It had been a frustrating few months. I'd started a new position as a worship pastor at an existing church and thus inherited a group of 15 musicians with little talent and lots of attitude (a wonderful combination - is my sarcasm coming through clearly enough?).
One guy in particular was especially difficult. It was discouraging to lead him and he was demanding in his desire to have things “his way.” After one of many phone calls spent trying to get him heading in a healthy direction, I was particularly frustrated and brought this frustration to God in prayer. It went something like this...
“I’m tired of dealing with them, Lord. They’re a constant pain. Nothing I do is ever enough and no matter how hard I try, they refuse to respond in a way that’s helpful for our team. Would you please deal with them yourself? Make them see how obstinate they are and how they need to change.”
But then something happened that does not happen to me everyday when I pray - God spoke back.
God asked me, “Ryan, do you love these people?”
I said, “Of course, God, but they’re just such a pain, so please deal with them!”
God asked me, “I know but, do you love these people?”
I responded, “Yes, but please deal with them.”
God asked, “Ryan, do you love these people?”
This time I saw it. Broken, I responded, “No, Lord. I don’t love these people.”
See, the Holy Spirit was helping me see that these people were not the problem - I was. Did attitudes need to be addressed? Absolutely. Was I right in confronting what needed to be confronted? Without a doubt. Was my motivation in confronting these issues correct? Um...definitely NOT.
In my mind, these people were getting in the way of the mission and I had totally missed that these people were the mission. I think if we’re honest, most leadership frustration is fueled by a failure to properly love the people we lead. When we see people as obstacles to mission and not opportunity for mission, we are off mission.
So, do you love the people you lead? Because this love is the foundation for all true leadership.