3. I follow the people I lead.
It is hard to be rejected. I hated it in junior high, and I still hate it today.
It didn’t take long to learn how to fit in in order to avoid the pain of rejection. That ability has stayed with me and begs me to use it. I know how to keep people from rejecting me and leaving the church. I know what words to say and which actions to take to keep people around.
But when I do that, I’m no longer leading. I’m being led by the right or wrong desires of the people.
God calls us to give people what they need. Based on His word, regardless of whether they stick around. Jesus led. Few followed, but He kept leading.
Last summer, I came to a shocking realization that I had to share with my wife: If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger.
People would leave His church to attend mine because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around.
Jesus was never really good at that. He was the one who said, “He who loves father or mother … son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37 NIV). I’m much more popular than Jesus.
Having come to that conclusion, I came back to the church with resolve to call people to the same commitment Christ called them to. I knew that people would leave, and they have. I found comfort in that because, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:26 NIV).
Over time, though, the conviction can fade, and it gets tiresome seeing people leave. There is a constant pull to try to keep people around rather than truly lead the faithful who remain.
When my church was started, I used to tell my wife that I didn’t care if we only had 10 people, as long as they really loved God and desired to worship Him with all of their hearts.
Where is that conviction now?
I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I were the pastor of the church in Laodicea.
We’re all familiar with that church in Revelation 3:14-22. It’s the “lukewarm” church that Jesus said He would “spit out” of His mouth. Would I have been strong enough to overcome the prevailing attitude of the entire church? Or would I have eventually been sucked into its flow and fate?
I like to think I could have stood alone, but I’m not so sure.
My youth pastor had a saying that I still remember 25 years later: “Leaders lead.” It’s what we do. It’s what God has called us to do.
Of course, there’s sadness when people refuse to follow you, but it’s better than the sadness that would come if you stopped leading. Paul said boldly, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
Don’t be led by your people. Lead them.
It’s what you were made to do, equipped to do, called to do. It won’t be long before we’ll see that it was all worth it.
Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)
Jeremiah 1:17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” (NIV)
Revelation 3:21 “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (NIV)
1 Timothy 6:11-12 “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (NIV)
This article of devotions for church leaders was originally published on CatalystSpace.com. Used with permission. Catalyst and the annual Conferences provide next generation church leaders with creative insights on organizational and personal leadership.