Well, “don’t care” might be a little harsh. We would all like to believe that our opinion really counts and has validity, especially in those areas where we fancy ourselves expert. Sometimes, though, people just don’t give a rip about what we think or say, and that stings. Undoubtedly, we are partially to blame.
Here are 6 significant ways we defeat ourselves when we opine—especially in church leadership, like...
1. When we use the Bible as a shield. Yes, yes, we’re supposed to use it that way...got it. The problem arises when we use God’s word to avoid giving a straight forward answer to a straight forward question.
One well meaning pastor I know used Romans 8:28 for every situation, even to respond to a grieving widow who asked why this horrible thing had happened to her. Romans 8:28 can only be lightly applied to the widow’s situation. What she was seeking was a word of simple acknowledgement and encouragement about what she was experiencing.
2. When we pretend to have all the answers to a complex problem we ourselves have just begun to understand. Again, a pastor I know literally turned upon his board of elders (in an effort to shut down a controversy) with the statement, “I know what’s going on and I know how to fix it.” He didn’t and he didn’t!
Usually no one is impressed with a person who claims or seems to claim by his actions and posturing to have all the answers.
3. When we appear to be so humble it’s a challenge for us to be viewed as leaders. I was caught doing this once by a very perceptive parishioner who called me out on it. I had been doing my “aw shucks-y country lawyering” shtick for about 20 minutes, when she raised her hand and said clearly and effectively, “Doug, we need you to have an opinion on this so that we can make an informed decision. We all get that you don’t want to rock the boat, but that’s your job!” Humility is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that you never express an opinion.
4. When we appear to be steering a conversation toward our predetermined agenda. I have always had to fight my tendency toward Narcissism, a very dangerous and insidious pathology. It sometimes makes the possessor of it believe they are smarter, cleverer, and more entitled than anyone in the room. It’s the “I’m the Master of the Universe” syndrome and, in the church, it’s deadly. I’ve observed, and been guilty of, going into a meeting with the exact outcome locked in my spirit and mind.
Meetings are usually supposed to work toward consensus by advice and wisdom. Many leaders manipulate the agenda mercilessly. People are, as it turns out, not stupid about such deception and will shut down faster than the stock market.
5. When we use more jargon than substance. I’m relatively sure you’ve been in situations where a pastor uses language much like processed Kraft Cheese Slices—as a filler for a bad sandwich. In the church this abuse of pastorese is often called “God Talk.” People usually hate it when that’s all they hear.
When I was a little kid we had a pastor who “got the victory” over everything—and he got it all the time. I never got to know who he truly was because he never truly said anything.
6. When we answer every question perfectly. Leaders are often embarrassed not to have all the information they need to adequately answer their inquisitors...been there, done that. There’s a truth here, though, and most of you have probably learned it.
It pays to say, “I don’t know, but I’m going to try to find out for you.” We have politicians, (and pastors for that matter) who never seem to be stuck for answers. Glibness is not a substitute for process and truth-telling.
Summary: Probably, like I, you are only guilty of breaking 4 or 5 of these sins on a regular basis, but if we could see the leadership carnage caused by them, we would probably be more careful.
Doug can be helpful to you and your church, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a phone appointment. He will be happy to help where it's apropraite.