DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Sabotage

Written by: on October 18, 2019

Shadow of an old woman with a tea kettle

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.

Reference

Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Church Publishing, 2017.

 

About the Author

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Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

8 responses to “Sabotage”

  1. Mario Hood says:

    When I read the function of sabotage from his perspective it changed me dramatically. One of the main things it help me to understand was sabotage is really about the lack in the other rather than a personal attack on me.

    Also great point on the triangle of God also helps to understand why triangulation is so lethal. The enemy can’t be God so he will try and mimic in bad ways to be God in our lives.

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Mario, I agree that we may be taking sabotage as a personal attack when its really just people and their issues or our issues colliding. I thought this book was just to help us with our issues and understand what may be going on with others. I know I need to read it again.

  2. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thanks, Mary. I have lived a lot of years on the “treadmill of trying harder” and I see how that was shaped in me by my father’s work ethic. Though positive in its intent, the outcome given my personality has easily become workaholism and sometimes without effectiveness because I failed to see the real culprit. It wasn’t a lack of effort, but a systemic issue I was working against. Sabotage.

  3. Thank you Mary, your post has helped me see through the blinding mask of assumptions, assuming that sabotage is personal attack instead of a systemic problem to be discerned and tackled through the leader’s self awareness and differentiation.

  4. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Loved your post, Mary. I appreciate your quote: “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.” I agree completely. We may think we have the answers for someone else, but often, just by asking and listening, we find that what we thought were the right answers may have only been right for us; not for them. Powerful blog, my friend!

  5. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mary,
    Thanks for Friedman’s reminder that, “… crisis or sabotage is a normal part of leadership helps remove the intrigue from problems arising in leadership.” Yes, I think we are often blown away by the very presence of crisis or vindictive sabotage in church leadership. As local church leaders we must remain rooted in the Trinity but also self-differentiated from those we are striving to influence and lead (especially those given to sabotage!)

  6. mm Sean Dean says:

    Mary thanks for bringing out this point so well. Understanding sabotage as a problem existing in the other and not an attack on me is so crucial in ministry, but also life in general. Thanks again for your post.

  7. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    As many others have said, this was a great post on sabatoge. I think it’s so easy to take those things personally, when Friedman (and you) point out that it’s not personal so often. I think that’s also such a good reminder of well-differentiated people, who can understand that this isn’t a personal attack, but can rise above it!

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