Monday, April 8, 2013

Lead in LOVE

I have learned far more about being a leader in the church by being badly led than I could have learned in a 1,000 hours of leadership training, or by attending all the symposiums and conferences I could afford.


Because I learned that what matters most is love.  I realize it should have been a given, after all, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  And Jesus Himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself."

One of the most important things a leader needs to remember is those he/she is leading are ministry, not just part of their ministry.  I might even dare to say they are the FIRST part of any leader's ministry. The heart of a leader always needs to imitate Christ as the heart of shepherd.  The shepherd lovingly leads his/her sheep, standing out, yes, but wandering amidst their flock. 

I'm not just talking about a pastor.  However you are called to lead, you are called to shepherd - whether it's teaching Sunday school, leading a women's ministry or bible study, or even pastoring an entire church, all the people that are a part of the ministry are a part of your ministry.

I have learned quite a bit from good leading as well, I have a godly model in my past of a true leader.  She was the head of a women's ministry in which I was involved.  I watched her lovingly lead her "flock," which is where my first exposure to her was.  But part of her gift to lead was the ability to see strengths in others.  She saw a teacher in me, and she made me a part of her team.  I served under her, but I never ceased to be ministered to by her.  In fact, in some ways, her investment in me became greater.  She helped me to develop my own gifts and strengths and lovingly stretched me in my abilities and faith.  She still ministered to me along with the flog, praying with me or for me, teaching me, but as a part of her team, she took those things to a higher level, not a lower one.  She discipled me, instructed me in step by step aspects of growing in my gifts and faith.  She also held me, as a part of her ministry and team, to a higher standard and taught me to be responsible in how I led others.  She led me in love, and expected from me the same.  (Even this blog was birthed out of her influence in my life.)

I have at times failed in that, but it was in the years of being led badly (by other leaders, obviously) that I learned a lot.  You can never ever make a person feel like what they do doesn't matter.  You can never let them consider themselves easily replaced.  God doesn't see them that way, and neither should we.  However menial the task of service may seem, it is important to God, which is why the Bible tells us, "whatever we do" we should do it "as unto God."  It's easy when people may struggle in the seemingly menial tasks to let our frustrations bubble up and obscure our intention of valuing those we work with.  We must correct IN LOVE, lead IN LOVE and teach IN LOVE.  Yes we hold our "team members" accountable, but even that must be done IN LOVE.

People leave churches over being hurt by leadership - it isn't the peer groups that push people out of the church.  A conflict with a fellow "member" may push someone out of A church, but it is the offenses of leadership that push people out of THE church. It's those offenses that people don't come back from and cause them not only to turn their backs on the person in leadership, but also the church and even God Himself.

I know that's a heavy burden to bear, but "to whom much is given, much is required."  The Bible tells us "love covers a multitude of sins," and yes, we will all hurt and offend one another at times, even leaders-- but if people know you by your sincere love for them, then those sins can be overcome, and both people can even grow through the adversity.

It's not an easy task, loving people.  Let's be honest, people have issues!  But when we willingly take on the mantle of leadership within a church, we are in essence agreeing to take a role of representing Christ in that relationship.  Christ loves, and we are called to do the same.  And love requires a lot of us.

Patience, kindness, no envy or boasting, honoring others and looking out for them, not getting angry easily, forgetting mistakes, delighting in the good and true, protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering -- ALWAYS.  That's what we need to do to love, and love is what we need to do to lead.

People are far more important than tasks, and although excellence in effort is important, it won't mean a thing if people don't feel your love, both those who you are ministering to, and those you are ministering with!  If people sincerely believe you love them (and by the way, love is an action not an emotion) then they will be responsive both TO you and FOR you.  No one is willing to work harder than for someone who they truly believe cares for THEM for who they ARE and not for what they DO.

Stop and take an evaluation.  Chances are, you are leading someone in your life - your children, your wife, your co-workers, a Sunday school class... as Christians, anything we do should have an aspect of ministry to it, and therefore in some capacity you are leading.  Are you doing it in love?  If you're not, then get to work on that, because it is after all by your love that the Lord says people will know you belong to Him. 

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