There was a room in my church immediately off the foyer. It was carpeted, with giant shadow boxes and faded Assemblies of God mission’s posters in them. The furniture was a collection of new and what was left over. There was an infamous lounge chair that had matching duct-tape to hold the seams together on the side. This room would be one of the first things you would see if you came into the church.
As I came into my third month of ministry, I decided to have a month dedicated to missions. The strategy was simple. We will support missionaries, missionary projects and church planting. With this in mind, I decided to take that room off the foyer and renovate it to become our mission’s café. It would reflect what we do around the world and therefore it must be excellent. As I cast the vision of what we were going to do, my point person for the project pulled out all these designs and brought them to my door. As I went through the pages and the pictures, I asked, “What are these?” She stated, “These were all the pages I pulled for ideas on this room.” I continued to ask questions and found out that there was a planned remodel of this room. As a matter of fact, it was going to be very similar to what I had in mind.
As we discussed the plans, I found out that it would probably only take about $1800 to finish the project. I also found out that the project was never finished because the senior pastor had people give their own opinions on what needed to be done, so he stopped the project because he was afraid someone would get their feelings hurt.
Call it naiveté or being in a honeymoon period, I cared less about people’s feelings and more about creating a space that would point to where we were going. It took us two weeks and $2100, and we finished the room, and no one complained or left the church.
There have been many moments like this one. Some of the indecisiveness nearly sunk the church financially. As I enter in the second year of ministry, many people have asked how the church is doing or what was the main problem with the church? My answer is always the same. The church’s problem never had to do with the people, the church’s problem had everything to do with the leadership or lack thereof. The church which I have been stewarding needed someone to come in and lead and not be afraid. This is the whole essence of Edwin Friedman’s book, Failure of Nerve.
Drawing upon the example of Europe before the enlightenment, Friedman explains that leadership, creativity, adventure and decisiveness go hand in hand. In other words, current leadership models focus on safety and security that lead to quick fixes, but never lasting change. Friedman calls upon leaders to not to accumulate data, but rather be willing to act with strength, stamina and responsibility.
There are so many real-world examples that tie into Friedman’s work. I will point out one thing that our friend Aaron Cole told me before I took my position here at my church. He told me that if I was afraid of losing my position here at the church, then I would become an ineffective leader within the church. In other words, a person who opts comfort will sometimes fail to do what is right for the organization. That has stuck with me, and I think it applies a great deal to Friedman’s book.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Leaders at times have to make very unpopular calls for the good of the organization, family or nation. If one fails to make those decisions and opts for an easier route, then it will inevitably lead to stagnation, decline and ultimately death. Leaders must lead.