At the end of last week I made some observations about Israel's first King, Saul. (Read them here and here.) Saul's lack of confidence caused him to listen and heed to the opinions of his men and his followers more than to God. As a result, God reject Saul as King.
One of the dangers is to read that God rejected Saul as king and turn it into an eternal destiny issue. This is not about heaven and hell; this is about the position of leadership in which God placed Saul. Saul was rejected as king. His authority and God's blessing on his leadership of Israel were removed.
The answer, as I see it, is for the pastor to focus on the vision God has called him to, and seek after that with his/her whole heart. Critics will flock to nitpick the vision. Others will attempt to steer the vision in their direction. But unlike Saul the pastor must maintain the course.
But there are some pitfalls for the pastor:
1. Arrogance and Pride. With the vision comes great responsibility. There also can come great success for the Kingdom of God. The danger happens when the Pastor forgets that it is God who brought him/her to this point and not their own genius. The begin to think about what they have done, and believe they have created the growth and "success" of the ministry.
2. Dictatorship. Just because the person is the visionary leader doesn't mean that he or she has all the answers. They may have some of them. They may even have most of them. But they don't have all of them. In leadership one person has to take the lead on vision-casting and leading, but he certainly needs a team around him to make it work. The best leaders choose the best leaders and then create an environment where they trust each other to do their jobs.
3. Stop Listening. The primary responsibility of the pastor/leader is to listen for the voice of God and then obey. But there is a lot of stuff that goes along with leading a church. There are sermons to write and meetings to be had. There are programs to create and ministries to lead. There are a lot of other things that can distract the pastor from listening to the voice of God. If the pastor stops listening to the voice of God he might as well find a new line of work. The pastor must make the time to listen.
4. Discouragement. Pastor, in general, hate to offend people. They love people and want to see them grow in their relationship with God. It is hard to see someone reject God. It is hard to have a great Sunday and then hear that numbers were down. It is hard to worship because you are concerned with how others are moving toward God. It is hard to be having a great, restful day and then receive a phone call from one of the critics. This is where the pastoral team comes into play. This is also where taking your days off and learning to listen to the voice of God rather than the few critics.
5. Not Listening to Counselors. Every pastor/leader should have a good counselors around him/her. What this does is help the pastor evaluate the truthfulness of criticism and suggestions. We can become blind to our faults, and miss the opportunities for personal growth. We need people in our lives that are willing to tell us the hard truth about how our interactions and actions are affecting the people around us. Our counselors should be older, wiser, but also recognize the different style of ministry to which we are called.
6. Forgetting People. The pastor/leader has to listen to and obey the voice of God at almost any cost. But this is not a Get Out Of Jail Free! card that allows the leader to leave bodies in their wake as they pursue God's vision. While we need to have a confidence in God and the vision he has given us, we certainly cannot take a "go to hell" attitude toward everyone around us. The Great Commandment tells us to love God and our neighbor. I don't think we are to succumb to their wishes, but neither are we to charge ahead with no concern for them whatsoever. Sometimes the leader believes people are defiantly refusing to follow when actually he or she has not given them time to process and come along.
There is a tension the pastor/leader must maintain and fight for. This tension is found in holding on to the vision God has given and not walking over people to get to that vision.
7. Sin. Learn to fight temptation. Confide in friends and your spouse. Remove yourself from tempting situations and people. Do whatever it takes to finish strong. Nothing destroys the power of someone's ministry more than their fall.
What do you think? Are there more pitfalls? Little has been said or responded to concerning God's rejection of a pastor's leadership in a church. Do you think this is a possibility or am I reading too much into the life of Saul?