Leading When the Results Aren’t What You’d Like
Oscar Wilde, the noted Irish playwright, once said: “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.” Have you ever felt that way? You preached what you believed to be a great message, but the response wasn’t what you expected? You put together a great program, but people just didn’t get behind it?
If you are like most leaders, you tend to judge yourself very hard, and you are inclined to take it quite personally when things don’t go well. For example, if someone leaves your church, you assume it’s a failure on your part. If someone doesn’t receive the help you offer, certainly you are to blame. If your church is not overflowing with people, it’s obviously your fault These types of self-imposed expectations and assumptions can create enormous frustrations in the life of a pastor, especially when the results we all desire are contingent not just on our efforts, but also on the response of those to whom we minister.
Did Jesus ever deal with fickle people? You bet He did! Was He able to super-impose the results He desired contrary to their own will? No! Jesus addressed this issue when He said: “How shall I describe this generation? These people are like a group of children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you weren’t happy, so we played funeral songs, but you weren’t sad.’ For John the Baptist didn’t drink wine and he often fasted, and you say, ‘He’s demon possessed.’ And I, the Son of Man, feast and drink, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!’ (Matthew 11:16-19, NLT).
Jesus pointed out that some people hadn’t responded positively to Him or to John the Baptist, even though they took very different approaches. In essence, Jesus was saying the same thing that Oscar Wilde did – “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.”
One reason that pastors get frustrated is because in America, success is very often evaluated by the three B’s – bodies, buildings, and bucks. Keep in mind, though, that in heaven, success is evaluated by obedience. We have the responsibility to lead with diligence, to serve with commitment, and to minister with excellence whether people respond the way we want them to or not. Certainly we rejoice when we get the results we desire, but we must be faithful even when outcomes don’t measure up to our expectations, or are slower in coming than we’d like.
I appreciate what one pastor shared about his frustrations. “During one service I was complaining to the Lord about the lack of attendance: ‘Lord, attendance is just not what I’d like it to be.’ This was the Lord’s response: ‘My son, attendance is not what I’d like it to be in heaven.’ That was the last time I complained to the Lord about lack of attendance.”
I’m not writing this to discourage you from setting goals or striving for growth, but I do want to make sure that you’re enjoying your journey, not just striving for a destination! Make sure you stop and smell the roses on your journey through life. Keep in mind that the weight of the world is not supposed to be on your shoulders; you can’t accomplish anything without God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10) or without the cooperation and mutual faith of others (Romans 1:11-12)!