Pastor, Are You Leaving Fingerprints Or Footprints

Recently, I was conversing with a fellow missionary about ministry philosophy. At one point in the conversation, I shared a principle, that I read somewhere, about leaving fingerprints or footprints.

It has long been stated that missionaries in a foreign field must be sure to leave only their footprints behind when they leave the field. For example, if an American goes to Peru endeavoring to start a church, then, when he leaves, there should be a Peruvian church there; not an American one. The issue being that the missionary should leave footprints not fingerprints. Understanding the difference in the two can mean everything to a long term, productive ministry.

In general observation of pastors and missionaries that I have known, read about, or were told about in the last 18 years have led me to come to a few conclusions concerning this subject.

(Romans 10:15Romans 10:15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  

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) “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”  (KJV)

 

#1 We Face A Dilemma…

Each day that we lead our congregations, we have to decide if we are going to leave fingerprints or footprints? Leaving fingerprints reveals that the pastor is too involved and things will collapse in his absence. (I wonder if this is what some guys do… creating a dependence upon themselves in the hopes of keeping their position? Just a thought!) On the other hand, leaving footprints reveals the leadership of a pastor. He has LED his congregation. People have gotten involved, and, when he is gone, things continue without fail! People are the very ones who we are supposed to be training! If we, as pastors and spiritual leaders, do EVERYTHING, then we are doing an injustice to the very individuals we are called to help. Basically, it is counterproductive!

It is my personal opinion, after learning this the hard way, that it is better have less with the congregation’s respect, than to have more without their respect. If the congregation of believers are not behind you, then bullying something through will never work IN THE LONG TERM!  Happy is the pastor who learns this! Think about it… you are not always going to be there. The man who follows you will have to rub out your fingerprints before he can leave his footprints! The ministry is NOT about we who pastor, but the God of Heaven and His church!

#2 There Is A Problem That Few Recognize…

I see that many pastors tend to have a “pastor” centered ministry rather than a “Christ” centered ministry. Please understand that many pastors do not realize they do this, though it can be rather obvious on the outside looking in. This situation tends to occur under leadership conditions where it is always about what the pastor wants… at all costs! This is also commonplace where the pastor or missionary has a charismatic personality and can sway people rather easily. In these two types of situations, you find that pastors have their hands in EVERYTHING! It is their way no matter what! Yes, I do believe in oversight, but oversight does not require one to leave FINGERPRINTS on it all.When things tend to center around the pastor, then you might have a problem?

It is also common to see this where a congregation is not on board with the pastor’s vision and philosophy of ministry. Maybe there is a new pastor and he wants to reach out and see some growth. The congregation, however, has “seen this before” and is no longer obliged to get involved. In this scenario, it is quite common to view a pastor doing just about everything and nobody is helping much at all. Rather than leading the congregation, the pastor IS the congregation. When this guy leaves the pastorate, more than likely, fingerprints will be the only thing left behind. It will be harder for the next guy, and, what was accomplished in the short term, will fizzle out! This is due to the congregation’s apathy, but also the pastor’s inability to lead the congregation. A sad situation, no matter how you look at it.

#3 Future Rewards Can Be In Jeopardy…

As a missionary or pastor, you will leave fingerprints, footprints, or both! Sometimes we sacrifice the long term benefits and rewards of ministry on the altar of immediate gratification. It is never appropriate to do this, but we feel that we must do it regardless of the consequences sometimes. God has called us to lead, not be God. Our Heavenly Father knows, all too well, about the people He sent us to lead in the first place. Don’t you think He knows what we are up against?

There is a fine line between strong leadership founded upon the Biblical precept of faith, and presumptuous, pompous, directives birthed from man’s intuitions and inclinations. God will reward our faithfulness, not our accomplishments necessarily. Whether or not we were able to push a particular pet project through a business meeting, as important and as vital as we think it to be, is not the most important thing!

Doing God’s will, in God’s way, in God’s timing is what is important! Sometimes we do the will of God without actually accomplishing what He wanted us to do… if that makes sense? People shut things down, but God sees that. He gave them an opportunity, and they chose to leave it… though leadership was obedient. God will reward us for our labors, no doubt! We would do well to simply follow Him in child like faith and love for He will bless us for being faithful. Most of all, we will have more rewards for leaving only our footprints behind us!

(Galatians 6:7-9Galatians 6:7-9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  

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) “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  (KJV)

Conclusion

Friend, I hesitated to post this article, but felt that I must. Please take these thoughts in the spirit in which they are intended. I know that I opened a can of worms which nobody wants to deal with. But should not we address this before, like cancer, it spreads beyond hope of repair? No doubt, many people who read this post will disagree, but that is okay. I am still your friend. We can agree to disagree… agreeably! I would be delighted if you would leave a comment below pertaining to your thoughts on this sensitive issue!

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Originally posted 2010-11-26 00:01:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

About Andrew Schank

Andrew Schank is an Independent Baptist Missionary/Pastor who loves to blog about spiritual matters! His main ministry website is http://www.togetherinthegap.com. Andrew is also a contributing author to two other blogs/websites including http://linked2leadership.com and http://www.ifbkjv.com. Pastor Schank's Church website is http://www.greatcommissionbaptist.org
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