Large church and small churches both have challenges. Small churches are usually struggling to grow large while large churches struggle to find ways to be small. There are leadership challenges in every church of every size. One of the challenges I have found from being on the staff of a church that has grown over the past several years is the danger of overspecialization. When you work in a small church, you are forced to be the jack of all trades. You have to prepare a message for Sunday, do marriage counseling, and perform a funeral all in the same week. In a large church, you often have enough staff that you can focus on what you are best at and learn to do that very well. If the church were a business, this idea of focusing on what you do best would be a great idea, but the church is not a business. One side effect of the church borrowing so heavily from the business world and leadership gurus is that the church now has more middle managers than pastors. When as a Pastor you only do what you are good at you run the risk of building the church but losing your soul.
Leading by doing only the things we are good at most often leads us down the path of unintentional self-reliance. Somewhere along the line, we cross from God-dependence to self-reliance, and when that line is crossed the church starts to die and so do we. The scariest reality is that your church could continue to grow even as it is dying, and we never figure it out until it’s too late. Pastors are not CEO’s and understanding your strengths is important, but the Bible tells us that leading in the way of Christ is different even appear foolish to those who may be looking from the outside in. How does the Bible say we are to lead? I believe the Bible goes out of its way to show us that we are to lead from our weakness. Leading from our strength may make us more effective but I don’t think it makes us more dependent. There is something about leading in an area we are weak in that reminds us of what has always been true we are weak, and he is strong. We see from Scripture and understand from experience that when we feel the strongest that’s when we are the most weak. It is when we feel our weakest that we lean most on the only person who can sustain us. My fear is that in the modern church when we talk of growth, management, and effectiveness, we fail to talk about dependence, hope and peace.
When I was younger I leaned on my strengths so much I became excellent at what I do. The older I get, the more I realize that I have enough experience that I can gain ground without God’s help. It’s not until I am in a place where I am uncomfortable that I recognize what is always true, that God is strong, and I am weak.
When I am strong I take more credit than I should, pray less than I should and accomplish less than I think. Does this mean we focus solely on our weaknesses to make them better? No, but I believe that we should do things on purpose that remind you of your weakness and your need for God’s strength in every area of your life and ministry. I am convinced many people burn out because they become professional doers. They see results from what they do and mistake results for fruit.
One of the greatest destroyers of the American church is not external secularism, it’s internal pragmatism. If it works, do it. If it grows, that means God’s blessing it. It may be true, but it may also not be. We have to remind ourselves that weakness need not be avoided or eradicated; they are a reminder that we have needed and always will need God’s help. Anything we do in life in ministry is because his grace sustains us. It shouldn’t paralyze us from action but motivate us out of gratitude to use our strengths to do great things for God and our weakness to keep us ever dependent on God.
2 Corinthians 12:9-119 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.