When I first moved to New England in 1993 the church I served had a long standing relationship with a ministry organization that promoted itself as the "oldest evangelical ministry" in the region. Over the years that group had done some amazing things. Our small church had supported the group financially and in years past had people from the organization serve in our church for a variety of short term ministry experiences.
I attended several meetings with the group during my early years in New England. Though I was impressed with the history of the group, it seemed to me that they were out of touch with what was happening in small villages like the one I served in. They seemed mostly "Boston-centric." While Boston was then, and continues to be now, a great mission field, it is only one part of God's Kingdom in our region. Over time our church moved our financial support to other things and I stopped attending the meetings. I lost touch with what was going on in that group for many years. Recently I received a flyer in the mail from them about a new ministry they are starting. Intrigued I got online and looked at their website so I could reacquaint myself with them. I was surprised at how small their organization has become. What was once a major player in evangelical circles in our region now has a relatively small influence. Though this new ministry sounds promising, I doubt it will be enough to turn them around.
What happened? Though I suppose there would be a variety of opinions on what happened, from my perspective, they simply lost touch with those they were trying to serve. They did not understand the conditions their constituents were facing. They did not give attention to building relationships. They forgot that history and tradition will only carry an organization so far. They were a good group that slowly slide into the background instead of remaining the foreground of God's work in our area.
By God's providence, I now find myself in a leadership position of a regional evangelical group in New England. Learning lessons from the history of other organizations like mine is very important to me. I do not want to repeat their mistakes. I am trying to listen hard, understand the conditions of our affiliated churches, and give attention to what their needs are. It can be overwhelming at times but I am determined to learn whatever I have to so I can lead well. I don't want to be the next regional group that slides into irrelevance.
The Lord reminded leaders of the importance of these concepts in Proverbs 27:23-24. When leaders pay attention to what is going on around them, instead of being isolated in ivory towers, they lead well. When leaders realize that they cannot just rest on the glories of the past, but must lead in a way that embraces the future, they lead well. When leaders stay connected to those they serve, they lead well. Leading well is not always easy, but it is critical if we want the ministries we serve to continue to impact our communities in positive ways until Jesus comes again.
Lord, help pastors and all those in ministry leadership roles understand the conditions they serve in, pay attention to the needs of their members and trust in You instead of in tradition. Amen.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He has written a book about the spirit of offense that prevails in our current society. You can find all of his books at: