At the time of this writing, I have just watched on television the beginning of four days of celebrations honoring Queen Elizabeth ll’s Platinum Jubilee, commemorating her 70 years on the throne. The 96-year-old queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades of Royal service.
It got me thinking about some of her leadership traits and if we were to develop those in our ministries, we too could experience longevity in our churches. Now I certainly do not expect any of us to remain in one place for that long but there are too many pastors I know who have given up the good fight and left their ministries too soon.
What are some of the qualities and characteristics pastors may glean from the leadership lived out in the life of QEII?
Vision and a clear purpose are generally agreed upon foundational qualities that make for a strong leader and Queen Elizabeth II is no different. On her 21st birthday, even before becoming queen she addressed the United Kingdom through radio and proclaimed her vision with the world. She said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
One of her titles as monarch is “Defender of the Faith.” Each Christmas the Queen addresses her subjects via a radio and television broadcast. In 2017, she said, “Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in Him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love.”
We too must always remember the power of the Scriptures and how it transformed our own lives. This will encourage us to be passionate about sharing God’s Word to other people who need the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in their lives as well.
There are times when we all feel discouraged because of ministry problems and setbacks. (Just think of the recent falling outs and scandals the Queen has handled within her family). Whenever we feel overwhelmed, let us remember that it was the Lord who called us and who led us to the ministry in which we are serving. This unshakeable sense of God’s calling always motivated me to remain dedicated to my vocation and the church community whom I served.
Queen Elizabeth also has always been a believer in hard work and leading by example. During World War II, even this princess served her military as a truck mechanic. Well into her 80’s she would be putting in 40 hours a week working on kingdom business and even now at 96, though she has delegated much of her royal responsibilities, still works daily at her desk. She has always been a lifelong learner who reads daily keeping up with world events.
Queen Elizabeth II has always had a penchant for exercising her mind by asking questions. This behavior is evident from her interactions with others. What’s more inspiring is that she continued to learn through asking questions. Whether it be world leaders, famous celebrities, fish wives or coal miners, she had a reputation for not only asking questions but also listening carefully to responses. I have longed believed that by inquiring about how others are succeeding in ministry while asking questions and seeking to understand before being understood is what has helped me to not fall into the same old same old routines that causes churches to stop growing.
There is no entity that maintains tradition like the British crown, but Queen Elizabeth has kept an open mind about the necessity of change. When she ascended the throne in 1953, she changed the original decision of broadcasting the coronation ceremony on radio to television. Winston Churchill even advised her against it and requested her to stick to the tradition, but she did not listen to him. She wanted to modernize monarchy and connect with the people at a more personal level and television was the most apt medium to fulfill that goal. Before it was a common method of communication, she was the first head of a state to send an email way back in 1976. Hopefully that inspires us to stay abreast of the emerging technologies that will enhance our reach in ministry.
As we nurture our spiritual health, let us not forget to protect our physical and mental health as well. Common sense recommends that we take care of our physical bodies by following a nutritious diet and exercising regularly. We should also nourish our mental health by participating in our favorite hobbies and activities. Like the queen who until very recently, took long walks and rode horses. She never smoked, ate a simple balanced diet and consumed alcohol in moderation. (Rumor has it she drinks four evenly spaced-out cocktails each day.)
We too need physical, mental, and spiritual strength to remain in the ministry for a long time.
Longevity in a position either as a minister or a monarch comes down to one’s sense of mission and calling. At 21, Elizabeth declared her lifelong devotion to the service of her country and as Queen, the Defender of the Faith, she has repeatedly referred to her role as an incarnation.
I believe similarities can be drawn for pastors and their churches. If you were truly called by God, have a clear vision and purpose, a good work ethic, are willing to listen well to the people you serve, and stay up to date with the technology that can enhance your reach, then your ministry can succeed for much longer than you ever imagined.
When I was called by God to start a new church in Hays Kansas in 1996, I prayed, “Lord if you give me 20 years in this one place, I believe we could do great things for your Kingdom.” In 2017, after 21 years leading that purpose driven congregation, we were the largest church of our denomination in the state, serving over 1200 people weekly. I stepped aside to devote my time, energy, and experience to helping start new churches and revive older ones.
I remember hearing from one of my mentors in ministry, Dr. Rick Warren, speaking about church growth being a marathon not a 50-yard dash. “When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes 6 hours. When he wants to make an oak tree, he takes 60 years.” What kind of church do you want to grow? Interestingly, as I concluded writing this blog, Rick Warren has just announced the upcoming date of his retirement from Saddleback Church where he has served for 40 years!