Like it or not, and whether you realize it or not, being a pastor or leader is not easy. There are multiple responsibilities that come with this role and those who are in positions of leadership are charged with a high calling. Here is what the Bible says about those who desire to be pastors, and I will include leaders in this as well:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1).
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
As you can see the task of leading, pastoring and overseeing is a job that should not be entered into lightly. Because of the nature of the position of being a pastor or leader there are three things you should never forget, whether you are in this position now or desire to be one day.
First, How Do You Define Leadership?
Before I get to those three things, I want to define what leadership is and I will use a quote from John Maxwell.
“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
Influence is probably the most critical aspect of leadership, but let me add something else to the reality of being a leader. When you think about it, to be a leader you must have followers, therefore by default a pastor in a church is a leader, because someone is following them.
On the contrary, if there is no one following you, then you may desire to be a leader, but you are not currently one. To take it a step further this is where the influential aspect of leadership comes into play. If someone listens to you, looks up to you, and follows you, then you are a leader because you have a measure of influence over that person.
As I share these three things with you, I want you to consider them in light of your own leadership aspirations or realities.
1. Never Forget, Your Words Matter
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
One of the truths of leadership is that you cannot always say whatever you want to say because your words matter. The big reason your words matter is because they have influence. If people are listening and following what you say, then you must be extremely careful about what you say. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – you don’t get the luxury of always speaking your mind.
On the surface this may seem unfair, but that is why the Bible tells us that being in these positions is a noble task. If a person who has no followers speaks a careless or reckless word, there is potential for little damage. If a pastor or leader does the same thing, there is potential for great harm. For this reason, the advice of James 1:19 makes so much sense.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
James says this of everyone, but the greater the influence you have, the more you should put this into practice. Another way of looking at it is, think fast but speak slow because once the words come out you cannot take them back. I would also add in this age of social media, you must recognize that every word spoken publicly is potentially being recorded. This is not meant to make you paranoid, but to make you aware. Your words matter, so make sure you are choosing them carefully.
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2. Never Forget, Your Opinions Matter
As a leader, sometimes the most challenging questions to answer are questions about your opinion. When you understand influence, then you recognize that how you see something is going to shape how other people see the same thing. As a leader, it would be foolish not to think this way. That’s why there is great wisdom in knowing when to share your opinions and when to be silent.
Granted this is not always easy to do, but it is something every leader must learn. As a leader there are people waiting to hear your response and opinion on a particular topic. Often this happens because they respect your opinions, and that in and of itself should keep you mindful of how and when you share your opinions.
As a Christian leader you should always base your opinions on what God has to say about the topic. In other words, let your opinion be shaped by God’s opinion. Granted this will not always make you the most popular person, because unfortunately there are many Christians who don’t want to hear God’s opinion on a topic. However, as a Christian leader it is your responsibility to give them God’s opinion anyway.
Remember the Bible says this is a noble task. I would say the same rule applies in giving your opinions as in speaking. Be quick to listen, but take some time before you respond. If you are unsure of the proper response, it is okay to let some things go until you can be more certain of God’s opinion on the topic. In the long run, this makes you a better leader because you recognize that your opinion will influence someone else. If you must give an opinion, you want it to be the right one.
3. Never Forget, Your Actions Matter
As a leader, not only does what you say and what you think matter, what you do matters just as much. This requires you to be aware of the things you do and how they can be perceived. Let me give you a simple example that hopefully underscores the point.
Whenever I travel, there are times when I must go out to eat, usually for dinner. I always make it a point to not have dinner with a female colleague alone. Even though there is nothing going on and no desire for that, I am more concerned about the way it can appear, especially as a leader. This is where having influence can affect other people. Someone seeing me have dinner with a woman who is not my wife could potentially perceive that the wrong way, and so for my sake and for their sake I will choose not to do that.
For some people, that may seem a little over the top, but remember as a leader you have influence, and your actions matter. This further confirms why being a pastor or leader is a noble task. This may seem drastic, but when you really understand influence and you care about how you affect others, then these types of decisions become easier to make.
Do You Still Want to Lead?
I hope you see that leadership is no easy path to walk and honestly everyone is not cut out for it. And guess what? That is okay. Everyone can’t lead and everyone doesn’t want to lead and there is nothing wrong with that.
However, if leadership is your desire and you feel God is moving you in that direction, make sure you count the cost of what is involved. Many people focus on the person at the front of the room or who is at the top of the organization. While there is nothing wrong with desiring those roles, just be mindful of what it takes to get there, and more importantly what it takes to stay there. If you do this right, you will lead well and maintain your good name in the process because at the end of the day, that is the most important thing you have as a leader and as a person.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.