Dead Leader Running?

Dead Leader Running?
By Sue Mallory

Why is it as leaders in the church that we have such a hard time saying no to requests when we’re already too busy with the ministries we’re involved in? And why is it as leaders that we don’t equip all our people to define and set healthy boundaries?

At last summer’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit, I heard two surprising messages related to these questions. In his talk “How I Cheated the Church,” Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta spoke of putting his family ahead of ministry and defining boundaries that allowed him to be home every day at 4:30, no matter what, to be with his wife and two small children. And still the church flourished because all the leaders, staff, and congregation stepped in to be the ministers of the church.

The talk that really got my attention, though, was Wayne Cordeiro’s “Dead Leader Running.” Wayne told us how he’d gotten so out of balance as a leader by doing things he loved that he became physically ill. Wayne enjoyed all the ministries he was involved in, in his local church and throughout the country. He talked about how hard it was to say no to things he wanted to do. And then his body began to say no for him.

I love the local church and all it entails, but I’ve seen and experienced this phenomenon; it will suck the life out of you if you allow it. Why? In part it’s because we don’t define boundaries in ministry descriptions or invitations to serve. And it’s also because we don’t teach ministry leaders the art and importance of saying no. But I gained new insight to the biggest reason when Bill Hybels came up to thank Wayne and admonished audience to heed Wayne’s message, saying, “You will disappoint people by defining healthy boundaries. Count on it! But do it anyway.”

My “aha” that day was that I, like many others, don’t say no because I fear disappointing the people who ask me. I’m guiltier of this than of any other boundary issue. My former partner in ministry, Brad Smith, used to call me the accommodator. He was so right, and he helped me see what I was doing. I love what I do. I want to say yes when asked, but I often need to say no, and I don’t, for fear I’ll disappoint the inviter.

I urge you as equipping leaders to spend some time defining and setting healthy boundaries and then to work really hard at keeping them. Our ministry on it if we’re to remain leaders for the long haul. Jesus gave us countless examples of stepping away, going to the mountains to pray, and not accommodating all that was asked of him. He disappointed many people. In so doing, he gave us the best example of self-care. We have only to live up it.

Are you a dead leader running? If so, I urge you to take a time out and be willing to disappoint people. Your life depends on it.

Article “Dead Leader Running?” written by Sue Mallory is taken from REV! the 2007 January/February edition.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”