I’m convinced that pastors and church leaders can learn from all kinds of people, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone telling us that we can learn from Judas.
Yes, THAT Judas. The one who hung out with Jesus, took care of the finances, saw countless miracles, and ultimately turned his back on Jesus.
To be more accurate, I’m not sure that we learn as much from Judas as we do from the way that Jesus interacted with Judas, and when you really look at the whole story, I think there are at least 2 takeaways that can help us as we lead people in our churches today.
Chasing people is hard. Chasing people who are running away from you is nearly impossible.
If you’re like me, your heart hurts a little every Sunday when you get in the car to go home after the services. It doesn’t hurt because of anything someone said or did at church. Rather, it hurt because of the people you didn’t see at church. It’s odd to leave an amazing morning with passionate people and still feel the sting of the ones who didn’t come, but that is a very real burden that tends to be unique to pastors and parents. After all, parents know what it’s like when almost every child is home. It could be the best game night ever, but something – someone – is still missing.
That emotion is normal. In all honesty, if you don’t miss the people who aren’t there, I’d question how much you’re actually called to shepherd people. But here’s the critical takeaway that can save our sanity:
Jesus didn’t chase Judas.
I’m not trying to compare the people who are sporadic attenders in our churches to the man who betrayed the Messiah – shoot, the ones sitting in the pews and chairs may be more like that – but I am pointing out that we often spend way too much time chasing after people who are actually working pretty hard to keep their distance.
Ministry is about pursuing people because, after all, Jesus pursues people. But sometimes I think we chase people who aren’t contributing anything to what we’re trying to convince them to love, and that will kill a leader. Chasing people is hard. Chasing people who are running away from you is nearly impossible.
Jesus chased Peter because He knew that Peter wanted to follow. But He didn’t chase down Judas, and that brings us to Takeaway Number Two:
Some people will never get onboard with your vision. Identify them. Love them. Then stop trying to lead them.
If you stayed with me through that first takeaway, your reward is one that feels even harsher. Some people – no matter how hard you try – are simply not going to follow you. Don’t feel bad, they probably won’t follow anyone except themselves (which I think is physically impossible). Here’s how I know.
Judas didn’t follow Jesus.
I love it when people say things like, “It must have been easier to follow Jesus back then. I mean, He was right there!” They somehow forget the parts of the Bible about crowds leaving Jesus and Peter denying Jesus and Judas betraying Jesus.
If Jesus couldn’t convince Judas to follow Him, what makes you think that you’re going to convince everybody to follow you? They’re not, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get on with leading the people who will.
Bill McCartney, founder of the Promise Keeper movement and long-time college football coach, often said that whenever he stepped into the locker room of a new team he was coaching, he would separate the room mentally into 3 groups: 10% who were never going to do what he asked no matter how he asked it, 10% who would get on board and do whatever was necessary to improve the team, and 80% who were waiting to decide which 10% to follow.
He learned that too many leaders chase the first 10% and end up losing 90% of the team. Instead, he poured into the second 10% and in the process gained 90% of the team. In his mind, he never lost the first 10% because he was never going to have them anyway.
Do you want to lead well? Stop thinking that if you were a good enough leader, that first 10% would follow you. They won’t, and once you accept that, you can start pouring your heart and soul into the second 10%, and soon you’ll have the entire church or organization on board with you.
But don’t let that word scare you! After all, Jesus almost had all 12 of His group, too, and the church has turned out to be a pretty formidable army ever since.