Over the years I have worked with a variety of pastors and have had many more that are friends. When I look back on those relationships – particularly with the ones I served with in ministry, I realize how much I learned from each one.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from 5 of the men I served with over the years and a quote from each one.
1. People matter the most – Dan Robertson.
Brother Dan and I served at Parkview Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi. He and his wife Jane encouraged us in so many ways, but the one that stands out is this one – that ministry is not just what happens on Sundays when we are in front of our people. It’s cups of coffee and conversations in living rooms and hospitals, ball fields and restaurants.
Brother Dan would say something like this – “Come on Mike – let’s get out of the office and go tend the flock.”
2. Every leadership voice matters. – Ron Lambe.
I served with Ron Lambe at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton, Rouge while I was working on my seminary degree at NOBTS. To say I was a little intimidated at a larger church with a big staff is putting it mildly. But, Ron had a way of bringing me in to leadership. At one particular staff meeting early in my time there, I was just sitting in silence and observing the discussion. Ron stopped the meeting and said, “Mike – we don’t have any junior staff members. Your opinion matters. You are at this table because we need you to be. Don’t hold back. Tell us what you think about this.”
I’ve quoted him often – “We don’t have any junior staff members.”
3. Work with intensity – Larry Herndon.
Larry was my leader in the Student Ministry at Istrouma. It was a Saturday and Larry had picked me up for a morning of visitation. Over the course of the morning he talked pretty straight to me about my work. The truth is, I had been tentative and waiting on direction. Larry got up in my grill – “Mike, I need to see more intensity from you. I thought you would contribute more when we called you. So far, you’ve been pretty average.” Talk about a wake up call!
Larry taught me that anything less than my best was not enough as I served the Lord in ministry. I’d also have to say that his honesty that day also taught me something about leading people on my staff. It is this: I need to care enough about them and the work that I’m not afraid to challenge them if they need it. I needed a kick in the pants from my leader. And he gave me one. We are close friends to this day.
Larry said something like this – “We need your A game!”
4. Humility is the garment of a leader. – Tommy Vinson.
I’ve known Brother Tommy most of my life. He pastored a church in my hometown when I was in high school and was my parents’ pastor when I went to college. It was a high honor when he invited me to serve with him at Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon, Mississippi.
Tommy embodied humility. He had many sayings that were constant reminders to keep a check on pride. One aspect of humility that he often expressed was how our human nature should never be trusted. He would quote Paul (“put no confidence in the flesh”) and would remind us that none of us have arrived at a place where we can live rightly apart from the Spirit at work in us.
Here’s the quote I’ve never forgotten and have used often through the years – “My flesh is as incorrigible today as it was the day I trusted Christ.”
5. Be a voice of encouragement. – Jim Futral.
I’ve known Jim Futral for many years. We co-led a revival when I was in college and have served many times together through the years. It was my joy to serve with him at Broadmoor Baptist Church and many times since as he directs Mississippi Baptists as Executive Director.
Jim has always been the voice of encouragement to me. When opportunities would come he was one of the men that would say, “You can do this. God has prepared you for this.” When LifeWay first called and asked me to take this responsibility, Dr. Futral was one of the first people I called to get advice. His encouragement and perspective of how my gifts could serve this role helped me come to a place that I believed God could be leading me in this direction.
And to this day – and it always seems to be exactly when I need it – he speaks encouragement into my life.
He would say something like this – “God is using you. I see His hand on your life.”
These are just some of the ways God has used leaders in my life. I thank Him for their investment in me and aspire to have that kind of influence and impact on the people I lead.
How about you? What leadership lessons have you learned from the leaders in your life?
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.