By Dan Hyun
I initially began going to my barber as a missional effort to engage my community. I’m thankful for the opportunities to build this relationship and, because my barber knows I’m a pastor, even provide some unscheduled counseling while in the chair.
Early on though, I struggled a bit with what I was paying for a haircut. The price wasn’t exorbitant and was probably in line with how much one would pay for a decent cut. I’d just gone my whole life paying as little as possible for that sort of thing.
A good vs. bad haircut
One day, I mentioned to my barber I was paying more to get my hair cut with him than I had been paying at [fill in discount barbershop name]. I asked why his shop charged more.
He stopped cutting, looked at me, and said something profound: “You can’t tell the difference between a good and bad haircut on the first day.” He explained most haircuts might look okay on the day of the cut, but a cheaper haircut reveals itself as time goes on.
Cutting Corners in our Churches
This general principle also applies as we lead our churches. Though we may not be talking about haircuts, decisions we make in the present moment will reveal themselves over time. It’s worth making certain sacrifices in our choices today to bear healthy fruit in the future.
Conversely, wisdom should lead us to question how certain decisions in the present could lead to potentially harmful effects down the line—even if those choices can seem to make life harder today.
The Need for Healthy Leaders
I don’t know many pastors who say they have enough leaders. This pressing need can cause a church to put people into leadership who may not be ready or qualified for those roles.
If there’s a strong biblical conviction a church needs elders, for example, it’s appropriate to recognize that not having elders is an issue that needs to be remedied. However, a deeper problem than a lack of elders is having an elder who should not be an elder.
I’ve witnessed too many painful instances where someone was given authority they shouldn’t have had. As a result, the church bore the brunt of the fallout.
It’d be better for a church to take the longer, slower road of developing and training leaders for the future, even if it may realistically make ministry in the present more challenging.
The Need for Safe Volunteers
Similarly, we all experience the stress of filling volunteer positions in the church. In many churches, this is related to finding people to serve in the children’s ministry.
In the face of this pressure and especially knowing another Sunday is coming, we feel the temptation to find anyone with a cheerful attitude who just seems eager to serve.
Sadly, we’ve witnessed far too many horrific stories of abuse that’ve occurred because leadership didn’t do appropriate due diligence to make sure systems and procedures were put in place to reduce the potential for abusive situations.
The hard and slow decisions to think through and implement such protocol and procedure in the present are worth it when considering the church’s health in the long run.
The Need to Address Sin
In another example, many of us pastors have had instances where the Holy Spirit has clearly convicted us of particular sins present in our congregations.
We know certain people are living in a way contrary to God’s ways. Our pastoral inclination is to address those matters, whether personally or even in a corporate sense if the sins have impacted the broader community.
Yet, what often stops some pastors from taking action is the recognition the person in sin also happens to be one of the most influential, powerful people in their community, and often one of the church’s biggest givers.
It’s a normal and wise thing to consider how decisions to confront sin could potentially lead to upheaval in the church. In these situations—though extravagant grace must always be given—may we also recognize ignoring someone’s sin with the hope it’ll just take care of itself doesn’t usually work.
Unaddressed sin will always impact a community, even if the full impact isn’t seen immediately. Though the effect of dealing with those issues presently may bring pain and even accusations of divisiveness, it’s a better pain than the one that can happen when sin is ignored and given room to grow.
Play the Long Game
Pastors will face a myriad of choices. Sometimes, cutting corners seems to make sense when our culture tells us the ends justify the means. However, may we live with a healthy fear of God that allows us to lead with the long goal in mind, even if it means having to make the hard decisions today.
Dan Hyun (@villagedanhyun) is the husband to Judie, father of two precious girls, and lead pastor of The Village Church in Baltimore, Maryland.