Tis the season for class preparation, and since I will be teaching a class entitled “Theology of Ministry II” later this summer, I have been digging through my stack of leadership books. And yes, I have collected quite a few over the years. The course that I will be teaching focuses on the five themes of Ministry fruitfulness and longevity: Spiritual Formation, Self-Care, Emotional and Cultural Intelligence, Marriage and Family, and Leadership and Management, and means of personal implementation.
Today I want to take a quick look at the leadership roles of the average pastor. From my experience there are both broad and general leadership roles that may not be tied to a specific task; there are many specific roles to be filled. This blog will focus on the general leadership roles, and hopefully next week I will move on to the specific. Please understand this is nothing hard and fast, but simply comes from experience as a pastor.
First and foremost I am convinced that pastors are men called by God to live out their lives in front of people. That being the case, the most important way we lead is through our personal and passionate pursuit of Jesus. This is what I would categorize as leading through Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. People need to see that you are still messy and need Jesus as much as anyone else, in other words you are the “chief repenter”. Do people see your love for Jesus? The closer we get to Jesus, the more like Him we become.
A second general area of leaderships is prayer. This is not simply leading prayer in a service, or as an example, but rather assuming the role of “chief prayer” where being totally convinced of power of Kingdom prayer we faithfully pray for the church and her ministrThere are many reasons why that is the case, but my point here is a challenge to make prayer a top priority in your life and ministry. Many of us pastor types find it much easier to spend time in sermon prep and with people rather than in a prayer closet. Let’s not forget the reason the office of Deacon was established in the first place was so the elders could “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Act 6:2-4, ESV). Note well the word order of prayer and ministry of the word (Again another blog topic).Our people need to know that we pray for them. I have a close friend who is remarkable in how he remembers the names of those in his church. When I asked him his secret, he simply commented that he prays for every one of them every day! When you pray for them, you remember their names! His church at that time had over 300 in attendance.
A third we are called to lead is through our relationships. As I have already written in a prior blog, a pastor is a shepherd and a shepherd lives with his sheep. Culturally this looks different in each context; nevertheless as we live in community we create community. If a pastor simply teaches or preaches about community or hospitality, and yet is not in a community himself, his words are empty. Obviously the size of the church will determine how this plays out, but every pastor should have a community within the church he serves. It is in relationship where effective evangelism takes place.
I recently had a discussion with friend in regard to the church interns at. Over the last 5 years or so, this church has plummeted from over 300 in worship to less than 50. In the last year they changed location and name to no avail. This young man wisely said, “We are focusing on what we do on one day, and not the other six”. Unfortunately, most of the energy is focused on a Sunday “event”. There are many reasons why this church is in decline; however a key ingredient is a pastor that sees the need of evangelism, yet is not spending time with non-Christians. Ant it is probably safe to assume that he has none as close friends. Pastors cannot call people to evangelism when they are not doing it themselves. Once again we lead by example. We are not to be THE evangelist, but the “chief evangelist” showing others the trade.
Another essential leadership role of a pastor is that of “chief peacemaker”. Leadership can be challenging as God has called us to work with broken people. Being somewhat facetious, I am convinced there is little middle school in all of us! Or “where two or three are gathered together, there will be conflict”! I believe it was Steve Brown who once said to me as a young pastor, “it doesn't matter what church you go too, 5% of the people there will be neurotic and they will follow you to where ever you go. They may look different, but it is the same people.” I realize this may seem callous or pessimistic; however my point is that we live in a fallen messy world where conflict abounds. Therefore pastors must assume the role of peacemaker!
There is so much I could include in this area (I will spend considerable time covering in my class), but important to relationship dynamics is what we commonly call “triangulation”. Emotional triangles are the “molecules” of an emotional system. A two-person relationship is notoriously unstable, so all it takes is one person to feel uncomfortable and things get shaky. To manage the increased anxiety, one of the two often brings in a third person thus creating a triangle. For good or bad, triangles are the building blocks of an emotional system. Most of the time they go without notice as long as the atmosphere is calm and stable. Triangles in themselves are neutral and exist as part of human behavior. However if you forget they exist it can be deadly. Understanding triangulation helps with peacemaking and also guards you from being pulled in to a conflict, often before you know it is conflict.
If you are married and have a family, the first place these roles will be played is in your family. Never forget to lead your family well, and make it a priority to fulfill each of the above in that context.