It was ten minutes before small group began and I was about to lose it… After receiving the fourth email from our pastoral team I couldn’t handle promoting any more ministries.  I was starting to feel bitter and self-righteous.  “I already do so much, how am I supposed to lead the charge in small group discussion, local outreach, pastoral care, evangelism, and missionary support?”  I wasn’t. 

I was suffering from S.I.M.S. (Self Imposed Martyr Syndrome).  A leader suffering from S.I.M.S. will localize all authority in himself, refuse to give ministry projects away and will grow in self-righteousness as he bemoans the fact that there are no other leaders in his group.  S.I.M.S. is likely to occur in people with Type-A personalities, perfectionist tendencies and previous experience with unfulfilled expectations…Sound like anyone you know?

I was leading by the motto “If I want something done right I’ve got to do it myself.”  But here’s the truth: the problem wasn’t that my people were bad leaders; the problem was that I was a bad leader.

I was in authority, but I wasn’t leading, not in a Biblical sense.  Biblical leaders don’t do all the ministry they equip others to do ministry (Eph. 4:11-12).  Just look at what Paul instructed Timothy to do “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  (2 Tim. 2:2 ESV)

Do you see what Paul did there?  He told Timothy to equip other men who would in turn equip other men.  My small group’s problem wasn’t that we had too much stuff to do; our problem was that I wasn’t equipping anyone else to do anything.

The Apostle Peter makes the same point in a different way.  He exhorts leaders of the church to see themselves as shepherds of the people (1 Peter 5).  The purpose of a shepherd is to safely move sheep from one location to another by pointing his sheep where they need to go and by providing redirection when necessary.

What would happen if a shepherd tried to carry each one of his sheep to their destination?  Well there’s obviously some inefficiency in such a method… but there’s also a much bigger problem.  After losing their leg strength and sense of direction from always being carried, what will happen to those sheep after their shepherd collapses from exhaustion?

A Biblical leader equips and shepherds.  The question we have to ask ourselves is Are we equipping and shepherding or are we carrying?”

One is leadership… the other is foolishness.


Josh Miller (@joshmiller0604) is a Church Planting Catalyst with The Summit Network and a Church Planting Pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.  Contact him at