I once sat in the office of a Christian leader who viewed himself as being extremely important and powerful. Arrogance oozed from every pore.
During our conversation, he took a stack of letters and began to sign them. I felt worthless in his eyes … and tried to leave as soon as possible.
For some reason, I wasn’t surprised when I later heard that his wife divorced him.
Another time, my wife and I were invited to the home of some casual friends so we could spend an evening with their new minister.
The night with the pastor was a disaster.
All he did was talk about himself. He showed zero interest in me or my wife. He was on stage, delivering a soliloquy, and we were expected to listen and applaud.
Many, if not most, Christian leaders know how to treat people well. It’s a crucial part of their calling and position.
But, sad to say, this isn’t true of every Christian leader.
Let me share five ways that Christian leaders treat people well:
First, Christian leaders show a genuine interest in others.
When leaders are talking to others, they look at them … listen carefully to them … and seek to understand where they’re coming from.
I recently met a pastor right after a church service. I told him that I knew a friend of his, and he immediately took out his business card, wrote his phone number on it, asked me to call him, and engaged in several minutes of conversation.
He made me feel important.
His church is healthy and growing, even though it’s in a city corner.
When a Christian leader shows an interest in others, they tend to reciprocate.
Second, Christian leaders demonstrate concern for everybody.
I once knew a Christian leader who prided himself on ministering to wealthy people. He surrounded himself with people with money … but had little time for people who were poor.
His bias toward the wealthy was noticed and commented upon by others. If you had money, the pastor would try and befriend you. If you didn’t … forget it.
But Jesus noticed everybody and anybody around him. While he paid attention to wealthy people like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus, he also had time for lepers, the blind, and the lame.
A loving leader shows Jesus’ concern for widows … those without jobs … kids in the youth group … those who are “odd” … and those who feel lonely.
I’m not saying that a leader has to spend an equal amount of time with everyone, but that it’s important to treat everybody well.
Third, Christian leaders learn as many names as they can.
During my teens, I attended a medium-sized church. I listened to my pastor preach twice every Sunday and became a member.
My senior year in high school, I became president of the youth group, and then went to a Christian college.
And every Sunday as I shook the pastor’s hand at the door, he would say the same thing to me:
It bothered me that my pastor didn’t know my name. Maybe he did, and forgot it after every sermon … but I’m not so sure.
It’s not easy to do – and a pictorial directory helps – but Christian leaders need to learn people’s names
I once heard Rick Warren say that he knew the names of the first 3,000 people who attended Saddleback Church … and that included children and youth.
Dr. Charles Feinberg, who taught at my seminary for many years, had an incredible ability to remember names. The last time I saw him, he asked about my wife by name, even though he had never met her personally. I understand that Jerry Falwell acted the same way.
You have to be relaxed to remember names. Leaders who are experiencing stress can’t remember their own names, much less anyone else’s!
Fourth, Christian leaders should always correct people in person.
Several months ago, I met a pastor who told me he was fired … via email. The church board that fired him were obviously COWARDS.
Leaders who treat people well don’t document dissatisfaction with those they are trying to correct via email or letters. (The revelation of emails from current SONY executives should make this obvious.)
When leaders need to have a tough conversation, they make the time to speak face-to-face with the person whose performance they’re unhappy with.
When I was a pastor, and I was unhappy with something a staff member or volunteer did, I did my best to speak with them with dignity and respect … which meant loving them enough to speak with them directly and personally.
And if a leader can’t or won’t do that, in my view, then they shouldn’t be a leader at all.
Case in point: one could argue that Mars Hill Church in Seattle … which hosted 14,000 people per weekend last January … is dissolving by January 1, 2015 because Pastor Mark did not treat the people around him well.
When a leader who claims to be serving Christ treats people like dirt, that leader is not only sowing the seeds of his own demise, but may very well be sowing the seeds of his church’s destruction as well.
Finally, Christian leaders take their promises seriously.
When they say they’ll return a phone call, they call you.
When they say they’ll meet you for lunch, they meet you.
When they say they’ll pray for you, they pray for you.
When they say they’ll send you a book, they send it.
I understand emergencies. I understand forgetfulness. I understand pressure, and exhaustion, and a full schedule.
But Christian leaders need to be people of their word.
Those whose word is good often lead thriving congregations.
Those whose word doesn’t count don’t tend to have much impact.
Tonight I’m going to play Santa Claus for some preschoolers. (They all know me, so I hope nobody figures out who Santa is.)
With each child, I’m going to ask them their name … ask them what they want for Christmas … try and understand their desires … and not overpromise anything.
I’ve seen a lot of Santas in my time, and I haven’t seen a “bad Santa” yet.
Let’s pray that Jesus’ leaders take a cue from Santa and treat people well.
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