Hugh Halter
The Wrong Questions of Leadership
by Hugh Halter on February 7th, 2013

The Wrong Questions of Leadership

Originally posted August 2011

Take no thought of your life…"Whoever wants to find their life must lose it for my sake…if you want to be first, you must be last and be a servant of all.”

This last week I received an email from a pastor who I have never met, but who felt compelled to ask me for wisdom related to his call in ministry. He had been pastoring for almost a decade and as he processed the future of the church and the missional call of God on his
congregation the questions came out like this.

“What will happen to my job if I really call my church to kingdom action and even confront our spiritual lethargy?”
“Will I still have a job?”
“How can I change my job description so that my roles line up with what I feel I want to spend my time on..and will my Elder board accept and still want me to pay me to do less inside the church?” “How can I make sure I spend most of my time in my gift areas?”

These are all great questions and ones which I have often asked in my own mind, but the longer I work with professional Christian leaders, the more I believe these to be exactly the WRONG questions for anyone to ask.

Now, that I’m going on 25 years of Christian leadership, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, God does not answer the wrong questions. Thus if we really want to hear from God regarding our future, we need to get the correct questions in view. The three scripture that are spliced together are the words of Jesus to the ancient day version of the wrong questions. The boys who wanted to follow Jesus were wondering about their role in his economy, his community, and his kingdom. Some wanted to see where they stand in relation to the other guys; some wanted to figure out how to rise to the top or at least be positioned within the key circle of influences, and some were trying to figure out the cost of being with Jesus.

Regardless of their motives or questions, Jesus makes it simple by leveling the confusion related to ministry/leadership/and provision. It isn’t about US, OUR calling, OUR gifting, or OUR roles. Everything is about Him, His desire, His plan, and His glory.

Thinking back to now hundreds of emails and conversations with present church leaders and young emerging leaders, I realize that I can count on one hand the amount of times a certain leader actually brings up God or the lost, least, or leery in their considerations. Why don’t
I hear, “Hugh…I really have a heart for these people, or a burden for my home town, or a burning pain in my heart to see this situation changed…can you help me figure this out?”

These should be the question we ask, and I’m absolutely positive, that God will answer them!

Now of course, his answer may shock us. If you have a genuine burden for young people, he may direct you to become a teacher, a social worker, or start mentoring a troubled youth in
your neighborhood. If you’re heart is for the poor, he may ask you to start by volunteering at a poverty-needs ministry in your home town or give money away.  If you can’t make it through the day without crying or praying for lost friends, he may just ask you to throw a party, join a Yoga class or volunteer at an Aid’s hospice. Answers on how to help real humans come fast and easy…at least if you’re serious.

To spend time re-orging your job description or trying to figure out how to keep your paycheck could be a waste of His time and yours. Yes, if you’re trying to move from paid professional church staff positions, you’re in a bit of a pickle if you really want to help the ones Jesus might
be more focused on. I say this tongue in cheek but also with a great sense of seriousness. In the present church/culture divide, pastors are the least positioned to help where the rubber meet the road, so begin with a heart/gut check and decide if your heart is on the pavement or

What do you really want to do? Who do you really want to help? What do you really want your life to count for? If the answers come back “people/hurt/pain/redemption/life change/transformation of neighborhoods/evangelism… your mind and heart and let God lead you to people. If however, your tensions are between church growth, church establishment, paychecks, parishioners in the seats on Sunday…expect a long
drawn out silence from God. Calling isn’t based on provision: Plumbers are just as called as anyone else and their provision allows them to minister to a few friends, their
children, or a neighbor.

Our gifting isn’t the same as doing what we like to do. Gifting is based on God empowering you to do something you don’t necessarily feel confident about or even want to do in a given situation. Biblical Financial provision is for those who feel called to equip the saints to do the work,” not for people who do the work. Regardless of your longevity in ministry posts, realize that there should never be any sense of positional entitlement. God does not owe us
anything. Remember, we’ve been bought with a price and we owe God everything and if he wants to bring us low, low is the place to be. If he wants to bring us high, then high is fine. Getting paid or retaining a certain lifestyle was and is still not part of the “perk package” of
Christian leadership. Christian leadership will always be based on who wants to dive under the muddy ropes and slither through the real life dirt and grime of human pain. That was the life of Jesus, our great cloud of witness, our prophets, and this paradigm of life will be life of the
leaders of the future church, if the church is to have a future.


Posted in Incarnational Community, Missio, Missional Church    Tagged with Leadership, Incarnational Community, missional community, missional, christian leaders, pastors, Christian leadership, Spiritual gifts, Vocational leadership


Joe Whalen - February 7th, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Thanks Hugh. I heard you speak here in Holland MI a few months ago. You gave me the confidence to begin changing everything in terms of how I lead our youth group and leaders and we also started a new West Michigan Missional Network after you were here. Thanks for your prophetic voice!
Navy - March 3rd, 2013 at 11:11 PM
I suggest you that suggest that this Pastor re-read, or read for the first time, the biography, "C. T. Studd: Cricketer & Pioneer", by Norman Grubb, Studd's Son-in-law. "Preach Christ, and Him Crucified." Cuts to the chase, and completely.
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