pressure to please, produce, perform…

Sweet Anna was telling me about some girl’s engagement diamond. They seem to be getting bigger, these diamonds. Why? Then it hit me. At least in some cases, the pressure to produce the reaction (pleasing her is at top of his list) causes the boy to go as big (or bigger) as he can afford in this all important diamond purchase. Pleasing her is number one.

Leaders fall into a similar trap. Pleasing people.

Whether it be her board or among major stakeholders, leaders find themselves trying to  measure up to someone’s idea of what they should be or do (recently dubbed ‘metrics’). My contention is that when we look just at outcome not at progress, the tasks can cause us to lose sight of people. Measuring up to stakeholder’s expectations and the meeting of board directed objectives can become all encompassing. Sound familiar? Well, its even worse if you have no oversight, then you’re not sure who to please.

Now, this is not to say that objectives aren’t important (I value Peter Drucker as much as the next guy), but my question is based again on kingdom building. Did our board (or our elders, or deacons, or the vestry, or the session) prayerfully come to these objectives that drive the leader to her decisions? Are those objectives decided upon prayerfully? Really?

Does our oversight body really pray together and with us and seek relationship with us to know heart, gifts, “calling”? Really? If not, how can we know if we are building God’s kingdom or ours… or theirs?

Where there is God directed, God based relationship, leaders get together and invest significant time in prayer.

Let’s think hypothetically for a moment. Let’s say that at a given meeting or gathering of leaders, we were to invest more time praying together prior to talking and before deciding… what do you think might happen to the discussion process, to the decision making process? If leaders and their leaders were to practice this, how would that impact the relationships among them all? Do you think there would be more unity and unanimity? More peace? Clearer direction?

Oh, I’ve heard the other side… “I’ve been praying, its time to act!!!!!” You’ve been praying? Really? See its just you here, you and your conscience… oh, and God. He’s here too. You’ve been praying?

Sorry, I digress.

How would this idea of a significant time invested in prayer together affect the leader’s pressure to produce? See, if we are united in seeking God, God guides our work and then… then, wouldn’t we be better guided by Him?

Time????? If I ask if I have time to pray, whose kingdom am I building? Who is the real boss? God? or me?

If our companies, institutions, organizations, churches, schools or whatever find ourselves in a hard place, in a crisis. I ask us, how much and how often is our leadership praying together? How much and how often are the leaders of the leaders investing in prayer? Asking God to guide our minds and hearts toward decisions that build God’s kingdom, not ours, this should be our first (and perhaps out most time consuming) task.

I would suggest that the deeper we are connected to God, the better our decisions are going to be. We might then put people above tasks and we will find more unity than disunity when we pray together.

If there is disunity, if there is gossiping, if we are fighting a battle over decisions and goals and mission and strategy, we may need to reevaluate how much time we are investing in listening to and talking to God about these things.

I once heard some statistics about leaders and the time they devote to being with God, …just to be with God.

(Actually it was pastors not generally about leaders, but I apply it here anyway).

44%  –   less than 7 minutes per day

37%   –   7-35 minutes per day

19%  –   35 min or more

(Don’t ask me, a friend got them from a conference speaker citing some survey, I’m just illustrating a point here.)

<7 minutes

7-35 minutes

>35 minutes

Where am I?

Where are you?

I know where God is.

He’s right there, waiting to give us direction toward building HIS kingdom.

His kingdom.

C. S. Lewis said that “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”

“I want wisdom!”

Where did Solomon get it?

I was talking to a pastor recently who was struggling with all that was on his plate. Could it be that this is because he is working in his own power without deeply connecting to God on a daily basis? Luther famously said, I have so much to do that I must pray and extra hour today. Spurgeon, Mueller, the reformers all talked about the need to cultivate the deep abiding relationship with God.

“Abide in me.” He said.


If we invest significant time with God as leaders, or as groups of leaders whether formally (as a board) or informally (as a group of friends), we will hear God better. We will see people differently, we will find tasks easier. We will build HIS kingdom, not ours. We will stop performing.

Who am I performing for today?

Whose kingdom am I building?


Filed under seeking understanding

5 responses to “pressure to please, produce, perform…

  1. As a worship leader I find myself severely attacked on all levels of my life,,,, yet I understand that the Lord has made me a better person, friend,,,,, if we want to see our Land healed, we need to have leaders that will lead people into humility before the Lord and santification,,,,,all garbage needs to be cut off,,,,people need to go back from where they have fallen, and take some responsability,,,,which can only be done in His presence,,,,All this strife amongst our pastors stumbles the sheep,,,,for they constantly try to protect sheep from sheep…But we know that the Lord is faithful and He IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH. Praise His holy name. Thank you my brother for taking interest in our area which is full of oportunism and dynasty making,,,,what I wanted to ask you is that you consider gathering worship leaders alongside,,,,and yes I also believe that we need to raise up a certain amount of prayer definitely,,,,just remember Paul and Silas,,, when they went together to pray,,,,there was this spirit of rejection,,,and sorcery,,,, May the Lord strengthen you my brother, and envision you!!!

  2. On Tuesday I wrote to encourage a friend and those who honor him. Beginning Wednesday I was moved to write about some leadership issues that I see where ever I go (the railroad is in Hungary). I am not thinking about any one leader or organization. These observations are not pointed in one spot. As I pray for many leaders in many countries and visit and seek to encourage and help them, their hearts and stories are being used by the Spirit to help me write these challenges.
    While some readers may feel I am targeting a single place, believe me, I am not. There are many schools and churches and organizations that have given this old brain pause and thought.
    Having said that, if the shoe fits, wear it. I sure do.
    Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go and abide with Him.
    Oh, I took down the comment with the name. I do not wish for such to be part of this conversation.

  3. JC

    This is a great blog post, Tom.  Many good things to ponder.  There has been a good bit of chatter, as I am sure you know, about our friend who lost his job.  I just read your April 24 post about putting people first and the dilemma of ends justifying means.  The Great Commission is pretty clear, and I wonder how many of those early followers of Jesus left behind very unhappy parents, brothers and sisters and employers?  It seems to me today’s post is the answer – prayer and more prayer before decision making, and any kind of forward movement in a certain direction.  How rich we are to have a Lord who cares about our choices and wants to be involved in even the minutiae of our lives. J

  4. I’ve been reading all your posts and it has definitely stirred my thoughts, unfortunately, they are still jumbled. First, I love the word “abide”… so simple; it seems to promise rest and refreshment. But…. it is a hard thing to do, and I wonder if my understanding of abide = rest is incorrect. Yet, I still yearn for that definition!
    There truly is so much pressure to do more, to produce, to live a great life and do great things. I am constantly driven by the thought that I NEED to do ‘more’…. to live right, to serve my church, community, etc. I fall short; there is always more to do. In fact, I’ve even given up doing things…. and I feel horrible that I have stepped away because I feel God (of course!) wants me to do these good things.
    A few days ago you retweeted (Keller) that if we didn’t earn our salvation, how can we ‘un-earn’ it… but there’s always the nagging question of: am I doing enough to truly “BE” a Christian? Because if I truly was a Christian then all these things would fall into place and I’d be loving and kind and know the right things to say and use my gifts and be a blessing to others, disciple more, pray more, evangelize more… so… if I am not doing these things well or enough, shouldn’t a person question their salvation?

    How do you know what truly is ‘fruit’ vs. what you produce because you are aiming and working so very hard at it?

    I do no live an extraordinary life,

    • Tom Foley

      You know, Dan Allender wrote a really helpful book called _Sabbath_ and there is another book called _Emotionally Healthy Spiritually_ by Peter(?) Scazzero and Paul Miller wrote _The Praying Life_. These three books helped me understand how to move from the American Christianity rat race and discover how to abide. The order I read them was EHT then TPL and then S. That was over a couple of years.

      But from all I have learned, I know that for me to “abide” means going to a time and place of solitude and silence with God and his word DAILY (‘the path’ and ‘when i fear’ are past posts that I have listed Scriptures important to me in this). It really is that simple.

      To fail to drink and fill before trying to pour out surely results in my work not his fruit.

      I point to Mueller and Spurgeon as models in their own words that to step into the world void of God’s filling is a mistake. Spurgeon said he would not have conversation with man before having conversation with God. Mueller gave example of how his reaction to people was bad when he had not visited with God.

      Jesus modeled getting into solitary places and then invited us when he said “abide”.

      Listen, if you are in Christ, there is now NO CONDEMNATION! Meditate on Rom. 8.1

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