Reality – what a painful word for leaders.  It refers to the status quo we live in.  It speaks of the circumstances we are currently experiencing – the inconvenient truth we probably aren’t happy with.

A good friend of mine worked at a large church in the Midwest a number of years ago.  This church had been plateaued for awhile, and was starting to head into decline.  So they made a smart decision: they brought in an outside church consultant.  This brings in a fresh set of eyes and removes the emotion from decision-making.  A consultant has nothing to lose by being honest.  He/she can talk about “the elephant in the room” without fear of consequences.

This church hired a very well-known church consultant to identify problem areas so they could make the appropriate adjustments.  They paid a good sum of money for him to analyze everything they did and define their current reality.

I consider this an incredibly wise investment – especially with this guy.  I’ve agreed with almost everything I’ve ever read from him.  He is a great thinker and is excellent at what he does.  And if I were in this church’s situation, I would hire him as well!

My friend said that this consultant identified some obvious – but touchy – areas that were hurting the church and stunting its growth.  He gave them some painful, yet practical next steps to begin to rectify the problems they were facing.  Again, knowing this guy, his recommendations are worth every penny!  He is outsider-focused and extremely strategic.

Burying Their Heads In The Sand

But because of the effort and pain that the necessary changes would have required (some of the biggest givers in the church would have been offended, and changes would have to be made to the overall leadership style of the ministry), the church leadership came to the following conclusions:

  1.  This consultant doesn’t really understand our church or its people. (Even though he had spent a considerable amount of time and effort analyzing everything)
  1.  He doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. (I have no words for this one…)

WOW… That’s crazy!  Here is a man that has worked with hundreds of churches of all shapes, sizes and denominations.  His strategic and leadership advice is considered golden by myriads of church leaders across the world.  And this church chose to absolutely ignore his advice because of the implications involved. My friend lobbied in favor of the necessary changes, but he didn’t have enough influence to make a difference in that situation.

Unfortunately this decision cost them dearly.  My friend shared with me the results of the leadership’s bad decision, some of which he had to clean up.  Among other things, the pastor ended up forfeiting his leadership position because of a moral failure.  Some of the fallout from his failure could have been avoided – or at least mitigated – if they had only heeded this consultant’s wise advice.  His suggested changes would have added more accountability into their leadership structure, which would have lessened the impact of the pastor’s actions.

The sad news is that this church still hasn’t recovered.  It is a good church filled with good people, but ignoring sound advice cost them dearly.  It always does.

Change is painful!  But pastors and church leaders must cowboy up and do what needs to be done.  God has called us to lead.  Leadership requires courage.  And it necessitates that at times we make unpopular decisions.  But God is counting on us to do what is best for our churches.  After all… our church isn’t really ours.  It belongs to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.  And He expects us to do what needs to be done to advance His Kingdom.

How do you face reality in your church?