Monday, August 27, 2012

Pastor leaders

Yesterday's post looked at the need of our churches to have leaders as pastors.  Today we want to explore this from a pastor's perspective.  As I pointed out yesterday, many churches do not really want their pastor to lead them, at least not to a point where things actually change and they become uncomfortable.  They prefer managers who can keep the church machinery running and keep conflict low.  Such churches seldom grow nor do they have much of an impact on their communities.  They are nice little "Bless me" clubs in which Christians can congregate and feel comfortable.

This is actually good news for many pastors because they don't really want to be leaders anyway.  They prefer the managerial role because that is what they were trained in seminary to do, and this is the role in which most pastors feel most comfortable.  Pastors are human too, and they don't enjoy conflict any more than do the members of their congregations.  They know that if they try to lead any significant change in their congregations that it will create conflict, so the easiest way to avoid that is to manage what's happening in the church, work hard to serve those who are already members, and remain as uncontroversial as possible.  Maintaining the status quo in most of our churches will win you the approval of their members.  Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo isn't what our churches are called to do.

If our churches maintained the status quo most of the older churches in our area would still be meeting in one-room log buildings served by a pastor who spent most of the week teaching school in that same building, farming a small farm nearby, or owning a general store in town.  The status quo would mean our churches would have hitching rails around the building, a couple of toilets behind the building, and a wood or coal stove in the middle of the building.  Assuming this doesn't describe your church then someone at some time suggested some changes to the church.  Someone took a leadership position, confronted the conflict that was sure to arise, and led the church to make needed changes.  These people refused to accept the status quo as acceptable because they recognized the status quo would not take their church where it needed to be.

According to some studies 50 percent of the population in every county in the United States, and in some counties the number is as high as 80 percent, is unchurched.  Some have walked away from the church for various reasons, but a significant percentage of that number represent people who have never invited Jesus Christ into their lives.  The status quo of most of our churches will never reach these people.  The status quo will never even identify who these people are nor consider their needs when developing the calendar and budget of the church.

The mission of your church is simple.  It is to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  That's it.  Those two things are all your church has to do to achieve its purpose in this world.  The vision of your church isn't so simple.  The vision of every church should be how it will accomplish this mission in its community today.  The mission remains the same for every church; the vision will be different as different ministries will be needed to impact each community.  The status quo is not acceptable because it will not allow you to achieve your mission.  It may have worked in 1950, but it will not be effective today.

Pastors, your churches need you to lead them to renew the mission God has given them and they need you to lead them in discerning a fresh vision from God as to how that mission will be achieved.  If you cannot do that because you haven't been trained as a leader, then seek that training now.  Leadership can be taught, and every person can grow as a leader.  If you cannot lead because you don't want to be a leader, you need to step away from pastoral ministry and find something else to do with your life.   The work of the church is too important for it to be limited by a pastor who is unwilling to lead.

In my next post I will examine what I mean by a pastor-leader.  You can read more about pastoral leadership in my latest book The Healthy Community: Moving Your Church Beyond Tunnel Vision.

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