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"Practice What You Teach"
by Tom Goodman
September 6, 2007

Did you hear about the driving instructor whom police discovered had never obtained a driver's license?  It's a parable about leadership.

The instructor in Berlin, Germany, had failed his first and only driving test 43 years earlier and was too nervous to retake it, despite the fact that he has prepared more than 1,000 students to pass it.  He said, "I was too afraid to try again."  In Germany, those who can't drive, apparently, teach (WORLD magazine August 14, 2004).

As I said, it's a parable about leadership.  Too often staff and lay leaders can competently prepare people to live the kind of Christian life we aren't willing to live ourselves.  So, we teach on tithing but we don't tithe, or we teach on living by faith but we live in fear, or we teach about forgiveness but we live in bitterness, or we teach about self-discipline but we neglect our own self-control.

Let's make sure that we leaders aren't like this driving instructor.  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.  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.  Just ask Larry Craig, the disgraced and now-former U.S. senator from Idaho.  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 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).

David Livingstone had the right antibiotic for the infection of ingratitude.  He said, "Forbid that we should ever consider the holding of a commission from the King of Kings as a sacrifice, so long as other men esteem the service of an earthly government as an honor."  In Philippians 4:12, Paul said, "I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."

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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