Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Heckler or Helper

Have you ever gone to a ball game and sat next to a "Big Fan?" I mean the kind who is always yelling as if among the 30,000 other people, their voice would stand out. From time to time in ministry we all will be cheered and jeered, and sometimes it is hard to know one from the other. When that happens, I must ask myself a few questions.

1. Is the person in the stands or on the field?

- A team mate or coach is more likely to give helpful comments than some drunk guy in the bleachers who is just sitting there seeking entertainment. In ministry when I get recommendations from the stands more often than not, it is from those who are not part of the game, though they may care about the wins and losses of the team, they usually do not contribute to the victory. Anyone in professional sports can tell you that they, in order to be effective, must drown out the fans. Don't believe it when they praise you, and don't listen to their criticism.

2. Do they know the why?

- Ignorance is not always bliss. Sometimes people on the field will make changes that the people in the stands do not agree with. It is important, especially in leadership that you make the best call for the team, in spite of the misunderstandings. When a manager calls a pitcher from the bullpen, it is not a lightweight decision. He has been watching all of the pitchers practice throughout the week, he has read the Dr.'s reports and has been scouting the opponent. He is the best one to make the call because it is his job. They plumber in the stands can read the sport's page and think he knows best, but in reality hindsight is 20/20 and for leaders we deal in the now. In addition, it is not his responsibility to answer all the whys. Often we are tempted to answer all the critics, and as this is sometimes necessary, it is always distracting and the team always suffers.

3. What's their motivation

- I once went to a game and sat in foul ball territory. As there were not many people in the stands that day, I felt I had a good chance to catch the elusive foul ball that we all dream about. Unfortunately, I found myself wishing that my team would hit foul balls just so that I could get what I wanted. Forget what was best for the team, forget that it counts as a strike, I wanted a souvenir and was willing to cheer against my team in order to get it. In ministry everyone you serve will have needs. They will all want you the lead pastor to meet those needs. Just as I would want the top surgeons performing my operation. Understanding that, there will be times when people want you to take your eye off the ball and give them what they want. In the end however, they often go away disappointed because the team lost....Oh, and by the way, someone else caught the foul ball.

4. Who do I play for?

- In most cities the fans believe that they own the team. Baltimore realized only too late when their Colts moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984. As leaders, we must realize that the fans think that they own us, that we work for them. In reality ministry is not to people but to God. We are God's servants and as soon as we replace Him and start serving people we are in trouble.

5. Know your role

- Ball players and coaches are very important to the community where they work. Charity functions, and sick children, and ribbon cutting, and so on always "need" their support. In ministry it is key to know your role. There is always someone who needs to learn something, the key to effectiveness is to lead leaders and not followers. Jesus often taught the multitudes, he even paused to heal the sick, but in truth he spent the vast, and I mean vast majority of his time coaching the twelve. He understood the ministry multiplication and that if he was going to accomplish His father's will that he could not heal everyone. If they were all healed, then who would have Peter and John healed? Know that your role is to raise up leaders, who can multiply ministry.

6. Teach them their role

In high school I started for JV and Varsity basketball in my 10th grade year. It was all good until we changed schools in my Junior year and I did not even make the team. Even though I did not make the team, I still wanted to have a part, so a group of us guys got together and formed a club/group called the 6th man. We dressed in all black, and made it our goal to disrupt the other team as much as possible. We saw that both teams had specified people to be cheer leaders, but we were counter opts. We would do everything we could to subvert the success of our opponents. As leaders we need to help the fan in the crowd to find a way to get in the game. It is not okay for the average church member or attender to cheer from the sidelines, they must get in the game. We must help them turn their energies on the opponent, and off our team.