You've heard of the naughty or nice quiz before. We put people on one side of the behavior equation this time of the year. And if that doesn't cross your mind, then someone at North Pole Central is finalizing the tally before Santa's globe-trotting, Christmas Eve sleigh ride.
This year, however, I want to put these terms on the same side of the equation. I think pastors need to consider "niceness" from an entirely different point of view.
That's right, I have a growing fear that we, as ministry leaders, too often do the wrong thing in the name of "nice." So allow me to suggest that there are times when nice IS naughty. What if being nice is not always a ministry hallmark? Is it possible that being nice can be stumbling block that excuses poor leadership habits and personal flaws?
Before we get to the quiz, let's consider Jesus as our leadership model. The more I read the gospel's the more I see the love of Jesus working hand-in-hand with a certain intensity and not a certain "niceness." As we go through the quiz, I'll make some references to Jesus.
Question #1: I can give time to people in way that causes me to neglect the primary people that God is calling me to serve. (Yes or No?)
Jesus walked away from people all of the time. Giving time to the wrong people is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #2: I allow my enjoyment of approval to lead me to flatter others. (Yes or No?)
Jesus didn’t puff people up. Giving false edification to make people—and you— feel better, is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #3: I have created a new ministry, disregarding the vision of the church, because of an influential church leader. (Yes or No?)
Jesus passed on most ministry “opportunities.” Starting new programs to please others is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #4: I am tempted to NOT make timely decisions because some people won’t like the decision. (Yes or No?)
Jesus didn’t delay. Waiting another day to live in false peace another day is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #5: I can keep someone on the team despite a mediocre ministry performance. (Yes or No?)
Jesus chose people carefully and let people walk away. Avoiding a tough call is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #6: I overcommit myself because I can’t say "no." (Yes or No?)
Jesus gave himself but didn’t overcommit himself. Taking yourself too seriously and never saying "no" is a naughty kind of nice.
Question #7: I have never exhibited righteous anger out of a preference for "harmony." (Yes or No?)
Jesus turned over tables. Never displaying anger at the things that anger God is naughty kind of nice.
Question #8: I have refused to face some facts head on, because of the difficulty of the truth behind it. (Yes or No?)
Jesus faced the truth, head on. Living in temporary harmony with intentional ignorance is a naughty kind of nice.
Questions #9: I have never rebuked or corrected someone on my team. (Yes or No?)
Jesus rebuked his team regularly. Unwillingness to correct or confront is not a sign of love and is a naughty kind of nice.
The origination of this quiz comes from my personal experience as a leader. I have to confess that too much of the time, I must answer yes to most of these questions. Somehow, by God's grace, I haven't received coal in my stocking at Christmas.
A Prayer to Stop Being Nice: Lord, I want to live full of love with the same intensity you exhibited. I know there are times, where I fail to love in the name of being "nice." Father, help me to know my identity in Christ. Lord Jesus, help me to lead others the same way you did. Precious Spirit, guide my thoughts and reveal my sin when I seek false harmony or long for the approval of men. Shape me and make me a leader who will serve you well. Amen.