If left to my own devices, the organization I lead would be fast-paced, effective, busy, and discontent. Because that’s how I am.
Whatever shapes our yokes of leadership take, that truth adds weight as they sit on our shoulders. “My group, team, organization, or maybe even entire church will look like . . . me?! As the faithful follow the charge I’m leading, they’ll start to reflect my strengths and my weaknesses, my gifts and my warts, my maturity and my sin?” That’s heavy.
I’ve led people for a long time. From earning the noble title of Class President from eighth grade on, to being section leader in various musical arenas, to starting and heading up organizations, to a decade of ministry that led to planting a church in 2010, God has used many angles to refine the specific leadership traits he gave me. Some of those strengths are casting big-picture vision, structuring an organization, and developing leaders. I have a knack for looking forward, for asking “what’s next?,” and for inspiring people to come with me. Those are good traits. They reflect aspects of the image of God. And I’m grateful for them.
But as I lead, from my one personality, my one perspective, my one skill set, my leadership coin has a dark side. As I cast big-picture vision, I can neglect details. As I structure the organization, I can forget it’s there to serve the souls within it. Once leaders are installed, I can stop shepherding them, and start baking the next batch of leaders. I don’t have a knack for looking back, for slowing down to ask how people are, or for making sure others are ready before I move ahead. These would also be good traits. Without them, I mar certain aspects of the image of God. And I need to grow in them.
“As goes the leader, so goes the group.” If left to my own devices, the organization I lead would be fast-paced, effective, busy, and discontent. Because that’s how I am.
A TALE OF TWO LEADERS
Nick was the leader of another local church in our city. Our churches had similar visions, theology, and goals. But while I’m big-picture and practical, Nick is incredible with details, and is deeply theological. (If left to his own devices, Nick’s organization would be precise, deep, and knowledgeable, and would have a hard time translating their faith into works.)
So when I approached Nick about the possibility of merging our churches—not one absorbing the other, which is actually more common in “mergers,” but actually bringing our organizations and leaders together—one of our first conversations was about his and my gifts, which each other needed. We discussed how our respective churches had strengths that could greatly benefit the other. Now, over a year after merging, members of my pre-merged church are stronger because of Nick and his gifts, and members of his pre-merged church are stronger because of me and my gifts. At least I hope they are. We even realize that when a member of one pre-merged church tells Nick or myself that they like his or my preaching better, it’s likely a sign that they actually need the other pastor’s point of view!
THE STRENGTH OF MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES
Nick and my stories are true for every leader. We apply this principle to music: any given Sunday I’m never quite sure who will lead music or what the band will look like. Sometimes it fills the stage; last week was one guy and a grand piano. We apply it to elder oversight: the buck doesn’t stop with me on every decision; final say is given to the elder who is most gifted in a given area of ministry and leadership. No one person is perfectly well-rounded. No one person is gifted enough to do it all. So no one person can effectively lead alone. To lead better, and to serve our followers well, we need to lead together.
I’ve stopped seeing Christian maturity as an across-the-board label. Often we hear how “mature” or “immature” someone is, as definite as we call them “woman” or a “man.” But Paul encourages us to “grow up in every way into Christ who is the head” (Eph 4:15). It seems that maturity is an area-by-area concept: some areas of my life, faith, holiness, and leadership are more developed, while I need to “grow up” in others. Here’s the point: each church family (and biological family, band, and company too) is full of people with different gifts and skills, with the biblical promise that we need each other to function well. The same is true of our leadership: I need the mature areas of others to balance the underdeveloped areas of my life and leadership—and others need the more-developed areas in my life and leadership to balance the immaturity in theirs.
How has God gifted you? What are your strengths, gifts, and even preferences? What areas of faith and maturity does your skill set lack? Does your big band and stage show hinder people from being able to worship God with just an acoustic guitar? Do your perfectly crafted sermons disable people from engaging the Word of God when others preach? Does your management style quench the creativity of others? Do you elevate your ways, gifts, or preferences to the level of “holiness vs. sin”? “As goes the leader, so goes the group.”
WILL YOU GO THERE?
Rather than Nick and I seeing our differences as weaknesses, obstacles in each other to overcome, or causes for frustration, we realize that we need each other’s gifts to round out our own. We’re committed to working through differences and creating better—shared—leadership for our church.
Sharing leadership takes humility. It takes deep trust for each other. It takes a laying down of our lives—and especially of our preferences. It takes lots of time and conversation. But if we count others as higher than ourselves (Phil 2:3), the benefits far outweigh the costs. Sharing leadership helps the people in our groups who aren’t like us. It relieves the frustration of people we don’t “get,” and gives them someone who does. It serves people well, by offering multiple perspectives, opportunities, and personalities. It sanctifies them, as it reveals their own idols of preference and favoritism. Our teams become more well-rounded. And I think we look more like the body of Christ, playing our parts under Christ, who is our only one true Head.
So for the good of whomever we lead, let’s replace one well-known saying with another, as we charge whatever hill we face: “two heads are better than one.” Or maybe three, or maybe more. However many personalities would best benefit our groups, the end of the day, the yokes of our leadership are lighter when we share them with others.