Note: Originally posted October 2014.
According to Greek mythology, Achilles was a brave hero of the Trojan War. The story line is that his Mother, Thetis, attempted to make him immortal by immersing him in the river Styx. She held him by the ankle and dipped him completely. The only part not touched by the magic water was where she held him by the ankle… thus leaving his ankle unprotected. His death came when an arrow hit his heel. Thus “Achilles heel” became a euphemism for a weak spot or a vulnerable area.
People in ministry have an Achilles heel…. well they probably have several. But one of the most devastating is the lack of people skills. I can’t prove it but it seems that more Christian leaders fail because of poor people skills than any other reason. Lack of people skills is often the deal breaker. It doesn’t matter how much theology you know if people won’t listen to you. Your GPA in college is meaningless if people will not follow. You may be a great scholar, communicator, and visionary; but if people don’t resonate with you, you can’t lead. Ministry is about people so the leader or a missionary must know how to relate to people.
This is a foundational skill for ministry. So why don’t we train leaders in people skills? Have you ever heard of a college course on the topic? Rarely do we talk about this issue. It is not a prerequisite for granting a degree. We don’t inquire about this at ordinations. Lack of people skills is not normally part of a job interview. Yet, it is this very issue that will sink your leadership ship. This applies equally to the role of a missionary.
There are probably many reasons we don’t train leaders in people skills, but here is one of them. This is not something we can teach in a classroom. Taking a course will not adequately equip someone. It is not as simple as learning ten facts about the topic. Training is best done within the context of a mentoring relationship. There needs to be coaching in real-life situations.
All of us should assume that we don’t really see ourselves as we really are. The heart is deceitful and the person we most regularly deceive is ourselves. We should assume we don’t really know how we are relating to others. Therefore, we need another person in our life who with a gracious manner will help us understand how we appear to others.
Paul Seger, BMW