Tag Archives: leadership

“Ready or Not, Welcome to Leadership and Center Stage”

“Preaching with you in the congregation made me nervous!” my younger friend laughed after worship a few years ago. Completely surprised, I laughed back: “Are you kidding?”

It was a rare Sunday for me, one when I was both away from my own pulpit and not preaching or singing elsewhere. My friend had done a great job preaching, and I don’t know any pastor whose work in a community I respect more. I’ve preached on occasions when I was nervous myself because I knew a veteran preacher/respected mentor was present that day. I knew that no one in the crowd would be more “for” me, but still . . . a bit daunting. I just couldn’t imagine having that effect on someone myself.

After the surprise came a feeling of humility and some trepidation. Why would anyone think I was much more than a wet-behind-the-ears apprentice in preaching, pastoral care, and church leadership?

And extend this to your own areas of life and expertise. Did it surprise you when younger colleagues started to look to you as a mentor? Or, though your kids have been on their own and doing well for a long time, isn’t it a little daunting to realize that they now look to you as you, not that long ago, looked to your own parents? “I want to ask Dad” fits well with my dad, G. B., but that it could be said regarding Curtis is still a shock to Curtis. Are you kidding? That’s above my pay grade, further up the ladder than my rung, isn’t it? (I still ache to call Dad.)

I’ve lived most of my life being able to count on and seek the wisdom of older and wiser folks who’ve paved the way for me. It’s always been good to know they were there.

I remember (forgive the political opinion) my sadness the first time when, though we still had a chance to elect a president from “the Greatest Generation,” we squandered a soon-lost-forever opportunity. I guess I wanted, felt like we needed, more than just a capable person in office. We kids needed a father, a role model of wisdom and maturity. I knew for sure my generation couldn’t be ready to lead. Anyway, how could it possibly be time?

At official graduations, we have ceremonies. But the kind of graduation I have in mind? At first, we almost miss the clues, but suddenly they come more rapidly and obviously, and we look around and realize—this is frightening—that we now occupy the role for others that our parents and mentors did for us.

The time really hasn’t come as quickly as it seems. We just could hardly imagine that it would ever come. We’ve always lived life feeling like we had a safety net. We knew theoretically that the time would come to grow up, but we had time, right? Even if we lurched toward something stupid, well, wiser, more seasoned, more mature adults were still there. They’d grown up fast, surviving a Great Depression, truly “saving the planet,” the free world, in World War II. If we messed up much, they’d pick us up and get us back on track.

Well, my generation almost forgot to grow up. “Greatest,” in any positive sense, will not be mentioned in the same paragraph with our bunch. Certainly, not “wisest.”

But here’s wisdom for any generation finding itself, like it or not, taking its turn to lead on center stage: trust the only One who doesn’t change and seek the wisdom he has promised to give to those who ask.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Would You Speak About ‘Ministry Today’?”

 

ministry

“Would you be willing to speak briefly to my seminary students?”

In the weeks since one of my best friends and most capable colleagues made that request of me, along with eight or nine other ministers, a fine group whose quality I can only dilute, I’ve been pondering what to say about “Ministry Today.”

The first challenge is relatively minor. He said “brief.”

The second is that my only real qualification to give such a speech is that I feel incredibly unqualified to give such speech. That, by the way, will be one point: Never trust any minister who claims to know all about “doing” ministry.

I’m pretty sure that my task is more than simply to mention how many pastors in “ministry today” need anti-anxiety medication. I doubt my friend wants me just to discuss various pharmaceutical options.

One major point might be that ministry today brings with it some challenges somewhat unique, but that in most ways ministry today is hard because real ministry has always been hard on any day.

Still, as is historically true, prosperity brings challenges more threatening to deep faith than hard times and persecution ever bring. We “swim in a sea of selfishness.” The consumer religion approach—“Have It Your Way,” looking for the best value in “religious goods and services”—which fits our culture like a glove rather than transforming it, is as deadly as it is tempting.

To the ministry students, I will probably say, you need to ponder often and deeply what real “success” in God’s kingdom looks like. The church needs pastors, not religious rock stars. It is very difficult to be a real pastor to a flock so large that you don’t know the faces and names of the sheep. A large church can be a great blessing, but so can a small one. And let’s be honest: Most large churches in our land aren’t large because they’re good at bringing unbelievers to Christ; they’re large predominantly because they’re good at making small churches smaller.

I’ll probably also (ironically, I’m afraid) tell the students to guard their hearts against cynicism.

I’ll warn them against the idea propounded by church growth seminars that most churches are just one amazing program or one big change away from explosive growth, an idea that invariably produces explosions and hurts most the very sheep who least deserve the wounds.

I’ll tell them to look at Moses and his faithful leadership. I’ll also tell them to think about, pray about, and take steps to avoid,  the mistake even Moses made by allowing weariness and frustration to lead him to “strike the rock” (Numbers 20). It’s every tired pastor’s temptation.

I’ll tell them, don’t forget whose kingdom it is you’re giving your life to help build. (Clue: It’s not yours.)

I’ll urge them, love the Lord. Love the flock, real people with real faces, joys, and sorrows. Never dishonor them and demean your calling by using them to feed your ego, as if they are simply a stepping stone on your career path. Remember that these are God’s people whom you’re privileged and called to walk beside as you make this journey together, learning each day to live in faith, in grace, following the Lord.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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