He was the most powerful “head elder” I’ve ever met in more than five decades of preaching. When a meeting wasn’t going his way, he’d say, “Well, it’s time to go out and greet the people.” (We met before services.) Without a word, the rest of the elders rose and followed him out of the room without question or comment. If someone made a suggestion he didn’t like earlier in the meeting, he’d say, “When “you boys” get as old as I am, you’ll understand we can’t do things that way.” And that was the end of that.
It was the most depressing time of my ministry. We were stuck, and there was no way out with that kind of leadership. We were going to do things the way we’d always done them because that’s the way we’d always done it. Any class, project, program, or special emphasis was defeated before it was started.
One night after services, an elder started talking with me: “Jerrie, I know it must be discouraging for you. I know we shouldn’t let things keep going on this way. I know we shouldn’t let brother John Doe defeat everything. But I don’t think I can go against him. You know, he’s already had one heart attack. And I’m afraid if we didn’t go along with him he might have another heart attack. I just don’t think I could live with myself if we resisted him and he had a heart attack and died the next day.”
My reply: “Have you ever known of a man forty-six years old having a heart attack?”
My response: “Why is his heart attack more important than my heart attack?”Why is his heart attack more important than my heart attack? Click To Tweet
What did I learn from that?
- This head elder got much of his power from acts of service years before. Some people said, “This man and his family helped us, gave us food during the depression.” That’s the way to be great in the kingdom. (Matthew 20:26-28) However, he used good will to dominate the leadership group.
- All blame doesn’t go to the head elder. If a situation is chronic in a group, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it. He didn’t dominate without permission from half-dozen other men who wore the title of elder. They cooperated with him to be dominated. Isaiah wrote:
But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you,
“Lie down, that we may walk over you.”
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over (Isaiah 51:23, NKJV).
When someone tells me, “People are always running over me,” I ask, “When did you lie down?”.“People are always running over me.” “When did you lie down?” Click To Tweet
- Strong leaders need to check often about how they’re coming across. They have the choice in not exercising all the power they have to invite other people to express their views and supply their leadership. This virtue is called self-control.
- When one operates out of fear of what might happen — heart attack, suicide, nervous breakdown, or anger explosion — he doesn’t serve the person or the group well. That kind of manipulation and agreement to be controlled isn’t exhibiting the spirit of Jesus.