"If you have a single leader, you have a single point of failure.”
In January, my pastoral coach shared this quote through our Facebook conversation group. I’ve thought back to this quote many times since then as it speaks of the way I’ve been trying to adapt as a leader in recent years.
Coming out of seminary, I had a bit of hero complex. Like recent graduates of almost any school, with a head full of fresh knowledge and eagerness to put it to use, I often thought I needed to provide the answers to every problem. I acted as if I needed to be involved in every decision.
The dark side to that was I was constantly making decisions that were little more than good guesses. No one can be an expert in everything and no one has infinite attention to devote to the many things that happen in a church, but the models for leadership I’d seen in my life and my training in seminary suggested that’s what I was supposed to be. Be strong, be decisive, don’t show weakness.
The darker side was that I was always scared of being wrong, of being revealed to be a fraud. I lived with the constant stress of believing that the well being of a congregation rested almost entirely on my shoulders and if I tripped up, the shame would surely kill me.
Thankfully, wise and loving people, humbling mistakes, and the undeserved grace I received after the mistakes, all taught me how stupid I was being. I am not called to be a savior. That’s Jesus’ job.
In hindsight, when I push aside Jesus from his place as savior, I am sinning (one definition of sin is not acknowledging God’s proper place in your life) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). I was killing good ministry by wearing myself out. I was killing good ministry because I couldn’t give proper attention to everything and I don’t always have the best perspective on something. I was killing good ministry by sidelining people who were experienced and passionate about areas I wasn’t.
Even though I would talk about delegation and sharing responsibility, I couldn’t seem to do it myself… not until my failures piled up enough to convince me I had no other options.
Sometimes I’m a slow learner.
But I’ve slowly learned that sharing responsibility creates for better outcomes. I’ve learned that asking questions is often more important than having answers. I’ve learned that risking the vulnerability of saying “I don’t know” leads to deeper trust. I’ve learned that being honest about myself is more faithful than being perfect. I’ve learned that mistakes create space for grace to be practiced, and where there is grace, there is God.
From the Gray,
“I’ve just returned from a war that was lost. The only foe I had was me.” -Josh Joplin Group, “Human”
(Note: This article also appeared in my church's newsletter in Spring 2017.)