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Postcards From The Hilltop

A few days ago I was told something which caused me to bristle a bit. The offending remark? I don’t understand the hardships of ______ ministry because I don’t serve in that ministry, therefore I am incredibly hindered, if not outright impotent, in giving good leadership to that ministry. In essence, because I’m not in the trenches I miss too much.
While I’d be the first to say that serving side-by-side with someone gives a you an incredible advantage for sympathy and understanding, it by no means automatically opens up a better track to leading that ministry in light of its integration to the entire church. In fact, I would argue that the best organizational leadership for ministries comes from those who are not three feet deep in it. Why? They may miss too much.

Often such immediate proximity has the potential to over-inflate both the good and bad a ministry experiences, lead to an unhealthy sense of independence from the other ministries, and as a result, any and all issues related to that ministry can easily dominate the immediate horizon for the leader. That’s why when it comes to alignment to the general direction and strategy of the church at large, ministry leaders need oversight from people outside that ministry – not because serving “in the trenches” isn’t valuable (when, in fact, many executive leaders/elders who don’t oversee a specific ministry have led those types of ministries before), but because it pays to have oversight from someone above the fray.

Throughout most history, battles have been fought under the purview of leadership that observed the fight from a nearby hillside allowing them to strategically see the engagement in its entirety. From this position, commanders were better enabled to send commands to the troops on the ground hopefully taking advantage of the enemy’s weakness or shoring up their own areas of vulnerability. Those decisions simply could not be made as well if the leadership in charge with the overall conflict was at the front lines with swords drawn.

I assume that positioning has usually been a given over the centuries. I doubt the general rule of thought by those of who led the cavalry, artillery and infantry in the field of battle was to naturally regard their high command (literally, being perched upon a hilltop) as calloused, arrogant or unable to grasp the severity of the situation simply because they weren’t physically next to them. They knew they needed them in order to be successful. The truth is everyone had the same goal – victory. And because that was the goal, armies as a given had their highest leadership in very high places, above the fray, so they could see things their valiant soldiers couldn’t. Someone needed to swing the sword and someone needed to direct its aim. Like two wings on an airplane, both were needed to be effective.

I don’t have to serve in a specific ministry to know that it’s difficult, weighty work for that specific ministry. I can see what’s going on. I can hear from their words. Would I appreciate their situation all the more if I picked up a sword and rattled it with those particular troops? No question. However, just because I’m not in the trenches in that particular ministry doesn’t mean I don’t get what’s going on. In fact, I’d say that because I’m blessed to be on the hilltop for some of them, I might know what’s going on better than they think because, ironically, I’m not close to it. I might just be able to see things they simply can’t.

Maybe, just maybe, I might understand more than they think.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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