Logrolling and Logjams

My Dear Shepherds,

You may not have given much thought to logrolling, so let me enlighten you. In the late 1800s, when logging took off as a major industry in America, logs cut in remote forests were floated down rivers to sawmill towns. All those thousands of logs frequently jammed, so men were hired to walk out on the logs to break them up. But if they were to stay dry (not to mention, alive) they had to learn to walk on spinning logs while they worked—to “roll the logs.”

Every pastor is well-acquainted with ministry logjams. Like the time a cell tower company approached us with a lucrative offer to hide their equipment in a new steeple they’d build for us. That created a logjam in our leadership. Another time a decision about a part-time staff position got fouled up in personalities. A logjam.

In a Leadership Journal interview 25 years ago, M. Craig Barnes told about a brouhaha he faced over whether or not to put “a little coffee stand in the narthex.” Ushers threatened to quit en masse. A task force met for eight weeks! Barnes was asked, “What does such a distraction do to your soul?” He replied, “It’s like being nibbled to death by a duck.” That’s a logjam.

You can find a lot of leadership guidance for breaking up church logjams but not so much on helping you keep your head above water when they happen. Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy,

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)

Setting an example is fairly easy until ministry gets messed up, and it is a rare week when something isn’t messed up somewhere. When the mess happens, rest assured people are watching you. That’s to be expected. In fact, it’s part of discipleship. Pastoring by example is like logrolling.

Set an example in speech. Don’t complain. Speak the truth in love. Don’t gossip. Explain Scripture in order to light their path forward. Remember what Jesus said, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” so get alone with God to fill your heart with grace, seasoned with salt.

Set an example in conduct. First, behave “in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Exercise self-control, which is where the Holy Spirit stands ready to help in your weakness. Sometimes the Good Shepherd leads his people on paths of righteousness by having us walk ahead of them. Whatever you do, don’t sin!

Set an example in love. Wash feet and “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another. … Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” All of those self-sacrificing virtues cost you something, all the more when the pressure is on.

Set an example in faith. No challenge your church faces can be met without trusting God beyond your personal comfort zone. Your people may revert to business books or personal preferences for solutions, so your job is to help them see by your example what trusting God looks like. Show them how to pray, listen, and obey God.

Set an example in purity. Moral purity isn’t only about sex. When facing leadership challenges, purity means you don’t manipulate people and you’re not a hypocrite, pretending godliness to get your own way. Purity means working with all the lights on.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (1 Tim. 4:15)

Be ye glad!

Pastor Lee

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