Paul Clark

“I want everyone to like me real bad
I want everyone to approve of me
‘Cause when they disapprove of me it makes me feel so sad”  (Song lyrics by Randy Newman)

“If you want everyone to love you, go sell ice cream, don’t revitalize churches.” (Ed Stetzer)

In our first church plant in Michigan, a lady stood up unannounced one Sunday morning and said, ”We need to give our pastor and his wife a hand, since they are doing such a great job leading the church.”  My wife Mechthild und I felt like crawling under the pews as the entire church gave an arousing applause. Six days later, the following Saturday evening, the same cheer-leading lady said good-by to me on the phone, explaining that the Lord was leading her family to another church.

While planting the church in Saarbruecken, Germany, I vividly recall a time when a handful of members left the church.  They were unsatisfied with my leadership style, and the direction the church was heading. During this time, we hosted a weekend-seminar taught by a pastor friend from Munich who I considered to be a role model.  The church was so blessed by his ministry! I was impressed by his teaching ability and people skills; and couldn’t help but wish to be more like him.  You can imagine my surprise, when several months later, he shared with me how several of his best people had left the church.  Of all things, they cited his teaching ministry and style of leadership as a reason for leaving!

That incident taught me a very important lesson that is very much in line with what the English monk and poet John Lydgate wrote long ago: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

One of the greatest joys for a church leader is seeing God use HIS people to do the work of ministry. Yet it sometimes seems such joys are often outweighed by an equal amount of challenging disappointments.  Reading Paul’s account of his leadership journey in II Corinthians 6:3-9 and 11:16-33 reminds us that church leadership is not just a bowl of cherries with whip cream on top.

We confront problems and difficult situations on a daily basis, but our calling remains firmly rooted in the Lord.  We give our best to shepherd the men and women God has entrusted to us. I have personally discovered that during times of church crisis (stuff happens) a lifestyle of worship and praise carries me through.

What is happening around me should not negatively influence the quality of my personal worship and praise. If we don’t develop and foster a life-style of worship and praise we will view everything in life from a human perspective rather than through God’s perspective. If we are not worshiping God, we are worshiping someone else. Rick Warren writes: “The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant.”

I believe, if we can go through the various challenges of leadership in a way that pleases God, our parishioners too will be influenced to stay focused in their walk of faith no matter what stuff is happening around them. People are more influenced by how we live and react to life’s challenges than what we say. Talk, is sometimes very cheap and superficial. Actions, do speak louder than words. I pray that our lives would be a pleasant letter read by those around us, encouraging men and women to pursuit the very best that God has in store for them.

In conclusion, here is an encouraging scripture for you and me today!

„So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised… But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. “   (Hebrews 10:35-36 and 38)

Paul, and his wife Mechthild, have planted several churches in Germany, and are presently planting a church in Bregenz, Austria.  Paul is author of the book: German Pentecostal Church Planting 1945–2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the 21st Century. Paul’s personal missions’ statement: “I intentionally encourage those who encourage others.” Paul is also the founder and host of Forum für Leiterschaft im Gemeindebau, a web based resource ministry geared to the needs of German speaking pastors and church leaders in Europe.