Many years ago when I worked at a restaurant, a certain server was noted as being a particularly good worker and showed potential for taking on more responsibility. So she was promoted to a supervisory position instead of waiting tables. Unfortunately, her initial response to the new position was to lose her friendly smile. She began to throw her weight around, waste time, clown around, and stopped engaging the customers. Shortly afterwards, she was fired.
A newly promoted employee can also be the target of envious coworkers who challenge his authority or seek to manipulate him or to get by with slothful work. All of a sudden, he is no longer just “one of the guys” even though he may not be behaving badly. His new responsibility brings a different perspective not necessarily shared or appreciated by his coworkers.
Human nature being what it is, we see the same dynamics unfortunately within the local church context.
A promoted leader may become puffed up and presume a special status exempting her from all the tasks and courtesies she previously practiced. She may become deliberately mysterious, implying spiritual superiority and treating other members with disrespect and discourtesy. That may be the way it is in certain business environments, but it is not the way Jesus conducted His ministry.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” ~ John 13:13-15 NASB
Another new leader now realizes what all is involved in running a smooth operation and subsequently has a different and broader perspective than the one without the responsibility. The pastor may be challenged by the worship leader who doesn’t understand why the pastor won’t fund his ideas or give him more time in the service. The pastor is aware of other department leaders with ideas and needs to be considered as well, such as the tired and hungry babies in the nursery with the frazzled worker when the service goes too long. Or the need to repair the roof outweighs buying more musical equipment at the current time. It will not be possible to always make everyone happy at the same time.
A little humility can go a long way in both directions. The promoted leader is wise to remember the lessons he learned and the experiences he had before when he was just “one of the guys”. The coworker can continue to be a diligent and faithful part of the business or ministry support team, rather than create a new set of difficulties for the leader to face.
The root of these issues is the pride of life and of being overly concerned with what others may think of us. The key for us is to learn to live from the heart consistently with our professed values.
As always, whether we are chosen for promotion or not, our example is the Lord Jesus. He did not pursue His own reputation or stature as God’s Son.
By the same token, demotion is also a time to embrace humility and to get free of concerns about reputation. Who we are is more important than what we do.
May this statement be true of us all: