Christ Centered Church. Do we want to see more and greater opportunities? Of course. But we don’t want to miss the beauty of today because we are dreaming about tomorrow. In the building our church rents for worship gatherings, there used to be a slogan on one of its columns, “Live in this moment, for this moment is your life.” While I’m not sure what the author of that phrase intended to say, it is a good reminder that God has given me this day and this moment to serve Him and make disciples. The Christ Centered Church of tomorrow must not distract me from the Christ Centered Church of today.
Change #5: I share more leadership with more people
I’ve always believed in and practiced leadership development. It’s one of the most consistent marks of my ministry, but in the past few years, I’ve come to realize that one way God guides our church is through the people He sends us. Because of that, I’ve learned to release more leadership and decision making to people from across our faith family rather than just a handful of carefully selected leaders.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is clear about the importance of carefully selecting those in spiritual leadership, and Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.” We must be extremely careful about those we place in spiritual leadership, and we must place them there slowly and with high accountability. But I’m not talking about deciding the content of sermons or Bible studies. I’m talking about deciding which cups we should buy for coffee or where our parking lot greeters should stand. There are many people in our church capable of making great decisions about things like cups and greeter locations, and while not everyone will make the same decisions I would make, that strengthens our church. I want our leaders to lead and our people to contribute in real, meaningful ways to the culture and feel of our church because it’s our family, not my family.
If you’re a leader, how have you changed during the most recent season of leadership the Lord has placed you in?