A few months ago, I wrote a post about leadership entitled “Are you Prophetic or Held Captive By Fear?” As is often the case, the conversation on Facebook was a bit more robust than in the comment section below, but it seemed like folks were torn between pastoral leadership as being prophetic at all costs, and still needing to take the consideration of the congregation into account. Not that it is an either/or dichotomy, but some were finding it difficult to find the balance between the two.
Back in 2005, I spent the summer in Palestine and Israel, ending my time with some sightseeing in Tel Aviv. I ended up at Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People, and ran across a saying that I wrote down in a Moleskine journal that I just found a few weeks ago:
“A rabbi whose community does not disagree with him is not really a rabbi, and a rabbi who fears his community is not really a man.” –Rabbi Israel Salanter
I think this is a very interesting quote that has implications for pastoral leadership, and I’d like to know what you think about it. I am aware that it is possible for us to get too caught up in being prophetic, and have that lead us to do things or say things as pastors that, perhaps, aren’t the best for the congregation. Maybe a congregation isn’t where you’re at on an issue yet…and so there is a fine balance trying to figure out how to be authentic and honest and transparent and challenging as a pastor, but not to piss off your congregants to much.
But then there is this quote. “A rabbi whose community does not disagree with him is not really a rabbi…” Could we say the same thing about pastors?
It’s no secret that we pastors like to be liked. We’re all made aware of that during our psychological evaluations and hopefully we’re self-aware enough to know when we need to keep an eye on that feeling. But no one likes to be disliked…and so perhaps we sometimes don’t say what we feel, or don’t say what we think needs to be said, because we want to keep the peace, we want to be liked…and we don’t want people in our churches disagreeing with us.
But maybe that’s part of leadership that we’ve forgotten? Maybe pushing people and challenging people and stretching people’s imaginations is a good thing. Maybe that’s a big part about what being a pastor is? Maybe we need to do that more often?
I’m wondering how everyone deals with disagreement in leadership? The quote seems to imply that it’s a natural part of the calling to be a spiritual leader of a faith community, and perhaps actually an obligation. But I know many people and pastors (myself included) that don’t like conflict, and try to avoid it. But I think there are times when, as a spiritual leader of a community, you need to say things or do things for the good of the community, that could cause some disagreement within the congregation. What’s the balance there?