Few things in life actually move at the speed we want them to.
Most of us would speed up traffic, unless you’re that little old man in the farm truck that’s raising his bony fist at any who are crazy enough to drive more than 45 miles per hour. Generally, we would like for meetings to move faster through their agendas, and some of us would like our spouses to do their hair more quickly when we’re headed out to dinner, though we have only verbalized such thoughts once.
But we don’t live every moment with both feet on the accelerator. Some moments find us wishing life came with brakes. So we stand at the bus stop on our child’s first day of kindergarten, heartbroken that we’ve arrived at this occasion so soon. We plead with the math teacher to “slow down” when our algebraic questions are multiplying faster than our undivided attention can manage. And most of us have tried to slow the clock on our last day at the lake, last goodbye at the airport, or just about any other “last” that we’d like more of.
Truth be told, few of us are pleased with the way time ticks on its predetermined cruise control. So we live each day begging our children to slow down and our parents to hurry up. We even find ourselves wanting to mess with God’s speed. Every one of us at church has asked Him to move more quickly when unanswered prayers are on the line, or blessings feel long overdue.
But pastor, we need you to move more slowly. When the issue is change and the victim is church, the people generally need their pastor to hear them when they say give us time to trust you.
Time is an endangered resource. Though we get the same amount of it every day, we never have enough of it. Once, my wife and some women from our church were chatting with a kindly, old gentleman as they walked along the coast of the Irish Sea. They were taking a break from the construction work of our missions trip—something I didn’t think there was time for, but there really wasn’t a good time to bring that up. Anyway, after an hour of chatting about the history of the quaint little village nearby, the beautiful flora and fauna of the overlooking hillside, and the possible identity of a distant boat, our ladies thanked the Irishman for taking the time to teach them so much about his homeland.
He replied, “O dearies, when God made time, He made plenty of it.” That sounded so profound, and we subsequently found that phrase to be adorning many of the plaques, mugs, and key chains one finds in Ireland’s souvenir shops. It also explains why the Irish never achieved world domination. Everyone knows there’s never enough time.
That’s why a newly minted pastor wants to get moving on his plans to fine tune or completely rewire his church’s ministry. He can see what they’ve been overlooking. He wants to prove his capacity to lead them toward greater effectiveness, and some of the needed steps seem quite obvious to him—rearrange the order of service, rip out some aging carpet, discontinue a few poorly attended programs, launch a couple new ideas…
One of the lessons pastors tend to learn the hard way is that there’s a definite gap between being the leader and earning the right to lead. The former can come as easily as being handed the ministry appointment and printing a box of business cards. There it is, in black and white, my name next to the church logo with the “p” word alongside for all to see! But if you think that those business cards somehow give you the right to start using that carpet knife, well, you’re probably going to cut off a few of your ministry fingers—and most of us have.
Earning the right to lead requires trust—a commodity that will be meted out slowly, at a pace that’s affected not only by your actions, but often by the behavior of the others who previously sat in your chair. In a healthy church that’s enjoyed a relatively bumpless ride on the ministry roller coaster, the road to building trust can be clearly marked, but among those who’ve been jolted or even flown off the rails a few times, trust is often handed out with an eye-dropper.
Tune in next time as we discuss the four ways a leader builds trust…