Anyone who has been in leadership long can recall a person they could not trust. Some people are obvious, others covert. Pastor Scott was approached by a woman and his stomach began to churn. She had never done anything suspicious. It was just a feeling. The Spirit was giving him a nudge that he should not completely buy into whatever was being said. Living in the jaded, skeptical society in which we do has created a community that does not trust. We have been burned. We have been cheated. We have been lied to as well. Maybe you have a face in your mind and a name on your heart of someone you know, or at least suspect, you can't trust. What do you do?
Trust No One
Many of us choose this option. There was a time early in life when my dad was a pastor and he ran up against some difficult people. The result was not his fault, but we moved. Being young and immature I was unhappy and did not trust church people any longer. God called me to ministry in college and my response to Him was negative. Why would I want to serve people I could not trust?
Your background may be one that does not lead to trust either. You may have trouble in this area. It does not go away quickly! I have found over the years that staying in this option is available to you, but not encouraged. The Word of God says to trust in Him alone, but we are to love people and bear all things. Trying to balance this means we cannot just sit on our distrusting hearts.
I think it is fairly obvious that this one does not function well in the long-run. If we are to be, as Jesus instructs, meek as lambs, but smart as wolves then we cannot trust everyone. We live in a fallen world. People sin. You sin. I sin. This causes us all to have issues. I know many people who are so innocent that their gullibility is too high to survive. I am concerned for them because they believe everything everyone tells them. Trusting everyone will hurt you.
Trust Some, But Not All
That's trite, isn't it? How do we go about this? What are we to do? Let's go back to Pastor Scott and his predicament. He has been approached by someone he has an eerie feeling about. You have someone on your mind that you are not certain of too. If you are approached, or just have been, then follow this plan of action.
- Get Clean. Get yourself before God as quickly as possible. Unconfessed sin, harbored anger and poor attitudes can derail our ability to see clearly. A blurred spiritual condition will cause you to misunderstand, react badly or lose integrity. We must, before dealing with many of the leadership issues we face, be clean.
- Research. Inquire from trusted individuals concerning the person in question. What is their history? Have they requested this before? Is there policy in place you might be unaware of that answers the issue and takes you out of the hot seat? Do your homework before engaging in the meeting. John Maxwell in his book Leadership Gold calls this "the meeting before the meeting." This way you will know what you're getting into with the person in question.
- Ask questions. Try to get to the heart of the matter. Issues such as staff, worship styles, gossip, traditions and individuals who require special conditions are usually multi-faceted. It would be nice to just take everything at face value, but we can't. So, listen closely. Ask good questions. Speak and commit very little. In case your board, elders or deacons ask later it is important that you know what is going on and what you gave away in the process.
- Confer. If you can exit the discussion without committing anything, then go back to your trusted individuals, staff or confidant. Ask them if it seems reasonable. This is not to say you can't make the decision. You're in charge, right? However, when dealing with those you might not trust, it is important to keep your vision straight. Asking the opinion of someone else provides security.
Trying to find a balance between trust and distrust is difficult. Those who wish to con you are probably pretty good at it by now. However, the wisdom of Solomon was not his until God provided. James tells us that if anyone needs wisdom it will be provided. Ask of God and allow Him to provide what you need. You don't have to lose your innocence, or your cool, to deal with people. Yet, we all need God's insight and influence. Those that have proven themselves deserve our trust. Those who have not, we must walk with caution. We, in leadership, have a sacred trust of people and resources and must use them wisely.
Summers is the lead pastor at Coulter Road Baptist Church in Amarillo, TX. He and his wife, Dulcie, have two children: Samuel and Isabella. To read more from Summers, please visit his personal blog, The Intersect, or follow him on Twitter @aaronwsummers.