I consult with a manufacturing and production company who use all kinds of machines. Serious machines. Some of their machines are as big as a gymnasium and cost millions of dollars.  Others are smaller and cost only a few thousand, but at the end of the day, those machines are the bread and butter of the company.  Without them, the company cannot fulfill its purpose.  Rarely do any of these machines break down, but when they do there is a small army of maintenance personnel who are employed to handle that imminent and urgent need.  Every minute a machine is down is time that the company is not fulfilling its mission to meet the needs of its clients.  Thing is, rarely does one of their machines fail.  Why then employ a team of 70 highly-skilled, full-time, maintenance workers round-the-clock?  If a machine rarely breaks down, is that personnel investment worth it? 

Leadership is about action.  Pontificating is fun but unless it is fueling the action of influence, it is just ideas.  Healthy leadership is active in two ways: reactive and proactive.

  1. Reactive leadership receives an issue, situation or challenge and chooses to engage it in hopes to resolve the issue, clarify the situation, or overcome the challenge.  Reactive leadership is necessary, but in the life of a pastor or ministry leader, it should not be primary.

  2. Proactive leadership has a good grasp of what is healthy in a given environment and works to keep the fundamentals of that environment strong so that the people being led can flourish, even (especially?) when there is challenge. Proactive leadership should be the primary activity of a pastor or ministry leader. 

This is why the above-mentioned company spends millions of dollars every year on highly-skilled maintenance workers.  Their main job is proactive care for the most important tools in the company. Their primary activity is to regularly check-in-on and care for the strength and/or health of the core components of the machine before something goes wrong. This means that problems get fixed before there is a problem, for the most part enabling consistent fulfillment of the company’s purpose.  Furthermore, when there is a major issue, situation or challenge, the overall health of the company is strong, meaning that a major issue here or there is not debilitating to the whole enterprise.

The parallel to life in vocational ministry is obvious. Proactive leadership is incredibly important, but many pastors and ministry leaders are so busy leading reactively that there is no space for proactive leading.  Consumeristic western culture has been and always will seek to dictate to pastors and ministry leaders reactive leadership instead of proactive leadership.  Next time, we’ll look at some of the insidious ways that the power of consumerism in the western Church tries to set its agenda against healthy proactive leadership in the leadership spheres of pastors and ministry leaders. 

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