Dealing With the “I Prefer Your _____” Conversations

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One of the greatest blessings that God has given me in ministry is the opportunity to work alongside a veteran missionary who has served for close to twenty-eight years in Saint Vincent. His guidance, insight, and loving “I wouldn’t do it that way” conversations have been a tremendous help in my first year of ministry in SVG.

Actually during my first six-months in Barrouallie he was in the States caring for serious medical issues so our relationship was limited to Skype or Facebook chats. Spending half of my first year as intern pastor his absence, and the second half in discipleship ministries. Unfortunately this leads to some awkward conversations or situations with other people.

As you can imagine we have different personalities, and those personality differences affect the way we do ministry

– I’m more people centered (being around people) while he prefers privacy
– He is incredibly organized while I’m definitely not 🙂
– My speaking style is loud and and animated with lots of humor, while his emphasizes discussion or challenging people’s thinking
– Lots of ministry for him involves physical labor since he is VERY GOOD at working with his hands and building things, while I struggle building paper-airplanes

These differences of course aren’t a problem by themselves, however your always going to find people who prefer one style of ministry over another…so it’s really easy to fall into a “I prefer your _____________” conversation. These are VERY dangerous because it means that person has compared you with another pastor or missionary, and based on THEIR OPINION decided you are better.

In a way this conversation is a compliment, but usually beneath that compliment they are making a very strong statement.

You would do a better job of leading this Church than the current pastor

And this is where the real danger comes, because if these conversations are allowed to continue then eventually you will start believing you can do a better job of leading the Church. And before long your working behind the scenes to take the job that should be yours in the first place.

Now let me be absolutely clear about why these conversations are sinful

– They create division in the Church
– They are based on the personal opinions or preferences of people instead of character
– People gravitate towards an outgoing or energetic personality (personality shouldn’t affect who leads a Church)
– And over half the time the reason they say they prefer you is because of something the pastor did they didn’t agree with

Unfortunately the two halves of my first year allowed individuals (both saved and unsaved) to notice the way I did things, and the way that the veteran missionary does things. And of course this started the “who do I prefer?” Question in many minds. This creates the need for me to shut down “I prefer your ________________” conversations whenever they come up.

Last week a lady who attends Church occasionally stopped me and asked “why don’t you preach more?” Which of course was a sure sign a “I prefer your preaching” conversation was coming. I explained that the right of preaching was for the senior pastor (veteran missionary), who not only planted that Church in the community, but served faithfully for twenty-eight years.

She proceeded to list reasons why people weren’t coming to the Church (all of which had to do with the senior pastor) insinuating if I was leading there wouldn’t be a problem. The Lord helped me shut her down with the fact that this man was chosen by God to be the leader of the Church, and after years of faithful service he deserved all of our obedience (herself included).

Editors note: I’m well aware that some individuals think a loud outgoing personality makes me a better leader, but know beyond a shadow of a doubt the veteran missionary who has forgotten more than I know about reaching the lost is much more qualified.

Much of missions involves working with a ministry team (and it should) but this also creates openings for “I prefer your _____________ conversations.” And all it takes is one moment of weakness for us to believe “you know I can do a better job leading than that person!” This is why missionaries especially must remember leadership isn’t based on ability, personality, and its definitely not about whether people prefer you….its based upon the call of God.

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