Cruciform leaders do not view people as the means to achieve other goals. The people to whom we minister are the goal. The whole point of Jesus-shaped leadership is to take the initiative to see that God’s grace and love arrive into the lives of others.
Christian leaders are servants of others on behalf of God, so people are the point—not my goals, plans, vision, or ambitions.
This may be obvious, but there is a vocabulary set used among ministry leaders that very subtly perverts and corrupts our vision for cruciform ministry.
We talk about “results,” or we want our ministries to be “effective.” We look for ministry strategies that “work.”
When we talk like this, we reveal that we are envisioning something bigger than or beyond the people to whom we minister. We subtly become the servants of that other thing and we look at the people as the means to get there.
This is one way that pastors’ hearts function as idol factories.
When we set our hearts on certain goals and ends, we can become very frustrated at our people when they don’t perform the way we want them to. When we’re not seeing the results we expected, we put pressure on people, demanding more from them.
When we do this, we are no longer delivery agents of God’s love, mercy, and transforming grace. We begin embodying in our churches the reality of a very harsh, exacting God who demands performance and greater effectiveness.
Pastors may find themselves berating and scolding their churches. They may lament that there are so many things the church could be doing if only the people would just “get on board.”
These are signs of worldly leadership.
There is no greater end in ministry than cultivating a flourishing community for the renewal of the people to whom and with whom we minister.
Cruciform ministry leaders are patient with people, ministering to them in love. Cruciform leaders are careful to avoid being seduced by worldly values that fly under the banners of “efficiency,” “effectiveness,” and “results.”
Cruciform pastors must constantly check their motives, aims, and ambitions for their churches. They must constantly put off the temptation to manipulate people so that goals may be met.
Christian ministers must resist putting pressure on people and subtly turning churches into institutions that oppress. It takes strong leadership to cultivate flourishing communities that provide rest, relief, hope, joy, and life for people worn out and broken by the world.
Cruciform leaders remember that people are the point. They are the end. They are never the means.