You probably know that I love and work with churches of all sizes, including some very large churches. In fact, I strongly desire for all churches to get healthier and then larger over time. More people becoming Christ-followers and getting on mission for God is always a good thing. Sometimes less is more. This is one of those cases, though, when more is more.
Since I study and visit so many churches, I’m probably more sensitive to this than most people. I’m also fairly confident that one of the spiritual gifts God has given me is discernment, which could also add to my sensitivity in these situations. I’ll share more about that in a moment.
What I’m referring to is that feeling in my gut that makes me wonder, “Is this healthy or not?” It’s that sense that I have at first glance that a church appears to be built more on the personality of the pastor rather than Jesus Christ. Have you ever felt that?
For me, that instinct I mentioned comes not from the size of the church, it comes from the size of the personality. And that’s where God has been challenging my perspective.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize:
God put that big personality into that pastor. I can’t explain why he gives some of us certain gifts and not others. I also can’t explain why he gives some of us certain personality traits and not others. All I know is that God gives some people very charismatic personalities. And that’s a good thing. The world would be a very boring, black-and-white place if everyone had my personality.
“Good things happen when God is in control of the gifts and personalities he wires into us.”
I’ve always understood my spiritual journey to be both about becoming more like Christ and also about becoming more of the person God created me to be. For the person who God gave that big, charismatic personality, I think it would be wrong if they didn’t use it to fulfill God’s purpose for their life.
Good things happen when God is in control of the gifts and personalities he wires into us. What I’ve noticed in my life, though, is that the areas of strength in our wiring can produce the greatest results when God is control, and they can lead to the greatest weakness and sin when God is not in control.
Let me give you a personal example. Like I mentioned, I believe God has given me the gift of discernment. When God is control of that wiring in my life, good things can happen. I can walk into chaotic situations and bring clarity. Once I know the starting point and the anticipated future, the next steps come clearly and quickly. I can also read people easily once I spend time with them. That strength has helped me build great teams throughout the years.
On the other hand, bad things happen when God is not in control of that wiring. All that good can quickly turn into worry, anxiety, and becoming very judgmental when I take back control. That obviously is not a good thing for me, but it’s certainly also going to impact everyone around me, including the team I lead and the culture I’m trying to create.
Here are some other examples:
When God is in control of leadership gifts, people build great organizations that produce significant results. When God is not in control, it can quickly make people power-hungry and overly demanding which fuels a culture of fear.
When God is in control of hospitality gifts, people can create welcoming environments for both friends and guests. When God is not in control, it can lead people to be overly sensitive to every detail, squeezing out the value for moments of relational connection.
When God is in control of that charismatic personality, pastors can be people magnets. They have that “it” factor that people want to be around. The “woo” oozes out of them naturally. That big personality can help churches reach many, many people for Jesus. When God is not in control, though, it can quickly turn into pride and the development of a huge ego. Unchecked, obviously, that would lead to both a very unhealthy leader and an unhealthy church culture.
What I’ve come to realize is that, even though I have a gift of discernment, I don’t really know that pastor until I spend time with that pastor and, maybe more importantly, the people around that pastor. In other words, my initial surface perceptions may not be reality. When I get a glimpse of a situation that triggers the instinct in my mind, I’m learning to believe the best and pray for that leader.
In the past, I tended become judgmental and assume the worst. That demonstrated a lack of faith in what God might be doing through that leader. And it failed to acknowledge that ultimately God is building His church.
That said, I do think their are some healthy boundaries for all of us to consider when it comes to the gifts and personalities that God has put into us.
Here are a few that first come to mind:
We need to share life and ministry with others.
God didn’t intend for any one person to use their gifts or wiring in isolation. He designed the body of Christ to be interdependent. With that in mind, we should do everything in ministry as a team. We should lead as a team. We should teach as a team. We should serve as a team. As we do that, we’re leveraging all the gifts.
We need to operate as if we’re all interim leaders.
Because we are. Eventually all of us will leave our current roles for one reason or another. That mindset will help each of us recognize that our identity is not in our position or our wiring, but our identity is in Christ.
We need to mentor the next generation.
We need to help others with similar wiring develop and leverage their gifts for Kingdom impact. That act of pouring into someone else is good for the soul. It also helps remind ourselves that we are not the only ones God has gifted to do what we do.
We need to continue to embrace humility.
And, we need trusted people in our life who are willing to tell us if we are putting ourselves ahead of God and others. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons I’m not an advocate of pastors who have an external board of overseers. We all need people who see us live out life and ministry daily, who we can trust to speak truth in love.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged by my developing understanding of how God is using leaders around us. More importantly, I hope you are continuing to become more like Christ and more like the person God created you to be.