WHEN THE KILL ZONE BECOMES THE SKILL ZONE
How to Cover Pastors and Senior Leaders for the Sake of the King
- Pastor Freddie Steel -
Pastors also have a 'kill zone' but it isn't lethal. It is the atmosphere surrounding all of the first level leaders and has to be 'covered' and protected to shield him from attacks of strife, gossip, complaining, fault-finding, subversion and sabotage.
As it is with the Secret Service agents surrounding the President, the closest, first-level leaders surrounding a pastor must also be selfless. In other words, they have already laid aside personal comfort and safety in order to ensure the President's safety and the success of the Nation whose interests they are called to advance.
It is interesting to consider that these selfless servants are present at the most historic moments of modern times and history yet they are invisible and no one will probably ever know their names or the part they played. It works the same for the Pastors' (let's call them) Agents. I can say it from experience.
When you are serving a Pastor as an 'Agent' (first level staff), it is all about making sure the Pastor is successful and looks as good as possible in everyone's light. If there are shortcomings, those are covered rather than highlighted (not ignored, they simply aren't highlighted except to him/her personally). What actually happens, from my experience, is a senior pastor will intentionally put people around him who have strengths in the areas where he/she is weak to shore up those areas and make them powerful rather than liabilities. It is not that a pastors wishes to ignore or cover up their sides or areas that are weak, but they want to have them 'covered' by faithful 'agents' who will cause those areas to function properly and prosper.
INVISIBLE BUT NOT UNDETECTABLE
In that role (covering), the 'agent' is oftentimes invisible and has to be happy about being so. I think so often of the absolutely amazing Gaither pianist, Anthony Burger. I remember Anthony from years way, way back when I was in radio and he came to play for the Kingsmen. In his late career, he became one of the most profound piano soloists in the Christian music genre but he is most well-know for playing 'second fiddle' as accompanist to the highly popular Gaither Music Videos. In these, Anthony rarely had his talents highlighted as they 'deserved' but used his tremendous talent to make others shine.
You see, Anthony knew that in that role as accompanist, though he was stellar in his own right, it was not the time for him to shine but to be the 'wind beneath their wings.' And, oh what a 'wind' he was. He died unexpectedly after playing the last note of a song about seeing Christ soon on-board a Gospel music cruise ship.
In short, the 'agents' surrounding senior pastors and leaders are trusted with a side of life and ministry that not everyone gets to see. They see the grunt work and all of the labor that goes into doing and providing ministry. If compensated, the rewards go far beyond the monetary to include the joy of seeing lives touched and affected for eternity. They may not get their ego stroked, but accomplished 'agents' do not demand or need that but welcome those nice thoughtful gestures when they come. They simply serve, serve faithfully as unto the Lord remembering Christ keeps the best of records.
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
I remember well the pleasure of serving one senior level minister who was high energy. Each morning he would rush in to conduct a live radio program out of his office and would oftentimes get there with just seconds to spare. It didn't take me long to see the obvious: help the man out!
I started unlocking the door to the studio, turning everything on, even the mic (turned down though), and had a fresh cup of coffee waiting. I really don't remember if he ever went out of his way to make a big deal of what I did, but he didn't need to. My reward was in knowing he was being helped and, consequently, as well, the Kingdom was being helped. I really didn't want or need kudos. I think I caught a 'high' on helping. That was my reward.
I remember serving another senior-level minister who was also high energy and just never seemed to have time to shine his shoes. It bothered me that on special occasions, whether it was Sundays, funerals, etc., his shoes just needed help. I whispered to his wife that I wanted to spit shine them occasionally for him and asked her to quietly put them in a bag and bring them to me when he had a big event or they needed touched up. I made her promise to never let him know that this was being done.
I really enjoy spit-shining. I think I picked it up from my late Uncle Clarence, a Marine. In any case, it was a thrill to my heart to observe this successful pastor in moments of importance or busyness, walk in looking sharp with shoes shining like the sun. For me, that's covering the pastor in the 'kill zone' making it safe, affirming, lighthearted, positive and as worry-free as possible.
When is it 'my' time? When you're dead. I don't mean literally, physically dead, but when your fight for self-promotion, self-fulfillment, self-preservation, self-acclaim are all dead. God simply doesn't need someone serving in support roles for another's vision and ministry who is ambitious: they need to be dead.
I have heard it said that in the mind of people like the Secret Service or soldiers during war time, they are told to consider themselves already 'dead' so they can be as effective as possible, not worrying about how they can avoid being shot.
We pray and ask God to 'use me' and then when we feel like we are being used, we complain. Serving in the 'kill zone' takes a special person who, for the love of the Gospel and the Lord, lay down their lives and take the hits as they come and stay right at it, unmoved, sheltering, covering and sustaining the man/woman of God and the vision to advance God's Kingdom.
You can't run off these committed, 'dead' servants. You can't discourage them, worry them, offend them because they are devoted and dead. They offer no worry to the lead man/woman about their loyalty and whether they will push their own agendas, ideas or opinions over the pastor's. They never worry the pastor about confidentiality or gossip but are totally sold out to honest and transparent dialog with the lead man/woman. They say what needs to be said when it needs to be said and can handle what needs to be said when it needs to be said.
It is nearly impossible to offend these 'agents' because they have been conditioned to understand that 'its not about me.'
I well remember an occasion where I was asked by a church family to perform a pastoral duty for them, even though I was an associate pastor. I told them I would be glad to and to share their desire with the pastor. Boy, oh boy, did I ever light a fuse! It was just a day or two later I met with the pastor who was absolutely livid. I listened as he let off the steam and was more concerned that I had caused him grief as opposed to being offended at this stern rebuke. My heart was heavy that I had caused him concern.
After he unloaded I assured the pastor that I would rectify the situation and the family would never, ever detect any hint of it being an issue with us and I would fully direct their devotion to the senior pastor and channel their affection for me 100% toward the senior pastor. I knew I needed to disqualify myself without making it self-deprecation in order to preserve the sacredness of the tie and bond between pastor and sheep. It worked.
To be successful as a covering for a senior leader, one should follow these.
First, it is necessary to remember 'it's not about me.' I may not be the quarterback and I might even spend a lot of time on the bench, but it's not about me - it's about my team winning - period. My moment 'in the sun' may never come, but that's ok. I love my team and want it to win.
If I don't agree with how I am being handled or 'mishandled' I trust the wisdom of the coach and God. I will direct all frustration at being better and doing better.
Second, there is an infectious joy that comes with covering one another's shortcomings and helping them to look the very best they can to the rest of the team and everyone else. Love does cover a multitude of sin and it is God's goodness that leads us to repentance.
When a team infuses difficulties with the positive, it is like a cook breeze or breath of fresh air. It engenders hope and turns the fatigue into a new zeal to fight and press on.
Third, remember that familiarity breeds contempt. It is a joy to get close to one another but whenever we begin to treat one another common but letting down on high standards of communication, responsibility, etc. we have become a weak link in the chain and introduced something that can destroy morale and unity.
Learn to know and love one another but also remember the times for wearing the appropriate hat, such as the friend hat, the servant hat, the team member hat, etc.
Fourth, excuses are created when someone is no longer interested in collaborating, being mutually-submissive, listening and hearing and willing to hear opposing views. The collaborative atmosphere is where the miraculous is created. The enemy loves to shut that down and it takes strong individuals to be able to handle the truth in love whether it is to speak it or receive it.
Whether the temptation to make an excuse is for the lack of one's performance or attitude, the one reply that is always appropriate is to listen actively to garner any and all truth concerning the matter. We listen in order to understand, not to construct a defense. The worst insult is to be neglected and to fail to actively listen to another, whether you cut them off or disagree without considering their view is a terrible insult and not Christian. Want to be heard? Make sure others receive the same from you.
KILL ZONE BECOMES A SKILL ZONE
I trust this help. In this 'kill zone' you may get shot at. You may take some blows for the lead man/woman. In the end, it really isn't about you or the leader but about the King and the assignment He has dispensed to frail, weak humans. The obstacles are already there. The enemy determines to fight. But when the 'kill zone' gets turned into a 'Skill Zone' God's work expands, souls are saved, and God says that since you were faithful with this, I will trust you with more.
The way the body operates means that when the standard remains high and we become skillful in our roles and responsibilities as servants, our model and example gets past onto others and we create a spiritual counter-culture of light, love, unity, agreement, etc. that generates a momentum and when rolling forward will push each and every obstacle out of the way. Take these qualities away and the energies of talent, gifts and the anointing are all wasted on pulling a load out of a pit. I never want to be a part of that.