Tomorrow, theMOVEMENT will celebrate 3 years of ministry in the city of Oakland. 3 years of passionately proclaiming the gospel, relentlessly reaching the lost, deliberately developing disciples, strategically serving the city, and methodically multiplying leaders.
In an effort to make the next three years even more productive and life-giving than the first three years, I wanted to take some time to think through the most valuable leadership lessons I have learned as the lead pastor of a church plant in the Bay Area. As leadership expert John C. Maxwell says,
"Experience isn't the best teacher - evaluated experience is."
So here is my best shot at evaluating my leadership experiences over the past three years.
Lesson #1: The depth of your love determines the height of your leadership.
The depth of my love for, intimacy with, and awe of Jesus Christ determines the height of my spiritual leadership. I cannot lead beyond my love. I can only lead people to love and be enamored with Christ to the degree that I am in love and enamored with Christ's love for me. My personal relationship with and connection to Jesus Christ must be my first priority because a relationship with Christ is the source from which all effective spiritual leadership flows. (John 15)
Additionally, the depth of my love for people also determines the height of my leadership effectiveness. People don't care how much I know until they are convinced of how much I care and love them. Until a person gets a sense of my leadership being more about what I want for them rather than what I want from them, they will be hesitant to allow themselves to be led. But the moment they are convinced that my leadership in their lives is flowing from a genuine love for who they are and who God is calling them to be, there is no limit to the leadership impact I can have! (1 Corinthians 13)
Lesson #2: You must grieve well to lead well.
Because pastoral and ministry leadership has everything to do with people, grief is a reality. People will come then people will go. People will commit then people will quit. People will lean in then people will opt out. People will love you then people will hate you. (Yes, people who once loved you, will actually hate you. It sucks. Bad.) People will be called here then people will be called "there."
And regardless of whether or not these "goodbye's" are healthy or not, the unfortunate truth is, grief will accompany them all. It's not a matter of if people will leave your ministry and you will be hurt, it's a matter of when. And when it happens, how you grieve will make all the difference in whether or not you can continue to lead effectively.
Hurt leaders, hurt followers. If you do not grieve well, your unprocessed grief can become your team's biggest pain! Your unidentified hurt can become a distraction to you being able to fully love and engage with the people who have stayed. Your unattended to sadness can steal the joy of what God still has in store for you. (James 4:8-9, Matthew 5:4)
Though I have, in no way, mastered the art of grieving well, here are a few things that have helped me to process the various losses I've experienced over the last three years:
- Write out the reasons why you are grieved over someone departing from your life and ministry.
- Take responsibility for and repent of (to the person if possible) any sin you have committed that resulted in the departure.
- Forgive the departed person by relinquishing your desire for them to "pay" for any sin they may have committed against you.
- Pray and be hopeful and happy for the next season in the departed person's life.
Lesson #3: The product of leadership far exceeds the price you'll pay.
Long hours. Late nights. Early mornings. Having confrontational conversations. Expending emotional energy. Spending personal finances. Praying. Planning. Hiring. Firing. Teaching. Training. Disciplining. Developing. This is the price of spiritual leadership.
Transformed lives. Restored relationships. Healed marriages. Watching joy return. Seeing hope renewed. Enjoying purpose released. Every time someone takes a step of obedience. Every time someone takes a leap of faith. Every time someone breaks a pattern on sin. This is the product of spiritual leadership.
And I am convinced, the product far exceeds the price! The return far exceeds the investment! The joy of the harvest far exceeds the toil of the planting! (Hebrews 12)
I am so thankful for the lessons I have learned over the first three years of my church planting journey. It is my sincere prayer and hope that they would not only serve me well during my next season of leadership, but that they would serve you well also!