The word sabotage always brings to mind espionage or even, intrigue. It is the act of someone ruining an event or project for the sole purpose of stopping advancement or progress. Many times when things go wrong at work or in ministry, the thought of sabotage comes to my mind.
Ministry is supposed to be the work of the kingdom, being God’s hands and feet, however, it has to be done by those same human hands and feet. What is to be done when one set of feet wants to go one way, but another set wants to go another? Often this conflict ends with the project or event ruined due to conflicting priorities of ministry leaders.
Friedman, in A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, explains that “the capacity of a leader to be prepared for, to be aware of, and to learn how to skillfully deal with this type of crisis (sabotage) may be the most important aspect of leadership. It is literally the key to the kingdom (Friedman 2017, Kindle Loc. 4761-4762).” To realize that crisis or sabotage is a normal part of leadership helps remove the intrigue from problems arising in leadership. As a ministry leader, it is essential not to get caught up in the issues swirling around the church to the point that effectiveness is lost. Nevertheless, this is easier said than done. We have been taught in ministry that there is a proper way to handle relationship problems, “the Biblical way”, by reproof and correction, but often it does not seem to work so we try harder. Friedman explains, “The treadmill of trying harder is driven by the assumption that failure is due to the fact that one did not try hard enough, use the right technique, or get enough information (Friedman 2017, Kindle Loc. 805).” So many of us try harder to get ministry right only to burn out and want to leave ministry altogether.
Resisting this urge to try harder to make ministry work requires that we have a paradigm shift. Fulfilling the Call of ministry in our lives requires that we ask different questions and try to reframe the problem as prescribed by Friedman,
In the search for the solution to any problem, questions are always more important than answers, because the way one frames the question, or the problem, predetermines the range of answers one can conceive in response (Friedman 2017, Kindle Loc. 845-847).
Allowing creativity to take over to help reframe the question of doing ministry well in spite of sabotage, allows the Holy Spirit to do His creative work. Although Friedman mentions prayer as another method of meditation, it is important to rely upon God to accomplish His work in His Church.
Friedman points out systems that help us process life, the leadership roles assigned to us, and I truly find this book helpful in understanding how to navigate our role as ministry leaders. However, given that the Bible teaches that leadership in ministry comes to the church as a gift as described in Eph. 4:11, it is important that we pray and include God in our quest to be better ministry leaders. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit provide the perfect triangle to lean on, learn from, and be rooted in, to lead as God has called us.
Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Church Publishing, 2017.