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Surviving Sabotage

The call came while we were on a February family vacation some years ago. Our congregation was deciding to leave its much loved 150 year old inner city campus to join the rapidly growing suburban campus and then expand our vibrant Hispanic congregation in its place.

“Pastor, there’s a hundred people in Luther Hall. They’re mostly angry at you. They don’t like the plan to move.”

The sabotage was on. A few folks had been meeting. Folks Gail and I loved for 20 years. Folks that mostly loved us, too. The loss of generations of family and faith milestones at that church building were too great. The fear of an uncertain future in a new place was too daunting. They were rallying anyone they could. The sabotage was on.

Any objective observer knew that this transition was a challenge our congregation needed to stop kicking down the road and address.

We eventually made the move thanks to a broad, committed team of leaders that had a glimpse of the future. They faithfully and unflappably took on the challenge. Hundreds and hundreds of people followed.

It was change…or die not trying.

So Sabotage!… I couldn’t separate myself enough to not be wounded. For a few years!… I wasn’t sure I’d fully recover the harshness of the sabotage.

“Sabotage is natural. It’s normal. …Saboteurs are usually doing nothing but unconsciously supporting the status quo.” Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains

Almost every congregation today has major challenges they’re not addressing. They’re just kicking the can down the road and most likely not living out the Mission of God as they could.

Almost every congregation is desperate for leaders capable of taking on those greatest challenges and addressing them.

And… almost every congregation that significantly threatens its status quo can expect saboteurs!

That’s why your continued leadership development is critical. Right?

Unfortunately, many congregational leaders sabotage themselves and render themselves unreliable guides to lead forward.

To not sabotage themselves they simply need to show up and…

  • Love their people
  • Competently and faithfully fulfill their responsibilities
  • Demonstrate integrity… what they say matches what they do
  • Gain their own personal clarity of identity and vision so they can lead with passion, conviction and courage
  • Demonstrate maturity and calm in conflict or crisis
  • Seek trusted sounding-board counsel
  • Lead themselves well so they might be examples to be imitated
  • Learn the congregation’s story and know the essence of what must be preserved moving into the future
  • Understand and communicate the Scriptures competently if entrusted with the task of teaching or preaching

It’s nothing fancy. It’s all in reach of every leader. Some require more effort than others, but to do less?

People lose Trust.

They lose Respect.

They lose Confidence.

…and we sabotage ourselves.


What action do you need to take?

  • Pray.
  • Listen well.
  • Love deeply.
  • Don’t do this alone. Don’t be isolated.

PLI helps make leaders better…helps them survive sabotage…helps them build the trust and respect and confidence to not sabotage themselves. And we would love to help you grow as a leader this year.

Leadership Essentials starts this fall in Cleveland/Columbus and in Denver and helps build the core building blocks of leading so that you don’t sabotage yourself and helps your congregation take on its greatest challenges..

Discipleship to Missional Community starts this fall in Omaha helps teams grow together and disciple leaders who can confidently disciple other leaders..

Contact Raechel OR bring a team to the Best Practices Heartland Conference and talk to us there.

5 Responses

  1. Gary G. Schultz says:

    With 25 years at the church I am serving I have seen this action at almost every “major” initiative. Planting a church, changing worship times or major building projects. There is always a group that doesn’t like change.

    • Jock Ficken says:

      Great word Gary. I know you were never content to watch the congregation drift away from being faithful to the Mission of God. That’s what good leaders do. Thanks.

  2. Paul Birner says:

    I love the quote “Change or die not trying.” Be that as it may, sometimes the saboteurs win. Sometimes the vision is sacrificed and the status quo is maintained and victory is declared and celebrated. If you find you are leading and no one is following, that might mean that you are on a journey to some other place.

  3. alicia jones says:

    I’m an up coming minister myself and I’ve dealt with being Sabotage by my own children being disrespected etc so thank God I’m not the only one that had dealt with similar issues please keep me in your Prayers!

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