In over a decade of my ministry experience, I have had the great privilege of learning and growing and serving at two different wonderful churches that I am forever grateful to God. I have also had an opportunity to be exposed to working with two different pastors who have taught me much about ministry leadership.
Trying to attempt to answer the complex question of leadership can be very difficult. The best way I believe is by seeing and sharing two examples of two leaders! So, in my attempt to answer this age-old question, here’s a tale of two leaders.
Both leaders received the same amount of educational background in Master of Divinity in Pastoral ministry (M.Div) from well-known leading seminaries of the nation. Two different men and two different churches, yet the same amount of time I have served for 6 years.
The one was an effective, powerful, and dynamic preacher. But he was an authoritarian, tyrant, narcissistic bully pastor. This pastor leader was a “Know-it-all” and was heavily involved in every detail of decision-making that ultimately became a bottleneck micromanaging dictatorship. It was a stressful environment. I worked there for 6 years and left feeling unused and was a waste of time. I stayed 6 years way too long.
On the other hand, the other one wasn’t a well-known preacher, who was a very average normal sort of preacher. Unlike the other pastor, he wasn’t the center of attention and didn’t worry about how smart he looked. I recalled where the previous church’s staff meetings went for about 3 hours where one person spoke the entire time, however, this pastor only spoke about 10% of the time and mostly listened and gave space for others.
I was treated like an idiot with fear under one pastor, but with the latter smart with love under one pastor.
There are many churches out there with pastors coming in and out. Some foster a culture of life and create an encouraging environment. However, there are at times pastors who create a toxic suppression team which diminishes the effectiveness of the whole church.
What makes the difference between the two pastors or leaders? Is it something one can catch initially or forged over time?
1. The Prideful Pastor Seeks Only for His Empire Building.
Because the prideful pastor is a know-it-all, they tend to bring top-notch talents and promise big time yet undermines people and eventually diminishes the person’s capacity. Too often working under such a leader tends to waste talent, suppress vital innovation, and slow the overall growth.
The new person has been limited into a box and pidgin holds to a position and eventually loses confidence in their ability to accomplish the task given for the team. They now enter into a stage of “quit and stay” till something new comes.
Whether this is a volunteer or staff position, they lose enthusiasm and charisma and becomes a “walking zombies” who goes through the motion and cycle by giving up any attempt to be entrepreneurial or being innovative.
As a result? The reputation of the place becomes “negative” and a rumor spreads by people avoiding the place like a plague and eventually the leader himself leaving the team he serves. Dictators come with a very high cost on both sides.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have just introduced you to the majority of churches in America where they have either plateaued or in a steady decline. Sadly, where people associate the place more like an elephant’s graveyard where they earn the reputation of, “a place where people go to die”
Why did this happen? Leadership. For everything rises and falls on leadership.
2. The Christ-filled Pastor Attracts and Unleashes Others by Empowering.
On the other hand, a Christ-filled pastor is looking not to build his kingdom or seek his righteousness first (Matt 6:33) but instead looks to the interest of others (Phil 2:4).
Their goal is not to ultimately box people into a job or limit their contribution to stay in a silo mentality of cubicle space. Why? These leaders assume that people are smart and will eventually figure it out! They get out of their way and let them roll with it!
The goal of such a leader or pastor is to fan the flame of the person’s calling and passion and see them grow into fully mature disciples of Jesus (Matt 4:19). Such leaders are like magnets who naturally attract others to join in the eager coalition wanting to impact and begin to see steady growth in every metric.
There was even a research study done in the past where children were given a series of progressively harder puzzles to solve. Children who were given the same series of different puzzles yet who were praised every time for their hard work increased their ability and solved even harder problems! As I often say to folks in our church, “It takes 10 affirmations to overcome 1 criticism.” Words of affirmation change the trajectory of the future direction one person goes.
When pastors can connect people’s natural passion and identify with God’s heaven-sent calling, people begin to flourish and can contribute to their highest point of effectiveness in and through the church.
These types of leaders do not need to get paid or rewarded to do what they do as it is a natural part of the makeup of who they are (identity) which drives what they do (purpose). Empowering others comes easily and freely; as naturally as breathing takes place.
Individualistic people is a dampener of the thriving culture and are not able to fit in the growing culture.
The Courage and Conviction to Lead as Ministry Leaders
Sometimes as leaders, it is our job to remove impediments which quite often means removing people who are blocking the growth of others and the church. These people are like a vortex that sucks the energy out of everyone and everything around them.
These could be people who are prideful people who diminish the overall culture of the team. The prideful leader so often has a divide-and-conquer mentality that so often can dangerously cost and limits the whole as a team.
A Christ-filled pastor can develop, equip and make disciples by empowering and unleashing them to the next level in their personal leadership development. A prideful pastor on the other hand is full of self, therefore is not able to develop the talent of other people in the team.
Therefore, being a Christ-filled leader takes a lot of courage and convictional leadership. At times, that means taking the gut to fire a toxic leader for the sake of the overall morale of the team.
This also means sometimes to release and unleash the best of the best in other endeavors as well! There can be a knee-jerk reaction to wanting to hold on to good leaders. But, like good parents watching their child take off to college, they send them off for bigger and greater goals that wait for them in the next stage of life that God has held for their future.
The shepherd leaders’ job is as John Calvin said it well, “The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.”