7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

I get asked frequently how I am able to get so much done and still take care of myself and my family. 

I pastor a large church. I maintain a separate non-profit ministry, where I speak at various conferences and events. I have an active online presence. I mentor about a dozen pastors – some in groups and some as individuals, plus I mentor 4 young leaders in our church. And, I try to stay active in the community – serving on a number of non-profit boards. But, mostly, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.

Okay, typing out a list of my activities does remind me – I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have adequate (and more than adequate) activity in my life.

Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.

As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, I came up with some thoughts as to how I’m able to maintain productivity.

Here are 7 secrets to being a high achiever:

I’m intentional

This is probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose, which carries over into everything I do. (Notice there are even 7 steps in this answer. This was intentional.) If you could name one word to describe who I am as a pastor, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God, it would be intentional. (By the way, I’m intentional about resting too.) I even put the last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder. 🙂

I don’t sit still long without a purpose

Being still is a discipline for me. Some seasons I’m better at it than others. I realize some people have no trouble with this, but I do. As I said about being intentional, I have to make myself rest. My mind is constantly in motion. If I’m watching a television program, which isn’t often, I’m doing attempting to do something productive while I watch – otherwise I feel I’ve “wasted” time. I wish I could say I’m always doing the “best” things, but certainly more activity leads to the potential for more productivity. Doesn’t always work this way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one. But, I try to be productive even with down time – and, although it’s taken years to understand this, resting is a productive time.

I strive to maintain my health

I’d love to say I always watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising. I’m more productive when I’m most physically fit. I’ve recently learned too my body needs to be adequately hydrated to feel at my best. 

I work from a plan

Whether it’s long-term or short-term planning, I try to have one. I begin most every Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday nights) planning the week ahead. I find I’m more successful in my week if I’ve put some plans on paper prior to beginning any activity. Daily I begin by reviewing my plans for the day. I begin each day with 5 minutes spent on making a checklist of what I have to get done. At the beginning of a year, I plan the year. I periodically look over larger time spans of my life and plan or review where I’m going. Now, the further I get from the date, the more difficult it is to solidify my plans – life disrupts – but without a plan I find I’m spinning my wheels more than making progress.

I take advantage of opportunities

Did you catch that? It is not complicated, but it is a powerful principle. Networking. Delegation. Time-management. Learning something new. Cultivating dead times. I am intentional (there’s that word again) at looking for opportunities as they present themselves. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m probably writing a blog post or replying to emails. Small opportunities lead to huge opportunities. I seek those moments. (By the way, I always have something with me where I can make notes. When ideas come – I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)

I try to stay ahead

This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature – like most people are – but the more I can, I try to stay one step ahead of the snowballs in my schedule. They happen to all of us. If I’m prepared when those times arrive I can better keep them from being a disruption in my productivity.

I prioritize

I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observation, but I do. I say no a lot. I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I’ve tried to figure out what’s most important in my life, my work, and my walk with God and I put those things first. I even schedule some of them to make sure nothing gets in the way. I ask myself consistently questions such as, “Am I the right one to be doing this?”, “Is this the best use of my time?” Again, intentional.

It should finally be noted – I’m in a different season of life these days. I’m an empty-nester. When my boys were home life was different. I was intentional then too, but in different ways.

Which of these would help you the most? Any you would add to help others (and me)?

10 Things I Have Learned Leading Church Change

I left the church planting world to help revitalize and grow an established church. It’s proven to be challenging – maybe slightly more than I thought it would be.

But, God has allowed us to experience incredible energy and excitement. I am not big on sharing numbers in this format, but let me simply say – God is working. Amazingly working. The potential in the days ahead is astounding to me.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of change since I made the transition. I tend to like change. I think it’s necessary if any organization, church or relationship wants to grow – or even remain alive. But, some change came fast. It didn’t necessarily seem fast to me, and certainly not monumental, but I know, in a church over 100 years old – what is slow change to me is considered fast to others.

For the most part, the reception to change has been good. Still, change, no matter how necessary, is never easy. Along the way, I have learned a few things. I share this knowing over fifty percent of the readers of this blog are in ministry. Hopefully some of what we’ve learned will help others.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned in leading church change:

Don’t try to be the church down the street.

You have to be true to the DNA, heritage and culture of the church you lead. This doesn’t mean don’t change, but does mean change should be relevant to context. It’s a mistake to think you can “cookie-cutter” someone else’s success.

Don’t oppose everything old.

When you’re against everything done in the past you push people into a corner to defend themselves. The old – whatever it is – got you to where you are today. It may not be all bad. In fact, at one time it might have been very good – the best. The old was once new. The new is simply where the most energy is at currently. (Someday it will be old.)

Celebrate history and change will be easier.

People were there years ago, building the church where you serve today. My granddaddy would say, “Don’t forget what brung ya!” I especially love hearing the stories of how the church grew through other times of change. It may sound like a strange connection, but I’ve observed when people get a chance to tell their story they feel better about the change you are proposing.

Many times information overcomes objection.

Many times. I might even say most times. You can’t over-communicate in times of change. The more they know the “why”, the less they will resist the “what”. (By the way, my interview with Zig Ziglar confirmed this principle.)

It sometimes seems easier to let a church slowly die than to try to change things.

There. I said it. But, it’s true. Some people are not going to want the church to change. Period. End of story. And, most likely, they will find a way to let you know. (Most likely that will be some way other than telling you – but you’ll hear it.) But, that doesn’t mean the church can’t, won’t and shouldn’t change – and thrive again.

Change is uncomfortable for everyone.

It’s just more uncomfortable for some than others. You might read THIS POST about a recent sobering reminder I had about the relativism of objection to change.

Some days all you’ll hear are the critics.

This is just life. I think Satan even has a hand in this one. You’ll think no one is on your side. You’ll think you’re wasting your time. You’ll have a one-day (or multiple day) pity party. On those days, you’ll need to remember the vision God called you to complete. Keep going.

The degree of pain determines the degree of resistance to change.

When people are injured – or afraid – or lack trust, they are more likely to cling to what’s comfortable and resist what’s new. That is true in their personal life or their church life. When leading change in a place where injury is present, there will be resistance based solely on that pain. You may have to lead people to a place of forgiveness before you can lead them to a place of change.

The best supporters are often silent.

I don’t know why. They just are. They are satisfied. Happy. Ecstatic even perhaps. They just don’t always tell you they are. But, good news, they are usually telling others. And, that’s fueling more growth. And, God is faithful. Somehow, just when you need it most, God seems to send an encourager.

Change speed is relative to change frequency. The longer there’s been no change, the longer it will take to implement change. The longer a church has plateaued or been in decline, the longer it will be before the church can grow again.

These are some things I’ve learned about leading change. I hope something here is helpful to you.

What have you learned in leading change?

10 Random Things to Know about Pastors – Or At Least This One

I’ve learned pastors are often misunderstood. Especially by people who haven’t known a pastor personally, but we can really be misunderstood by many people. It’s surely a unique vocation. I can’t speak for all pastors. And, certainly – maybe since I was in secular work longer than I’ve been a pastor – I’m not typical.

But, I suspect I’m not completely abnormal either.

Here are 10 random things to know about pastors.

These are true for me, but I suspect they may be for your pastor too.

The temptations you face – I face. I’m not immune from temptation. I’m human. You shouldn’t be surprised when I make mistakes. I need lots of grace. I should be held accountable, but ultimately I’m accountable to God – just as you are.

The larger the church gets – the less I know about anything. But, this can be true of any church size where other people are empowered to lead. Ask me anything. I may or may not have an answer. Sometimes, however, you save both of us time if you email the staff or volunteer leader more likely to know – but I can always forward an email.

The better the message – the longer it takes me to prepare it. There are rare exceptions to this for me. If I am going to have a descent message I will have to take time away from other responsibilities to prepare. This could mean I’m not everywhere you hoped I would be.

Even though I’m teaching it – I may not yet have mastered it. Hopefully I’m working on it, but I teach the whole counsel of God – the Bible – and I’m still a work in progress in many areas of it.

I get nervous every time I start to preach – sometimes sick to my stomach nervous. If you didn’t notice – well, glad I’m getting better at covering. But, you do me a tremendous blessing if you whisper a prayer as I step up to preach.

Sunday is not the only day I work. Honestly! And, preaching is not all I do. I actually work 6 long days a week and even when I’m off or out of town, I’m often working. But, Sunday does come around quickly.

Your story probably won’t surprise me. I am never callous towards it, but I’ve probably heard similar or worse. And, I’m still going to love you.

To my family I’m usually not a pastor – just a husband and dad. And, I like that. I even like to be “just a friend” sometimes.

If you tell me something on Sunday morning – you probably should back it up with an email to remind me. My mind is distracted and I will forget. And, if it can wait until Monday – even better.

I can relate to you better than you think. I like to have a good time. Some would say I’m funny. I even know how to laugh. I don’t even have to be quoting Scripture to do so. We have struggles in our life too. Lots of them. And, the more you see me as a regular person, the more I can relate to the struggles you face and your friends who are afraid to come to church – partly because they think I’m not.

Pastors, any other random thoughts you would like to share?

7 Ways to Gain and Keep Trust as a Leader

People follow people they trust.

I’ve found trust develops over time and experience – as we witness trustworthy behavior. Honestly, as a leader, I’ve felt a delicate tension in maintaining trust. People look for a leader to be strong, independent and confident. Yet, we trust people who are approachable, inclusive and humble.

How do we combine those traits to be trusted leaders?

Here are 7 ways to gain and keep trust as a leader:

Always display confidence, but never cockiness. People will trust a competent leader, but one who is arrogant will be dismissed quickly.

Always follow through, which means you never over-commit. When a leader does what they says they will, people gain trust. When the leader always bails on responsibility – when they have a new idea every day, but nothing ever comes to reality – people begin to doubt everything the leader says.

Always put trust in others, so you’ll have an opportunity for them to put trust in you. Trust is a mutually exclusive commodity. People won’t extend you trust they don’t feel they receive from you. This means you must not be controlling, micro-managing, or negative towards every new idea they bring to the table. It means you must empower, delegate, and give authority to people.

Always extend grace, but be firm in some non-negotiables. I have written previously about the non-negotiable things for me in leadership – things such as responsiveness and mutual-respect – and I share them often with our team. We should have some standards which are not open to discussion. Those should usually be issues of character, vision or values. But, we need to allow people the freedom make their own way, including the freedom to fail, make mistakes, and be assured we will forgive them if needed.

Always try to be knowledgeable and aware by constantly learning, but realize you don’t know everything and you’ll know far more with a team. People trust a teachable leader. They are leery of a leader who knows it all – or pretends they do. We must ask questions, allow others on our team to teach us at times, continually seek wisdom and develop individually, just as we expect those we are trying to lead to do.

Always exhibit humility, but have courage to do the hard things. A trusted leader is humble enough to share recognition, but diligent to do the things everyone expects of the leader – such as lead through the hard seasons, remain calm in crisis, and encourage others when they need hope.

Always value people more than you value progress. This is especially difficult for driven leaders. We want success and this often is measured in numbers. But, people trust people they know genuinely care for them. We must see people as individuals, get to know them, and genuinely love the people we are trying to love – considering their interests even ahead of our own.

What other ways would you add to gain and keep trust as a leader?

5 Questions to Ask Before You Attempt Church Revitalization

It seems every week a church contacts me to ask advice about church revitalization. I also frequently hear from pastors who are considering stepping into a role in church revitalization. I greatly appreciate the Kingdom platform God has given me – but sometimes it feels overwhelming – as if I have something to offer.

Frankly, I am still in the learning process.

But, we have learned a few things. And, we have had some success — twice in church planting and twice in church revitalization.

And, I fully believe we need lots of church revitalization. Read some of my thoughts about the need HERE.

The problem for me is it seems people often start the conversation at the wrong place. They start with the how and I want to start with the why – or maybe the what.

When people start to talk about the how of doing church revitalization – the things we have done or haven’t done – I always feel like we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse. We need to talk about what church you are going to attempt to revitalize – and why you are considering the move in the first place.

I think before you consider revitalization you need to first consider some broader questions.

Here are 5 questions I would consider before I would attempt to help revitalize a church:

Can this church be saved?

There is actually a more difficult question. Is the church worth saving? I know those are difficult questions. They may even make me seem very arrogant. But, there are some toxic churches in the world. I know churches who have never held on to a pastor for more than two years. They are brutal to pastors. They don’t want someone to help them grow they simply want someone to maintain things as they are, fill the pulpit three times a week, and visit them when they are sick. And, if you try anything else they will remind you they were there before you came and will be there when you’re gone. What is the realistic potential even if the church is saved from eventual death? Will a pastor be able to lead? Can changes actually be made? Nothing of value happens in church revitalization – or really anything organizationally speaking – without some change. Chances are good it won’t be popular – in any church – but change is always necessary.

Is this the right location?

Look at the demographics of the community. Does it — or are the people willing for it to — represent the community? If the community has changed demographics around them they may need to make changes for the community to see them as a vital part of the community. The message doesn’t change, but the demographics of communities change over time. People move. New people move into the community. If the church isn’t willing to embrace the unique needs of the community maybe there is a more receptive area elsewhere. Are they willing to ask such hard questions?

Is this the best use of resources?

Would Kingdom dollars be better spent elsewhere? And, again, hard question, but the longer a church has been plateaued or declining, the longer – and harder – it will be to help the church grow again. Another hard question – how many churches could be planted with the same resources and efforts? Is there a wiser stewardship for the Kingdom than this? Now please understand – I believe in revitalization. I think established churches still play a huge role in the Kingdom – for so many reasons – but, you should be willing to ask the difficult questions or your chances of seeing progress are limited.

Is everyone willing to pay the price?

It will be hard. Change will be difficult for some to accept. Revitalization is harder than planting – in my experience. Will change be accepted? Can you take the hits? Are the leaders of the church going to stand with you? Does your family fully support your decision and are they up for the challenge?

Are you the right leader?

Does your experience, passions and skill sets prepare you for this role? Would you be more effective elsewhere? And, the bottom line question here: Is God calling you to this? I have often said I believe God gives tremendous latitude at times in where we are to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We need more church planters, more healthy leaders in growing churches, more missionaries, more people to be solid, missional believers serving in secular positions – and more people to revitalize churches. But, sometimes God calls us to specific places, even if only for a season. If God is calling you to this then nothing else matters. Obey quickly!

Answer those questions – then we can discuss the how questions.

Some Thoughts on Addressing the Loneliness of a Pastor

Pastoring can be lonely.

As a pastor, I’m supposed to find my strength in Christ, (and you have to know how helpful it is to be reminded as if those who are not pastors are not commanded to do likewise 🙂 ) and I do seek Christ as my ultimate strength. I teach the Bible regularly, however, the Bible says we are to “bear with one another“. God didn’t design us to do life alone. This goes for pastors also.

From my experience, those in ministry leadership are some of the loneliest people. I hear from them everyday.

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He said, “Who is going to invest in me?”

I understand the sentiment. He is struggling for answers he can’t seem to find — practical answers. People are looking to him for leadership and seminary didn’t teach him all he needs to know. I think every good leader asks that at same question — hopefully often.

Later in the week, I talked to an older pastor. He said, “I go home most days and haven’t heard a single positive word. Things are going great. We are growing faster than ever, but it seems I get far more of the negatives than I get to hear of the good we are doing.”

All I could do was agree. I’ve felt that way before many times.

When the weight of ministry responsibility appears to rest on your shoulder – when everyone looks to you for the answer – when some days you don’t know which direction to turn – when you are balancing the demands of ministry and family – when you are seen as a key in helping everyone with a problem hold their life together – yet you feel no one is concerned about your personal struggles – and you don’t know who to trust —

What do you do during those seasons of ministry?

You remember God’s words of encouragement.

Cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.

Yes, this is the first answer.

Next, find a mentor. You find someone who is walking further down the road from you, but going in the direction you want to go. I’ve written extensively about this, but you can start HERE.

And then regularly:

Surround yourself with a few pastors at the same level you are organizationally. (If it’s a pastor, youth minister, etc.) It seems to work best if the churches are similar in size and structure. They’ll best understand.

Work to develop a close enough relationship with them, over time, where you can trust them. You may have to spend some of your free time and even travel to do this. Learn from each other, seek wisdom from more seasoned people together, and grow together in the ministry.

Consistently share burdens, concerns, and encouragements with each other. You can do this occasionally in person, but more frequently over the phone or online. Chances are they need this as much as you do, so be the one to take the initiative.

I hear what some pastors are thinking, because it has been said to me so many times. You often think those groups aren’t there for you. You’ve tried before and couldn’t find them.

To this I would say:

  • Keep trying. It’s worth it.
  • Treat this like any other friendship. It takes commitment and has to be a balance of give and take.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Risk the rejection to extend an offer for friendship.
  • Use social media, denominational leadership, recommendations from others to find these pastors — whatever if necessary. (This has been one of the greatest benefits of social media for me, by the way.)

Some of these relationships I have had to develop outside my own city. I’ve found they are valuable enough to justify the time and financial investment required.

Please know I’m praying for you pastors. 

Pastor, help other pastors by commenting with how you handle the loneliness of leadership. 

7 Ways to Respond to Negative People In the Church

One of the most frustrating things about being a pastor is the number of people who are negative about everything. Thankfully, I deal with this less often the longer I am with the church. In the established church, most of our negativity comes from a few people. When I was in church planting it came from outside our church. Either way, dealing with negative people has been a huge part of my work. I talk with pastors every week who tell me they have large groups of people who are always negative about something they are doing.

I have learned – when a church reaches genuinely hurting people, when people in the church lead messy lives, when the church actually begins to reach such people, or simply when change comes to reach people — the complainers will rise — often among the most religious of people.

And when these type people talk their negative energy spreads fast.

As Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church, a chief command was to love people no one else loved. Since they were to love even their enemies, this included loving people when they were not very lovely. Even people who are always negative. (That’s a hard command sometimes, isn’t it?)

I have tried to lead a church with this philosophy. Along the way I have discovered what Jesus experienced in working with religious leaders in His day.

With this in mind, how do we respond to those who choose to complain and remain negative towards reaching people for Christ?

What do you do with constant negativity towards the mission God has called you to?

Here are 7 ways to respond to negative people:

Filter negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying lines up with truth. Is it true? If not, dismiss it quickly so it won’t begin to control you. When you own falsehood about yourself or the church you validate the person offering it. And, you fuel them for further negativity about you or the church.

Learn when necessary. We should not refuse to listen to any criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss. Let’s not be arrogant. Be humble and teachable always.

Surround yourself with some positive people. Some people are negative about everything and would never encourage anyone. That’s the reality of working with people. Every leader needs to find a core of people who can encourage them to walk closer to Christ, to believe in themselves in Christ, and who genuinely care about their best interest.

Remember negative people spread things about others too. It often helps me reconcile what a negative person says about me when I realize they are always spreading something negative. If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim. Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention. The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always negative is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity. The fact is if they are given a continued voice they will bring people into their negativity. If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence then they will bring people along into positivity.

(What I’m not saying is the avoid the negative person. Most likely they are negative for a reason. They are hurt, angry, broken, confused, or simply sinful in their attitude. Either way – we have to love them. That’s our calling as believers. Many times I’ve found if we love them we can actually begin to temper their negativity – at least lessen its volume.)

Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth — nor should you — but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you. This is especially true if it is going to get in the way of doing what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be bashful about doing so. Don’t embarrass people or treat them harshly. Treat everyone with love. Be an example of how to handle disagreement Biblically. But, don’t ignore it either.

Be truthful and positive around others. Decide you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person. Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious.

Remind yourself of truth. Ultimately you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.

What ways do you have to deal with negative people?

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

I have updated this post from a couple years ago.

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I would totally recommend you try this at home as a tradition in your family.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. Our two amazing sons – and daughter-in-law. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate) age 27 and 24 – are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously. God keeps using them for His glory in ways I never imagined. Jeremy’s wife Mary – if I had raised a daughter – or picked a wife for my son – I would have wanted a Mary.

4. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years – but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

5. Kingdom opportunities. Wow! This year has been incredible. I love to invest in others and I never thought I’d get to the point where I have to say no more than I get to say yes to the opportunities God is bringing my way. Amazing! I am a living example of God’s grace – that He can take dust and produce something He can use – and I’m humbled by this truth more every year.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families – with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night – who aren’t our friends because of our positions or for information or any other reason other than to be our friends. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. After three years, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. Our staff are our friends. I love being around people I truly enjoy, who believe in me as I believe in them. We’ve made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year – some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run – and walk – and feel well enough to work – and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted the city as home quickly. I wear a lot of Kentucky blue. It’s our mission field, and, I believe, this is what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. We are here to serve! What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. This truth makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright – because He is my light. (Cheesy – maybe – but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually – but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me – thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.

They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings. 

They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.

They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.

It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.

It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:

He is the pastor of the church but not the leader.

(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)

Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:

You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.

If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:

  • You can live with the power structure in place and complete the role within the authority you’ve been given. And, probably be miserable.
  • You can fight the power structure, lining up supporters, building a coalition in your corner – and be prepared to win or lose.
  • You can figure out how to “lead up” — build a consensus for leadership, confront where needed, win influence and the right to lead — even sometimes learning to lead people who don’t want to be led. (Read THIS POST on how to lead people older than you.)
  • You can leave.

Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.

And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful. 

With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!

I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ. 

One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?