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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership is a buzz word these days.

You only need to type the word into the search engine at Amazon.co.uk and you will be deluged with enough books to keep even the most veracious reader busy for a decade or two.

It has also become a high-profile issue in the Christian church. There are conferences, seminars, and yes, loads of books.  Today you’re expected to set the strategy, define the values, identify your style, and of course you must have a vision and communicate it. Leadership is the name-of-the-game. Or is it? Do our Baptist Churches need leaders? Do they even want them?

I used to joke that the average Baptist Church liked its Pastor to give a clear, strong lead, so that the Church Members’ Meeting has something definite to disagree with!

An old friend of mine had an even stronger view. He claimed the typical scenario went like this: “when you are called to a church, lots of people will say ‘this place needs strong leadership’. You very soon discover that what they actually mean is ‘this place needs a leader who agrees with me.’ After you’ve been there for a while and start taking the church in the direction you believe is right, those very same people are the first to say ‘this guy’s a total dictator.’”

Interestingly, there isn’t a huge amount about leaders or leadership as such in the New Testament. Yes, obviously there are “leaders” of sorts, but I can’t help but feel that they were very different to what the world today usually means by ‘leaders’. I offer the following brief observations.

1. The main task of leaders in the NT seems to be to preach and teach the Scriptures to people, especially the gospel.

There is virtually nothing about ‘developing the vision’, but huge amounts about proclaiming the Word. As Calvin said, the Pastor leads the church by preaching the Word from the pulpit.

2. Paul’s main concern with choosing new leaders for the churches under his care is character, not gifting.

In today’s church it sometimes seems the other way round. All to often, Christian leaders come off-the-rails because their gifting carries them to places that their character cannot sustain them.

3. Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of advice that Timothy should make his own personal growth as a godly Christian and as a Pastor of integrity, his number one concern.

This is because Pastors are not supposed to model a commitment to endless meetings and ever-busy programs. Rather they are to be examples to the flock of true godliness worked-out in the midst of every day life.

4. Modern leadership is full of talk of ‘servant leaders’, often with a favourable nod towards Jesus of Nazareth.

However, what they mean is if you serve others by helping them get the company’s job done, you will be a successful leader (and get promoted). But Jesus didn’t say that serving was the pathway to greatness; He said serving was greatness. In that little difference of words is all the difference between the World and the Kingdom.

In short, the NT doesn’t seem overly concerned about charismatic leaders sharing the vision and achieving goals. It seems far more focused on godly men and woman who make it their business to help others become godly men and women.

So…do our churches need leaders?

Yes, I believe they do. But we must rethink our understanding of leadership along Biblical lines.

There is far too much today of the ‘christening’ of secular ideas. I am not against learning from the world, but we must be ultra careful in applying the world’s ideas on leadership, to God’s Church, which He purchased with His own blood.

In this series of articles, aimed at young and emerging leaders in the church (whatever their title may or may not be), I want to explore what leadership means from a Biblical perspective, and how we might grow into more godly, effective leaders.

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What Exactly Do You Do With a Church?

I know it seems like a strange question, but it is one that many of us as Pastors or Elders face. It’s “the vision thing” by another name. We want to do more than just keep the doors open or the wheels well oiled and spinning. We want our churches “to go somewhere”–but where?

Rather than suggest all sorts of spiritual exercises for vision seeking, I want to offer a more direct and Bible-based answer.

Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing Bob Roxborough (then Pastor of the Millmead Centre in Guilford) speak about spiritual renewal in the church. He suggested that leaders needed to ask certain key  questions of their church in order to get a sense of mission and vision for the future. In offering these he was summarizing the Five Essential Questions put forward by Pastor Lloyd J Ogilvie (who went on to become Chaplain of the US Senate.)  I find them helpful and I reproduce them here:

Q1. What Kind of People Does God Want Us to Produce in this Church? (The Discipleship Question)

Can you describe what a healthy, Christ-like disciple should look and sound like in your community?

Interestingly, many of the “successful” mega-churches in the U.S. have a very clear description of the sort of disciples they are seeking to produce. Perhaps this is a lesson we could all usefully learn?

Q2. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Do People Need to Have In order to Become Those Kinds of People? (The Process Question).

The key word to me in the above question is “experiences”. Note that Ogilvie did not say ‘sermons’ or ‘teaching’.  To be sure, teaching is vitally important, but by itself it is not enough. Experiences is a broad word that covers…well…more or less anything and everything–small groups, mentoring, mission trips, practical hands-on training, seminars, retreats, worship times, friendships…

Q3.  What Kind of Leaders are Needed to Provide Those Kinds of Experiences? (The Leadership Development Question)

It amazes me the number of churches who do not have a leadership development process. At its most basic, such a process should have as its aims to

  • Discern (or Identify)
  • Develop (or Train)
  • Deploy

leaders at every level and in every area of the church. It is as much an attitude and a culture as it is a program.

However, since my own church that I Pastor has no such program, perhaps I ought to eat humble pie, bow my head in shame, and move on to the next question.  (Which, ironically, follows on nicely…)

Q4 What Kind of Pastor is Needed to Train Those Kinds of Leaders? (The Pastor Question)

Obviously a better one than me! But perhaps that is not quite true. Perhaps what is nearer the mark is, a Pastor like me with

  • different priorities (such as training others to do, rather doing ministry myself)
  • a different model of ministry (where my ministry is preparing others for ministry)
  • different skills (in training and mentoring)

This in turn leads to…

Q5. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Does the Pastor Need to Be(come) That Kind of Pastor? (The Theological Education Question)

For me, this means asking what kinds of training do I need to develop these new priorities, models and skills. What courses are available? What books and tapes? Do I need to design my own study/growth program? What churches or pastors can I visit to learn from? Who could mentor me?

However, one cannot fully answer this question until the church or leadership has developed clear  answers to the first four questions.

 

The process that Pastor Ogilvie outlines may seem less spiritual than holing away in a monastery for a week and seeking a vision from on-high. And yet, if a Church and its leadership were to seriously, prayerfully and with due attention to the Bible, were to work through these questions, the results could be truly transformational.

Question: Do you have any experience of trying to work through questions like these? If so, what were your results? And what difference did it make to your church or your ministry?

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[Every so often I want to offer a brief Biblical or theological reflection on ministry. Here is one of them…]

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. – The Apostle Paul (Acts 20 v28)

Ever wondered what on earth it is we’re actually supposed to be doing?

Every so often, amidst all the meetings and appointments and emails and complaints and problems and admin, you suddenly get one of those “why am I doing this?” moments.  At least, I do.

 

Searching the Epistles for Answers

Many years ago I did an extensive study of the Pastoral Epistles. I asked myself one basic question, what exactly did Paul expect Timothy and Titus to do?

The conclusion I came to was this–Paul expected his younger understudies to do two things:

  • Keep the flock together in unity
  • Help each individual towards Christ-like maturity.

Unity and Maturity…that was it.

 

Learning from the First Church

Recently I have been preaching on Acts 2.  I noted how, in the Greek text, the  key promise in Peter’s final appeal was not so much the forgiveness of sins, but rather the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Acts 2 Church is presented as very much The Community of the Holy Spirit.

One of the key features of that first community was its deep unity. For example, they were devoted to

  • the prayers’ –implying praying in common, together
  • the fellowship’–suggesting that they weren’t so much committed to just fellowship (having a few mates in the church) as THE fellowship (being part of one, united body).

As I explained to the Church, this should not surprise us. The Holy Spirit’s vertical ministry, as it were, is to connect us through Christ to the Father, so that we may grow in intimacy with Him and also experience more of the salvation that Christ has won for us.

Thus we may say that He seeks to give us greater oneness with the Father and the Son, that we may grow in maturity.

In the same way, the Spirit’s horizontal ministry is to bind us every more fully into a oneness of community, around Christ. That is, to help us experience ever more deeply the unity that we have as Christ’s body.

Unity and Maturity.

So it seems to me, that although we are under-shepherds of Christ, we are also overseers by the Holy Spirit, and as such our ministry reflects and draws upon His ministry–that ministry of bringing people to greater maturity in Christ and greater unity in Christ.

 

Making It Personal

More than some vaguely interesting (or not) point of theology, this makes me realize that ALL true pastoral ministry must be profoundly Holy Spirit based, Holy Spirit lead, and Holy Spirit enabled. I can begin to understand why Paul Yongi-Cho referred to the Holy Spirit as “My Senior Pastor”.

It makes me ask myself how much my own ministry is founded upon a true dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I can hear the words of Bob Roxborough ringing in my ears “there is all the difference in the world between professional ministry and a life empowered by the Spirit.”

That’s why we are here, to promote Unity and Maturity, just as the Holy Spirit who appointed us seeks to do Himself.

And we either work for Him, and under Him, or we don’t work at all.

 

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Misquoting Winston Churchill someone commented about blogging that “Never in the history of human communication has so much been written by so many for so few”.

With that stinging critique in mind, welcome to my blog!

Why another addition to the Blogosphere?

Because I want to write something that it will –

*Be a source of ideas, inspiration and practical help to those in Christian leadership, but especially to Preachers

*Give leaders hope that they are not alone–that there are others who struggle in this thing we call ‘ministry’, and there are at least some answers out there

*Log my own learning as a preacher, pastor and leader

As such I plan to blog around a cluster of related themes —Christian Spirituality, Leadership, Pastoring & Coaching, Theology & the Bible, Personal Growth, and above all, Preaching and Teaching. All things relevant to the life and ministry of the Pastor-preacher.

I hope my journey of learning and reflection might be of blessing to you in yours.

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