Helpful advice that every pastor needs to learn...
I once made the mistake of giving my cell number to a suicidal transgender alcoholic. For several nights in a row, I had the privilege of answering my phone at 2:00 AM, only to have the same conversation ending with the same advice: "Stop going to gay bars, getting drunk, and picking fights with drag queens." My advice was simple. The situation was not.
The mistake was not that I reached out to someone desperate for help. Of that I have no regrets. The mistake I made as a pastor was buying into the perception this person had of me. He thought I was going to "fix it" and give some magical advice to make the pain go away. Of course I shared the gospel. Of course I shared how Jesus heals. But I did little to lower the lofty expectations of my abilities to solve his issues. He believed I could fix it. I played the part. I am a pastor after all. It's what I do, right?
Crises are daily occurrences for most church leaders. Fires rage. We charge in with water pistols. We want to help. It's what we're called to do. The leadership mistake is not the visceral reaction of jumping into a crisis. The problem occurs in a common exchange between shepherds and sheep, and this exchange only deepens the crisis and further entrenches the challenge.
In a crisis, the innate reaction of a most followers is to call upon a leader to solve the problem. Presidents, counselors, teachers, dentists, and pastors all receive this call. Some problems are technical: I have a cavity; fix it! Other problems are adaptive, embedded deep within the culture. For instance, a pastor may make the technical change of reworking the worship style in a week, only to realize the adaptive problem is built into the culture of the church. It was just a drum set, why is everyone upset?
A cycle of distrust can form over time between followers (flock) and leader (pastor). A congregation places unrealistic expectations on a pastor, giving him the positional authority to lead them out of a problem. The pastor makes unrealistic promises to gain power. When the pastor inevitably fails, the congregation rushes to place blame on the pastor. In Leadership without Easy Answers, Heifetz calls this the "leadership straight jacket."
Sin nature pushes people to give problems and power to pastors in exchange for impossible promises. This exchange makes both leaders and followers feel better about themselves, for a time. Followers get to say, "It's not my problem anymore." Leaders get to say, "I like the power of being the problem-solver." But the cycle of distrust builds as people realize pastors cannot solve all their problems and rescue everyone from an intensifying crisis. The exchange slows as the congregation recalls power from the pastor and blames him for the unresolved crisis.
Canada has a track record of accommodating churches in public facilites, so this Toronto decision is odd.
Earlier this week I posted a short article showing how the Toronto District School Board has chosen to effectively drive churches out of the public schools by pushing through a massive fee hike. In a city of small congregations and expensive real estate, renting space from public schools has long been one of the few affordable options for churches. Grace Fellowship Church of East Toronto, a recent plant of the church I attend, is faced with a 391% increase in the fee they pay to rent a gymnasium for their worship services; Grace Toronto, another local church with which we have a close association, has seen their fees rise by 142%, up to $192,000 a year for just four hours of weekly use. Many other local churches face similar circumstances.
At the time I wrote the article I asked for action and for prayer. Both must have happened in abundant measure!
I posted the article on Monday morning and by the next day I had been contacted by several local and national newspapers, radio stations, and television channels. I opted to direct all media inquiries to Julian Freeman and Dan MacDonald, the pastors of those two churches. In the few days since, it has been a thrill to see those men appear all over the news.
- CTV News covered the issue immediately and headlined their article “Churches scramble after school board raises rental fee.” They published another titled “Church stunned by major TDSB rental fee hike.”
- The Toronto Star published an article titled “School rental hike wallops small faith groups.”
- The National Post went with the long headline “Church groups see rent for meeting rooms spike as much as 400% as Toronto schools try to fill budget gap.”
- WORLD Magazine titled an article “Blatant Discrimination.”
- Christianity Today published a brief story titled “Toronto Churches Face Eviction As School Rental Fees Skyrocket”
And that was not all. This issue was the subject of discussions on local talk radio, including 1010 CFRB, a station well-known to Torontonians. WDCX, a Christian radio station based in Buffalo (but which broadcasts across Lake Ontario into the Toronto area) had a feature. Global TV, a national television network, apparently intends to air a feature this weekend.
I’d ask you to continue to pray and, if you are a Toronto resident, to continue to take action by getting in touch with your Member of Provincial Parliament and your School Trustee. While I have not yet spoken to the Toronto School Board representatives, I am hearing from one pastor they may soon be willing to offer some kind of a compromise to the churches. Please pray that they do. From other pastors I am hearing that the School Board is digging in their heels.
Artie loves small communities and the churches that engage those communities. Here's some helpful advice from Artie.
Hope you know what I'm saying..."Sick" is the new word for "awesome." So if you are a leader or pastor in a small city...
A- You ARE Awesome!
B- You gotta have some "sick skills" to succeed where you are
I am a small city boy, born and raised. And I love small city leaders and pastors that don't get the head-line but they get the bottom-line...Growing the Kingdom of God where they are.
Having planted, and grown a multi-site church in a small city or "The Sticks" I've had to learn a few "sick skills" myself. As we continue to grow and help others, some of these "sick skills" stand out more than others.
So if you are small-city Jedi with "Sick Skills", this is you...
1- You see the potential others would discard
2- You know the needs of the many
3- You use the power of Culture
4- You do "Jesus Church" and not "Joe church"
5- You Lead the way
An update from The Exchange.
From a recent episode of The Exchange, Philip Nation, Trevin Wax, and Michael Kelley discuss how to multiply leaders. You can see the full episode here.
Be sure to watch The Exchange every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. CDT, right here at EdStetzer.com.