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A Fire in the Fire Station
by Tom Goodman
September 17, 2009

In De Queen, Arkansas, firefighters returned to their station from a call and found flames in their own house.

"One of the firemen called me and said the place was full of smoke.  I thought he was joshing me.  He said, 'We've got a fire at the fire station,'" De Queen Fire Marshal Dennis Pruitt said.

Lightning had ignited a fire, filling the station house with smoke.  They called a dispatcher to get the Southwestern Electric Power Co. to disconnect the station's electrical service, but things got confusing.

"We need the power disconnected at our station," said a firefighter to SWEPCO.

"Okay, you have a fire to get to," the dispatcher replied, "but why do you need the power cut at your station."

"No, no," the firefighter explained.  "It's the fire station that's on fire!'"

As Hillcrest leaders, our job is to guide our people to have God-honoring lives.  But, like those De Queen firefighters, we have to make sure that what we seek to fix in others doesn't show up in our own lives!

To that end, it's important that we remember what I call the four "staff infections."  You've probably heard of a "staph" infection.  It often enters the body through a minor cut, but ends up causing serious complications.  A leadership team can develop some "infections" that result in serious complications, too.  Each year in the churches I've served, the staff members have heard me bring my annual "Staff Infections" talk.  They heard the 2009 edition this past Tuesday.

These "infections" can affect all of us as leaders, not just the paid members of the team.  Review your life for signs of the following infections:

Immorality.  Our personal failures aren't as "personal" as we'd wish.  Our failures have a major impact on the rest of the leadership team.  Let's be sure we deal ruthlessly with our moral weaknesses instead of privately entertaining them.  Of course, this includes sexual immorality, but it also includes misuse of funds and church property, gossip, abuse of alcohol, and crossing any other line God has drawn in his Word.

Incompetence.  Leadership teams are plagued by this infection when team members have no interest in improving their performance.  Symptoms include inattention to standards, constant excuses for failure to perform, and resistance to things that would help them improve.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, what Paul urged the young pastor of Ephesus remains good advice for ministers today:  "Do not neglect your gift."  When ministers leave unopened and undeveloped the gift God has given them, laziness replaces vigor, routine ruts replace creativity, and the safety of sameness replaces the venture of faith.  Instead, we need to develop ourselves into highly competent servants of the Lord.

Insubordination.  We call our leadership group a "team," but have you noticed that the teams we love to watch in sports have captains, coaches, and managers?  To call a group of leaders a "team" doesn't mean that lines of authority don't exist.  Teams don't work well when members ignore these lines of authority.

To be honest, none of us always agree with those who lead us.  But when this devolves into disrespect and open resistance, a staff infection has invaded the Body.

But insubordination can happen in our relationship with team members, not just in our relationship with team leaders.  Remember, the Bible calls us to mutual submission.  Ephesians 5:21 says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  Ministry teams suffer when members allow personal differences to remain unresolved.  Ministry teams suffer when colleagues do not support each other in conversations with other church members.

Ingratitude.  This is the worst of all staff infections, and source of the other three.  Think about it.  When I lose my grateful wonder that God has called me to serve his people, I can fall into sloppy habits (Incompetence).  When I lose my thankfulness for the gifts of those I work with, I can quit being a team player (Insubordination).  When I'm no longer grateful for what God chooses to give me, I can turn to embezzlement or adultery (Immorality).

Staff infections, like staph infections, can create a lot of harm to the Body.  Make sure that you're not giving any opening for these infections to invade your life.  I'm so grateful for the team of leaders we have at Hillcrest!


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