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6 Reasons Leaders Don’t Lead and Churches Don’t Change

It feels like every conversation I have these days, leaders are saying, “We need to adapt!” OR “Why isn’t someone at the top doing something?” OR “We really don’t know quite where to go but we know we can’t stay here.”

I’ve been thinking about this a bit. Interestingly, it’s taken me back to some of my greatest wins, biggest blunders and gut-wrenchingly painful congregational leadership moments over the years.

The deeper the change and the greater the amount of new learning required, the more resistance there will be and thus the greater the danger to the leader.

Leadership on the Line by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky

So, here are 6 reasons leaders don’t lead and churches don’t change:

1 – Loss plus Uncertainty – We know what will be lost but we’re just not certain there’s anything to be gained in the change or “if” the change will even work. 

2 – Postpone It  – This shows up in several different ways. 

  • Denial – Say it ain’t really so or just let us pretend it ain’t so.
  • Wishing –  Maybe if we stare at it long enough “it” will go away.
  • Exhausting – We try all the easy efforts that don’t work before doing the hard work we should have done in the beginning. 

I wish now we would have invested ourselves in D2MC 7 years ago instead of trying to take short cuts. We were recruiting volunteers but pretending they were leaders without discipling them.

Regional Judicatory Executive

3 – Blame 

  • Someone else…anyone else
  •  A distant denominational executive
  •  Inadequate training
  • The last pastor before you
  • The ones who missed the opportunity when there was an opportunity

You can always spot the leader in a room because they’re not blaming anyone!

4 – Recruit a Rescuer 

Usually a new pastor…a new staff person… a shiny program… that will take all our troubles away without it costing us anything. 

5 – Search for the Painless Remedy

Ever have the doctor tell you it’s time for some changes for your health? And it’s difficult? 

  • Favorite foods? Gone!
  • Exercise? In!
  • Medications? Side effects!
  • Cigarettes? No!
  • Alcohol? Less!
  • Addiction to work? Overcome!

And? … you simply couldn’t reshape your values, or attitudes or long-standing habits?

6 – Playing it Safe

You’ve seen when people resist or push back. It’s better just to play it safe and not challenge anyone than to be faithful to the mission.

It’s no secret. I’m a big fan of your pastor. And spouse! (Or of you, if that’s you!)

PLI loves to encourage and provide safe places while they (or you) learn. Any of the 6 reasons above would be reason enough to not step to the line and lead. And yet, many pastors do faithfully lead, sometimes jeopardizing peace and harmony. 

So I think this is a safe assumption: There’s a “failure to lead” hiding somewhere for you, or for your leadership group. My personal “go-to”? I’m a postponer! The greater the “loss” I or another might experience, the more I need to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

See if any of the 6 resemble your “reason” not to lead and then pass this around the leadership table this month and ask the rest to do the same! 

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