Several times in my life I have had someone in our church that is awesome, kind, servant-hearted, always looking out for others, reliable, faithful. Then when because of those attributes I promote them to a position of leadership, they stop loving. They become bossy, they become territorial, they keep asking for their ministry to be promoted, often at the expense of others, they expect others to work hard for them, but they are hardly working.
That is not good! If you are promoted in a local church, do not let it go to your head. When Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, he did not let it go to his head. He exercised authority with kindness and gentleness. The Bible tells us that when the wicked rule, the people mourn. It is sad to have leaders that are not kind and are wicked. I have seen people so kind until they get a position in a church or ministry or Bible College and suddenly they use that position to bully others. We appointed one couple as pastors and within days they wanted people to bow to them and were texting people to improve what they wore to church. That is not how to be a pastor! They did not learn that from me and Amanda!
When people are promoted they either become more wicked or they become kinder. Choose to use your position to show kindness! Choose to remember that you are not perfect and your title does not define you!
You must choose to be someone who sees God’s hand at work in your life and in others. You must be someone who does not just receive grace but who is gracious to others. You get that right, then you will be a good leader! If not authority might destroy you. It destroyed Saul, it destroyed Uzziah, it destroyed Judas, it destroyed Demas, and it could destroy you today if you do not become aware of this!
I don’t want to speak negative ever, but life can be seasonal. Sometimes you are in a great season of growth and peace and abundance, and sadly in that place you are vulnerable to be deceived. You are vulnerable to what John Wesley called the temptations of success. Jesus called it the deceitfulness of riches. Doing well can lie to you!
One of the lies that you will face when you are doing well is the temptation not to save or prepare for the future. After all, you are in such abundance, why should you save for a rainy day, when it’s always sunny in your church and your life?
That is one of the greatest reasons rich people become poor – they never prepare for a rainy day. They assume it is going to be year after year of fat cows and they never save for the skinny cow. Good times are so good it is hard to believe that there is a cow out there powerful enough to swallow them up!
I have counselled several pastors to save money during their fat cow years so that the skinny cows don’t destroy them, and I have been told I am negative, don’t get faith, don’t understand things. Oh I understand! I understand as I watch the same pastors struggle and call me and beg me for money. I watch ministries hire far too many people because it is fat cow time and they then struggle later to grow and move into what God is calling them to next.
Do ministries have to lay people off? Do churches have skinny cow times? Are there hardships? We lost a whole bunch of people one year in our church because another ministry lied about me and my leaders, and told those lies so often and so boldly people started to believe them! I had to cope through that, preach through that, and deal with the skinny cow year as much as the fat cat year. I am not saying God cannot provide, but I am saying sometimes God provides double manna on Friday not so we can gorge ourselves Friday but so that we can be prepared for Saturday!
If you understand that some of the fat cow is to be saved you will be wiser, not just with money, but with people, but in life. Joseph believed there were lean years ahead, and that made him so wise, he became prime minister.
All of us in whatever we are doing must prepare for the future. The church must be ready for the future, we must be making disciples who can stand a lean cow year, we must be saving for the lean cow year, we must not be exhausting the fat cows each year. Selah!
Gather the food of good years, and store it! That food will be to keep for the famine years! (see Genesis 41). You need faith to do this, and wisdom. The easy thing is just to enjoy today and exhaust all its blessings today. Why would I spend money on a problem that doesn’t exist? Why would I work hard when I can hire three people to do the job of one today? Why spend money on things that may never happen? Why invest in the dreams of a madman?
I believe God shows His people things to come. If He does show you something, get ready for it. No one is impressed if you saw the lean cow coming. They are impressed if you have a barn full of food! Selah.
Israel loved Joseph more than all his children (Genesis 37.3). There is a real culture in most workplaces that no one wants to be the boss’s favourite, no one wants to be the office creep. But if an organization is functioning properly, being the favourite means you are treating the most important people as the most important. What do I mean? Your colleagues are not paying you, they do not promote you, they do not give you payrises, they do not make decisions that will change your life.
You should be God’s favourite and your pastor’s favourite. You should be operating in favour so much you are the favour-ITE! Now I am not saying be pretentious, be a creep, being disingenuous. I am not saying be a creep! I am not saying be the chief bootlicker.
In most companies, and most churches, promotion is given to the favourites. You do not want someone promoted who you do not want to spend time with. You want to be favoured in local church, be prepared to be favoured – the favourite.
Being a favourite is not easy, it’s not in the slightest. You need to find out what someone likes and help them. In the office, work out what makes the boss happy and do it. He is the one who pays you! Some bosses love it when you are enthusiastic about starting a project, others do not care about progress until it is finished – find out and do that! Discover who is paying you, who is opening doors for you – and do what pleases them, learn to flow with them. You were called to their church or ministry, they were not called to yours. You are the one who has to learn to flow with them! Selah.
For example, I like punctuality. I do not promote people who cannot turn up to someone else’s service on time, because I don’t think they will turn up on time for their own church services or Living Churches. That will not do. That’s a small thing, but it is a thing that matters. I look around before the service starts on Sunday and go that’s who I am drawing my next leaders from.
Joseph was Israel’s favourite, then Potiphar’s favourite, then the jailer’s favourite, then Pharaoh’s favourite. Everywhere he was called to serve, he became the favourite. He worked hard, he found out what was needed, and he did it. He did it in such a way he flowed with them, he did not demand that they flowed with him. He was the one who was adaptable, he was the one who ensured he changed his clothes to visit Pharaoh, he was the one who ensured he was looking out for the prisoners even though he was a prisoner.
I know people who lie to my face and then wonder why I don’t promote them. I have a threefold principle for promotion. Character, Capability and Compatibility. Character – are they a decent person, capability – can they do the job I want to give to them, Compatibility – can they work with me. Some people would be fine elders in another church but could not be elders in Tree of Life because they could never work with me, they would be too demanding that I change to their style. They have no desire to be favoured by me.
I had a pastor once who would come and confront me after I taught something on a semi-regular basis. I would teach a message, and he would come to me and say “that’s not grace, that’s not a grace message, this is supposed to be a grace church”. I would try to show him the Biblical basis of what I was teaching, but he would not listen. Then after a few months, we would have a guest speaker, once it was Greg Mohr, once Greg Fritz and once Andrew Wommack. The speaker came to our church, and said word for word what I had taught. Then this pastor would come to me and go “oh, I see that what you said was grace now, I heard Greg Mohr say it”. We went through this a long time. Eventually I had to say to him, none of these people promoted you to pastor, none of these people gave you a church to pastor, none of these people believed in you and raised you up, I did. I cannot wait for a guest speaker to come to town before you accept what I am teaching as grace. You have to be able to work with me and learn from my preaching and teaching not just guest speakers.” In the end I had to let him go, he had godly character, he was capable, but he and I were not compatible. This is so essential and we must understand it.
If you want to work with something bigger than yourself, you have to work on being the favourite, work on being compatible, be adaptable, be flexible, learn to flow with the church God put you in. That will be essential for you to progress.