October 24, 2021

Pastoral Nuggets: Getting Off the Wrong Bus

(Writer’s note: This column was originally written to a group of pastors I mentor regarding leadership. Hopefully, it will help somebody today. And Happy Thanksgiving! – Bro. Aaron)

Have you ever been traveling somewhere and suddenly discovered that you were on the wrong bus, the wrong plane, the wrong train, or even the wrong road – traveling in the opposite direction you needed to go?

Do you remember that sickening feeling you got in the pit of your stomach, especially if you were on a time deadline? The most pressing need in your life at that moment was to get off the bus. (Or plane, train, etc.)

Amazingly, at that moment, getting on the right bus became secondary to getting off the wrong bus! Somehow, you could identify with the term, “First, do no harm,” which is attributed to the Hippocratic Oath doctors take.

You realized that before you could start going the right way – you first had to stop going the wrong way!

As leaders, one of the most daunting tasks we face is identifying people in our sphere of influence who are on the wrong bus, helping them make a graceful exit, and then getting them on the right bus.

This is daunting because often the person we’re dealing with doesn’t realize they are on the wrong bus. Perhaps they are passionate about what they are doing, love working with the people they’re work with, and are enjoying the experience to its fullest.

They just don’t realize they aren’t gifted at it. They don’t realize that they need to be on another bus. Helping them realize this is where exceptional leadership comes into play.

I have often quoted my friend, Dr. Greg Brown, who stated that his job as a pastor and leader was, “… helping people identify and soar in their piece of sky.” To me, there is nothing quite as beautiful as watching a person soar in their particular calling and giftedness.

Speaking of soaring in your piece of sky, I am reminded of a farmer, who years ago, was struggling with a call to preach.  As he was plowing his mule and talking with God, he said, “Lord, give me a sign if you want me to preach your gospel.”

About that time a skywriting plane came overhead and wrote the letters, “G.P.” in the sky.  The farmer went to his pastor and told him that God had called him to preach.

After hearing his first sermon the pastor asked, “Why is it that you think God is calling you to preach?” The farmer replied, “Because when I asked God for a sign He wrote, ‘G.P.’ in the sky.  Surely He meant: Go. Preach.”  The pastor replied, “Son, I think He meant: Go Plow!”

I have come to the realization that as leaders we sometimes get on the wrong bus regarding relationships. We soon discover that although the Relationship Bus is going where we want to go; there are passengers on the bus – who are toxic. Somewhere along their life-journey they were hurt. They are legitimate victims of some horrific act or circumstance.

However, they refuse to deal with it and they are hurting. I have learned that hurting people hurt other people. However, in our “Utopian World of Leadership,” we think that we can somehow magically solve their problems and heal and fix them. And while we should do all we can to help everybody, we must also realize that they must want to be healed and fixed. If they don’t, then discretion on the part of the leader becomes the better part of valor. Get off that bus and catch another.

The truth is – being on the right bus with the wrong people is a recipe for a leader’s demise. Toxic people will suck the life right out of you. Oh! I’m not saying a leader shouldn’t do everything within their power to help people!  I’m just saying leaders have got to know when to get off that bus and get on another!

Realize: Before you can start going the right way, you first had to stop going the wrong way.  Getting on the right bus is secondary to getting off the wrong bus! And if it means getting off a bus in order to keep yourself Spiritually fit and able to minister to the masses – then get off!

Brother Aaron

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