Straight Talk to Leaders: What We Wish We Had Known When We Started
Sam Smucker

The article below is an excerpt from the book, Straight Talk to Leaders: What We Wish We Had Known When We Started. This book was authored by four Christian leaders with many years of leadership and ministry experience and addresses key leadership lessons they have learned along the way. The specific excerpts below were written by Pastor Sam Smucker.

Sam Smucker has pioneered and served as lead pastor of Worship Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for almost 40 years. He is a graduate of Rhema Bible College in Tulsa, Oklahoma and attended Pittsburgh School of the Bible.

Sam and his wife, Sherlyn, travel extensively internationally, as well as nationally, to teach and train pastors, leaders, and missionaries. Their heart’s desire is to see leaders rise up and lead their people in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.

Sam has written a book entitled Renewing the Mind, and co-wrote The Fruit of the Spirit and Straight Talk to Leaders.

Sam and Sherlyn have four children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren and reside in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

For more information or to order Straight Talk to Leaders, you may click here to be taken to the publisher’s website.


Straight Talk to Leaders by Sam SmuckerKeep Your Eyes on the Fencepost

From Chapter 1: Vision, Accountability and Building Healthy Teams

“But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:62 NLT).

I was raised in an Amish family, which meant we did our farm work with mules. I had worked with mules since I was five years old, but this was different. This meant my father trusted me enough to teach me how to do the most important task in the field work.

I was both excited and scared as we bridled and harnessed our four mules named Dick, Pete, Jack and Jewel. When we got to the starting point, the field looked so big to me. My father said, “It is very important to start with a straight furrow the first time through the field. If the first furrow is not straight, it will affect the whole field. Do you see that fencepost at the end of the field?”

I said, “Yes I see it.”

He said, “Keep your eyes on that fencepost until you get to the other end. Do not look down or look to the right or to the left. Do not look at the mules. Do not look back. Do not take your eyes off of the fencepost until you get to the other end.”

I gave the mules the signal to begin. I did exactly what my Dad told me to do by keeping my eyes on the fencepost until I got to the other end. When I reached the end, I looked back and the furrow was perfectly straight.

Later in life when I answered the calling that God had for me, I realized the spiritual correlation of that fencepost lesson. There are many distractions in life and ministry. Many times throughout 38 years of pastoring a church I recalled my father’s admonition to keep my eyes fixed ahead, not looking to the right or left. When a person is called to leadership, vision becomes a very important part of leading. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” One of the responsibilities of a leader is to keep the vision in front of the people. When the vision is clear and easy to follow much can be accomplished for the Kingdom of God. So the vision must be talked about on an ongoing basis.

Throughout years of pastoring, I have learned whenever I get tired of promoting the vision is when most of the hearers only begin to understand it. Therefore promoting vision is ongoing and should never stop. The last church facility we built took us ten years from planning until the time we moved in. Sometimes it became difficult to keep the vision fresh and clear. Those are the times a leader must dig deep to hear from the Holy Spirit for inspiration to share the vision one more time.

Treasure What Matters Most

From Chapter 2: Overcoming Discouragement and Other Things I Learned

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 NLT).

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throw a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him (Matthew 4:18-20 NLT).

Never has anyone treasured people like Jesus. He taught His disciples as they traveled with Him. He demonstrated this by stopping to minister to one person and by preaching and teaching to a crowd. Jesus drilled into them day after day that it is all about people—loving, healing, restoring, serving and empowering people. Even on the day He was hanging on the cross, Jesus was praying for the soldiers who had just finished nailing Him to the cross. Jesus spoke to the thieves who were crucified with Him. He saw His mother in the crowd and asked someone to take care of her. Jesus treasured what matters most and stayed focused on that. He understood eternal realities—only people—not things—make it to heaven.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV), “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

We use this portion of scripture many times in sharing about giving and receiving offerings. I believe the treasure talked about in this scripture is referring to investing our lives into people. The only thing we can take with us to heaven is people. People are the most important treasure we have.

I have had to remind myself sometimes throughout the years that pastoring is all about people. I can get caught up in the mechanics of pastoring a church and forget it is all about giving hope, help and healing to people. Even though we have hospital visitation pastors and teams, Sherlyn and I also go and visit people who are hurting because we want to stay in touch with the hurting side of people. Leaders must maintain soft hearts toward hurting people. Jesus was able to love the person unconditionally even though his or her lifestyle was not good. Jesus looked past the mess a person was in and saw what they could become.

Recently we were with a family who experienced a tragedy. As we were leaving their home, Sherlyn and I both were thanking God for the privilege of speaking life into a family that was hurting very deeply. When we as leaders rub shoulders with those who experience the deepest heartache and disappointments, we ourselves stay softhearted and always ready to be carriers of hope and healing. When we isolate ourselves from the hurting and think we are too important to spend time with those who are broken, we harden our hearts toward those who need us the most.