My dad served as mayor of Brantley, Alabama, for sixteen years. He was first elected when I was twelve and finally retired from the job sixteen years later.
He taught me tremendous lessons, most by what he did rather than what he taught. During his last election campaign (he declined to run for a fifth time) I was home and riding with him down Main Street. I asked him if he thought he would win the campaign. He assured me he would. His answer intrigued me. How do you know you’re going to win something as volatile as a small town political campaign?
When I asked him how he knew, he answered in this way. He said, “I have won every election with a 56-58% majority. The same 56% are going to vote for me and the same 44% are going to vote against me.”
Over the years I have thought about that conversation and how serving as pastor of a church is so much like serving as mayor of a small town.
First, I learned that not everyone is going to think you are great. In fact, anytime I have gotten more than 56% of a vote, I have thought I did pretty good!
In case you don’t know, almost all pastors want people to think well of them. To be a pastor is to like people and to want people to appreciate what you do.
Unfortunately, people are not always going to appreciate what you do. People in the church have opinions and ideas just as the pastor does. My dad helped me to understand this truth.
Second, he showed me that you lead the best you know how in spite of what people think. That’s what my dad did. He respected the people who didn’t vote for him and did the best for the community. It’s normal to want people to agree with you; it’s good leadership to do what is right and good even when people don’t agree.
There’s a famous saying that has to do with success. It goes something like this: “I don’t know the secret of success, but I do know what causes failure–it’s trying to please everybody.”
Third, my dad taught me the importance of not giving up. My dad was characterized by drive and tenacity. He had a tremendous desire to accomplish and to get things done. He worked hard for his family and for his community.
Finally, my father showed me the importance of doing the right thing because it is the right thing.
Life is difficult. We get pulled and pushed in many different ways. Life works best when we seek to follow God’s direction.
I thank God for my father. He blessed my life.
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