Jump Start # 2405
Proverbs 27:23 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds”
Within the past week and a half I have had some long and serious discussions with five different preachers. They live all over the country. Some of these discussions were face to face. Some were over the phone and one was via email and texting. These preachers are talented, good, and have made noticeable differences in the congregations where they preach. But something was very common in all of these discussions. All five were discouraged. All five have given thought about moving. And, sadly, all five, pointed to the same reason as to why they were discouraged. It wasn’t the money. It wasn’t how folks treated them. It wasn’t the hours they put in. It wasn’t where they lived. It wasn’t feeling pressured or squeezed. All five were discouraged because of the leadership in the congregation. They felt like their work was handcuffed and limited. They were in the dark about what was going on. They weren’t included in big plans, such as bringing in another preacher. The leadership was content to drift along with the way things have always been. And, these five wanted to do more. They saw great potential. There were opportunities all around them. They were filled with great ideas but those ideas fell on deaf ears. The leaders were more content to manage the church like a business. The deacons were treated as mid-level managers that carried out the decisions of the elders. And, these preachers could see that the church was suffering in some ways. There was a gap between the flock and the shepherds.
It’s discouraging to see what could be, but at the present it’s not. Teachers feel this way. Coaches feel this way. Parents feel this way. And, we preachers get this way. Sometimes ideas are just not feasible. There isn’t enough people necessary to complete the task, or it’s simply too expensive at this time. But sometimes ideas are shot down simply because the leaders don’t want to do them. There is no real reason. Sometimes it’s a power and control issue. If it’s not their idea, then it won’t get done.
Our verse is essential to this discussion. Discouraged preachers either move or quit. No one likes being discourage. No one likes to always hear “No.” No one likes the reply to an idea, “We’ll get back to you on this,” and then they never do. No one likes being treated second rate. No one likes secrets being kept from them.
Our verse aims at the work of shepherds. Know well the condition of your flocks, is something that ought to be stenciled on the walls of the church building. How are the folks doing? If the preacher is discouraged and they are clueless to that and they do not know that they are the source of that discouragement, one must wonder what the rest of the flock is experiencing? How many others are discouraged and it bypasses the leaders? How many others are having troubles but it’s not noticed?
The situation with these five preachers also reveals that there is a wall blocking transparency and good communication between the shepherds and these preachers. One might think, “Why don’t these guys just tell the shepherds how they feel?” There is a fear factor somewhat involved as well as knowing that the big picture, improving things and doing more for the church may all be destroyed because of a conflict between the preacher and the elders. They have tried to make suggestions that would improve their relationship with the leaders but those were not received well. So, these five march on doing their work, but inside their hearts are wondering how much longer they can hang on there.
It is so easy for leaders to take the 32,000 foot view of a congregation and believe all is safe and all is sound. No real trouble. Everyone is at peace. But a much closer look, an individual look at each person, may show that there is some special attention and needs that are not being met. Paying the bills on time, and keeping any major uprisings from taking place is not a job well done. Sheep are starving in the pews. Some are dying in the pews. Some are lost in the pews. And, so many elderships throughout the country do not see this taking place.
Know well the condition of your flocks.
Here are some suggestions. Chew on these.
First, talk to your preacher. Put the cards on the table in a kind way. Let him know that you love him, appreciate him and want him to stay. Preachers are not moving much these days. The pool of preachers is small. Stay the course, don’t make any adjustments and you’ll be looking for a new preacher. It many places, the leadership is older than the preacher. It may be very hard for him to talk without the fear of getting reprimanded or fired. Put him at ease. Encourage him. Ask him how you, as shepherds, can help him in his work.
Second, invite the preacher and include the preacher in your meetings. This is where most of the frustration lies with preachers. They feel like they do not know what is going on. Interestingly, in Ephesians four, evangelists and pastors are united in the same verse as those who are equipping the church. Preachers need to know their limitations and understand that they are not junior elders. They do not have the authority nor the role of an elder. However, in trying to help people in the congregation, being aware of situations helps the preacher in what he teaches and preaches. The role of the preacher and the elder ought to be one mind, and one heart. It is as the coach and the quarterback. Understanding each other, and trusting each other and helping each other only builds a stronger and better congregation. Some have said that it is unscriptural for the preacher to be in meetings with elders. Really? Where is the passage that even says elders have meetings? Shepherding doesn’t take place behind closed doors in those meetings. That’s where plans are discussed, classes are talked about and strategy is formed. True shepherding takes place outside of those doors. Maybe this is where some of the problem lies. Shepherds are not the CEO’s who run the church. They are shepherds who walk among the sheep. Shepherding takes place in front rooms, and coffee shops and over lunch, as shepherds connect face to face with the sheep. Shepherds help the sheep. To do that, they must be around the sheep.
Third, the stronger the bonds that are made between the preacher and the eldership, the better things will be. Others can feel the tension that may exist when things are not right. Suspicion, secrets, and not trusting each other only spells trouble and doom. Do things together socially. Enjoy each other’s company. Rather than fighting against each other, work together. In this, both the preacher and the elders will learn that there are talents, insights, foresight, vision and strengths that can help each other. Elders can learn from younger preachers. And, preachers can learn from elders. So many of the young preachers are skilled with video, social media and have ideas that many older men may not understand. Listen to these ideas. Chew on them for a while. Do some homework. Then make a decision, but it will be a well informed decision. Visit other congregations and see what they are doing. Learn from others. Give books to each other that will help each other. If the player on the field feels like he is soon to be traded, his mind won’t be into the game as it ought to be. It’s not much different for the preacher who feels he may soon be replaced. How long would you like your preacher to stay? Have you told him that? How about telling him we’d like this to be your final place. How about letting him know that you have his back and you’re there for the long haul? And, preacher, when you are discouraged, you must be careful with your attitude and your mouth. Undermining the leadership leads to a mutiny and in most movies, someone is put on a little boat and left to drift alone. That little boat may be for you preacher, if you cause trouble.
Work as a team. Be one mind. Be one voice. Now, how can that be, if we don’t share, connect and get together? What an example from Jesus, when He told the disciples, “I now call you friends, not slaves. The slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). No secrets. Transparent. On the same page. Trusting each other. There for each other.
Here’s the challenge—this week, shepherds reach out to your preacher and ask if you could get together. The agenda? We, the elders, want to see what we can do to make things better for you and how we can draw closer to each other. Will you try that? I fear if some don’t, things will spiral downward.
Know well the condition of your flock. How is your preacher doing? Do you know?