“People want confident leadership in a church that knows where it’s headed—even if they don’t entirely agree with you.”
Is it possible that your church isn’t a perfect fit for everyone?
Everyone is welcome, but maybe another church might meet their particular needs better. That’s not an easily embraced thought.
Can you say “no” to someone even if it potentially results in them leaving your church?
Learning to balance the natural tension of loving and caring for people, but not allowing someone to leverage their personal agenda, or even hijack the purpose of your church, is not easy.
This is a tough issue and requires artful leadership. As shepherds we hate to have even one person leave, but sometimes it’s OK.
The church is not designed to please everyone. The kind of preaching or style of worship can’t make everyone happy. Your approach to student ministry won’t connect with every parent. Heck, your choice of coffee can make some people mad!
The church does not exist to deliver all the programming its attendees can dream up. If we did everything we’ve been asked to do, we’d have dozens of programs from baseball leagues to classes in CPR.
You can’t preach every sermon your congregation thinks you should preach. Sometimes you just need to say no.
It’s all good and worthy stuff, but the church not only shouldn’t do all of it, it also can’t. No one church can do everything. That is simply impossible. So what each church does must be carefully, strategically and prayerfully thought through.
Many of the things that your attendees request already exist somewhere in your community. Encourage your congregation to engage the community, and take Jesus with them!
Here are three principles to help you navigate these sensitive matters.
1. Love everyone, but cater to no one.
Jesus served everyone the Father directed him to serve. We are to do no less. But the Father never directed Jesus to serve everyone while he was here on Earth.
One of the stories that illustrate this is in John 11. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus was sick and dying. They pleaded with Jesus to come and heal him, but Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. I’m certain they didn’t understand in the moment. They were probably upset. Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha, but he remained on purpose.
The tension arises from the fact that people are the purpose of the church. But Jesus never demonstrated or communicated that his kingdom purpose for the local church was to be surrendered to any single individual’s desires. Keep the larger mission in mind.
2. Know what God has called you to do and don’t back down.
You can’t do everything, so do what you do well. Keep your list of ministries lean. Stick to the main thing—stick to what God has called you to do.
Be strategic. Use resources wisely. Listen carefully to the prompts of the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced that God won’t give you more to do than you have time to do it in. So, if you have too much to do, maybe you are doing something God doesn’t need you to do.
Pray until you know what God wants. God is not the author of confusion and division. If there is disagreement among leaders, keep praying and practice mutual voluntary submission. When you agree and are aligned in God’s purpose and plan for ministry, be bold. Don’t back down.
I love the story in the book of Nehemiah when Sanballat and Geshem sent Nehemiah a message trying to get him to meet with them. Nehemiah responded that he was carrying on a great project and could not meet. He asked, “Why should the work stop and I go down to you?” They pressured him for a meeting four times, and each time, Nehemiah did not back down. He would not be hijacked by someone else’s agenda. (See Nehemiah 6:1-4.)
3. Get comfortable with the idea that the kingdom of God is bigger than your church.
I used to take it personally when anyone left the church I love and serve. It still gets to me at times, but I’ve come to realize that the kingdom of God is much bigger than my church.
The message of Jesus Christ is for everyone, but your church isn’t everyone’s preference, and that’s OK. Your doors are open to everyone, of course. They are welcome, but you can’t meet the high diversity of needs and ministry required in the body of Christ.
It’s natural to be disappointed if someone who has been with you for a long time leaves your church or if someone visits your church for a while and doesn’t stay. Don’t take it personally. In the same way that you on occasion must say no to someone, they can say no to you.
If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up with a much smaller congregation than you will if you know who you are, know what you are called to do, and do that well.
You can love and serve anyone, but you can’t please everyone. If a family leaves, love them well on the way out and let them know they are always welcome to return as Jesus directs them.
People want confident leadership in a church that knows where it’s headed—even if they don’t entirely agree with you.
If you’re like me, you want to meet every need you can. And you’d like to accommodate requests. But there are times you need to say no to some requests, preferences and demands. As a result, a few people may leave, but hold true to the purpose God has given you and stay steady on the course.