I was reading, yet again, about the legacy of Steve Jobs, and his legendary, domineering (do I hear you say rude?) manner.
One of his senior colleagues was reminiscing.
‘The thing about Steve was that he always got it right.’
The interviewer almost reeled. ‘Oh, come on. No-one is right all the time.’
‘You weren’t listening,’ said the colleague. ‘I didn’t say he was always right. He was often wrong, and would admit it. But by a process of thinking, debating, arguing – in the end, he got it right. In the end.’
Now, I’m not recommending Jobs’ hectoring, ego-centric style. You can make of that what you will.
But it does seem to me that there’s a lesson here for pastors.
Jobs was persuadable – if you had a good enough argument. If you didn’t, of course, you crashed and burned – but he would give way when he could see he was wrong.
The lesson for us is – strangely, from Jobs, we might think – humility.
Lots of pastors seem to act like Steve Jobs, but without the anger or the swearing. Or, at least, they act like what the interviewer misheard. They just think they are right. All the time. No-one ever dares to push back. And if they do – they’re toast.
Notice the difference: with Jobs you were only toast if you thought he was wrong but didn’t dare to say so. If you thought he was making a mistake, your job depended on talking him out of it.
But I’ve seen pastors act as if disagreeing was an act of treachery.
I’ve seen pastors act as if disagreeing was an act of treachery.
- One said to me, when I stepped into a new role, ‘Remember – your pulpit is your throne.’ Really?
- Another senior minister said to me recently that, in talking to lots of Christian leaders, he was struck by how many routinely talked about ‘my church.’
- One church had an investigation into bullying of staff by its senior minister.
So think, for a moment, of pastors you know – are any of them unchallengeable?
Because it seems to me that one of the hallmarks of being an evangelical should be that we are always open to challenge, and being proved wrong, by a better Scriptural case. ‘Teach me, rebuke me, correct me, train me in righteousness.’ ‘Show me my errors, reveal to me my hidden faults.’ ‘Let everyone see your progress.’ “Keep watch over your life and doctrine.’ Those are the motifs of a humbly-held teaching ministry.
But if we are over-confident of our own position, then we will not be that open.
We will ‘be right’, rather than committed to ‘getting it right.’
Yes, be confident, bold, clear, and herald the good news.
But as you do, check all the time that you’re not missing something. And stay open to correction.