Leading, Bleeding and Saying the Hard Things




Some of my fondest memories as a boy were hanging out with my neighborhood friends. In those days we were influenced by movies like Rambo, (Sylvester Stallone) and Missing in Action (Chuck Norris). My friends and I spent hours in the woods, fighting invisible enemies with plastic guns. We were typical boys. There was hardly a day that went by that someone didn’t go home with a scrapped knee or bloody elbow. 

When that somebody was me, I knew what to expect. My mom would wash the wound and then pour liquid hell on it. We called it, “the red stuff,” but the correct name was Merthiolate. If you’re my age or older and spent a lot of time playing outdoors, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. It was usually in a little brown bottle and lived in the medicine cabinet. And if you’ve ever had it applied to a cut, you can testify that the red stuff hurt much worse than the rock that scrapped your knee. 

In the world of church, we don’t see a lot of scrapped knees, but we do see people wounded by sin, both in the congregation and church leadership. When it comes to wounded leadership, it's usually the result of some sort of internal conflict. When contention surrounds critical areas of the church, leaders can get scrapes that can’t afford to be left unattended. There is value in having people around the table who ask the tough questions; but when resistance to mission and vision occur, it can be deadly. 

Confrontation Cleanses

As leaders, we have no choice but to confront the issues that can slow down the growth and impact of the church. Confronting disgruntled leaders is necessary because they typically have a level of influence in the church. It’s never easy, but neglect can create worse problems. No one enjoys saying the hard things no more than our moms enjoyed pouring the red stuff on our scrapped knees; but pretending it isn’t there is an open door for infection, that eventually affects the entire (church) body. 

Ignore the Noise

I wished I could tell you that at the age of twelve, I gritted my teeth and took the red stuff like a man, but I didn’t. Instead, I screamed like a girl. Despite my squirming and squealing, my mom didn’t stop dosing the wound with Merthiolate (she did always blow on it to soothe the burning…that’s what moms do). Like our moms, we have to ignore the noise people make when decisions are made for the health of the church. Saying the hard things can sting and burn; but at the end of the day, you have to do what's best for the overall body.

It's easier to please people than confront people

There will always be pushback and challenges when it comes to executing vision and mission. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. It’s easier to please people than confront people, which is why most churches are under one hundred in attendance. Leading requires saying the hard things and a splash of Merthiolate every now and then. People will squirm and squeal, but the end result will be a healthier body. 

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