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Leadership and Gardening

John Maxwell carefully pruned for years in order to shape me as a leader. There were moments that were not fun, but now I am grateful. I am considered a veteran leader today, but I don’t think any leader ever arrives. I sure haven’t. My partner and senior pastor at Crossroads, Kevin Myers, will on occasion, get out the sheers on one topic in particular. He tenaciously insists that I fight for the margin in my life to get “rest and recovery” time so I can give my best to my family and the church. Good pruning.

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

Enough said!


There are seasons of maturing for leaders than cannot be rushed.

Let me make a brief comment here in particular to young leaders. Many of you want to become “good” overnight. While I appreciate your zeal, there are some things in life that cannot be rushed. Not naturally.

When my brother plants tomatoes, they take a certain number of weeks to sprout, mature, and bear fruit. There is no amount of gardening that will make them grow faster. There are no cliff-notes, and there is no book or botanical conference to attend that speeds things up.

Young leader, I encourage you to work hard, work smart, and be patient. Stay steady and diligent. Pray much. Do the right things each day, and you will find that the journey is more central than the destination. How you get there matters. Kingdom work is never done, and will continue on after you are gone. Don’t rush to the goal, be a good student and enjoy the journey.


Be aware of the potential to over-lead and under-lead.

We talk at times about the lack of leadership. But did you know that you can over-lead?

When it comes to gardening, the vast majority of amateurs over-water their plants and lawns. They water too often and too much, drowning plants and lawns. Others water too often with too little water, causing the root systems to become shallow and thus weakening the plants or lawn. The least common is watering too seldom and too little, because the results are dramatic and obvious – dead plants.

Though less obvious in the local church; over-leading can be just as lethal. We all know what a dead church looks like. If we did church autopsies it would read something like: “Slow degenerative disease from leadership starvation.” This is not a new or unexplored topic.

Over-led is much more subjective, and far less discussed. Over-leading is characterized by leading too fast. This means moving and making too many large changes before your staff and congregation are ready. This is particularly common with high-powered and high-capacity leaders. If you are one you know. You are impatient. You want things to happen and happen now, but the harder you push, the worse it gets. Things begin to break down relationally and eventually you consider changing churches or even going to para-church ministry where you don’t have to wait on the people.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2017

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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