I care very deeply about people. That’s why I’ve given my everything to pioneer, serve and build up the Junction Church. Of course, leading a church is far from easy. I don’t mention this to garner some kind of nauseating sympathy. It’s just an honest reflection which any church leader will identify with. But when you love people, it puts every challenge into perspective.
Yet when I first started out on the journey of church leadership, I would take every challenge personally. I guess when you really care for people, that’s what can happen. It certainly was like that for me. Every problem in church became my problem. Every failure became my failure. Every disappointment became my disappointment. If something went wrong in someone’s life, it was somehow my fault.
I’d feel profound guilt if people ever left church too – even if it was just because they’d got a new job somewhere else. I’d search my heart and wonder what it was that I’d done wrong this time. I struggled with feelings of shame because I felt I just wasn’t good enough. Ultimately, I felt that every issue was somehow connected to my personal inadequacy and failing as a leader. This, I assumed, was what it meant to take responsibility. The pressure was on. It was slowly suffocating my energy, creativity, vision and probably even my body.
Then one day, I had an epiphany moment. I honestly believe it saved my life. It was like a revelation from heaven right into my heart. It liberated me from a pressure that would probably have ended up killing me.
So what was this epiphany – this life changing revelation? It was the moment when I heard a whisper from Heaven right into the depths of my heart which said ‘You are far more responsible TO people than you are FOR people.’
This one statement has changed everything for me. It’s not that I care any less about people now. I actually care MORE about my church family than ever before. However, I don’t feel as responsible FOR people as I once did. I understand the absurdity of trying to take responsibility for the deep & profound issues of people’s hearts. Ultimately, to try and do this is unhelpful. However, I do feel more responsible TO people.
So what’s the difference between being responsible FOR people and being responsible TO them? Here are some thoughts:
When I am responsible FOR people, I try to make good decisions for them. But when I am responsible TO people, I encourage them to make good decisions for themselves.
When I am responsible FOR people, I try to tell them what their next steps should be. But when I am responsible TO people, I empower them to prayerfully work out the next steps themselves.
When I am responsible FOR people, I assume guilt and shame for the consequences of their bad decisions. But when I am responsible TO people, I know they must bear the consequences of their choices and help them take responsibility.
When I am responsible FOR people, I try to direct their journey, never allowing them to mess up or get it wrong. But when I am responsible TO people, I share their journey, offering encouragement and teaching along the way.
When I am responsible FOR people, I try to force them to grow in faith, commitment & purpose. But when I am responsible TO people, I create an environment where they can be planted, grow & flourish.
When I am responsible FOR people, I talk to people on God’s behalf. But when I am responsible TO people, I talk to God on their behalf.
This understanding of what it truly means to be responsible as a leader literally saved my life. My primary responsibility is TO people – to serve, to teach, to lead, to create a culture where you and your family can flourish, to be an example, to encourage, to equip & to help all of us become mature followers of Christ. It was an epiphany that undoubtedly saved my life and released me from a pressure that was stifling both to me personally and to the church I lead. It has also liberated me to become far more effective as a leader in helping people become everything they’ve been called to be. In the end, this is what Ephesians 4:11-12 is all about. #iLoveMyChurch