Relieving Some Pressure from Your Pastoring : Richard Stearns
If you’re looking for opportunities to remove some of the pressures of pastoring while still honoring God and being faithful in your ministry, then this conversation is for you. In this episode of FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Richard Stearns, president emeritus of World Vision, as they discuss the gift of value-driven leadership that can transform your life and ministry.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
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Additional Resource Links
Lead Like it Matters to God by Richard Stearns – Richard shares how the values that Christian leaders embrace in their workplaces are actually more important than the results they achieve―that God is more concerned about a leader’s character than a leader’s success
Study Guide for Lead Like it Matters to God – This eight-session study guide explores the seventeen values that will transform your leadership that Rich details in Lead Like it Matters to God, including discussion starters for groups
World Vision – Rich is president emeritus of this global Christian humanitarian organization, which partners with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice
Connect with Richard Stearns on Twitter
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- We live in a success-driven culture that judges leadership primarily on outcomes and results
- God is not really interested in our “success” …God is interested in our faithfulness.
- God is not calling pastors to be successful in terms of numbers. God is calling pastors to be faithful, where they are stationed, and to leave the outcome to Him.
- Our culture often celebrates success regardless of how the success was achieved
- Leaders are not some precious rarity to be elevated to a pedestal. Every organization, including the church, has numerous levels of leadership throughout.
- Christ has called leaders to be ambassadors, therefore leaders should represent the values, character, and priorities of Jesus, in their work and their lives
- Pastors must surrender the outcomes of their ministry to God, which can be very challenging, because we live in a culture that emphasizes outcomes so much
- When we surrender the results of our ministry to God, we experience liberating freedom and some of the unhealthy pressure is lifted
- Admitting that we are unqualified and completely dependent upon God is critical if we are to serve the Kingdom
- Throughout scripture we see God choosing the people for leadership that no one else would pick, so that His glory would shine through them as they lived dependent on Him
- Humility is a key value for God-honoring leadership
- Humility doesn’t mean we deny our giftedness, but that we recognize God has equipped us for His glory and purposes, and we maintain a spirit of gratefulness for how He has gifted us
- A humble leader surrounds himself or herself with other capable people who are also called and gifted by God
- A competent leader is self-aware
- Self-awareness begins with understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses
- A self-aware leader recognizes the giftedness and skills of others and trusts them to contribute and serve without feeling threatened
- A self-aware leader is proactive in inviting others to speak into his or her life and leadership
- As a pastor, you must be especially aware of the impact your words have on others because your words carry great weight
- Those serving in ministry can easily slip into becoming unhealthy workaholics because everything they do is “for the Lord”
- Pastors need balance in their lives. They need time with their families, time to recharge and refresh.
- Pastors need to learn to delegate things to other people who are made in the image of God and are gifted and called. The local church is not solely dependent upon the work of the pastor… it is the body of Christ and all have a calling to serve and contribute.
- An imbalanced leader makes poor decisions and will often operate in a reactionary manner
- A balanced leader has time for his or her spouse and children, time for friendships, time for recreation and relaxation. Balanced leaders can trust the people that work with them to help shoulder the load.
- Pastors are to be role models for those in their congregation to understand what a healthy, well-balanced life looks like
Questions for Reflection
- How do you see the Church being driven by the success culture we find all around us?
- Reflect on your ministry experiences. How have they been driven by success metrics?
- How would you describe the difference between “success” and “faithfulness”?
- What are some recent examples of people celebrating successful leaders regardless of the character of the leader? Why is this so dangerous?
- What values drive your role as a minister?
- What values drive your church?
- Is it challenging for you to just be faithful in ministry and surrender the outcomes to God? Why or why not?
- Do you believe God wants to alleviate some of the unhealthy pressure you feel related to ministry results? If so, what might that look like for you life? For you church?
- What is the difference between being confident in your giftedness and arrogant?
- Are you surrounding yourself with others who are called and gifted by God? are you inviting them to participate in the ministry of the church?
- Do you feel threatened by others who are gifted in ways that you are not?
- How self-aware are you? How self-aware do other ministry leaders in your church believe you are?
- Who have you given permission to honestly speak into your life and ministry? Can you receive their input without getting defensive or offended?
- Are you a ministry workaholic? What safeguards have you placed in your life to help you from slipping into workaholism?
- How are you at delegating ministry and tasks to others and trusting them?
- How balanced or imbalanced is your life and ministry right now? Are you making time for your spouse and family? Are you making time for rest, refreshment, and relaxation?
- When people in your church look at your life, do they see a good model for a well-balanced person?
- What will you do to move your life to a healthier, more balanced place?
If you’re looking for opportunities to remove some of the pressures of pastoring while still honoring God and being faithful in your ministry, then this conversation is for you
Hello friends and welcome to FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye and every single week, we are here encouraging and equipping pastors just like you to embrace healthy, well-balanced leadership in life in ministry. We are blessed to be a part of the PastorServe network. And you can find some free resources to dig more deeply into the conversation we’re jumping into today at PastorServe.org/network. If you’re joining us on YouTube, we’d appreciate you to give us a like and please comment below, let us know where you’re joining us from. We love to get to know our audience better. And whether you’re on YouTube, or you are on your favorite podcast platform, be sure to subscribe so you do not miss out on any incredible conversations like the one we’re having today. Super excited for today’s conversation. I am joined by Rich Stearns, the president emeritus of World Vision and best-selling author and his most recent book, Lead Like it Matters to God. We’re going to dive into some of the things that, as I read through this, that really spoke to me, so very excited and I’d like to welcome Rich to the show. Welcome.
Hey, Jason, good to be with you.
Thank you so much. Thank you for making the time to be with us and hanging out with us here on FrontStage BackStage. Now Rich, most people know of your work at World Vision, but you had a life before World Vision, right? And so I was just wondering if you might share just briefly a little bit about that pre World Vision and pre The Hole in our Gospel, the book that so many people are familiar with that you wrote, what was Rich doing before World Vision?
Well, you know, I often speak to young people and talk to them about what a crazy life I’ve had and really try to encourage them to understand that a career and a life is a very long time and you get to do a lot of different things over that timespan. But you know, I was a neurobiology major in college, neurobiology, and animal behavior of all things and became an atheist at Cornell University at a young age. I met my wife about a month before graduation. And that’s a long story I won’t tell, but essentially, she led me to Christ over the next year. I often say that, with a little help from CS Lewis and John Stott, my wife led me to the Lord. And then I went to the Wharton Business School and got an MBA. And then I just had kind of a checkerboard career I was at Gillette. My first job was with Gillette, selling shaving cream and deodorant. You got to start somewhere, right? And then I transferred over to Parker Brothers games –Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Nerf balls, you know, all of those things, toys and games. I did that for almost 10 years and became the CEO of Parker Brothers back in the 80s. Then after that, I ended up at Lenox fine china, the fine china and Crystal tableware company. I often say that every little boy dreams of growing up to set the perfect table. Not really. I knew nothing about fine china. But I learned very quickly. So I was at Lenox for 11 years, was CEO there as well. And then in 1998, I got a very providential headhunter call, a headhunter saying they were looking for a new leader at World Vision, the Christian ministry that works all over the world. And so that’s another very long story. But in the end, I accepted a call to World Vision. I spent the next 20 years leading World Vision US. I logged about 3 million air miles, visited more than 60 countries, and just had the privilege of serving the poorest people on the planet in the name of Christ. And I retired about three years ago, and passed it on to my successor, Edgar Sandoval, who’s the current CEO there. So I’ve been retired for about three years. And as you say, I wrote this leadership book Lead Like it Matters to God, the first year of my retirement. So that’s a thumbnail sketch.
Yeah, that’s incredible. And I love to always hear your story Rich, because of all the varied experiences you’ve had, and it just reminds us that God is using people in every avenue of life, right? No matter where you are, that God is using you, that we can be open to God. And now most of our listeners, as we mentioned, are pastors and are ministry leaders, and I love as I was reading through this book, I reached out to the publisher, I was like, I would love to have a conversation with Rich, I think our audience would really appreciate it. And one of the things that you kind of bring to the forefront in this book is kind of a reframing of what’s often accepted in terms of a view of leadership. Oftentimes, when people are talking of what they think of as a great leader, they’re really focused on kind of the success factor, the outcomes. And you kind of reframe that, and really kind of boldly say, you know, the outcomes are not the top metric for a great leader. So talk to us a little bit about that reframing of what we mean by a great leader.
Yeah, I mean, this is maybe a lesson I learned over a very long career. But we are literally marinating in a success-driven culture. And it’s all around us, you know, you we, we venerate the wealthiest people in the world, the most famous celebrities, the fastest growing churches, the celebrity mega church pastors. Everywhere we look, we are in a success driven culture. You know, we pass it on to our children, we want them to be successful in schools successful in sports, we push them, you know, we get them on waiting lists to get into the right nursery school sometimes. And so I describe the success culture that we find in the United States. And by the way, you don’t find the same culture in every place in the world. But particularly in the United States, and I imagine a lot of Europe, and it’s pretty ubiquitous around the world. But there’s a lot of countries where success is not the measure of a person. And but we are, you know, breathing this colorless, odorless gas of success that we almost don’t even notice, because it’s, it’s just everywhere. And then you have to ask the fundamental question, Does God care if we’re successful? Does he want us to be successful? Or is there something else? and as you know, the book was motivated by a Mother Teresa story that I’ll tell very briefly. But Senator Mark Hatfield from Oregon back in the late 70s, early 80s, was visiting Mother Teresa in Calcutta. And the senator being kind of an analytical person, you know, looked at the poverty in Calcutta, which was extreme. And then he looked at this little outpost of nuns, led by Mother Teresa, and he quickly concluded that she would never be able to eradicate poverty in Calcutta. And so he asked her a question something like this “Mother Teresa,” he said, “Don’t you feel like a failure? When you look around you and you realize you can’t possibly succeed in eradicating poverty in Calcutta alone, let alone all of India or the rest of the world?” and Mother Teresa’s answer was really profound. And it actually led me to write this book. She said, My dear senator, four foot nine inches tall is looking up. “My dear senator, God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” He called me to be faithful. And that story made me realize how so many of us in America are striving and striving and striving to be successful. Financially, whatever our profession is, to be recognized to be successful. And God’s not really interested in that, he’s not interested in our success. He’s interested in our faithfulness. Now, if we are faithful to the Lord, we might be successful, or we might not. Now you say your show is, that mostly pastors listen to it. Think about the pastor, the average church size in America, as you probably know, is less than 100 people. Now think about several 100,000 pastors in America labor in a church of 100 or less people. And yet they see these headlines about Hillsong and mega churches and Willow Creek and you know, all the names. And I think it makes them feel small, like I failed. I, you know, my church isn’t growing the way these other churches are. And I guess my encouragement to these pastors, who I think are some of the great heroes of the faith today, is that God isn’t calling you to be successful in terms of numbers. He’s calling you to be faithful, where you’re stationed, and leave the impact, leave the outcome to him. Just be faithful, labor faithfully, and leave the outcome to him.
I love that. And that’s so freeing, Rich, because as you said, we are swimming in a success-driven culture. And so it’s almost, I don’t want to say impossible, it’s very, very challenging to remove ourselves mentally and even emotionally from that. Especially as you know, we’re serving in our local context, and that comparison trap, and in the world we live in now, there’s even more visibility to these comparisons, right? Like it’s not just about the pastors in your local town. Now you can see all about pastors, ministries, churches, all over the country, all over the world. And so now you’re a fish in a much larger ocean just because of that visibility. You know, it’s interesting, as I was reading through this, and even just as you were talking there, in many ways, it seems like the views on leadership in our current culture really seem to prioritize, as you said, this idea of success. So much so that it almost disregards the character of the leader, when it comes down to it in so many ways, right? So, so many times we hear, Well, I’m not saying he’s necessarily a good person. But look at all he’s achieved, or yeah, well, she may be rude, but that’s how she gets things done. And it’s almost this idea of, and this is across the board, business, politics, even in the church, we just kind of see this. Why do you think people have become really so comfortable with excusing someone’s character, even when it’s traits or decisions they’ve made, that they would never excuse in their own life or the life of their spouse or their kids? But it’s almost like, you know, they give them this, this ticket, you know, this excuse? Why do you think we’re at that place?
You know, I think part of the success culture is a culture of, it’s all about winning, you know, I think Vince Lombardi, the football coach, who famously said, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. You know, that kind of mantra, certainly in American business, that’s been a bit of a mantra that the, the ends justify the means, right? If you can get away with it, it doesn’t matter how you get there, or how you make your money, or how you make your company successful, as long as you make it successful. So it does excuse all kinds of behavior. And again, I think this seeps into the Christian culture, as well, it seeps into the Christian culture. And we’ve seen that in a variety of ways. You know, the subtitle of my leadership book is values-driven leadership in a success-driven world. And the premise of the book is that God is more concerned about our heart, you know, the condition of our heart, are we being faithful to Him? Are we embracing values like integrity and humility, and encouragement and compassion in our workplace, whatever that workplace might be, whether it be a church, or whether it be a corporation, or a school or hospital? You know, are we being effective ambassadors for Christ, wherever we’ve been stationed, as leaders. And, and by the way, most of us are leaders in one context or another. And so one of the myths I like to debunk is that leaders are rare and precious, and there’s only a few of them that we put on a pedestal. But in any organization, there’s there’s a leader at the top, usually, but there are many other leaders. You know, in that organization. If you’re at a church, you’ve got a leader of the children’s ministry, you’ve got volunteer leaders, you’ve got, you know, worship leaders, you’ve got all kinds of leaders at your church and committee members who are leaders as well. So leaders aren’t rare but values driven leadership and a success driven world. We’re called to be Christ like ambassadors. Whether we work at Amazon, and we work at, you know, the First Baptist Church in our town. That’s what Christ has called us to do. He has called us to be people and leaders after his own heart. And what do ambassadors do? You know, that’s a quote from 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God is making his appeal through us,” which is, as you know, a verse that kind of changed my whole perspective on my life and my career. If I’m an ambassador of Christ, wherever I live and work, what do ambassadors do? They’re called to represent the one who sent them, to represent the values, the character, the priorities of the one who sent them. If you’re the US Ambassador to Ireland, you’re there to represent US interests. Well, as Christ ambassadors, we are, where we are, to represent the interests of Christ in our workplaces and our community and in our homes, and that’s the job we’ve been given. Mother Teresa, God didn’t call her to be successful. He called her to be faithful with what he had given to her.
Yeah, I think that’s key to consider, as we’re reflecting on, kind of even just in the day-in day-out week-to-week, rhythm of how we’re leading how we’re serving. Because there can be some monotony and there can be a feeling of, you know, what kind of difference are we really making, especially in ministry because the mission is big, right, and the mission has literally eternal consequences. And so sometimes we can we can add pressures, that maybe Jesus is not adding on to our lives. Right? He says that his yoke is light, and that we can rest in Him. So, when it comes to this idea of value-driven leadership, as opposed to, you know, the outcome-driven leadership, and thinking specifically about pastors and local ministry context, as local churches, oftentimes they do feel some of these pressures about delivering, quote, unquote, successful outcomes, right. Like there are people who they feel are counting on them, it’s their, you know, whatever their church governance is, their board or their elders, you know, there’s these expectations that they’re felt. So how, how can a pastor balance those expectations and pressures? Because we live in this, you know, outcome, you know, society? How can they balance that with the values?
Well, I think first of all, you know, you’ve got to… the first chapter in my book, the first value I talked about of surrender, right. That as Christians, we start our Christian life by surrender. That’s what the sinners prayer is, it’s the surrendering of our lives to Christ. And, but most of us don’t surrender everything, that first moment. You know, surrender is a lifelong process, it may be a daily process. And, and I think the first thing a pastor has to do is say, “Lord, I surrender it all to You. It’s not my will, but thy will. Whatever happens at this church, I surrender it to you.” And once you’ve surrendered the outcomes, right, the, as you said, it’s very liberating. It’s very freeing, because it no longer depends on me. God is just calling me to be faithful, to take the gifts and talents he’s given me and to use them with diligence, and do the best I can. I used to tell my kids, all you can do is the best you can do, right? So you take a chemistry test, and you get a C if that was the best you could do if you studied hard and still got a C, I got no problem with that, you know, that’s all I can ask you, you did your best. And so we serve a God who simply wants us to do our best with what he’s given us and trust Him for the outcome. And, and that’s hard to do, because you got all these competing voices, but the voice you need to listen to is the Lord’s, right and, and you have to trust Him for the outcome. One of the examples I use in the book is when I arrived at World Vision, my first day in the office, I had never felt so helpless in my life, because, you know, I had been selling fine china for the last 11 years to wealthy people. I had never been to Africa, I’d never been to a poor country to see poverty. I knew nothing about poverty alleviation. I’d never done any fundraising, I had no theological background. And this was one of the biggest Christian organizations in the world. And I just sat in my office and I said, Lord, it took every ounce of courage I had to show up here today, I have no idea why you chose me to lead this great ministry because I am unqualified and I’m helpless. And I just cried out for help, you know, help, Lord, please help. I don’t know what to do. And what came to me in that moment was the Lord saying, I have you exactly where I want you, maybe for the first time in your life, completely helpless and completely dependent on me. And it was almost like now, Rich, you’ve done what I asked you to do, watch, and learn, and watch and see what I do. And so I just kind of put one foot in front of the other for the next number of months and years and just tried to do my best with what God had given me and the people around me that he had given and entrusted to me. And in the next seven years, I think the revenues at World Vision tripled to became more than a billion dollar organization. We tackled the AIDS pandemic, we became the number one provider of clean water in the world. And I look around, I look back and I say, how did that happen? You know, I didn’t do that. I’m no genius. It’s interesting in Scripture, God often chose the people nobody else would have picked for their team, right? So Jesse had all these great sons, all sigma chi three lettermen. And he picked David, the runt of the litter. You know, Moses said, I can’t do it. I’m not eloquent, don’t send me send somebody else. He picked Moses, Peter, you know, a fisherman with no theological background or training. You’re the one that’s going to lead my church. Why did he do that? Why did he pick people who weren’t eminently qualified? Because he wanted his glory to shine. He wanted them to rely completely on him for the outcome. And we saw, we see what Moses accomplished what David accomplished, what Peter accomplished. And so as a pastor, if you can kind of keep that in mind that yeah, I’m over my head, you know. Impostor syndrome, I’m not the best preacher in the world. I’m not the best organizer in the world. But what I can be is faithful. I can just show up every day and do my best and give the glory to God and trust Him for the outcome. And if I do that, I’m going to hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant” at the end of my life.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I think that’s a great way to, to step into it. And like you said, that’s something we have to pick up pretty much every single day. Because and we have to surrender again. And we have to trust God in the midst of that and say, Okay, I’m going to be faithful, and I’m trusting with the outcome. Because again, we’re living in a culture and society that’s just compounding and trying to get us looking at you know, that our worth is directly related to, you know, our productivity, you know, what we produce those outcomes. And that can be very challenging, as, as you mentioned, some of these different values. And that’s one of the things I really loved about the book is you just you literally step and commit chapter by chapter to these kind of core values, that, you know, if we will embrace that we can more, maybe more easily, leave the outcome, up to up to God, if we are willing to kind of, you know, marinate in these different values. And so you mentioned surrender. There’s another one –I mean, all of them are great, don’t get me wrong– but there’s another one that I thought specifically about, and that was humility. And especially again, in the world in which we live now. You know, we live in a world where sharing our accolades, and all the things that went right, and kind of not letting anyone know about the things that that didn’t go quite right. You know, we’re always looking for that, that highlight that we can put out there and let people know, “hey, we’re doing it, too… we’re good, too.” Talk to us a little bit about this idea of humility and how that plays into ourselves as a leader, but then also in regard to our team that we’re working with in ministry.
Yeah, so there’s a quote I picked up from Rick Warren, I think he picked it up from somebody else at one point, but it’s it goes like this: “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself, less.” So humility doesn’t mean we deny our giftedness, right. I mean, if God gave you 150 IQ, if God gave you a gift for preaching, I mean, thank you, Lord, for giving… but that’s not me. That’s, that’s not anything I did. It was a gift given to me by the Lord. And so. So you can be confident in your giftedness, without being arrogant, right? Because, look, what the Lord has equipped me with, and I’m just so grateful for him, you know, and what he’s done for me in my life. But when you start thinking only of yourself, you know, your career, your Twitter feed, your, you know, persona, your, the size of your church, you know, the fame of your messages, if you’ve written books, you know, that were they best sellers. You know, when you start going there, you really get into the danger zone of being arrogant. And so, a humble leader recognizes that the outcome is the Lord’s, and I’m just working in his vineyard, and I’m going to do the best I can. A humble leader surrounds him or herself with other capable people who are also called and gifted by God. And he or she gives those people permission to challenge them. I think one of the problems we’ve had with the spectacular falls from grace of some of the well-known pastors is they became too full of themselves, they didn’t surround themselves with good people and listen to their counsel. They kind of reasoned that I’m the leader, because I must be smarter and better and faster and brighter than anybody else. So my word goes, what I say goes, instead of saying, God has given me all these amazing people on my team, or in my congregation, and I can lean on them, and they have gifts that I don’t have. And I see their giftedness and if we unite our gifts together, it’s kind of a one plus one plus one equals 100 or 1000, as a team. I think one of the real dangers that I see is leaders, and it’s particularly endemic to churches, I think, where the leader is often put on a pedestal, you know, and the whole congregation looks up to the pastor. He’s the great spiritual leader of the church and it happens to some extent of corporations, as well ,but there’s a spiritual component in the church, right, that you’re a great spiritual leader as well as a great preacher and administrator and whatever else you might be good at. It is so easy for that praise to go to our heads. Now, I also realize pastors, you get a lot of the other side too, the criticism and all that. So you know, I’m not minimizing that. But we just got to be really careful that we stay grounded. And the best way to stay grounded is to have people around you that can say, “Hey, Jason, that’s a dumb idea. I know you’re the senior pastor here. But that’s not a great idea. And I think we on the team have come up with a different idea that we think is better, would you listen to it?” And if you as a leader can be vulnerable and say, hey, you know, some of my ideas are good, some of them aren’t. So please tell me when my ideas, tell the emperor when he’s wearing no clothes, right? Tell me, I want to know. And I’m willing to listen, because God has gifted you, too. So I think to be a humble leader, you have to really lead a team of people and look at them as equally gifted. I mean, where would Tom Brady be without his tight ends and his front line, and, you know, we think of Tom Brady as the GOAT, Tom Brady’s the GOAT, but he couldn’t have accomplished anything he accomplished without the players around him, thecoaches around him. And that’s what we have to remember that, you know, in the Lord’s work, we’re called with other believers, to carry out the work of the gospel.
Yeah, Rich, that, you know, reflects, obviously, you know, the biblical idea of the body, right, that Paul, so openly shares with those early churches, and trying to encourage that you know, that Christ is the head, and that we are the body, and we’re given different gifts, and we come together, and as we come together and operate as the body, we can be more effective, we can have a greater Kingdom impact, as opposed to, you know, someone just going off and trying to train to be the head themselves. So I think that’s a key when it comes to that idea of humility. That’s fantastic.
Jason, one of the great things about World Vision is that, for the most part, in the last 40 years, if you asked 100 people on the street, who was the president of World Vision, less than one of them would be able to give you the right answer. And so I was actually grateful when I came to World Vision that nobody knew my name, nobody knew Rich Stearns. They valued World Vision because of the ministry carried out by the 1000s of people who worked at World Vision, as the hands and feet of Christ. And that’s what the ministry was known for, for the 1000s of people that work there. And even after I wrote the Hole in Our Gospel, which, you know, no one was more surprised than my wife that it became a best seller. Even then, I doubt one out of 100 people on the street, who are Christians would have known my name. And, and I was actually grateful for that, because fame is something most of us can’t handle. And fame has a way of going to one’s head. I mean, we saw how David’s fame and you know, went to his head and how he got led astray. And and so that’s another danger I see in the church is that the pastor is certainly famous in the church and famous in the community, as the leader of this organization, and pastors just have to be very careful not to let that go to their head, you know, that, just because, like, my son is a pastor now, and he’s got his first senior pastor role in a new city, he moved to a new town to take this job. And he will go into a restaurant, and everybody’s kind of whispering, “Well, you know, that’s our pastor,” you know, and, you know, somebody across the room will pay his check, you know, because they go to his church and, and, you know, I tell him, you got to, he got to be careful that this doesn’t go to your head, you know, that you don’t become a legend in your own mind. And but yeah, so we have to be careful for that, just to remain humble, and to remain, you know, giving God the the credit and giving the team around us the credit, that this is a team effort, and we do it together.
Yeah, and that kind of leads to another one, the values that you highlight in the book, and that is this idea of self-awareness. So talk to us a little bit, because self awareness, I think, is incredibly important. The older I get, the more experience that’s behind me, the more I realize the value of self awareness, but it’s not necessarily something that is talked about a ton in kind of leadership circles for some reason. So talk to us a little bit about that self-awareness and the value of it.
Yeah, well, self-awareness has a variety of dimensions, but you know, self-awareness for a leader, you know, it starts with well, it starts with realizing your own strengths and weaknesses. You know, what am I good at as a leader? And what am I not so good at? And, you know, nobody wants a leader that thinks they’re brilliant at every thing you know. And so for me, you know, as both a business leader and ministry leader, I was always best at creative issues, creative ideas, new products, new marketing campaigns, new ideas. You know, when I was at Lenox I had six factories reporting to me, I knew nothing about manufacturing, I wasn’t that interested in manufacturing, didn’t understand it that well. So I made sure I had a really good manufacturing person under me, and I delegated to him, you know, all things manufacturing. I wasn’t very interested in reading financial statements and balance sheets. I mean, I had a working knowledge of it, I had an MBA, but I knew that I needed a really good CFO next to me to make sure the organization did everything properly, and with ethics and above board. So I had a good CFO, and I would try to spend my time in the areas where I had my gifts, right, and I would delegate the rest. So knowing that you have strengths and weaknesses, and when you start to butt in, in an area where it’s not your strength, let’s say for me, finance, and overrule people who actually know what they’re doing, you know, then that’s the arrogance issue, because I’m the leader, I get to make all these decisions. And you minimize and demean the giftedness of the people on your team who are actually really good at that thing. And so for a pastor that might, you know, maybe your thing is preaching, and you’re just really a wonderful preacher, teacher, don’t meddle in a lot of the other decisions that people on your team can actually make those decisions better than you, or maybe members of your elder board can make those decisions better than you. So you know, have a little humility about what your strengths and weaknesses are. But the other dimension of self-awareness is realizing the impact your words have on other people, and when you are a leader. So as a CEO of World Vision, you know, we might be in a brainstorming, meeting, and I’m throwing out some ideas, and of course, if I’m not careful, people will write down every idea I say in that meeting, and then they will go off and spend hours and hours and hours working on that idea, when I just threw it out there as a suggestion, right. And so I used to start meetings by saying, “Look, we’re all going to have some ideas in this meeting, some of mine will be good, and some of mine will be bad. And just because I mentioned an idea doesn’t mean you should go spend time on it. And it doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear your idea. And I especially want to hear if you think I have a bad idea, you know? Because if you let me go forward with a bad idea, everybody loses. You have to tell the emperor, he has no clothes when there’s a bad idea. So I give you all permission to disagree, challenge, argue, debate, please, if you don’t do that, you’re not very useful to World Vision, if you’re not willing to argue with me, or debate with me or your vice president or whoever it might be.” So it’s just giving people permission to say, you can challenge the Emperor here, you know, it’s, we’re all made the image of God, we all have giftedness, and my ideas aren’t necessarily any better than your ideas. So I think that’s an important quality of self awareness. And to let people know that if you don’t say anything, they will automatically defer generally to the leader, they’ll automatically defer to you unless you give them permission, you know, not to.
Yeah. So you have to be proactive in that, then you can’t, because otherwise, like you said, the default mode is, you know, is toward whoever’s serving that leadership role. So if you’re the lead pastor, you have to be proactive, to give people permission, and you have to create that culture yourself.
Yeah, you know, a wise board member once said to me that the whisper of the President, or the CEO sounds like a shout, to the person hearing it. And the shout of a leader is devastating to the person receiving it because of your stature, your status, right? So you have to be aware of the impact your words have as a senior pastor or a person over a bunch of other people. You have their jobs, their salaries in your hands, right? And so there’s this natural fear factor that I better please the boss or I could be in trouble. And you have to be aware of that impact that you have on people. And that sometimes, if you get angry in a meeting, you might say something, kind of a, something. I don’t know, you might shout something or criticize somebody. That criticism will sound devastating coming from you as a senior pastor or a senior leader. So you have to find a way to say how can I criticize this person in a way where they can hear it as something less than a shout? Maybe I take them aside after the meeting and put my arm around them and say, hey, you know, I wanted to give you some feedback in that meeting and give it to them and safe way and in a safe place where you’re not embarrassing or humiliating them in front of other people.
Yes, that’s that’s very wise. The final area I would I love you to touch on of these values. And again, there’s so many great ones. But since we are front stage backstage, that’s that’s the show we’re really talking about a healthy, well balanced life and ministry. The one of the values that you bring up is this idea of balance. And why that is so key and integral. Can you talk to us about why a good leader is a leader that understands balance?
Yeah. Well, and, you know, if you have a tendency to be a workaholic, and a lot of leaders do have that tendency, then working in a Christian ministry is like an alcoholic working in a bar with it’s fully stocked because everything you’re doing is quote for the Lord. You know, when I was at Lenox china, selling dishes, if I had a tendency toward workaholism, my wife could say, would you just relax? Like, it’s only dishes? I mean, nobody’s dying here, nobody’s having a fine china crisis in their life. Right? You know, could you come home and read a story to your kids and put them to bed tonight, you know, so, but when you’re in ministry, and when I was at World Vision, it was like, I knew that what I did had a direct impact on the lives of human beings around the world, I mean, life or death issues in some ways, the decisions I was making. And so it was very easy for me to become a workaholic.
I think what I want to say to spiritual leaders, in particular, I’ll tell the story of the founder of World Vision, who was Bob Pierce, he founded a World Vision in 1950. And he led it until 1967, so 17 years. But Bob Pierce was so driven. In fact, one of his board members who was still alive when I joined World Vision, pulled me aside and he said, we used to call Bob Pierce, God’s psychotic. He was a psychotic for God. He was so driven it, he destroyed his life, he destroyed his family, he destroyed everything in his wake, many of his employees got burned out working for him. Bob Pierce for 20 years in a row, I met his widow, he traveled nine months out of 12, to Asia, to Africa, to Latin America. And those were the days where you didn’t go for a week or 10 days, you went for three months. And then you came home for two weeks, changed your clothes, packed up your suitcase again, and you went for another three months. And he did this for 20 years. He lost his marriage, one of his children committed suicide. And in 1967, the board took his ministry away because he was so unstable, that he was destroying his own ministry with his behavior. And so they fired him in 1967. And he actually went into rehab, went to L’Abri in Switzerland, and it took him like two years to recover from the excesses of his life. But when you think about that, the thing I realized is that tendency that we have, that savior complex that we have in ministry, is really a form of arrogance, right? It’s a form of pride that, somehow, God cannot accomplish His ministry unless I’m there in the middle of it. Our church is not going to be okay on Sunday, if I’m not there preaching. That committee is going to make the wrong decision, if I’m not in that meeting. And so pastors, who are drawn in 100 different directions by the demands of the church, one of the toughest jobs in America, I think, to be a senior pastor at a church. It can very quickly become egocentric, and I have to be there, and that’s a way of telling God, like, you can’t accomplish what you want to accomplish without me. I’m not in that pulpit. If I’m not in that committee meeting, your ministry is going to fail. Well, that is totally false. You know, God’s ministry is not going to fail because you didn’t go to a meeting or you didn’t preach for four weeks in a row, or you had a couple of bad sermons, right? This gets back to trusting God for the outcomes. Be faithful and trust God for the outcome. So what it leads to is you need balance in your life. You need time with your family, you need time to recharge your batteries, you need to delegate things to other people made in the image of God who are gifted and called. You have to extract yourself from certain decisions and certain meetings and say, I’m just going to trust the people around me to do it. Because a leader that’s imbalanced, makes poor decisions. They lack sleep and rest, they start operating in a panic reactionary mode to things because they’re so stressed. But a balanced leader has got time for his or her spouse and children, time for friendships, time for recreation and relaxation. And they can trust the people that work for them to help shoulder that load, which also sends a message to those people about how important they are, that they’re important to this ministry, they’re important to this church and what’s going to happen to it. And ultimately, say, Lord, I’m going to I don’t think the Lord ever calls us to work so hard, we lose our marriages, we lose our kids, we lose everything that’s dear to us. We’re also supposed to be role models for other people in the congregation to show them what a balanced life looks like.
Yeah, that’s hugely important. Rich, it has been so good to have you with us today and to be sharing about how to allow our ministries and our lives to be driven, not by just the success culture we find ourselves in, but by the values that really honor God. If people want to connect with you, Rich, or learn more about the book, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Well, the books available at Amazon and other places where books are sold, but I’m on Twitter @RichStearns and I don’t tweet a lot, but I you know, occasionally have a profound thought, or one… that’s the thing about Twitter, we all think our thoughts are profound, you know, and I’ll put it out there, but But I encourage people to connect with World Vision, too, because it’s just an amazing organization. And, you know, I’m very proud of the time I got to spend there with the group of amazing people in that ministry, who are right now helping the Ukrainian refugees, as well as a famine in the Horn of Africa. And there’s all kinds of other stuff, right? The Syrian refugee crisis is 11 years old now. And, you know, displaced 12 million people in the Middle East and the world is a tough place right no, and it needs a lot of Christ’s love to be demonstrated in these places. So anyway, so I just encourage people to get involved with World Vision or Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse or you know, one of these organizations that can do a lot of good,
Amen and Rich, we will have links to the book, and to a World Vision and, and other resources that have been mentioned and referenced in the weekly toolkit which you can get at PastorServe.org/network so you and your ministry team can dig more deeply into the conversation that Rich and I just had..a a very important conversatio, a very helpful conversation. Once again, Rich, thank you so much for being with us. Certainly appreciate your heart and all that you’re doing to speak into the church. You’ve retired but you haven’t really slowed down a ton, you’re still continuing to contribute in very, very meaningful ways. And, and I know myself and so many others certainly appreciate that. So thank you for being with us.
Thank you, Jason.
All right. God bless you, brother.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links about different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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