Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part sixteen)

You and I are indebted to Edwin Friedman’s remarkably insightful examination of leadership in Failure of Nerve, for this fifth leadership essential: You can’t push on a rope: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

Think about Jesus’ parable of the farmer. [Mark 4:3-20] The key to fruitfulness was the soil …not the seed. Yet, we in pastoral ministry devote hundreds of our very valuable hours fussing over the seed—while ignoring the soil.

Does that make sense to you?

30 rockyLook at it again: “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” [Mark 4:15-20]

Jesus’ directs our attention to the condition of the soil. “Some people are…” he begins. The unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

30 seedSo, why have we devoted ourselves to sifting, sorting, cleaning, massaging, and polishing the seed?

In post-Enlightenment Christendom fussing over the “seed” makes up the largest portion of an Evangelical pastor’s work week.

Why have we given so little attention to tilling the soil of our hearer’s hearts?

Could it be that we’ve forgotten what business we’re in?

Maybe we’ve inadvertently supplanted the “make-mature-disciples-who-live-like-Jesus-business” with the “faithfully-proclaim-the-Word-of-God-business”.

Think about it.

We’re commissioned to faithfully proclaim God’s Word so that people around us live like Jesus.

Aren’t we?

To distill the ministry of the Gospel down to faithful proclamation without equal regard to the life-change taking place in those we lead is akin to straining gnats and swallowing camels.

If the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight and if the key to fruitfulness is the condition of the soil, would it be wise to get really good at soil preparation?

What if you cut your sermon prep time in half?

What if you dedicated all that time to working on the receptivity of your people’s hearts?

What if you started with those who are most receptive?

What if you focused your people-development energies on the most fertile hearts instead of those with the most rocky, barren soil?

What if you did what Jesus modeled and taught?