Are You an Interventionist Leader?
Three things to consider when it’s time to intervene
Church leaders wear several hats. We all know this.
You pastor, pray, encourage, visit and more. It’s hard to even think of adding another hat. But sometimes you must take on the job of intervening, to get into a situation and to bring about change.
Why does such change matter? Because many churches are not engaging their communities, and change is the only option. For example, in our Transformational Church research, we found the majority of churches in America are plateaued or declining, have less than half the people serving in any way inside the church, and less than a quarter of the church is serving in the community.
In other words, there’s not a lot of transformation going on, and changing the culture of your church takes intentional action. This means that, at times, you must intervene as a pastor — to seek to change the status quo.
Intervening is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks. People won’t always like it, but you didn’t go into ministry to please everyone. (If you want everyone to like you, sell ice cream; don’t pastor.)
Intervening is often a challenge. As such, here are three things to consider when it’s time to be an interventionist.
An Interventionist Must Avoid Pandering to People
Pandering sounds like a negative thing because it is a negative thing. Most often, someone who panders to another is basically enabling them to continue in their destructive behavior.
Interventionists don’t make pandering their focus.
Now, there are times when people need reassurance. “Hey, I understand. I get it. We’ll be there. We’ll meet your needs. I know you’re hurt, and maybe you feel left out, so we’re here for you.”
But this should be rare, and never a relational pattern. Over the long haul, it isn’t healthy for the church or for you. Leaders, as we learn in Ephesians 4:11-12, are tasked with equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Pastors should be helping church members minister to their communities; pastors aren’t supposed to do all the ministry themselves!
Leaders who pander to whims will spend their lives doing for people what God has called those people to do themselves. That’s bad for everyone, and the mission of God gets hindered. You may get praised for your deed, but you are creating an unhealthy dependency.
An Interventionist Is Called to Provide
While some may at times have unhealthy desires, there are plenty of legitimate needs. God put you in your role because you can equip others for ministry. Enabling is not helpful, but true help is good. A wise leader knows what people actually need and connects them with it.
Providing is not about doing every little thing from every little call. You have to figure out what is an actual need and what is simply a want. The skill of providing is enhanced by developing real relationships with the people who will be calling you. Providing well is about knowing needs and limits, and connecting people to the solutions.
God called you to lead people so that they can be on mission.
An interventionist provides what a church needs through well-exercised leadership, direction, information, exhortation and more.
An Interventionist Is Called to Provoke
The King James Version uses the word “provoke” when it speaks of challenging the people of God “unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). A leader must occasionally stir up some believers to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
Sometimes such provoking will bring a positive response. Other times it may make some people uncomfortable and even mad. As a leader, you should clothe your provoking with encouragement. It won’t always be seen as you dressed it, but do what you should anyway.
Yes, it can be hard to provoke people, but if it were easy, we would not have so many plateaued or declining churches. Leaders will have to lovingly provoke a congregation at times. Leaders can provoke both from the pulpit, challenging the congregation to serve the needs of its community, and individually, encouraging specific persons to apply the truths of the gospel in particular situations that demand immediate attention.
An interventionist provokes when needed to get through the challenge.
Finding Your Leadership Place
Each level of intervention has a place of comfort, which is just outside of complacency. Wisdom will help you move people from the dangerous place of comfort to the powerful place of discontent, taking them to a restless aspiration for improvement that ultimately helps advance the mission.
The danger is that over time we tend to lean toward one behavior. A wise interventionist finds balance.
Part of your job is to provide. Part of your job is to provoke. If you forget one or the other, you’ll lose your effectiveness.
Some pastors have a personality that is more like a chaplain, sensitively offering care to those who are hurting, but they don’t provide enough challenge to those they are serving. Another may have the aggressive personality of a prophet, able to speak truth, but struggling with pastoral care.
Every leader, regardless of his or her personality type, should find a balance in their gifting and style to be effective.
God didn’t call you to babysit. God called you to lead people so that they can be on mission. Leaders should empower transformation, not enable complacency or dysfunction. And an interventionist leader doesn’t exist to make others happy, but to make them fruitful.
An interventionist provides and provokes so that people are faithful and fruitful in the church and beyond, laying up “treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 edition of Influence magazine.