March 23, 2007

Killing Your Vision: Dangers of Perception

Yesterday I wrote about my observations of King Saul's leadership. While the Bible focuses on his disobedience and God's rejection of his kingship, I tried to look at the clues as to why Saul disobeyed. He is an example of what we should not do and how leadership should not be carried out.

Saul's calling and commission by God was to lead the people of Israel and to obey God's commands. God chose him to lead Israel, called him from humble beginnings, and told him to lead the people of Israel. Rather than obey God, Saul listened to those around him. I think he did this because he was self-conscious and lacked self-esteem. I think he wanted people to like him and he thought it was easier to just do what they said.

I believe that when God gives someone a vision or a command He expects it to be carried out. As a pastor/church-planter that means I will be responsible to accomplish what God has given me to do through the local church I am leading. I am responsible to obey God. I am responsible for my actions in leading that church and for my part in being and doing what God asks in order to accomplish that vision.

But if you are going to be that kind of leader there are dangers in how people will receive your leadership:

1. Competing Visions. People in the church come with all kinds of baggage and ideas about how church should look and be done. Often their ideas conflict with where the pastor/leadership feel the church should be going. Rather than find a community where God tells them to be part, they stay and fight the pastor/leadership with their competing vision.

In the face of opposition, the pastor/leadership must evaluate what is being said, but cannot and should not turn from the vision God has given them. This does not mean they are above question. But, the pastor/leadership cannot be distracted by every stray comment, critic, or pressure (sorry, couldn't think of another "c" word). They have to maintain their course and pursue the vision God has given them.

I hate the idea of church-shopping. It usually has a consumeristic mindset behind it that is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose of the Church. But, I do believe that God calls us to be part of a particular community of faith, and sometimes it takes a little time to find that community. Our search should not be based on a "what do I like?" or "what's in it for me?" mentality, but with a humble "God, where do you want me?" This includes being able to get behind the pastoral vision for that church.

This leads to my second point...

2. People hate submission. In our culture the word "submission" is a bad thing. But in the Bible it is demanded by God of all those who follow the leaders he puts in place. Submission is no excuse for abusive leaders, but it is a reminder that we are to evaluate our attitudes and actions toward those God has placed in leadership.

If someone feels they are in conflict with the pastor/leadership vision for the church I would recommend a few things.

First and foremost, evaluate your attitude. Is the "problem" a result of your lack of submission to the leadership God has placed over the church? Is this simply you seeking to have your own way? Sometimes we allow our ego to demand a change simply because we want our own way and don't want to follow the person God has placed over the church. This is a problem with you and me and not with the pastor.

Second, ask yourself, Is this an issue worth dying over? Is this issue so important to me that I have to do something about it? There may be an issue that you feel needs to be addressed with your pastor/leader. You may feel it is important enough to state your side of things. Assume the right attitude and then go talk with your pastor. Say, "I want to understand your side of why we do such-and-such. Can we have coffee?" Then actually listen to your pastor's side. Assume he/she has the best intentions and is trying to follow the voice of God. Be willing to state your side, but also be willing to live in submission or to take an active role in helping your pastor make the changes should you agree to go that way.

Third, if you feel this is an important issue; you have spoken with the pastor in a respectful, Christlike way; and you still feel you haven't come to a resolution it is time to respectfully consider a change. I am a firm believer in making no noise as you leave and maintaining the best of relationships in the process. When I left my former denomination, I realized we were just headed in different directions. I didn't think they were sinning or leading people astray; I felt that as I followed God He was leading me elsewhere. So I left with little fanfare and no noise. When there is a difference of vision, I am a firm believer in not making waves and in respecting the leadership that God has placed over that organization.

David serves as our example here. He continued to follow Saul even though God had rejected Saul as king over Israel. David fought hard for Saul because he was the leader God had placed over Israel, and David did nothing to undermine Saul. In fact, David stayed on and supported and bolstered Saul's leadership. Without David, Saul's kingdom would have crumbled much earlier.

3. People love criticism. A few months ago our church received an out-of-state email from an anonymous person that wanted to criticize our church. I deleted the e-mail. People are great at being Criticism Snipers. They hit you and run. This is easy and cowardly for those who have no right to say anything because they are not invested in that church.

But sometimes the people are inside the church. If you are being critical of your pastor/leadership YOU are in the wrong. "I have legitimate concerns," you say. Maybe so, but criticism is the wrong way to handle it. Criticism undermines the leadership God has placed over the church and it harms you. When you and I criticize we damage our hearts. We create a negativity that is not what God desires.

Either be Christlike and talk to your pastor or find a place where you know God has placed you to serve. If God wants you to stay and the pastor doesn't agree with you position, then see the word "submission." We are called to live in submission to God and the leaders HE puts in charge. If you are not actively involved in serving in the church or you do not attend a particular church then stop criticizing. Criticism should have no place in the Church.

4. Prideful Arrogance. When a leader is confidently pursuing obedience to God and rejecting all distractions from that vision they are in danger of being labeled arrogant and prideful. "They only want it their way!" That may be true, but there is a big difference between prideful arrogance and confidence in the direction and vision God has given.

Again, this goes back to where the calling and anointing to leadership comes from. If the leader is passionately pursuing obedience to is not arrogance to reject all competing visions. God has called them, and they MUST follow or forfeit their legacy before God.

Next, I will look at the pitfalls for the pastor who takes confidence obedience to God too far. What do you think some additional dangers are for the pastor who is seeking to obey God? How do you think those who disagree should respond?

(Check out part 1 and part 3.)


  1. Have you ever read the book "A Tale of Three Kings?" Great read if you've never picked it up. It deals with the whole issue of submission through the perspectives of Absolom, David, and Saul.

    An attitude of love is something that the church is in short supply of these days. With the number of church splits over a number of various denominations this is very evident. In a society that says, "have it your way" it's an uphill battle many times when facing critics.

    While I'm an advocate of house churches, I wonder how much of the movement is a genuine move of God, and how much is just a bunch of disgruntled people who'd rather do things their way.

    I don't think anyone will ever find a church where they agree with everyone 100% of the time or would do things the way everyone else would and I think this is a good thing, as it teaches us submission to one another in love.

  2. I think there is a huge issue with drive-by criticism. In this Internet age, we can say anything about anyone in a very public place, and never have met the person or experienced the ministry. It is cowardly!

    We also have people in our churches that will lob criticism toward the church, the pastor, the leadership, whatever and never actually be involved. Or, they complain and whine behind everyone's back without bringing up their concerns in a Christlike way.

    I don't think we have to agree, but I do think we have to air our complaints in the right way, be personally invested, and when the final decision is made-suck it up and join the team.