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A few weeks ago I tweeted a challenge to leaders that received a lot of positive feedback:

Leaders: Don’t apologize for expecting excellence. God deserves it, and people are capable of it. Call it out.

The impetus for it came from my observation that some leaders are afraid or embarrassed to expect excellence as a normal product from the people they lead. Usually it’s because they don’t want to appear to be demanding or demeaning. Apparently it’s an affront to expect a lot out of a person.

But it’s actually just the opposite. It honors them.

The highest compliment you can give to those you lead is to demand the best from them. Low standards do not communicate appreciation. They communicate contempt for someone’s ability and potential. Once you have stopped challenging someone to do more, you have stopped believing in them. And you have effectively stunted their ability to grow in their God-given gifts and calling.

It’s the responsibility of the leader not only to cast vision, but also to make sure that those serving under the vision are maximizing their gifts in support of it. An indispensable tool that every leader must learn to develop, then, is the ability to speak life into potential. Call it out. And the best way to call it out is by maintaining a high standard. People don’t grow by being allowed to live in mediocrity.

So, leaders: Don’t apologize for expecting excellence. God deserves it, and people are capable of it. Call it out.

You’re not being demeaning by holding your people to a high standard. The real affront would be to allow someone to work at a level that doesn’t correspond to the potential for greatness that God has put in them.

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. The church has been listed by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing and largest churches in America. 

Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the ChatterboxGreater, and Sun Stand Still.

Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

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Keith B

commented on Jan 31, 2012

If we're supposed to be holding people to a higher standard, why does Furtick label people as "haters" for daring to criticize him?

Tony Russo

commented on Jan 31, 2012

k b, where did you get that idea about Furtick?

Keith B

commented on Jan 31, 2012

Go search youtube for furtick haters. He's made a video or two. He doesn't take criticism well.

John E Miller

commented on Jan 31, 2012

The message that comes across here is, "I'm an excellent leader. Look at me and my church. Look at my organisation and my team. There you WILL see excellence." Peter thaought he was excellent. Jesus told him three times at the end of John's Gospel, "Feed my sheep." That's a leader's responsibility, to feed the flock. What does he feed them on? The word of God and the perfection of Jesus.

Trevor Payton

commented on Jan 31, 2012

kb, you could be an eye doctor specializing in specks. Please keep your constant negativity to yourself. I, for one, thought this was a useful article. I didn't read any pride or "look at me" in it at all. Rather, it's right on the money. After all, Jesus did lay down some very high expectations: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Keith B

commented on Jan 31, 2012

Trevor, Furtick isn't Jesus. It's not up to him to cast vision or call us out to our best. He's claiming to be a pastor. His job is to shepherd his flock--protecting and feeding them. When he calls out his critics by labeling them "haters", he isn't fit to fill that role.

Trevor Payton

commented on Jan 31, 2012

I never said Furtick was Jesus...I've never even met Mr. Furtick. As for his response to his critics, I'm sure he could learn to take criticism better...I know I could too. But sometimes we need to recognize the difference between a helpful critic and a malicious hater. And as for a pastor's job, I totally agree that we need to shepherd our flocks...and part of shepherding is leading, which includes casting vision (Jesus did!) and calling them to their best for the glory of God and the coming of His kingdom.

Keith B

commented on Jan 31, 2012

Trevor, you seem to be agreeing with Furtick's statements in his article that his job is to cast vision and call people to excellence...because that's what Jesus did. As I said, Furtick's job is not to cast a vision. It's to follow the vision that Jesus already cast. As a man of God he should also be humble enough to take criticism rather than just lash out with personal attacks.

Trevor Payton

commented on Jan 31, 2012

Casting vision is not the pastor's full job...but yes, it is *part* of it (and that vision must always be an application of Jesus' vision)...and for that part of the job, his article was helpful. The reason I'm responding to this is because--whether or not Furtick or others need to respond better to criticism--I think some people, yourself included, could also stand to express less criticism. We need to act as shepherds imitating The Shepherd in the entirety of our lives, not just when we're with our own flocks.

Keith B

commented on Jan 31, 2012

The pastor's job is to feed the sheep--by preaching the word, and loving them. Furtick falls woefully short in both of these areas. I don't care how much vision he casts...he is not a good example of pastoral leadership that we should be looking to.

Chaplain Shawn Kennedy

commented on Jan 31, 2012

One of the things a shepherd had to do in Jesus' day and even today is lead His sheep by moving them. Left alone, sheep will eat down a pasture until there is nothing left and then literally starve themselves. Moving sheep isn't easy as they are somewhat stubborn and dumb-but the shepherd has to move hem no matter what. Being a leader/shepherd requires moving the flock from the complacent surrroundings to new ares, whether they like it or not. The shepherd is not always going to be the most popular during these times.

Derrick Tuper

commented on Jan 31, 2012

I appreciate Shawn's comments. If we don't move our flock on, or, as another biblical writer put it-"spur" them on, we risk them becoming complacant and spiritually starved. Feeding the sheep involves moving them when the time is right. And this would include challenging them to a deeper (more lush) place.

Robert Sickler

commented on Jan 31, 2012

I agree, for the most part, with your postulate. I would extrapolate your postulate with: our failure to challenge is one of the reasons: Christendom is so full of shallow Christians; Christendom is so full of biblically illiterate Christians; and Christendom is so full of Christians building on the foundation of Christ with wood, hay and stubble. Of course, if Christendom is full of shallow, biblically illiterate and lazy Christians we must logically assume Christendom is full of shepherds who are not doing their job. Ergo, I am of the opinion you are gently chastising shepherds ? good job ? don?t back down.

Rommel Samaniego

commented on Jan 31, 2012

I have always been labeled a perfectionist by many who I pressed to come out the best I am ought to help them be; but to labeled is not the same as to be appreciated.

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