6 Faith Qualities Every Leader should Embody

Hebrews 11, one of the greatest chapters in all the Bible, lists several faith heroes from the past and includes details about their lives that evidence great faith. We often refer to this chapter as the ‘faith’ chapter. It offers leaders profound insight about faith that we must believe and embody to effectively lead. I suggest these 6 faith qualities every leader should embody.

Compass with arrow pointing to the word faith. 3D render image suitable for religion or self confidence concept

6 Faith Qualities Every Leader should Embody.

  1. Faith pleases God.
    • The write of Hebrews begins the chapter by reminding us that  God commended the ancients for their faith (v 2). He emphasizes that idea with, Without faith it is impossible to please God (v 6). If we want our leadership to please God, we must exercise true faith and trust in Him.
  1. Faith does not eliminate uncertainty or discomfort.
    • Verse 7 recounts God’s command to Noah to build an ark. Up to this point Noah had probably never seen rain. Yet, he exercised faith when he built a giant boat on dry land. Verse 8 tells us that God told Abraham to go to a place he had never visited before nor even seen. Yet, he obeyed in faith. Both of these biblical characters faced great uncertainty, yet showed great faith.
    • In fact, when we exercise faith (take a step into uncertainty) we actually may feel a bit fearful or anxious because our brains don’t like uncertainty. When we face uncertainty the fear centers of our brains cause specific hormones to enter our blood stream and certain neurotransmitters to increase in our brain which creates anxiety and even fear. So, a step of faith as a leader may initially cause us emotional discomfort. It’s normal. It’s a biological process we can’t avoid. Feeling such emotions doesn’t necessarily reflect lack of faith.
  1. Faith takes the long view.
    • When God told Abraham to go to a new land he, was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (v 10). The secret of Abraham’s patience was his hope in the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of God. His ultimate Promised Land was heaven, just as ours is.
    • Even in verse 13 the writer of Hebrews tells us that these faith heroes,  were still living by faith when they died and that, They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (v 13). Leadership requires that we take the long view of ministry, not rating our ministry success by the inevitable short-term setbacks.
  1. Faith confronts the impossible.
    • In verse 11 we read about God’s promise to Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, although he was 99 and she was 90. Such a pregnancy at their age seemed humanly impossible. How did Abraham reconcile that? I love what Kent Hughes says.
    • “He weighed medical probabilities of them having a child at such an old age (humanly impossible) with the divine impossibility of God being able to break his word and decided that since God is God, this would not be impossible.”

    • He goes on to make this insightful point. “We are not to indulge in fideism—faith without reason—or rationalism—reason without faith. We are to rationally assess all of life. We are to live reasonably. When we are aware that God’s Word says thus-and-so, we are to rationally assess it, [believe God at his Word, and obey] my notation.”[1]

    • Sometimes ministry challenges seem impossible to hurdle. Faith gives us the courage, however, to confront those impossible challenges.

  1. Faith requires sacrifice.
    • In verses 17-19 God asks Abraham to do the incredible, to sacrifice his promised son. Abraham had never seen a resurrection but reasoned that God must be able to raise him from the dead. Unknown to Abraham, God had other plans all along (He had prepared another sacrifice). But his faith prompted him to act sacrificially. Healthy leaders recognize that leadership often requires great sacrifice.
  1. Faith enables perseverance.
    • In verses 32-35 Hebrews lists the incredible successes of several biblical heroes who exercised faith. By human standards the heroes in this list were true winners.
    • Fortunately the writer doesn’t end this chapter there. He pivots to a new list, a list of those who also exercised great faith but experienced horrible difficulties. Yet, These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (v 39).
    • Sometimes we lead at our best yet see little or no progress, experience great heartache, and feel like giving up. During those times, perhaps the supreme mark of genuine faith is our courage in the face of such difficulties.

Every leader must lead with great faith. Those who have gone before us model what it means to lead with such faith.

What have you learned about faith and leadership?

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[1] Hughes, R. K. (1993). Hebrews: an anchor for the soul (Vol. 2, p. 100). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 

12 Powerful Questions Pastors should ask about Effective Leadership

In the book First, Break all the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, they list 12 core questions the Gallup organization discovered that when asked, give organizations the information they need to attract, focus on, and keep the most talented employees. I’ve included them here as a helpful set of questions about effective leadership pastors should ask themselves and ask about those who serve on their staff.

Speech bubble with the word questions on white background.

12 core questions about effective leadership

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my church make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Questions have a way of making us think deeply.

What questions would you add to this list?

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Is Skipping Church Good for your Soul?

I’m a pastor. Pastors are supposed to go to church. So I go to church, several times each week. I’ve done that for decades. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed church by choice. But one weekend I added to that handful of misses. I skipped church. Was skipping church that day helpful or hurtful? Read on and you decide.

truant

My daughter had come to visit us over the Labor Day weekend and I scheduled one of our other pastors to preach at the weekend services. We took a long weekend at a lake house about 50 miles from our home.

The last time we took a long weekend we all went to church, a very boring one. This time however, I simply decided I wouldn’t go. To be frank, I felt a tinge of guilt because my wife will tell you I’m always the one pushing us to go to church while on vacation.

But for some odd reason, I didn’t push us this time.

So what did I do that Sunday morning? I sat in a swing and read my bible. I cut some dead limbs off a tree. I chatted with a neighbor. I exercised on my treadmill. I practiced the art of ‘slowing.’ And I really liked it.

Although I’m deeply committed to the local church and won’t make skipping a habit, I leaned a few valuable lessons.

  1. Skipping church reminded me that pastors’ schedules keep us from normal weekends that most families experience. Sundays (and Saturdays if you hold services) are our biggest work days. But, it’s not all about me and I will gladly stay faithful to God’s calling.
  2. Those not in pastoral leadership roles will never understand this sacrificial part of our profession because when they want to skip church, they easily do with no repercussions. And when they do, most don’t even think twice about skipping.
  3. An occasional ‘break from the Sunday routine’ can refresh a soul and help avoid pastoral burnout.
  4. I now truly understand how hard it would be for someone who has seldom attended church to give up his or her Sunday mornings and start attending. I really enjoyed having that Sunday free.
  5. Number 4 above reminded me that we pastors must craft compelling, Spirit-led services if we are to entice the unchurched to attend and keep attending. What they experience at church must be worth the price of giving up their relaxing mornings at home, at the lake, or at the ballpark. We may only get one shot.
  6. Pastors need  a sabbath too. Since Sundays aren’t ours, we must prioritize another day for rest. I now take Saturdays off and I was reminded that I must truly rest on that day.

If you’ve ever played hookey from church, I’d love to hear what you learned.

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Do Pastors have Blind Spots?

Bill Hull, one of the most prolific writers on discipleship, shared a profound insight that stirred my heart. “At age 50 I found myself successful but unsatisfied. I was hooked on results, addicted to recognition, and a product of my times. I was a get-it-done leader who was ready to lead people into the rarified air of religious competition. Like so many pastors, I was addicted to what others thought of me.”[1] Sometimes I’ve found myself struggling with those same unpleasant struggles Bill described that are often blind spots. I’ve learned the concept below that has helped me ferret out what may be behind those feelings.

Basic RGB

A counselor friend helped me understand how our hidden areas influence what we think, feel, and do. He drew a diagram on the white board in my office that psychologists use to help people become more self-aware in their relationships. It’s called the Johari Window pictured here.
pastors - gain self-awareness

You can see that the blocks in the right column picture areas in our lives about which we are not aware. The ‘blind spots’ are known by others yet not by us. The ‘unknown’ is hidden both to us and to others. The lower left hand block represents those areas that we know about ourselves, yet others don’t. If we honestly and appropriately disclose our struggles (the ‘hidden’) and if we humbly seek to become more self-aware (the ‘blind spots’) we will lead and serve more effectively.

Unfortunately, we pastors don’t do so well with self-awareness and awareness of others. As an example, a 2006 Barna research report discovered that pastors believe 70% of adults in their churches “consider their personal faith in God to transcend all other priorities.”[2] A contrasting survey of church people revealed that less than one in four (23%) named their faith in God as their top priority in life,[3] a large awareness miss for pastors.

Russ Veenker, an expert in pastoral health, told me in an interview with him that lack of self-awareness tops the list of pastoral problems he has seen in the hundreds of pastors he’s counseled. He said pastors should pay more attention to the truth in Romans 12.3, Be honest in your estimate of yourselves. (New Living Translation) He also stated that those who are more self-aware become much more healthy pastors.

Another survey on body care reinforces our apparent lack of self-awareness. The vast majority of us pastors describe our health as good, very good, or excellent. Yet the data from the same body-mass index survey indicate that 78 percent of male pastors and 52 percent of female pastors are either overweight or obese.[4]

Finally, in a study by Ellison Research of 870, Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted the difference between how pastors see their own family health and how they see the health of other clergy families. “Ministers apparently have a much more optimistic view of their own family than they do of the families of other ministers,” Sellers stated. “When one out of every twenty ministers feels his or her own family unit is unhealthy, but one out of every seven ministers believes the family units of others in their denomination are unhealthy, there’s a disconnect.”[5]

So, blind spots are something every pastor must honestly face. What is a step you can take to discover your blind spots?

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[1] Bill Hull, It’s Just Not Working, LeadershipJournal.net, 7/1/05. http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2005/summer/6.26.html.

[2] The Barna Group, Survey Shows Pastors Claim Congregants are Deeply Committed to God, The Barna Update, 1/10/06. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/165-surveys-show-pastors-claim-congregants-are-deeply-committed-to-god-but-congregants-deny-it.

[3] The Barna Group.

[4] Rev. Dr. James P. Wind, The Leading Edge: A Fresh Look at American Clergy, Congregations, May/June 2002. http://www.alban.org/conversation.aspx?q=printme&id=3290, 2.

[5] Ellison Research,  New research shows pastors may not have a realistic view of the health of their own family, July 19, 2005. http://www.ellisonresearch.com/ERPS%20II/release_17_family.htm.

When Pastors get Pigeonholed

Pastors face a common vocational hazard, getting pigeonholed. Labeling is another term to describe this ministry hazard. It goes something like this. You make a statement in conversation with somebody or in a sermon, you do something as a leader, or you communicate your intentions about an issue. Or you intentionally or unintentionally make known your unique ministry rhythms or daily routine (ie, study in the morning rather than take counseling appointments or take off Mondays and turn off your cell phone so you can take a break from ministry demands). What are the dynamics of this church leader phenomenon and what do we do about it?

Vector Pigeonhole Principle illustration. Flat illustration. Vector icons of pigeons.

Some people in your church may subconsciously make up a story about you based on their experience with you or based on their met/unmet expectations of you. The stories may be good. The stories may be bad (the usual case). Some stories sound like these.

  • He (or she) is never available when you need him.
  • He’s always available when you need him, 24/7.
  • He doesn’t listen to feedback.
  • He really loves people.
  • He’s a micro-manager.
  • He only does what he wants to do.
  • You better not cross him.
  • When he preaches, he’s nothing but emotion.
  • When he preaches, you won’t get fed.

People share their stories with others. As a result, many stories become secondhand and grow each time somebody shares the story, like the “whisper game” we played as kids. And once a person makes up a story, it’s difficult for us to remake it, especially if it carries strong negative emotion.

So, how should we respond to this reality? Consider these thoughts.

  • Don’t feel like you have to tell everybody everything about your life. We can be authentic and honest without airing our dirty laundry and without exposing our biggest frustrations with the church. We can avoid some stories with a bit more discretion.
  • When somebody says, “A lot of people feel the way I feel (usually a negative story),” don’t immediately assume the whole church is against you. “A lot of people” probably means two or three.
  • If a wrong story about you is circulating, gracefully speak to one or two of those circulating it and try to help them create a different story. Let them then circulate the new story.
  • Realize, unfortunately, that some people will make quick judgements about you and will pigeonhole you no matter what you do. Don’t worry about those stories. You probably can’t do anything to change them.
  • Examine the stories you yourself have made up about others and admit if you’ve been guilty of pigeonholing others. Change any incorrect stories.
  • Live such a Christ-centered life that when integrous people do make up stories, which they will, the stories they make up reflect God-honoring qualities.
  • When you’ve been wrongly pigeonholed, remember Jesus. No one in history faced more unfair labeling and hateful stories than did He. And He responded with the utmost grace to the story makers.
  • Finally, turn to the pages of Scripture. God’s word gives great encouragement and guidance  for leaders.

1Pet. 2.12 (CEV) Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do. 

Titus 2.7 (CEV)  Always set a good example for others. Be sincere and serious when you teach.  8 Use clean language that no one can criticize. Do this, and your enemies will be too ashamed to say anything against you. 

How have you dealt with stories others have made up about you?

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