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How leaders go numb

I’ve had a few dramatic stumbles when I stand quickly, only to realize one of my legs has mysteriously fallen asleep. The numbness makes it feel like the leg has suddenly gone missing, only to give sharp tingling reminders that it indeed is still there.

A foot, arm or leg falls asleep because of too much pressure over a period of time. This pressure cuts off nerves and arteries, and signals stop going to the brain. The sleeping member is still there; it’s just not communicating anymore. And it goes numb.

Perhaps you have served with — or under — a leader who fell flat, who didn’t connect and left a numbing effect on followers. Detachment from followers is the main way leaders go numb. They stop circulating among followers. They are cut off from the body.

In the church, numb pastors are especially dangerous. It means they are separated from the congregation. You cannot lead from a distance. You cannot lead without communicating. You cannot lead without knowing how individual members of the body are interacting.

What happens with numb leaders?

  • Numb leaders stop caring about the feelings of followers. “I don’t care what you think. I’m the leader.”
  • Numb leaders stop having friendly conversations just to catch up. “I can’t talk to you right now because you’re not part of my long-term objectives.”
  • Numb leaders stop seeing joy in little victories. “That’s great, but I’ve got better ways in which to invest my time.”
  • Numb leaders stop solving general problems and start blaming specific individuals. “Who’s responsible for this mistake? Do we need to fire someone?”
  • Numb leaders stop serving. “I’m in charge. Why do I have to do this?”

Tyrants say these things. Numb leaders think them.

And the longer you are detached, then the more painful waking up will be. The longer you are asleep, then the more intense the wake-up process. You’ll have to fight through that pins and needles feeling, shake yourself, and start circulating again.

Because to remain detached is to die. Slowly. Painlessly numb.

sam_s_rainer_IIISam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com, where this blog post originally appeared.

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