The young minister was all smiles and oozing enthusiasm as we ordered our lunch at the restaurant. I had been one of a few mentors to him as he transitioned into his first senior minister role in a church that had seen some troubles recently.
Now, with some of those things behind him, he was excited to move forward. So his disappointment was obvious when I began asking him about the depth and quality of his own relationship with Jesus Christ.
His smile disappeared and didn't return during the remainder of our lunch. He had anticipated a more exciting discussion than this. He had watched others become rock star pastors, so a more poignant conversation about the realities of his own spiritual health didn't seem to be what he had expected.
My goal wasn't to steal his smile, but to help equip him for the realities of servant leadership.
Springtime in the Chicago area can be beautiful.
I was spending a few months in a nearby suburb, working for a pest control company as the temporary coordinator of their small weed control department. With business slowing down, I was asked if I could help out with power spraying a few lawns with insecticide.
As the harsh Chicago winter gives way to Spring, residents start coming outdoors after a long winter being bundled up indoors. Many residents hire pest control companies to spray their lawns to rid themselves of pests that would make their time outdoors less enjoyable. The demand for spraying lawns was more than the other department could handle, so I agreed to do a few lawns for them.
My assignment was three large yards at the homes of some executives who lived on the same cul-de-sac. One of the homeowners was an executive with Sears who had just spent $70,000.00 having his yard landscaped with new flowers and vegetation. Good customer service was needed to make these neighbors regular customers.
One of the technicians offered to rinse out the weed killer in the truck used for weed control jobs and fill it with insecticide. Soon, I was on my way to the upscale neighborhood and spent a couple hours covering every square inch of the three large yards. I made sure I didn't miss a plant, flower, or blade of grass. There would be no insects left to bother these families!
There also wouldn't be any yards!
A couple days after spraying the lawns, the company received hysterical calls from all three homeowners: all the vegetation in their yards was dying!
After an investigation into the claims, it was discovered the tech who rinsed out the weed control truck failed to see that weed killer had caked itself to the walls of the tank on the truck. Because of that, as I sprayed the lawns with insecticide, I was also soaking the plants and grass with weed killer.
Weed killer doesn't know the difference between a flower or a blade of grass, it simply kills the plant life it is applied to.
What was on the inside of the tank destroyed the lawns, regardless of the good intention to protect them.
When speaking to religious leaders of His day, Jesus told a similar story, one of highlighting that what is on the inside is of vital importance in leading:
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness," Matthew 23:25-28.
Like the tank filled with insecticide but caked with weed killer, what is on the inside of a leader is what he will pour over those he leads.
What makes up the inside is more important than what the outside appears to be; more important than created effects, and even more important than intentions. What makes up the inside is what you will touch others with.
In your case, what is that?