From time to time I come across senior pastors who either don't like to lead and so they choose not to or, who believe that leadership apart from preaching is not necessary and largely ignore it. In either case, this is a problematic posture and one that hurts the church.

For context, the issue of leadership in the church has not always even been a value in the seminary context. A whole generation of pastors was taught that all you really needed to do was to preach the word and everything else would take care of itself. My own father pretty much believed this and I remember our conversations on the necessity of a pastor leading in his church of 1,000 plus. I have watched over the years as some good preachers built significantly sized churches due to their preaching and then lost those churches when they did not provide the requisite leadership.

The larger the church the more important the quality of its leadership because large congregations need missional glue - a common and relevant ministry direction - to remain healthy. When that is absent, the church loses its way, staff wonder what they are to do and people become restless.

The metaphore of a shepherd for a pastor is instructive. Shepherds feed their flock, protect their flock, care for their flock and lead their flock. If a shepherd is not leading his/her flock to the next place of healthy grazing the flock dies. Shepherds are in fact leaders of their sheep. The sheep don't simply wander around themselves to find good grass and left to their own devises they often get lost.

I understand pastors who are not wired naturally to lead. Unfortunately those same pastors often don't want anyone else to lead for them. If one is not going to lead, then someone must be empowered to lead for them. It is not an option to say, "I don't like to lead." Left without leadership long enough, the congregation will flounder and prescient individuals will find another church because they understand the necessity of missional leadership and direction and are unwilling to settle for less.

A more difficult situation arises when a pastor has an anti leadership bias: They don't think leadership is that important, do not do it themselves and resist giving away any authority to someone who could. This leaves the congregation in a bind. Not only will their leader not lead but resists allowing someone else to lead. Their pastor simply wants to preach the text assuming that this is all that matters. Well and good for them but not for others!

When this occurs the first place that dysfunction shows up is usually in the staff who need a leader in order to function as a healthy team. Eventually staff become frustrated: some leave, some try to fill in the leadership void and all live in ministry silos because there is not a leader to integrate a common philosophy, direction or ensure cooperation. It is a no win situation for staff.

Eventually the issue will get to the  board level and the board must figure out how to deal with the lack of leadership. It is now their leadership wisdom that is necessary to find a solution that does not hurt the church but rather strengthens it. When boards are not able or willing to deal with the leadership dysfunction the issues eventually spill over into the congregation and become more serious to the church. 

If a pastor has an anti leadership value, boards must initiate a conversation to find a way for the church to be led by someone. If the senior leader is unwilling to provide that leadership in a satisfactory way, they must be willing to allow another the authority and empowerment to lead and themselves stay out of the way. No organization will remain healthy in the absence of leadership. 

(Posted from Oakdale, MN)

  • May 09, 2014
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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