Saturday, May 04, 2013

The 4 Hardest Jobs in the US

Most people have probably heard of or read work by Peter Drucker. Drucker, who died in 2005, was the most respected student and philosopher of leadership in his time. His book, Executive Leadership, was, for many years, the book that every leader in business, academia, social services, and the church had at least heard of, if not pored over.

That's why this citation of Drucker appearing at the beginning of an article on the secret pain of pastors struck me:

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:
  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor
Wow! Most pastors I know would neither complain nor brag about their work. It is, after all, a privilege to be called by God and the Church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to engage in the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and to be a servant/leader of some of God's people.

But no pastor will be surprised by Drucker's list either.

It doesn't surprise me not only because I am a pastor, but also because I've studied US presidents and the presidency my whole life. I've read biographies of most of the presidents, even of Chester Alan Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Warren G. Harding. What's amazing is how often I've been able to draw lessons on how to pastor (and how not to pastor) from reading and pondering these biographies. I believe that the arts and skills that make for being an effective president are exactly what is required of someone who would be an effective and faithful pastor.

The two big differences between pastors and presidents is that presidents have more worldly tools at their disposal and that the stakes for which pastors play are much greater than those for which presidents play. The worst a president can do is initiate a nuclear Armageddon resulting in the physical deaths of billions of people. Small potatoes! A pastor prays, works, visits, preaches, and teaches each day to so present the good news of Jesus Christ, introduce the possibility of faith in Christ to others, and so prevent an eternal Armageddon in the life of every person they meet. Pastors play for far higher, more enduring stakes than any president ever has or will.

But like presidents, pastors cannot (and should not) coerce people into supporting their initiatives. In the end, no one who truly leads can coerce engagement in the common mission of the entities they lead. Nor should they! All you have to do is look at North Korea, whose people live in constant terror for their lives, and see that dictatorship is not the same as leadership. For leaders of any kind, persuasion is the coin of the realm.

A few years ago, I was talking with General Mike Scaparrotti, a son of the congregation I serve. We were talking about leadership. He pointed out to me that even in the military, ordering people to do things will only go so far. In the end, even a general must help those he or she leads to understand the advantages of the directions in which they lead and the common and fulfilling roles each person can play in pursuing them. As Pastor John Maxwell rightly says, "First, people must buy into the leader. Then, they'll buy into where the leader wants to go."

Two of our greatest political and military leaders, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, hated giving direct orders. This wasn't for lack of confidence. They weren't fearful for their positions. Nor did they doubt that they had the authority to give direct orders, which, of course, they occasionally did. But they preferred persuading and arguing logically to telling people what to do. People who are persuaded of the wisdom of a course of action don't need anyone telling them what to do! They'll follow that course because they themselves believe it's the right one.

The leadership of a pastor, of course, is almost entirely persuasive. We can't coerce people to believe in Jesus Christ as their God and Savior, attend worship, pray, share their faith, serve their neighbor in the Name of Christ, or accept the authority of God's Word over their lives. That's why pastors cheat: We pray.

Although I love it and count it a privilege, the job of pastor can be hard. (Although I have to say that working in a factory and some of the other jobs I've held were harder for me.) But, whatever its challenges, being a pastor is made significantly less difficult when pastors (and the congregations they serve) "take it to the Lord in prayer."

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