Soon after I finished my theological education, I was asked to become pastor of a congregation in Southern Illinois. This was my first great awakening to the realities of pastoral leadership, and it was an uncomfortable experience.
The skills (or gifts) that led the congregation to invite me to be their spiritual leader were probably my enthusiasm, my preaching, and my apparent ability, even as a young man, to reach out to people and make them feel cared for.
The position description called for me to report to a board of deacons who, while well-intentioned, were not highly experienced in organizational leadership. It also said that I was responsible to lead a staff that consisted of a secretary, a Christian education assistant, two day-school teachers, a part-time choir director, and a janitor.
What it didn't say was that the congregation was seriously divided and disillusioned due to an acrimonious split in which the previous pastor had persuaded a hundred people to join him in leaving the church to form a new one down the road.
It took me only a couple of months to realize that I knew very little about how to lead an organization of such size, complexity, and woundedness. At age 27, I was in over my head. Somehow I had made it all the way through seminary believing that all one had to do was become a dazzling preacher and an enthusiastic visionary and everything else about church life would fall into place. No one had told me about staffs that required direction, boards that wanted results, and congregations that needed healing.
I liken it to that discovery some young married couples have at the end of their honeymoon that, in addition to being affectionate and fun-loving, there are bills to pay, chores to share, and personality ...