How do you reignite a church when it seems that no one wants to lead? In every space and place, God wants transformation to occur. God has already placed people in every church. Leaders have to find them and lead them to the point of commitment.
1. People have to see, hear, and feel the leader’s passion.When leaders care in a way that causes people to feel loved, they will come along. Otherwise, they will sit back and watch. When someone who hasn’t decided whether or not to commit sees, hears, and feels the commitment of leaders, they are more likely to commit. They have to see their leaders exceed their expectations. It isn’t about what you do, or how much you do, but how you do it.
Remind people that the church is not about the pastor or a small group of leaders, but a collective fellowship moving in the direction God intends. Let folks know that you can only get there together.
2. People have to see the hand of God moving in and through the leaders of the congregation. It is important that you raise people’s expectations and their hope in God and encourage them to see that God is up to something. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) When people do step forward, give God the credit.
3. People have to see that the collective commitment of many can take the congregation further than the commitment of a few. Remind people that the church is not about the pastor or a small group of leaders, but a collective fellowship moving in the direction God intends. Let folks know that you can only get there together.
4. Leaders have to see in others what can be, not just what is. So many people feel unworthy and incapable of doing something mighty for the Lord. No one has ever bothered to ask them to do something important, which adds to their feeling of inadequacy. But possibility and love conquer fear. We offer both when we help people see something greater than themselves.
I asked a man new to our church to work with leadership development. I’d been watching him in a number of church settings. His ability to draw people to a cause was magnetic. One of the most powerful moments of his first leadership development team meeting was when he stood up and said, “I need you to be patient with me. This is the first time in my 45 years of life and in any church where anybody ever asked me to lead anything, so bear with me. I may make some mistakes; but in the end, we’re going to be all right.” And by the end of the meeting, we knew we were not just all right; we were overwhelmed by the awesome presence of God.
5. Leaders must be willing to remove those who aren’t aligned or attuned to God’s mission. What about people who don’t want to be part of a leadership collective? Who aren’t seeing in others what can be? Who can’t see, hear, or feel their passion and commitment to God’s mission? Who are motivated by a need to control? Sometimes the season of someone’s involvement comes to an end. The ending of a season in leadership can be a good thing because it allows all involved to start afresh.
6. Leaders help people realize that only one thing holds them back from accomplishing God’s goal. If you want to gain commitment from folks, say to them every now and then, “Look, the only thing holding us back from accomplishing our goal is us!” Acknowledge how fear, frustration, doubt, procrastination, and resistance to change are often the most significant stumbling blocks impeding progress. And then remind people that overcoming these factors is totally within their control.
Gaining commitment is about getting people to commit to doing whatever God would have them do as a part of the body of Christ. When you can get somebody to see that there is more to him or her than what is, then he or she is going to be positively persuaded to follow — particularly if you keep pointing to the God who keeps working miracles in our lives. Transformation is indeed possible.
This article is adapted from Joe’s most recent book, The Power of REAL: Changing Lives, Changing Churches, Changing Communities, which he wrote with Christine Shinn Latona and was published by Not Just a Curtain Puller in 2011. Used by permission. In this book, Daniels uses the literary device of a fictionalized mentoring relationship between his current self and his younger self. The imaginary breakfast meetings, phone calls, and training sessions convey sage advice useful to many church leaders, but the book is particularly relevant to those getting started in ministry, especially in urban settings or other contexts in need of significant renewal. This book is available from Amazon and Cokesbury.