I am stating the obvious. Indeed I am mirroring the emotions of tens of millions of Americans. My statement? I am fed up with politicians. I am fed up with a congress and executive branch that fails to lead. I am fed up with last minute and dramatic decision-making. I am fed up with "kicking the can down the road" on major decisions. I am fed up with the lack of courage obvious at so many levels.
Okay, I'm complaining, maybe even whining. And I hate to listen to whiners! Can I do something constructive with this mess? Can I learn any lessons? My own answer is an enthusiastic "yes." As I briefly analyzed the situation in D.C. and the Band-Aid solution of the fiscal cliff, I was able to glean some key leadership lessons. And I found five of the lessons were particularly poignant for pastors.
1. Remember who you work for. Forgive my bad grammar, but "remember for whom you work" just sounded a bit formal. Politicians often forget they work for the people. They don't work for the pollsters. They don't work for the lobbyists. They don't work for donors. They work for the people who elected them. Pastors would do well to understand that their first level of accountability is to God. Seek to please Him first and foremost. Everything else and everyone else is secondary.
2. Relationships are key. Good leaders and healthy pastors work hard to maintain good relationships. Many pastors are able to lead and serve effectively because they have worked hard to have healthy relationships with people in their congregation and others. It appears that the current fiscal cliff was averted because the senate minority leader and the vice president of the United States were able to have a civil discussion based on their long-standing relationship. Indeed their relationship with each other likely overcame their distinct ideologies and diverse party loyalty.
3. Indecision can lead to bad decisions. Sometimes in church life it's easier to put off tough decisions. The reality is that the failure to make timely decisions often leads to bad decisions down the road. Our nation is in a debt crisis. Politicians have yet to address that issue sufficiently. It's politically expedient not to address the issue of entitlements. It's stupid too.
4. Compromise is not always bad. Doctrinal compromise is bad; it can be heretical, especially if the doctrine is a primary Christian doctrine. But pastors don't always have to get their way on other issues. It might be a setback if the congregation was unwilling to fund a new building program, but it's not the end of the world. There is always a new day and new opportunity. We have a divided ideological government. On some issues we must compromise. Neither side will be totally pleased, but the alternative is a non-functioning government.
5. Lack of leadership frustrates followers. Do you know why you and I are so frustrated with our politicians? Among other reasons, we are longing for a leader in congress or the executive branch who will exhibit courageous leadership. Few things frustrate a follower more than inert leadership. The same is true for pastors. You are certainly called to care for the flock, but you are also called to lead. Most people in your churches will gladly and willingly follow wise and godly leadership.
This fiscal cliff will soon become another fiscal cliff. And if something does not change in Washington, we will soon witness the same drama and failed leadership. Though painful for our nation, these days provide good models for pastors as leaders. Simply do the opposite of what most politicians are doing.