“One of the great dangers of leadership is this: we stop doing ministry out of imagination and we start doing ministry out of memory. We learn how and forget why. We stop creating the future and start repeating the past.” – Mark Batterson
A third obstacle to doing ministry out of imagination is Misunderstanding of Leadership. What is leadership? Specifically, what does leadership look like in the church?
If leadership in ministry means preservation of the past, then imagination may be unnecessary and even unhelpful. But I would argue that leadership is not about preserving the past, but about creating the future. Imagination is needed to pioneer – but maybe not so much to maintain the status quo.
In ministry, there is a lot of pressure to ‘keep the constituents happy’. Sing the songs that I like… Keep the sermons a little shorter… Play the games we enjoy and make sure we do those same activities that we really liked last year…
It’s a lot like my 2 year old, actually. “Give me what I want, or I’ll cry.” It is completely in my power to give her what she wants everytime. (Often, it would be a lot easier.) But as a father, my job isn’t to give my kids what they want – it’s to teach them to live. At times, those two objectives are at odds with each other.
Ministry is similar. Sometimes, what the students in my ministry really need is not even similar to what they want. My job isn’t to entertain them – it’s to lead them to life. But again, the pressures to get a lot of kids to come are sometimes at odds with what it takes to disciple. The nature of discipleship has a narrowing effect on crowds.
It requires sacrifice that many are not willing to make.
John records a point in Jesus’ ministry when, “From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” It was a hard teaching that he had presented. He was leading to places the people had never been before and they weren’t comfortable. Jesus could have leaned back on his miracles to bring them back around. He could have done the whole walking on water thing again, that was pretty impressive… But instead, he indicated to his inner circle that the ride wasn’t over, asking them if they planned on leaving too? It was as if he asked them, “Which tomorrow are you choosing? The one with me or without me?”
Always the one to speak up, Peter points out that there was no where else to go to get what he has. “You have the words of eternal life.“
Peter recognized that Jesus wasn’t there to coddle them and make them feel good about their fine (or not so fine) Jewish upbringing. He was there to teach them to live. That is leadership in the church, and it requires us to look past what is and see what could be.