to _________?” That is a common question in the church.
As a pastor, it is a question I have asked at times. Whatever
happened to________? When I came, he was a dynamic leader. When
I came, she was in the center of things. Now, he has disappeared
into the woodwork and she has gone to another church. I’ve
observed it over the years, men and women, who move in and out
of the leadership circles of the church.
Why does it happen?
Sometimes it is a PERSONALITY thing. We see
evidences of this, even in the New Testament, where Paul chided
the Corinthians for dividing into personality cults, some idolizing
Paul, some following Apollos, and others calling Peter their hero.
Sometimes, first century Christians refused to follow anyone but
the one with whom they clicked personally.
Human nature being what it is, and human life being diverse as
it is, personality conflicts will always be around. Sometimes,
in the ebb and flow of the life of the church, personality differences
become more important than our common commitment to Christ. These
personality conflicts cause some to yield their leadership positions.
Sometimes it is a PHYSICAL thing. Burnout is
a descriptive word for what happens to many Christian leaders.
A willing spirit on their part leads to massive delegation on
everyone else’s part. The result is an overload of responsibilities
that eventually wears a person out.
In today’s world it is easy to get “askew with muchness
and manyness” as one person put it. Leaders who get so busy
doing things for God that they never do business with God will
eventually fall by the wayside.
Sometimes it is a VISION thing. Church leaders
have to be able to grasp the big picture, especially in a large
church. Although they can be passionately committed to some ministry
of the church, they have to rise above their identification with
that one ministry and make decisions that are best for the church.
They have to be able to look beyond what they have already experienced
and catch a vision of what God has in store for them.
In my experience, this has been the most common saboteur of leadership
in the church. I’ve seen it here at Richardson First Baptist,
the church I pastored for the last seventeen years of my active
ministry, individuals who were not able to look beyond the interest
of their group, people who were not able to release the past that
was gone and embrace the future they could not yet see. A lack
of vision caused them to forfeit their opportunity for leadership.
Sometimes it is a SPIRITUAL thing. Over the
years my heart has been broken a number of times by leaders who,
instead of maintaining an ever deepening spirituality, have become
stale in their commitment and have consequently stalled in their
spiritual development and eventually have allowed a character
failure to steal their ministry.
When it happens to ministers, it is usually widely publicized.
When it happens to lay people, little publicity is given to it.
No public resignation is read. The former leader just fades into
the woodwork. And one day, in a conversation of people at church,
someone raises the question: “Whatever happened to ______?”
To avoid that being said about you:
• Focus on Christ, not on individual personality.
• Take time for rest and renewal.
• Get the big picture.
• Keep the fire for God hot