Two weeks ago I found this desert tortoise starting to cross Speedway Boulevard during a busy time… I had just been to the Desert Museum where a docent had told my family that a desert tortoise’s greatest cause of death is getting pancaked by a car. So, the docent said, if you see a tortoise crossing a street, stop if you can, pick it up by the shell, and carry it across. So, that’s what I did.

The tortoise started me thinking about the fragile web of life on our planet, where two or three degrees difference in climate can mean the survival or extinction of highly-specialized species of salamanders and frogs. I think there is an analogy here to faith communities. Churches all develop a fragile web of relationships. This web can get torn with the wrong kind of church leadership. Church leaders who are heavy-handed, self-promoting, out of touch, or alpha-leaders are toxic to churches. And many churches have closed their doors on account of such leaders. All it takes is two or three strands of bad communication to start the web unraveling… All it takes is one person chatting on their cell phone, oblivious to a twelve inch anomaly in the road, to splat a tortoise.

Church leaders of all stripes, lay or ordained, need to check their motivations often… Over the years the leaders I have come to trust the most are those who make service to the community their highest motivation, with all other motivations secondary. Leaders need to consistently checkup on themselves, because even leaders with the motivation to serve, can allow control, power, politics, turf wars, salary, personal reputation, et cetera, to obscure the highest motivation: service to the community.

Let’s pray for our leaders. May they tap their angels of service as opposed to their devils of arrogance!

“Jesus said to them, “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… But not so with you; rather…the leader should become one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26)