After serving for many years as a staff pastor and leader in the local church, I quickly discovered that what I thought was a purely spiritual activity called ministry required another skill beyond communication, theology, and coaching. Being a politician is how a pastor survives. And, if a pastor survives being a politician perhaps there might be enough left in him to thrive. It takes a navigation in the realm of politicking to remain in the seat or role of a leader, be that youth leader, women’s director, choir director, worship leader, or lead pastor. Many good intentions collide in a church, much like what family life is like. But, as we all know, intent is one thing. How we behave is another.
Politics are about how things appear to the crowd and to the people who pull strings and levers. They are about winners and losers. In a family, this is not a good thing. Politics are about compromise in order to hold power. Winning is how you keep your post. But, its not the kind of game that births altruism. So, if you are in a church and not trying to win someone has to lose. Playing not to lose is how politicians win, however. As long as you are not the loser, you are the winner. You are the last one standing and you then get to hold the keys. Its often not about merit, heart, innovation, or lives changed unless touting these allows you to not lose. So, don’t lose. No matter what!
I thought it might be helpful to have a discussion about common behaviors that poison our leadership. If we can identify the traps, perhaps we can avoid not the politics as much as letting them be the servant in our leadership and not the master. Even so, there are particularly toxic modes of operation that would be better outside of spiritual leadership. The ones I will list in this series of posts may allow you to win politically but lose spiritually. Beware church leaders.
So take this list and let me know if any of them ring a bell. And, how do you treat church politics? Is it a game to master? Is it a necessary evil? Or, is there another way to lead?
- Stall Pulling the Trigger (non-decisions)
- Don’t Make Anyone Look Bad (no-backbone)
- Compare and Contrast (deflect critics)
- Quid Pro Quo (favors)
- Dirty Tricks (getting ugly)
- The Spin (wordsmithing truth)