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The following is an excerpt from my new book Church Leadership Essentials available through Rainer Publishing. Here’s the chapter on not everyone liking you:

If you’re a ministry veteran, this chapter will come as no surprise to you. If you are a young leader or pastor, please don’t skip this chapter. It will save you a lot of grief and late nights tossing and turning. I’m writing this for the very reason that this is something they don’t teach you in school.

Let me start by saying we should always seek to please God first and foremost. We are not in the people pleasing business. If you make decisions based on popularity or not wanting people to get upset, you will be an ineffective leader and you will be seen as wishy-washy.

A leader needs to lead with confidence and a clear vision of what God is leading them to do. Once God leads you to pull the plug on something or start a new initiative, you need to be obedient and faithful – regardless of the consequences.

I will say timing is everything and you can’t rush to make important decisions, nor can you delay when something needs to change immediately. Just don’t unnecessarily rush your people into something that they need time to wrap their minds around.

Change takes time, strategy, intentionality and lots of prayer. Once you get the go-ahead from God, and you’ve ran this by your staff, key leaders and/or board, then proceed. Be clear, confident and courageous.

With that all being said, people are still going to get upset. People will leave your church. People will stay mad at you. People will give you the stink eye. People will have hurt feelings. Sometimes you will be misheard, misunderstood, misinterpreted, etc. You can’t help that. Be faithful and courageous. Just think: No President of the United States has a 100% approval rating – it’s the price of leadership.

When you preach or speak on money, people will get upset. When you mention sin, people will get upset. Do it anyway. Seek to please God, not man.

May I share a couple of examples from my ministry experiences? One of the biggest givers in our entire church (we’re multisite) attends my campus because he likes our worship experience, but he gives to another one of our campuses. It’s horrible and I lose sleep over it, but I can’t make him give to my campus. Why doesn’t he give to our campus anymore? He doesn’t like me. I have to accept that and be faithful and courageous. I’ll let God deal with that family.

Sometimes there’s distrust. Sometimes there’s disunity in your congregation. It happens. You need to be clear and above reproach. Lead with integrity. The opposite of integrity would be if I made a decision based on what someone gives. I treat people the same whether they are dirt poor and the church helps pay their bills or whether they are a huge giver and have been in the church since the beginning. Do I listen to feedback, insight and ideas? Absolutely, but money doesn’t sway my decision.

I once cut a ministry led by the biggest giver at my church. Was he happy? Nope. Did we butt heads? Yep. Did his ministry line up with our philosophy of ministry and simple church strategy? No. It was a decision that needed to be made. It just took guts, courage and lots of counsel and prayer. FYI – This leader is still at our church and is a friend of mine. We meet each week to talk strategy and evangelism. We worked through our rough patch and came out stronger. God is faithful.

Bottom-line: Lead as God leads you and your leadership team. Make decisions for the many, not the few. Just go ahead and accept that people are going to disagree with you, betray you, gossip and slander you and work against your leadership. It happens. God is faithful; you need to be, too. Read Joshua chapter 1 and highlight how many times God says to “be strong and courageous.” I’m praying for you!

I’ll end with one final amazing verse of Scripture from the Apostle Paul:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

 

 

Greg Atkinson

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