Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 21, 2011


Wise leaders never stop learning and growing


If we continue doing things the way we have always done them, sooner or later we will become ineffective.  This is especially true of pastors and churches because God is always doing “a new thing.” Whatever worked last year does not necessarily work today. Unless we learn this lesson we will find ourselves out of step with life – and with God.

We have only to study the life of Moses to perceive this profound truth. The great biblical leader Moses learned this lesson the hard way. He made the costly mistake of trusting the ruts he had walked in rather obeying God. As a result of his disobedience Moses failed to receive blessings that God wanted to give him.  

          I heard Rick Warren expound on this subject. Warren’s preaching is “easy listening.” You quickly understand why thousands listen to him preach every Sunday at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. And why his books have become best sellers.  

         Like many pastors I found help in Warren’s two excellent books – The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. Hundreds of churches have been energized by studying these books.         

         Rick comes across as a very genuine and humble man. He is confident without being arrogant. He has helped many pastors identify the leadership traps that can ensnare unwitting shepherds.  

          One such trap is the temptation to stop growing. Success can lead to arrogance. When a pastor stops learning, he stops growing. When he stops growing, he stops leading. Good leaders are learners. And they never stop learning and growing – or they stop leading.

          That’s what happened to Moses. He stopped growing and became inflexible. For awhile Moses was teachable. He listened and obeyed. God taught him that he could find water for the Israelites by striking a rock. Moses obeyed God, struck the rock, and water gushed forth.

          When the people needed more water, God told Moses to “speak” to the rock to obtain water. However Moses ignored God’s command and did what he had done the last time to obtain water; he struck the rock. God did allow the water to come forth but he informed Moses that his disobedience would keep him from entering the Promised Land.

          The Saddleback Church grew so quickly that by the time Warren was in his thirties, he began attending meetings with the pastors of the largest Baptist Churches. There he found himself in the company of preachers like Adrian Rogers and W. A. Criswell. Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis grew to 29,000 members under Rogers’ ministry. The church had a 50-acre parking lot!

          Criswell served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas for 50 years. At one time it was the largest church in the United States. Criswell was a brilliant preacher, reading and translating the Bible from the original Greek as he preached.

          Rick shared how unworthy he felt when Adrian Rogers asked him to tell the other pastors about his church. As he began sharing he was stunned to notice the great W. A. Criswell taking notes! No wonder he was such an effective leader; after preaching for over 50 years, Criswell was still learning!

          I take notes when Warren is speaking. I heard him say that the way to avoid becoming arrogant is to love the people who are listening to you preach. Rick says that every time he walks out to preach he says, “God I love you and I love these people.” Perhaps so many people want to hear Warren preach because they know he loves them – and they know he is still growing.  

          Good leaders never stop learning and growing. Good pastors, even old pastors, never stop learning and growing – or taking notes when a younger leader is speaking. No matter our age, there is still much to learn. + + +