Listening and assessing are two characteristics found in wise spiritual leaders.
Even as you seek to move forward by faith, you must have an awareness of the current needs surrounding you and in the lives of those you lead.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.—Proverbs 27:23
This perception of needs is one of the reasons that the neglect of widows did not derail the early church at Jerusalem in Acts 6. Because the apostles were aware of and sensitive to the concerns of the church family, they were able to respond wisely.
Over the years, there have been several types of needs that regularly need to be addressed in our church family, and probably in every local church that is pressing forward by faith.
1. Member Needs
At any given time in our church, there are members in the hospital, families with crisis situations, people who need counseling, and other ongoing needs. A pastor must be aware of these needs and should be sure that there is consistent effort taking place to help bear these burdens.
2. Facility Limitations
Is there a stoppage of growth because of a facility need? Each time we have begun a new building project, I spend much time in prayer and enter it with the awareness that the devil will fight during this time. But at the same time, I enter with the awareness that the facility limitation itself can be a hindrance to what we are trying to do for the Lord. When that is the case, we must step out in faith and tackle the project.
3. Calendar Overload
Terrie and I laugh when we remember how when we first came to Lancaster Baptist Church, we would sit at our kitchen table and try to create activities to fill the church calendar. Now our planning meetings are the exact opposite! With several ministries sharing the calendar, we’re always trying to see what we should take off the calendar.
As a leader, be sensitive to overload, and don’t do anything just for the sake of filling time. Make sure every event and activity has a purpose that supports the purpose of the church—reaching the lost and making disciples. This is an area that needs regular reassessment as the church grows.
4. Leadership Fatigue
Sometimes there are leaders in the church who need a break. Many times, pastors who have been in the same church for fifteen to twenty years may, in fact, need a sabbatical—a few months to get away for renewal as they spend time with the Lord, read, and write out vision and direction for the next several years of the church.
There may be a lay leader who has taught a class for a couple decades and simply needs to take a couple months off. There’s nothing wrong with offering this to someone. And when someone approaches you with a need for rest, don’t try to guilt trip them into continuing in fatigue. Sometimes we need to be sensitive to where people are and help them gain renewal to keep serving over the long haul.
5. Carnal Behavior
I always tell our new members class that we emphasize godly living at Lancaster Baptist Church and practice Matthew 18. While no church is perfect, if a member falls into a lifestyle of sin, we cannot simply pretend it isn’t happening, but we must go to them in a spirit of restoration.
Church leaders must be perceptive of these kinds of needs, recognizing when members of the flock are struggling and reaching out as the body of Christ to address the need and restore.
6. Dysfunctional Program
Sometimes programs that start well fall into dysfunction later or pass their point of usefulness. Rather than continuing on autopilot, leaders must always be assessing what is and what is not working well.
Beware of Success
We have to be careful of the hubris of success. We must guard against the idea that because we have been leading for a long time or because God has blessed us with a measure of success, nothing we’re doing needs to be changed.
It’s fun to see growth, and it’s exciting to dream and plan for the future. But the reality is that sometimes we need to step back and ask, “What are the current needs in the church or in the ministry where I lead?”
The needs are there. It’s the nature of ministry. And spiritual leaders must have good peripheral vision, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and be perceptive of the real needs in their midst.