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The Fear of Outside Help

Over the years I’ve found myself ruminating on why pastors are often reluctant to engage with outside organizational assessors, consultants, and coaches or even in-house team-based reviews and surveys. I think it’s the human condition in general that makes us reluctant to expose our weaknesses or fear of change in front of others. Over decades of pastoring, I watched a somewhat similar dynamic with marriages that were going south. After finally recognizing the need for marriage counseling, stereotypically it was often the husband who dragged his feet into my office; after all, what self-respecting man wants to admit in front of another man that he’s having trouble doing something that he thinks he’s supposed to already know how to do? In dysfunctional settings where perhaps a board and senior pastor are at odds, or a “culture of honor” and trust have not been established with staff, it’s inevitable that a leader feels he or she must carefully guard their vulnerabilities. But the trouble is, we all have our blind spots—both personally and organizationally—and unless we take the time to amp up our level of self-awareness and our organizational discernment, we risk limiting the scope of our influence. Jesus demanded that his followers become reflective when it comes to personal perception when he says: 

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, ‘Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye.” (Mt. 7:35 NCV)

This is a leadership issue because he’s talking about the need to help others to discover the things that cause them pain or limit their ability to see their world effectively or function at the peak of their ability. But it first requires a high degree of self-leadership and awareness. Then in challenging his followers on the cost of discipleship, Jesus employed a metaphor that implies a principle of organizational self-awareness:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Lk 14:28-30)

While focusing his followers on personal discipleship, Jesus used an example of organizational discernment. Our churches, ministries, and organizations must be aware of their own limitations and Achilles’ heels…as well as their barrier-breaking potential and scope.

Question of the Day: What’s your church’s level of organizational “self-awareness”?

DAVE WORKMAN | Elemental Churches Excerpted from “Elemental Leaders: Four Essentials Every Leader Needs…and Every Church Must Have.” Want more info on the Elemental Churches Inventory?—check out


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