Leading the Church We Wish We Had (Instead of the Church We Actually Have)

It’s not fun beating your head against the wall.

Former Lakers Coach Frank Vogel

HH shared an article with me yesterday about newly fired L.A. Lakers Coach Frank Vogel with this title: Frank Vogel is Gone Because He Coached the Team He Wanted Instead of the Team He Had.”

Where have I seen this before?

God bless the pastors who work so, so hard trying to help their congregations notice the needs of the community only to hear members say, “But what about our own people?” Lord have mercy upon the pastors who expect their elders to be spiritual leaders themselves – worshipping regularly and attending, if not leading, Bible studies – only to have their congregations elect a member who hasn’t been to worship in over a year in hopes of “bringing him back to church.” Or maybe the church elects the member who’s a powerful business leader in town because it looks good to have him on the governing board, but he has the spiritual maturity of a cherry tomato. (Sorry. I have strong feelings about this.)

I’ve written before about Pastor Nominating Committees who lie to their pastoral candidates, telling them “we are committed to mission” when they are actually committed to keeping certain families happy. Again, please don’t lie to your PNC – or to yourselves.

And Pastors – we must love the church people we have, not the church people we wish we had. I know it’s hard, but if it’s become untenable, it’s time to move on.

In the case of Frank Vogel, he seems like a good guy. He has a strong record of coaching, including an NBA Championship during his first season as Head Coach of the Lakers. He’s got a compelling life story from doing an impressive Stupid Pet Trick on Late Night with David Letterman at the age of ten to surviving a housefire with his mom at the age of seventeen. It’s easy to see why the Lakers would hire him. And it’s easy to see why they let him go if he was not a good match for that particular team.

One of the leadership pro tips shared in the TED Radio podcast I mentioned yesterday (please listen to it) involves choosing leaders who are competent and humble instead of leaders who are confident and charismatic – or even narcissistic. This is especially true when calling a new pastor.

Pastor Nominating Committees sometimes look for people who “look like they should be their pastor.” Forgive me, but some congregations will call an incompetent narcissicist who “looks like they should be their pastor” before they’ll call a competent and humble woman/single person/young person/queer person/differently-abled person. It’s madness. And it’s unfaithful.

You are looking for a good match in terms of theology and vision, not necessarily in terms of physical characteristics.

And yes, it’s also possible that your next pastor will look like all y’all. But what’s most important is not that. What’s most important is that you call someone who can lead the church you honestly are – and with your willingness – the Church God is calling you to be.

One response to “Leading the Church We Wish We Had (Instead of the Church We Actually Have)

  1. Albert Moses

    Wow!!! Thank you Jan.


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