This is the fourth and final article in a series on leadership based on a set of commandments we return to and refer to at Trinity, the parish I serve. You may catch up on past articles in the archive at sanpedrotoday.com. You may notice that all nine commandments were not covered. Four of them are more specific to church leadership and may not be as interesting to the readership of this magazine. If you are interested in the whole set, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The call to lead is tough. Making decisions will draw detractors. Bringing reform will not be popular with those who helped create, or have an investment in, the status quo. Leaning into a difficult discussion instead of living in denial takes chutzpah. So why lead? Your family (kids’ sports team, business, neighborhood council, city, quilting group, confirmation class, the list goes on and on) needs someone to lead. Proverbs 29.18 says, “Where there is no vision [leadership], the people cast off restraint.”
Good leadership can foment unity to win wars, go to the moon and back, and convince people to make unlikely sacrifices for the greater good. From the basic unit of the family to a nation, without a leader to communicate vision, everyone goes their own way. Everybody just goes into their own room to watch their own show, because we can’t agree on who we are (identity) or what we are doing (mission).
The leader is responsible to detect and correct identity theft and mission creep. Identity theft is the inability to answer the questions, “Who are we?” Mission creep is the inability to answer, “What are we called to do?” Identity theft is exacerbated by the pressure to be everything, and mission creep is made worse by the pressure to do everything. When identity theft or mission creep is detected, the first corrective measure is weeding.
Have you ever planted mint? Looks harmless. Smells great. Helps digestion. Makes a great garnish. Mint should come with a warning label: Will take over your whole yard! Take my word, give mint boundaries. Like, put it in a pot, away from any other soil. At first, I felt like a real champion gardener when I saw how great my mint was doing. Then I thought, “I wonder if I need to prune that back?” Then, “Holy cow, that’s enough mint for all the mojitos the Green Onion makes in a year!” When my rhubarb was in danger of losing its life to the mint, I took drastic action. Weed the mint. I pulled it all out. Smelled like a gum factory. I gave bushels of mint to my backyard chickens and have sworn off mint ever since.
Leadership Commandment 8: We weed today. We stop being who we are not called to be. We stop doing what we are not called to do. We don’t let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4.26). We don’t allow noxious feelings to spread. We don’t give the devil a foothold by planting invasive offense in our garden (2 Corinthians 2.10). We are quick to address and forgive. Bitter unforgiveness is a million times more destructive than mint. When we don’t weed today, tomorrow is worse. The difficult discussion is not less necessary, nor is it less difficult tomorrow.
This New Year, take a good look at your metaphorical garden. What is crowding out health and growth? Is there something that is not essential to your core identity or mission that can be weeded out? Many people resolve to add stuff to their lives at the New Year. Gym memberships, fad diets, and other well-intentioned additions. Maybe it would be healthier to start with subtraction this year instead of addition. Weed instead of plant?
May the Lord crown your year with abundance (from Psalm 65).
Nathan Hoff is the Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Pedro. Follow his blog at trinitypastor.blogspot.com.