Recognizing Church Leadership Responsibility for Growing Fourishing Congregants
I often listen to Bishop Corletta J. Vaughn as she ministered her series “Pentecost in a Pandemic,” on Facebook. One morning during her teaching she talked about how she admired the work that many of our Black sisters are doing in Christian academia. She recalled how she talked to God about how she was really liking what the sisters are doing and how she wanted to be a part of this type of academic endeavors. To which God replied, “I didn’t call you to that.” “I called you to the masses.” She went on to explain that there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers among the masses that God has called her to empower. There are many people sitting in churches with callings on there lives and no one is ministering to them in a way that encourages or empowers them to walk out the calling. That struck a chord with me. Then I heard, “You can’t keep a shade tree in a flowerpot.”
A few days later, I was engaged in my morning prayer and purpose lessons with a group of fellow believers know as The MoveMent. In the lesson Pastor Kris Erskine made an analogy concerning a tree in a flowerpot. Although I had already begun writing my blog on this topic, now I was convinced that I was on the right track and that this was something I needed to write about.
In many churches, shade trees are being kept in flowerpots. There are congregants with great gifts and talents just sitting in literal or virtual pews. God has endowed them with power and purpose, yet no church leader recognizes them as a gift to be developed for the Kingdom. When these wonderful people attempt to display their gifts and abilities, they are often shut down. A perspective that differs from that of the leadership is often perceived as disruptive. Leaders, who have invested many years getting the congregants to behave and respond in a manner that is conducive to their own way of thinking, refuse to empower these beautiful shade trees by planting them in areas where they can be supportive and refreshing to the church. Instead these magnificent individuals are potted and sat in a corner where they are overlooked. Soon their roots compact and in time they die.
I love gardening. As a gardener I realize that some plants do well in containers while others must be planted in the ground. The ones planted in the ground have root systems that go deep and grow outward in search of water. Their branches need room to spread up and out. That is just how they are designed by the Creator. On my property there are several pecan trees. The two in the front yard have grow to the point where they touch each other and form a canopy that not only shades the entire yard but cools the inside of the house also. It is a welcomed refreshment in the summer to be able to sit outside underneath those cooling branches. People often come in our yard just to sit under our trees. If you dig almost anywhere in the yard you will eventually hit a part of the root of one of the trees. These trees were once small saplings capable of living in a pot. Now they are large trees with expanded trunks and long outreaching branches. In addition to providing shade from the torturous southern heat, they provide food for any creature that eats pecans and a home for squirrels and a variety of birds.
My pastor, Dr. Tyree A. Anderson, has taught us that some leaders work to reduce a congregation to a number that they can easily manage. There are some pastors who many be assigned churches with congregations in the hundreds. Yet, because of their limited capacity to lead and unwillingness to engage in leadership training, they devise plans that cause congregants to exit or at least become inactive. Now, the pastor has a number that his/her leadership ability can facilitate. The leader is relieved and satisfied. In many cases the congregants pose no opposition, while the church itself is rendered ineffective. That same tactic is sometimes utilized on people who are purposed and gifted to advance the Kingdom of God within the boundaries of local churches. Such persons are devalued, and their gifts despised and left unused. Set in a corner and overlooked, these gifted individuals are restricted in their ability to grow to full usefulness to the church and the community.
I have heard some pastors talk ugly about congregants who leave their church to become a member of another. Sometimes the pastor accuses the congregants of church hopping and become resentful. These mobile congregants often site that they are not growing at their present location. While it may be true that some people are just never satisfied, I propose that many of those congregants are trying to escape the flowerpot and go where they can be planted in an open space. Their root systems are spreading out and going down in search of water so that they can thrive in their full purpose.
Leaders, including pastors, are tasked with the responsibility of discovering the gifts of their followers and placing them where their gift benefits the entire operation. Failure to do so results in disgruntled followers and divided congregations. Unfortunately, some trees destined to be shade die in their flowerpots. That is a horrible loss to the entire Kingdom. I predict that in this age many shade trees, if they are not released, will crawl out of their flowerpots and plant themselves. The danger in this is that they may not receive the proper nutrition and care that newly transplanted trees need to thrive. The result is a tree that may provide some shade and nutrition but is retarded in its growth and development.
Every tree has the right to grow where it will flourish. Every human has the right to exist where they can live out their full purpose. Churches must be places where growth is expected, encouraged and empowered. Church leaders must exercise their gift for recognizing the gifts of others and then like a master gardener, plant, and nurture them to provide beauty, shade, and refreshment for the Kingdom.