What I Learned about Church Leadership from a Crazy Ostrich

It was a fun ride through a wildlife park with our grandkids. The grandkids were especially enjoying getting to feed the animals. They would come right up to the car and even eat cubes out of their hands. Everything was wonderful, until the ostrich showed up. There were several of them and, knowing a little of how aggressive they could be, we were careful to drop the feed pellets out the window instead of holding the food in our palms.

But there was one ostrich that was very aggressive and stuck his head right inside the driver’s window. And that is where I was. My grandson was in the passenger seat and, being a quick thinker, he decided to throw pellets at the ostrich. He assumed it would be so interested in catching the pellets that it would move its head back to catch them. So he threw a pellet. Good arm, good accuracy, and no cooperation from the ostrich. The food bounced right of its beak and back into the car. On me. Which led the ostrich to try and retrieve it.

Let’s just say it is funnier now than it was then.

But I did learn a few things that reminded me of Jesus and church leadership.

  1. Good plans well executed do not always turn out like you planned. Every program and decision church leaders make are absolutely going to result in a growing, healthy church. Until, of course, they do not. Because we deal with imperfect people. Economics, demographics, illness, and sin are all things that may change in a way that alters your plans. Which reminds us we are not in control. And ostriches end up chasing food inside your car instead of outside. Thankful to be reminded God is in control.
  2. People are who they are. They do not always act like we want them to, or like we expect them to act. They are being formed, shaped, and changed to be more like Jesus. And that is messy. Sometimes they revert to old patterns. Or temptation ambushes them. An ostrich is an ostrich and behaves like one. People are people, and they act like it. Only Jesus can change them. Just like he changed us.
  3. This world is not our reality. The whole idea of a wildlife park is not real. That park has fences, animals are separated, and the whole thing is fenced in. We rode through the park with dozens of other cars, feeding “wild” animals out our window. It was not real. This world is not our reality either. It seems as if evil is winning and Satan is in control. Not true. Jesus has overcome all the powers of darkness. He has even defeated death. He is on the throne and someday will come back to take us to our real home. As church leaders, we have to remember this truth and model it for our flock.

So I was reminded by a crazy ostrich that I am never really in charge, that people are messy, and that this world is not my reality. I need that lesson, and I need to be sharing it with my people.

Steve loves to tell the story of Jesus. He is the Director of Ministry for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry, and serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, TX. He is a popular speaker for Lectureships, seminars, and retreats, and his latest book is “Can I Tell You a Story?” He and his wife Marsha have two children and five grandchildren.
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Author:  Publish Date: August 11, 2017

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

The CHARIS website is supported by Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA), the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The purpose of CHARIS at ACU is to seek God’s blessings for a healthy relationship between the Christian college/university – its faculty, staff, and students – and the church heritage that gives identity and meaning to such a school. This underlying concern for Christian colleges/universities, and their relationship to the churches, is reflected in the form and content of the CHARIS website.

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