Sometimes leaders make strategic decisions based on their own personal preferences, or the preferences of their inner circle, rather than missional considerations. In a church, this might affect issues like facility design and decor, worship style, preaching style, or ministry design. It’s easy to make decisions based on what we like or what we’re comfortable with. This is a big leadership mistake.
Mission comes before preference.
You don’t have the right to impose your preferences simply because you’re the leader. We all need to be willing to adapt and even lay down our preferences to reach people we’re trying to reach.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Paul doesn’t state anywhere what he prefers. In verse 19 he says, “I become a slave to all people” – meaning he surrenders his rights and preferences. He lets others in that area – in order to bring many to Christ. In verse 20, he says, “I too lived under the Jewish law” – even though he was not personally subject to the provisions of that law. Paul’s only consideration was how to find common ground to reach people with the good news of God’s grace in Christ. The mission was the priority. Personal preferences don’t matter in light of that.
We give up things we love for things we love more.
Here’s one way to express Paul’s sentiment: “We give up things we love for things we love more.” I love a certain style of worship. I’m good at a certain type of preaching. But those styles are foreign to the people my church is trying to reach. So I give up some things I love because what I love more is seeing people engage God in our services.
This is a great principle to teach the leaders and people in our congregations. They need to understand that it’s not just about their preferences. So when a change has to be made, or I have to reject someone’s suggestion, I say, “We give up things we love for things we love even more.” That helps them understand it’s not about my preferences trumping their preferences. It gives us so much more freedom and momentum toward pursuing our mission as a church.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What are some of your favorite things about your church, and why?
- How do you think you might react if your favorite aspects of church life were changed?
- Do you agree or disagree that making decisions based on preferences is a leadership fallacy, and why?
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. What was Paul’s mission?
- What are some ways suggested in 1 Corinthians 9 that Paul put mission over preferences?
- How do you respond to the saying, “We give up things we love for things we love more?”
- How might the principle of mission over preference affect pastors? Worship leaders? Youth leaders?
- How might the principle of mission over preference affect how parents lead at home?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.