Have you ever realized how easy leadership is? A vision statement is pretty easy to write if you toy around with the verbiage long enough. Dreaming up big hairy audacious goals is a blast. And reading leadership books? That often borders on entertainment.
But doing the actual leading? That’s hard. Leading is hard because you bump against resistance in every direction you turn. The people you want to lead think your vision statement is cheesy and your goals are just hairy. But those struggles are a sign that tells you that you are in fact leading. Maybe even in the right direction.
Can you think of any famous leader in history who didn’t face some kind of obstacle or resistance? Probably not. It is more likely that you think of someone who had a defining challenge to overcome, and getting past it is what put him or her into the history books.
Since resistance is inevitable, you might as well embrace it. You can become a better leader if you use instances of resistance like a bodybuilder, who lifts heavier and heavier weights to get stronger and bigger. See them as opportunities to grow your strength as a leader, not an excuse to give up.
Where will you brush up against resistance? And how can you use it to grow stronger as a leader?
Resistance from the people you want to lead
The first line of difficulty a leader faces is rallying the troops. What do you do when everyone is less than enthusiastic about your vision? You can’t lead people who don’t buy in. Or worse, what about when people vocally oppose what you think is best for your church? On a more subtle note, sometimes people buy in with their words, but not with their hearts or actions. They give you the thumbs up in your meetings, but don’t follow through.
Here is an opportunity to grow as a leader in the areas of persuasiveness and motivation. I’m not talking about using psychological ploys to manipulate behavior. I’m talking about recognizing that the people you lead are human. They have their own desires, drives, and passions apart from what you want to see happen at your church. Have you tapped into those things to help your teams or church members buy in?
When people don’t buy in, real leaders assume that it’s their own fault, not the fault of those they are trying to lead. Use their resistance as an opportunity to grow as a leader. You need to grow in your ability to reach people’s hearts with your vision. If they are not behind you it is because you have yet to give them a good reason to be.
Resistance from the enemy
In addition to the exterior battles leaders face, there are the interior battles against sin and the flesh. When the going gets tough, Satan finds ways to make sin look like a respite for a weary pastor. I don’t know about you, but I am almost daily aware of the reality that Satan would love to help me disqualify myself from ministry.
Beyond personal temptation, there is also the fact that our enemy is scheming against us. Indeed, the reason you may not have the buy in to your vision that you desire may not be a matter of flesh and blood. It may have more to do with the schemes of the devil and how he is deploying his spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:11-12). Lead your church expecting that the gates of hell will not prevail, but don’t expect hell to lie down without a fight.
How ought you to respond to spiritual warfare in order to grow stronger as a leader? Grow stronger in prayer (Acts 6:4; Eph. 6:18). Grow stronger in resisting the devil, that he may flee from you (James 4:7). And above all grow in your confidence in Christ’s defeat of Satan at the cross, and his promised ultimate victory when he returns.
God’s grace strengthens resistance-laden leaders
The good news is that encountering resistance unites our experience with our Savior’s. Jesus wasn’t out of diapers before people wanted him dead (Matt. 2:16), his hometown gave him no parade (Mark 6:4), his family thought he was nuts (Mark 3:21), his friends denied and betrayed him, and eventually the people he came to rescue crucified him. So let’s not be surprised if we face resistance in our ministry, if we truly intend to follow the Lamb wherever he goes (Rev. 14:4).
What did Paul say to Timothy, as he was fending off false teaching? “Share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,” and “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:8 and 2:1). The one who leads us knows the difficulties we go through as leaders, and he provides grace for us as we enter the fray.