The Three Attitudes of Church Unity

Recently, I taught a Zoom conference with 15 jail chaplains in St. Petersburg – St. Petersburg, Russia. The real St. Petersburg, not the warm one down south.

A benefit of the COVID crisis of 2020 is that missions are different in 2021. In 2019, I would have traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to teach a conference. I led this one from the CoHatch in downtown Springfield, Ohio.

I’m zooming from Springfield, Ohio, to impact jail chaplains in St. Petersburg, Russia. Wow!

The chaplains told me that in-prison visitation begins this week. There are over 15,000 prisoners in the prisons that they visit. I taught First Steps Conversations. They agreed that the material was easy to understand and would be useful with discipling inmates.

At the end of the two-hour conference, questions and more questions. I love questions!  They asked about discipling, learning to pray big prayers, and how to develop a sense of God’s presence.

After many questions, this one:

Pastor, you said that you were a pastor in one church for 49 years and that your church never experienced a church split. How is this possible?

From First Steps to church splits; a sidestep! I’ve been to Russia dozens of times and talked to hundreds of Russian pastors finding that church divisions are commonplace.

Answering this question, I said:

There are three attitudes that I have tried to follow.

One: I’ve always tried to be an example. I never ask anyone to do something that I don’t do myself.  If I ask others to disciple, I disciple; if I ask others to tithe, I tithe; if I ask others to lead a small group, I lead a small group; if I ask others to pray and read their Bible, I get up early to pray and read my Bible.

I have noticed through the years that disunity follows a disconnect between words and actions. When leaders and church members talk and then don’t practice what they talk about, there is a disconnect.

Into that gap flows distrust. Authenticity is the bank account of good-will from which you can make withdrawals to pay for mistakes.

A business owner with a luxurious lifestyle, during a crisis, can’t legitimately ask employees to scale back. Church leaders who talk, talk, talk, and talk without praying for the sick, discipling new believers, or daily seeking God’s presence create a set-up for disgruntled followers.

Two: I have tried, in my ministry, to be about releasing others. I’ve never tried to develop a personality cult of “Pastor Grant” as the brand of my ministry. I want others, who are successful in their calling, to be my logo.

Releasing is tricky. Sheep must follow the shepherd, but the shepherd can’t obscure the vision of the Chief Shepherd (Jesus). Leadership means bold moves and then getting out of the way for the revealed strength in your followers’ callings.

Ask this question: “Do I rejoice when others succeed at my expense?”

Three: I pray. Through 49 years as a pastor, I developed intricate prayer strategies for those that I lead. Every Monday, I pray for them and base my leadership in their lives on this praying.

I’ve read hundreds of books on leadership; I’ve attended conferences; I’m familiar with names like Blackaby, Collins, Stanley, Drucker, and Adizes. But of all those books and conferences, the best leadership advice/example that I have read is in Luke 22:

Peter, my dear friend, listen to what I’m about to tell you. Satan has demanded to come and sift you like wheat and test your faith. But I have prayed for you, Peter, that you would stay faithful to me no matter what comes. Remember this: after you have turned back to me and have been restored, make it your life mission to strengthen the faith of your brothers.

One, two, and three.

Leadership is not complicated.

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