Real Life in the Local Church

I remember going to my first amusement park when I was 10. We went to Six Flags over Georgia. It was a harrowing experience. The confusion began with actually finding it and locating a parking spot! This was long before the days of Google Maps and smartphones. From there, it was continued confusion mixed with both fear and fun.

Once through the gate, an immediate sense of being lost overcame us and we had no idea where to begin. So we did what came natural. We started walking and reacting to what was in front of us. “Here is an interesting ride, let’s do that.” Then we would wait in line for 30 minutes for a ride that was over in 2. We did that all day and when it was over, we were exhausted. We were more impressed with the fact that we made it through the day than with the rides.

For pastors and leaders, church life can be like that; a lot of frenetic activity with no real agenda and direction.

Take a roller-coaster ride through basic church life: buildings, budgets, crises, staff conflict, growing pains, disgruntled members, besetting sins and providing care, sermons, meetings…meetings…..meetings…..and more meetings….fatigue, excitement about lives changed, another sermon to preach….more meetings…personal struggles, various ministries and programs to staff and events to plan, desperate need of volunteers, difficult people! Life in a normal church can feel like an amusement park---lots of activity, people, distractions and the constant potential for getting lost in the din of activity. You are either following the crowd or responding to the urgent.

The demands of pastoral ministry are precisely what blur the focus of what is most important for pastors and leaders in the church. Church leaders often become managers of the busyness. They turn into a board of directors who set policy and often micro-manage the activity but lose sight of ministry to people.

In his best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins makes an astute observation that maps very well onto church life. The book is about what makes a company great and not just good. One thing the team of researchers observed is distinguishing between a hedgehog concept and a fox concept. Hedgehogs focus on one thing, while foxes focus on many. Companies that acted like hedgehogs and not foxes were the ones that went from good to great.

Those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs. They used their hedgehog nature to drive toward what we came to call the Hedgehog Concept for their companies. Those who led the comparison companies tended to be foxes, never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, being instead scattered, diffused, and inconsistent.

I think the same can be said of churches and church leaders. Because church life can be so frenetic and scattered, unless you have a clear biblical vision of what is most important for church and church leadership, you will default to acting like a fox. Thankfully, Scripture gives us a clear vision and mandate for what is of utmost importance for church life and church leadership.

Over the next several posts, we will be honing a biblical philosophy of ministry, rooted in Scripture that can guide leaders to focus on the important over the urgent; to be hedgehogs and not foxes.



Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.


Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.