Failure is not always a sign of poor leadership

Southern Cross: People Matter

People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Originally Published:
Jensen, P 'Failure is not always a sign of poor leadership'. Southern Cross, October 2002.

Tagged: evangelism ministry

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Jenny was a great leader. She knew her Lord and genuinely loved the people He committed to her care. She was trustworthy in teaching the Bible. She not only welcomed and followed up newcomers at church, but was a great evangelist to women at the school her children attended.

In the busy round of a mum with small children, Jenny had an endless network of women seeking her wisdom and support.

Yet with Jenny it was never words alone. She was open in her love, a ready shoulder to cry on and a provider of infinite cups of tea and coffee.

My description will cause Jenny embarrassment if she recognises herself here. But it is important to know the kind of Christian leader Jenny is to appreciate her relationship with Wendy.

Wendy was going through a very rough patch at home. Invited by Jenny to church, Wendy quickly came to profess some faith in Christ. Jenny was delighted and started meeting with her for Bible study.

There was much to sort out, for though Wendy was wealthy, this lifestyle had left her spiritually and personally impoverished. She had for years used money to replace love and had now realised the bankruptcy of materialistic relationships.

Jenny spent an enormous amount of time and effort helping Wendy. It was more than the daily phone calls—it was learning to sensibly love a profoundly selfish person who was not coping with life. It involved finding the right kind of counselling, helping her with basic living, as well as teaching the gospel.

It was in the midst of Jenny's care for her own children, her husband and many other women, that Wendy dropped her bombshell. When Jenny rang to see if Wendy's sick child was okay, Wendy said she was not coming to church anymore. The reason was not a matter of belief, but Jenny's failure! From Wendy's perspective, Jenny was not giving the time to the relationship that Wendy expected from a friend, let alone a leader.

Jenny was more than disappointed. It is a blow that someone seeking to serve others faithfully finds difficult to bear. Yet it is the kind of thing Christians should expect—for it is only another example of the treatment that was given to our Lord.

Jenny talked through with friends whether she had failed Wendy. But reassured of her faithfulness, her love spilled over into real sadness for Wendy. She was not walking away from Jenny, but away from Jenny's Lord—back into the materialistic selfishness that was so destructive to her life and her eternity.

Christian leadership is not based on other peoples' expectations, but on faithfulness to Christ and concern for others.