When the Tail Becomes the Dog

dog tail When the Tail Becomes the Dog

Mission is critical. By “mission,” I mean the big “M,” what we were put on earth to do. For the church, it’s making disciples of Christ and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded. Many of us think that means baptize people and keep them in church. It’s so much more than that, because making a disciple is different from making an initial convert, and “all that Jesus commanded” is a lot.

It’s important for leaders to know what the mission is, and what it is so we can hold ourselves accountable for our leadership. Also, God’s people can know whether their leaders are leading well or not. The next time you are making a critical decision, ask yourself, “How is my/our decision actually going to further the Mission of Christ?” Then, be honest. Really. Honest. If it only tangentially applies to mission, treat the decision tangentially. This doesn’t mean it isn’t important, it just means it isn’t most important. Consider delegating it, or dealing with it quickly and moving on. Don’t spend meeting arguing whether or not you should rent your facility to such-and-such a group. Ask how it will help make disciples and teach them everything Jesus commanded. If it really won’t, you don’t need to say no, necessarily, you just don’t need to spend much time on it. Say yes, and move on.

This may sound like a complete no-brainer, but in my experience, some leaders/leadership teams spend the majority of their time on such decisions, leaving little/no time to advance God’s mission or care for the hurting in their midst. Clarifying mission is key not just because it’s most important, but because of what it saves us from–taking the church on a gyroscopic journey into decline because of our aimlessness or worse. Leadership teams develop emotional processes and ways of thinking over time. Those play a role in whether or not leadership can even think missionally when they need to. If leadership thinks they are the complaint desk, those who need to know everything that’s going on, or get crossways with one another–they will fail the church at their primary task: keeping the church focused on God’s Mission.

Many of our most brutal battles are not fought over mission, but over control, or one leader’s desire to preserve their hive of tradition. Mission holds leaders’ feet to the fire. Leaders need to hold themselves accountable for keeping the church on track and avoiding the proverbial “banana peels” that blow up churches because leaders don’t think through the consequences of the decisions they are making. When we look back, we see the tail wagged the dog, and after enough of such episodes occurred, the tail became the dog and dog became the tail. When that happens, we run the risk of Jesus putting the dog to sleep.

The church is not a video game. It wasn’t created for us to play with, or to satiate our egos. We are here for what Christ came here to do. If our meetings are more about tails than dogs, now is the time to fix it. We might ask, “How?” Leaders need to set guidelines for their meetings and arguments, and hold one another accountable. If someone cannot manage themselves, they need to step down so they can devote their full attention to irrelevant matters, and so leadership stays on target.

How does your leadership team stay on target? What seems to pull it off-target the quickest?

Note: this post adapted from a previous post.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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