One of the most challenging issues when it comes to leadership and ministry is dealing with people. (Other than that, it's quite simple.) :-)
AND, if we are not careful we will allow ourselves to become so distracted that we will actually begin to care for other things way more than the people that Jesus died for and has called us to take care of.
Recently in an all staff meeting I shared with our staff three things that we are tempted to love more than people…and how we're going to do all we can to make sure that because people matter to God they matter to us as well.
Temptation #1 – To Love The Process More Than People
I'm a type-A, obsessive compulsive person, and so I love organization, structure and systems that make things easier for me to manage. However, not all people are like that.
The danger is that in church we would develop a process for volunteers, discipleship and such and then expect EVERYONE to "fall in line" and do what we think is best. In other words, we approach people with a scientific approach rather than an artistic one.
(By the way, I believe God IS an artist! Don't believe me…check out the sunsets for the next several nights, none of them will be the exact same. I like to think He whips out His paintbrush and makes it new every evening!)
Don't get me wrong, the church NEEDS certain processes and such; however, all too often I have fallen into the trap of trying to use a process that has been developed rather than really taking the time to find out more about the person that needs to be developed.
When a person isn't a fit into a process that has been developed we need to stop and see what is going on in that person's life. It's not their job to fit into our system, it's our job to discover where they are and then lead them to a place where they can grow in their relationship with Christ.
Temptation #2 – To Love Progress More Than People
I love progress, all leaders do. However, if we are not careful we will fall so in love with the idea of every chart moving up and to the right that we lose sight of what really matters when it comes to ministry–people.
I get the fact that some people simply cannot move forward with a church or organization. They can't handle change and simply refuse to go along with all that the Lord is doing. But…we should never assume that just because people don't seem to "get it" that they are automatically against what we are doing. Maybe they have questions. Maybe they have legitimate concerns. Maybe they don't fully understand all that is going on. AND…if those three things are true then it isn't really their fault that they are not "on board," it's the leaders fault.
There will be times we need to slow down, take a breath and offer grace filled explanations to all that is taking place…and when a leader or organization refuses to do that because it would simply take too much time then they have fallen in love with progress more than people.
Temptation #3 – To Love Preferences More Than People
If you've been in ministry long enough then there are people (or types of people) that you prefer to stay away from. (Don't lie!!!) Why do we prefer to keep them at a safe distance? Simple…they're messy, and we, for the most part, love for things to be neat, clean and predictable.
We prefer clean people and clean situations…and so we isolate ourselves from messy situations. However, one of the things I've discovered in the past 20 years of ministry is that isolation really does lead to me being ineffective as a pastor. And…if I isolate myself from the mess then I am not becoming more like Jesus because He always walked straight towards the mess.
If I am going to follow Christ I cannot allow personal preference to trump my love for people because in doing so then I totally communicate that I've forgotten what Christ did for me! After all, if Jesus would have walked away from the mess rather than walking towards it…we'd all be in a lot of trouble!