5 Red Flags

“Everything rises or falls on leadership” was one of the repeated quotations made by Dr. Lee Robertson, of Tennessee Temple days.  While teaching there, I heard it personally repeated by Dr. Roberston, by many of the students who attended over the years, and often by me.

While some may want to carp about the statement, stating that such a statement fails at giving proper weight to the Lord’s working and activity, the statement is thoroughly supported by repeated examples in Scripture.

Change leadership, and you change the direction, growth, and the blessing of the Lord — i.e., Psalm 78:67-72.  Who was sitting on the throne over Israel was all the difference.  Character, initiative, corruption, lack of vision, back-sliding, selfishness, wisdom, foolishness, stubbornness, insight, selflessness, presence, absenteeism, a self-serving spirit, laziness, et al. all impacted the effectiveness of the various leaders of Scripture — and today!

God not only ordains the end — blessing and cursing — but He ordains the means to that end!  The qualities of the person in charge are some of the means.  No pastor would take the position that the “who” has little to no impact in ministry!

What are some of the signs, indicators, or red flags that signal that there is a leadership problem?


#1 – A Lazy Organizational Culture:  Take note of the staff’s general work ethic!

Almost every one of us has the tendency to gravitate to less, not more.  We get complacent and lazy, and motivation can wane.  That is why leadership is built into every area of life.  There must be leaders who challenge and push the paid staff (and gingerly the unpaid) to work, and to work hard.

There is a reason the world includes supervisors, foremen, floor managers, and parents!  Not everyone has initiative and self-motivation.  An “ant” understands that — Proverbs 6:6-8 — the sluggard does not.  Effectiveness and accomplishment require leaders who expect and demand a solid and strong work ethic!


#2 – An Overall Decline In Attendance:  Is there meaningful and significant numerical growth?

No ministry is investing thousands and thousands of dollars and hours of paid and volunteer work, only to see little-to-nothing coming out of it all — out onto the “shipping dock.”  No business can survive long with that scenario.

When you begin to hear the words “quality, not quantity,” you have a clue that leadership is failing at the job. That is the “rhetoric of failure!”  Who is not for quality?  Nevertheless, it is not that you can’t have both — and should!

A ministry leader or pastor is called to a ministry not to maintain but to grow both deep and wide.  No ministry believes they are calling a “maintainer of the status quo.”

Adding a few straggling sheep from other ministries, seeing few saved, baptized, and joining the church, or adding numbers by newborns may be a commentary on what leadership is willing to accept as “growing.”


#3 – The Sheep Are Neglected:  It is no longer about the sheep, but it’s about the institution.

There is a reason that the leader is called a shepherd, the shepherd of the flock.  He is not a hireling, merely hired to watch over the sheep for a period of time, with no skin in the game.  He is a good shepherd and cares.

When a shepherd doesn’t know the name of their sheep, is uninformed/misinformed/disinterested in the condition of the members and friends of the church, doesn’t know whether they are even in the church service, and rarely visits personally — you have a leadership problem — a could care less leadership problem!

No, it is not a delegation problem.  It is not that the shepherd has failed at delegation, but at being the shepherd!   Shepards don’t farm out caring!  But hirelings do!


#4 – The Same Old “Same Old:” The ministry is just cruising along on the same old roads.

There are ways to reach people for the Lord!  Those ways continually change societally and culturally.  While a ministry may be comfortable with the old roads, and those old roads are not right or wrong, the question is — good – better – best.  Is there a better way to accomplish the same goals that bring a better rate of return on money and effort?

You can still go around the neighborhoods and put door hangers on the resident’s front doors.  You can do that or send oversized postcards by the thousands to everyone around the church.  Nothing wrong with that attempt; you are at least doing something.  However, is there a better way?  Is there a way that the energy, time, and cost are less and the effectiveness is equal or greater?  That is the question!

“Going down the same old roads” is a leadership issue!  Engaging more of God’s people in the ministry’s creative thinking, planning, and operations requires a leader who understands that there are people who are really good at creatively reaching out to people in the community.  It takes humility to accept the reality that others may have something worthy of consideration and implementation.

Change also means more work!  That goes back to the first point — laziness.  Some don’t want to think about change because it involves work!  At times, thinking about change is quickly dismissed because of the anticipated work involved in executing that change or new program.


#5 – Absentee Leaders: The leaders can’t be found when it comes to the church’s ministries.

The lack of leadership presence in ministry is all too common these days.  Maybe one pastor shows up or shows up for a very brief period of time.  Teachers, youth pastors, ministry leaders, deacons, board members, and/or associate pastors are not even expected to be present during this-or-that event.

The result is that few of the leaders — paid and unpaid — attend the concert, program, celebration, wedding, or funeral; the leadership expresses no such expectation!

Invisibility is acceptable! Why? Too often, because they themselves can’t be found at anything other than what they “must be” at themselves.  They don’t want to be bothered by ministry expectations any more than others in positions of leadership.

Can anyone justify why a youth pastor would not be at a kindergarten, middle school, or high school program or graduation ceremony?  Even if there were conflicting events, why not show up for whatever time one can, before or after, if possible?  Why not reschedule if you can?  How about putting someone else in charge until you can get there?  Have your spouse attend when you cannot, to rightfully excuse you?

There are ways to be present, visible, and caring — but it’s a leadership problem!  It is a leadership problem because there is little personal expectation, and therefore less than little when it comes to others!


The reality is that ministry leaders and pastors are too often like the sheep they lead.  They are self-serving and primarily interested in the same grass and comfortable pastures their sheep graze.

They want the leadership title of “shepherds” but want the same comfortable life as the sheep.

Sadly — and it is sad — this has been, and will continue to become, more the norm!  — Driverless ministries with no one really at the wheel, engaged and caring about what the ministry could be and should be!

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