The greatest leadership lesson I have ever learned is: Not every hill is worth dying on. If I had believed and practiced this in my previous churches and perhaps during the first few of my 26 years at Cross Church, my influence would be greater and the ministry would be more effective. I have seen ministers let their stubbornness and pride wreck their own lives and ministries. Usually, it is because of violating this great leadership lesson.
In case no one has said this to you, whether you are a rookie pastor or an icon minister, let me tell you right now: Not every hill is worth dying on!
It took me many years to learn this. Again, if I had learned it earlier in pastoral ministry, each church I served would have prospered more effectively. The fellowship would have been sweeter, the growth would have been greater, and the preservation of that growth would have been more successful.
It Was A Process
How did I learn this lesson? It did not happen at a particular turning point, but through a process. Some things in leadership you can only learn through the growth of the entity you are assigned to lead. The evolving of the organization with growth in structures, personnel, dollars, and expectations requires the leader to operate by the conviction that not every hill is worth dying on.
As I write these words, I think about the times that I could have carried more people with me along the church’s vision path if I had only been more patient and personal along the way. In the name of “urgency” or “reaching,” we can at times hurry matters in a church when hurrying is not an asset, but a liability. I wish someone had spoken these words to me earlier in life. Perhaps they did but my passion distorted my hearing.
It’s Not About Being Right
Most Christians are more interested in being right than they are about being Christ-like. Many times pastors are no exception to this. The Christian life is not about being right — it is about being Christ-like. I heard this said years ago and I have never forgotten it: If Satan cannot get you to do the wrong thing, he will get you to do the right thing in the wrong way. When you think you are always right, you will die on needless hills. When you constantly have to prove you are right and don’t take the time to work toward making the best decision in the right time and in the right way, you lose something with your people.
The Hills Worth Dying On
There are some hills that are worth dying on no matter what anyone in your congregation might think. There are plenty but let me give you just three to consider…
1: Truth – You must be willing to die on the hill of God’s truth found in Scripture. You must stand in your pulpit, in your meetings, and everywhere else you go with the confidence that the Bible is God’s truth for today and always. Sadly, many people in the church will die on the altar of tradition, rather than be willing to die for truth. Pastors, let’s be committed to God’s Truth!
2: Morality – Jesus was very clear that we are to be the salt and light of the world. We must be the moral conscience of our regions, nation, and world. Biblically, we have no alternative. We have to engage our culture. Remember, when we do, there are times that our faith will collide with the culture.
3: The Great Commission – The Great Commission should drive every Christian and church. For a church to advance toward the future in terms of health and growth, the church needs to be emblazoned by the Great Commission. There is not one person in the church who ought to be more fired up and passionate about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations than the Pastor.
When You Go To The Hill
Good leadership determines not only which hills to die upon, but it also chooses the timing of when to ascend those hills for battle. Let me give you some strategic experiences you should go through before you ascend the hill.
Leadership has to be clear – One of the biggest mistakes of church leadership is assumption. We cannot assume people understand our vision. We must make it clear.
Processes have to be thorough – Have you gone through the various networks of decision-making bodies on the issue at hand? Have you done your homework? Have you connected with the right players about the matter at hand to answer their questions or address their concerns? These questions are important to answer to ensure the processes have been clear.
God’s timing – Before you ascend the hill, you need to check the timing. The decision to ascend the hill cannot be made because of pressure from a special interest group in the church or because you would like to get the matter behind you. Don’t forfeit your leadership on the altar of poor timing. It has to be God’s timing.
Wisdom is exercised when you have been clear and know it, the process has been thorough, and you have waited on God’s timing to ascend the hill. A wise leader will always do things in God’s timing, in God’s way, by God’s Word. If you have worked through these issues and you stand in confidence, you have no other choice than to ascend the hill. Therefore, ascend with confidence in God’s Word, power from God’s Spirit, and love for all people you want to join you on the hill.
From one minister to another: Not every hill is worth dying on.
Yours For The Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
To learn more about this subject and additional practical ministry principles, see Dr. Floyd’s book “Ten Things Every Minister Needs to Know.”
As we think through how to connect unconnected people through Bible study, one thing stands out: each member of the faith family should find a ministry role. When church members have no role or sense of personal responsibility, it is easy for them to remain unconnected. After all, there is no expectation of preparation or participation. No one will be disappointed if the unconnected person does not show up. No job will be left undone.
That, at least, is what the unconnected person is allowed to believe.
Intentionality in Leadership will Encourage Growth
Leading every member to find their role in their faith family — their local church — is among the most important responsibilities of church leaders. We cannot wait for new believers to figure this out by osmosis or on their own. We must intentionally lead them in this important area of growth.
If you are having trouble finding your role, or want to be more effective in helping people find their roles, consider these options:
1. Discover your spiritual gift. Three of the New Testament Epistles address spiritual gifts, the way the Holy Spirit meets needs in the faith family. Each believer is gifted as the Holy Spirit, in His wisdom, distributes the gifts.
There are a number of spiritual gift inventories available for helping with this. If no gift survey can be obtained, use the Bible alone as your guide. Ask a mature believer to watch your life and evaluate what your gift or gifts might be. Seek God’s Word for confirmation.
2. Determine your personality type. Some people are introverts, while others are extroverts. Some people are creative, some are problem solvers, some are questioners, some are team builders, and so on. This will help you determine whether a specific person in the greeter ministry would fit better in the parking lot (where personal interaction is less) or welcoming people at the door (where personal interaction is greater).
Our personalities are developed by God, and should not be excluded as a means of growing the body of Christ. They are as susceptible to spiritual fine-tuning as any part of our being.
3. Explore needs in existing ministries. There is virtually no church with 100% volunteer capacity at all times. How does a person’s giftedness and temperament fit within existing ministry opportunities? Some things that seem insignificant can really bring a great deal of encouragement. You would not think it makes a lot of difference for the pastor to have a fresh water bottle on the stage each week, but you’d be shocked how much it does. A smiling, friendly person who welcomes preschoolers can relieve the anxious parent’s heart.
I grew up in a church with 30-40 people weekly, and since that time I have pastored churches of all sizes. One common denominator between these churches: they all have a major need for people to be involved in ministries. In fact, the larger the ministry, usually the greater the need.
4. Look for gaps between ministries. Some people are especially gifted to start new things. These entrepreneur types typically see the holes in ministry and figure out ways to fill them. To paraphrase Jesus’ words at Lazarus’ tomb, “Loose ‘em and let ‘em go!” Allow them to follow God’s leading and, before you know it, more ministry will be taking place within your church!
What does this mean?
Simply, it means people who were formerly unconnected will become connected. There is also a much better chance of each remaining connected as he or she takes ownership of the ministry role or becomes a team member.
Involvement Becomes Contagious
Ministry involvement can also lead to small group, Sunday school, and/or Bible study involvement. A person unconnected to a small group, but in a ministry relationship, already has a relational connection to the group. We find it easier to connect a person who has some connection already than a person who has none. This is true of ourselves and of others.
The new Bible Studies for Life Curriculum Series that kicks off this fall is committed to providing curriculum that will be so engaging that the unconnected will want to connect; however, we leaders must do what we can to get them there the first time and follow up engaging them weekly in a group.
Helping the unconnected find their role in the faith family will result in more ministry, more Bible study and stronger believers.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie FloydSenior Pastor, Cross Church Northwest Arkansas General Editor, Bible Studies for Life