I knew a pastor—he's gone now—who was dearly loved by his congregation. From the children to the elderly in the church, there was a universal affection and respect for this man.
When I asked one of his church members why their pastor was so highly regarded, she said, "We love him because he's a peaceful leader."
Asked to define peaceful leader, she said, "Read Psalm 23 and you get a picture of a peaceful leader and a secure flock. Green pastures, quiet waters, refreshed souls, correct paths, care in the moment of danger. That's the evidence of a peaceful leader."
Soon after that exchange, I talked with my pastor-friend and related what I'd heard. Had he always been like that, I asked? A peaceful leader?
His answer: "Peaceful? Not at all. When I began my ministry, I thought my work was all about big vision, sizable crowds, impressive programs. I constantly pressed the people for more of this, more of that. For a while the people loved it. But would they have called me a peaceful leader? No way."
"Well, one day I had two unexpected, very painful encounters that forced me to see myself through the eyes of others.
"The first occurred when I visited a family from our church. As I pulled up to their home, I saw the family's youngest child, a girl maybe 5 years old, playing in the front yard. I said to her, 'Could you go inside and tell your mommy and daddy that the pastor is here?'
"She ran for the house," he went on, "and when she got inside, I heard her yell, 'Mommy, Mommy, the angry man who shouts in church is here.'
"Her words shook me. To her I was an angry man, a shouter. That's not a peaceful leader. Was that what I wanted children to think of me?
"Then, a few hours later, I bumped into an elderly couple at church. I began talking about a new building project we were considering. Suddenly the husband interrupted me: 'Pastor, can you take a thought from an old man?'
"'Of course,' I said, thinking he was going to say something nice about me.
"'I sometimes wonder if there's a quiet part in you,' he said.
"'A quiet part'? What do you mean?
"'Every time we see you, you seem all wound up, talking about projects and programs. You speak of Jesus only in your sermons, not in conversations. Maybe some people like that. But we're up in years, and we'd like to know that our pastor has a quiet side where Jesus whispers into his life for the benefit of others.'"
My friend paused and then said: "Two powerful rebukes in two hours. A little girl who thought I was a shouter and an old man who didn't see much of Jesus in me. When I told my wife what had happened, she said, 'Maybe Heaven is speaking through those two. Perhaps it's time to think about the kind of leader you're becoming. Are you becoming a peaceful leader who connects with people or an organizational leader who uses them?'"
Then my pastor-friend said to me, "If what you say has any truth to it—that now I am perceived as a peaceful leader—that was the day things began to change. A child and an old man started the ball rolling."