I tend to see the big picture when presented with ideas. I can usually anticipate potential problems and possible reactions. I envision what it would take to develop an organization to put a idea in place. I consider the feelings and concerns of various groups involved. So when someone presents me with a done deal decision, my reaction is to bring up possible ramifications or problems. It’s part of my processing the news, but it does serve to push back when the issues have been ignored.
What I see as thinking wisely, however, others see as troublemaking. Several years back I was shocked to hear that I had been categorized as negative by my supervisor. From my perspective I was trying to understand how all facets and consequences of decisions had been worked out when I wasn’t part of the process of decision-making. From the perspective of those over me, my practical consequences or opposing opinions weren’t welcome. Although I wasn’t speaking to be negative but to think through it and understand, I was labeled a troublemaker.
I’ve frequently remembered that as I’ve recently watched some big names in the church world make decisions and take actions that came back to haunt them.
Where was the accountability? Where were the voices that could have stopped at least some of the ungodly behavior and sinful attitudes years ago before they grew bigger? Where were the questions about repercussions or lack of concern for victims and the name of Christ? Where was the truth of God’s Word?
My guess is that thinking, courageous voices had been quieted years ago as troublemakers.
My point is not to dwell on what happened, but to learn. What do these highly publicized situations that have thrown mud on the church teach us?
First, we leaders don’t need “yes people”
I know firsthand that it’s easier as a team or ministry to work with a group that agrees with me. Yes, we should develop a team with the same big vision or cause, but it needs the insight of those who see other ways to get there. All leaders need prophet-like people around them who will speak into our lives and our plans with honesty and courage, as the OT prophets did. There is a difference in bringing a unique voice and being an enemy.
Second, the group where the buck stops must be independent.
Our churches and Christian institutions can’t let their boards/elders/deacons be stacked by their lead employee—pastor, president, or CEO. They need outside-the-box thinkers whose only agenda is truth and accountability. No one in that group should be indebted to the person the group must hold accountable.
Third, when we are charged with holding someone accountable, we must do so.
Whatever position we hold—elder, deacon, board member, pastor, president, or committee member—we must be true to the responsibility we have to speak up. Sadly, it may result in being isolated or driven out by the powerful. In the end no one may listen when we voice our concerns, but it’s not right to go along to get along. Like the prophets of old, we may be persecuted and lose in the world’s eyes, but we serve a mighty, great God, not a human leader. It is to him alone that we answer, and he alone with judge our actions.