strengthI first learned this principle from a regional denominational leader who was giving a “state of the association” talk. He made this point: our greatest strength is also often our greatest weakness. What he said was this, “We pride ourselves on being a missionary people. But that, in fact, is not true. We are a people who give to missions. Although we’ll sacrifice for people ‘way over there,’ we don’t cross the street to reach out to someone culturally different than us.”

That principle plays out with individual pastors and leaders too. I was recently having lunch with a man who’s got the pastoral gift in abundance. He’s a really strong shepherd. When I watch him use that gift, it’s phenomenal. The downside is that he will so focus in on that one person that he’ll neglect the many. Sometimes a strong shepherding leader will go after the one lost sheep without leaving anyone else in charge, and when they get back, the other 99 are gone.

Conversely, many leaders I work with have a strong strategic capacity. Their gifts become so focused in that area that they forget about the relational aspects of ministry and the people around them.

What can we do with this principle? I’d suggest three courses of action:

  1. Identify your greatest strength and its corresponding weakness.
  2. Exercise those skills outside of your area of giftedness. You may never be fully competent in them, but you can grow to the point where your weaknesses aren’t getting in the way of effective ministry.
  3.  Partner with others who are different from you… those with different strengths and different weaknesses. Leaders need other leaders to partner with them, notice their blind spots, and help them grow.