“No” is a Reasonable Answer
We do not like the sound of the word or the meaning it carries. It is a denial of desire, will, or entrance to something we want. The answer “no” disrupts a predetermined course.
But “no” is a reasonable answer for leaders to give; especially within the life of church and ministry. Choosing “no” ought to means something about the leader’s ability to see what is happening now and next. Leaders must look further down and deeper into the ministry plans so they intuitively understand consequences to current actions. There is nothing pleasant about giving a “no” answer to people’s requests or passions. Any leader that enjoys doling out a “no” should rethink which he loves more: his fellow believers or his church position.
With a healthy amount of self-awareness, leaders can embrace “no” as a necessary part of their work for the right reasons.
1. “No” allows people to release ineffective ministries. Members were asked to commit to ministries that perhaps have run their course. Along the way, the culture, community, and constituency that you are trying to reach has changed. The leaders must say that we are letting go of a ministry that is no longer fruitful.
2. “No” saves people from the cruelty of selfish living. The ego is powerful and often damaging. But the human heart does not believe it to be so. Born with both inherent sinfulness and an innate sense of self-preservation, we are inclined to say “yes” to everything the ego desires. When leaders help believers say “no,” it is for their own good. Selfish living feels good in the moment but is a cruel master that brings destruction later.
3. “No” allows unfruitful strategies to die. Church ministries feel like children to many members. They bring them into existence, raise them, nurture them, and want to see them flourish with others involved. The problem with the perspective is that they are not children to protect. They are strategies to leverage for a greater purpose. Giving a “no” to an unfruitful strategy reminds people that the method is not the point. The outcome of glorifying God by making disciples is our purpose. Though painful for a season because of personal investment, allowing ineffective strategies to die reminds people that we work for the Master’s business instead of our own methodological preferences.
4. “No” refuses to allow toxic people to control the culture. Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Who is controlling the culture of your church? In too many places, mean people with selfish agendas centered on a chaplaincy mentality controls a congregation. As leaders begin to press in a missional direction, they will feel their hold on the culture slipping. They may declare your “no” as mean-spirited and un-pastoral. Let me assure you: it is not the case. Your “no” to toxic people is a blessing to the church’s present and future faithfulness to Christ’s mission.
5. “No” is a “Yes” in disguise. Every time you say “no” to ineffective practices and toxic people, you are helping the congregation say “yes” to paths of faithfulness. “No” is actually a moment of clarifying freedom. It is the choosing of something better than what is simply available. We are pressing deeper into prayer planning and hopeful strategies. “No” to the standard fare means that you’ve paused so that the Spirit can intervene with something new to which you can say “YES.”
6. “No” is accompanied by a better reality. Someone told your church a story of a beautiful future for ministry. They were given roles to fill and expectations to meet. But now they need a better story. The world changed. Their community changed. The defining issues changed. With every “no” should come a better “yes.”
As a leader, I do not like giving a “no” answer. As I stated earlier, we should not enjoy the emotional harangue that comes with people fretting over the “no.” We need to be alert and able to help them navigate from the feeling of the negative to the better reality we offer. “No” is not the end as long as it follows with something beautiful to which they can answer “yes.”