Cowards & killers

Scott Ridout

Former Converge President

  • Leadership

The level of pressure on pastors is at an all-time high. Our world has been stricken by a pandemic — something that’s unprecedented in our lifetime. States locked down, businesses shut down and hope began to go down — but life did not slow down. 

Pastors have been forced to decide quicker, implement faster, lead stronger and communicate with greater clarity and conviction than any time in my memory. COVID-19 has raised many concerns about our lives and our livelihood. It has also raised the expectation of church leadership. 

Welcome to the new normal.

This pandemic has been stacked on the growing polemic nature of our country. People are expected to take sides on every issue — Democrat or Republican, pro-black or pro-blue, stand or kneel. These divides have created new levels of tension in our communities, relationships and hearts. 

This battle of opinions has spilled into our churches. Pastors, faced with whether or not they should reopen live gatherings, are now targets of scrutiny from their own congregations. No matter which decision they make, today’s pastors have been placed into one of two categories:

Coward or Killer. 

The pastor who waits to reopen the church building is labeled a coward by people tired of feeling locked down. People rant on social media, “You’re afraid to open!” They send an anonymous email asking, “Don’t you trust God? Don’t you believe that God is a healer?” Or they quip, “Why is Wisconsin’s government bolder than my pastor?” to others in the my-pastor-is-a-coward clique. 

The pastor who has reopened (or will soon reopen) the church is called a killer. “Don’t you care about our families?” they ask. “Don’t you care about our children?” “Don’t you trust our medical professionals?” 

People who have been made to feel unsettled, unsafe or uneasy won’t come back. Neither will those who feel ignored. Pastors are stuck in a no-win situation.

It is in this emotive, opinion-driven environment that pastors need to have the skill, fortitude and conviction to return the focus to the truth of the gospel and the mission of the church.

You don’t have to do it alone

Every generation of the church has its unique challenges. I pastored at Sun Valley Community Church (Gilbert, Arizona) for 22 years. As the succession pastor to the founder, I was challenged in many ways. As lead pastor I faced the external challenges of life, like 9/11 and the 2007 economic downturn. 

Internally, our team faced all the challenges of fast growth (we were named in Outreach’s 100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America issue numerous times as we moved from 400 to 5000 in 10 years), such as multisite and mergers, staff restructures and discipleship pathways, as well as a 2014 leadership succession hand off from me to Chad Moore — who has taken the church to new heights, including recognition from Outreach as one of the 100 largest churches in America.

The outside world is changing faster than we ever imagined. This season has brought decision fatigue, Zoom fatigue, crisis fatigue and, soon, political fatigue to every church leader and leadership team. 

In the midst of all this, we are called to make disciples, multiply leaders and send workers to advance the mission of the gospel through church growth, church planting, multisiting and missions

In my years of leadership in the local church, I was fortunate to never feel alone. God blessed me by bringing high capacity leaders to my team. Plus, as a part of a movement of churches, I was linked to like-minded leaders in my community and around the country through Converge. 

Just as they were (and still are) for me, accessibility to other leaders who are ahead of you, who can be honest about their success and failures and who can speak courage into your life are essential in today’s constantly changing, faced-paced world. 

Coaches, cohorts and community

Coaches bring expertise and clarity to the confusion of the new phase of ministries and new realities in culture. All leaders need someone ahead of them, but they also need someone beside them. 

While coaches bring expertise, cohorts bring innovation. Learning from others in the same seasons and scenarios of ministry encourages and emboldens us to try new things and learn new ways to effectively reach the community with the gospel. 

We are designed for impact, but we are also designed for relationship. I’ve seen too many pastors fail out, walk out and burn out under the immense pressure in the growing church. 

We are facing an unprecedented level of pressure in ministry, marriage and family, and this requires a different level of discipline and dependence on God. Our most necessary questions are not only about success, but sustainability

Webinars and conferences are helpful, but relationships are vital. Pastor, you need friends in ministry who know everything about you but love you anyway, who have permission to speak truth into your life and who will stick by you even when you’ve been stupid. These are the kinds of relationships that move leaders forward with greater confidence and competency. 

Whether you are urban, suburban or rural; multi or mono-cultural; ethnic; mega, multi or single site, Converge can connect you to others who know what’s ahead and will walk beside and with you. Converge leaders are relationally devoted, missionally driven and culturally diverse.

Walk closer, lead better, last longer

Our communities need churches that are both biblically faithful and culturally astute. And our churches need leaders who will stay faithful to Scripture and help their people apply eternal truth to modern times.

At Converge, we want to help you:

  • Walk closer: Ministry is an overflow of a vibrant walk with Christ. As your church grows larger, your walk with God must grow closer.
  • Lead better: Changes to your leadership environment, whether from the external challenges of our time or the internal changes that come with growth, create a “new normal” for leadership and ministry.
  • Last longer: Leaders that last walk together. “Better together” is not just a mindset, it is a necessary reality in this season.

Staying connected with other leaders in ministry is vital. Converge coaching and covering networks provide the support you need to maintain spiritual, emotional and physical health so that your ministry and personal life thrive. 

You will have a safe place to share your challenges and celebrate all God is accomplishing through your church. Whether you are stuck or flourishing, we want your church to be healthy, and for you to have the support you need for longevity in ministry.

Imagine partnering with other like-minded churches, pastors, staff and congregations — all working together to accomplish the same goal. Your goal. Our goal. God’s goal: helping people meet, know and follow Jesus. 

And no matter what anyone else might say, my fellow pastor, your relentless pursuit of that goal proves that you are neither a coward nor a killer. 

God designed you for this … and we would like to help. We need each other. We’re better together. 

If you need help finding a coach or connecting with another pastor who will speak into your life and walk beside you, we can help. Have other questions? Send us an email to start a conversation. 

If you are NOT a pastor, please pray for your pastor today. Pastors are called to care for others, but as human beings who experience the same emotions as everyone else, their own emotional health is often overlooked. A prayer and a word of encouragement would by much appreciated by your pastor.

Scott Ridout, Former Converge President

Scott served as president of Converge from November 2014 through August 2022. Prior to that he was the director of generosity for Converge from 2007-2014, concurrently with his time pastoring at Sun Valley in Gilbert, Arizona, for 22 years. He serves on the boards of Axelerate, Bethel University and The Timothy Initiative. Scott also serves the Finish the Task initiative working with denominations worldwide. He and his wife, Lisa, have been married since 1988 and have three adult children, Jon, Ashlyn and David. He loves God, the local church and simply wants to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.

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