Pastor Bob really knows how to captivate an audience with his sermons. People say he’s a “great communicator.” And many people assume that Pastor Bob’s eloquence also means he’s a great leader of his people.
But, actually, when it comes to leadership, Pastor Bob is a train wreck. He may be called the “lead pastor,” but he doesn’t lead. His staff members and volunteers, though they admire his speaking skills, feel detached, misunderstood, unappreciated, under-communicated to, under-supported, and aimless.
How can this be? It’s a matter of gifting. Many who have been given great oratorical gifts often seem to lack leadership gifts. (And vice versa.) These two giftings do not share the same characteristics or basic core elements. So it really should be no wonder that that the two do not often appear dominantly in the same person.
Those considered as gifted speakers are usually highly artistic. They excel in the performance art of public speaking. They’re entertaining, and often inspiring. They instinctively know how to assemble and deliver a spoken message that will captivate an audience.
Those who exhibit great leadership gifts excel in the disciplines of administration, asset allocation, human relations, goal-setting, vision-casting, and problem-solving. They instinctively know how to enlist and empower a team to accomplish great things together.
When it comes to these two gifts, it often seems the more a person is gifted in one, the less he or she is gifted in the other. And this gift allocation is not limited to ministry settings. Think of those gifted in the performance art of acting. Few of the great actors would make outstanding company leaders. And few great CEOs would excel in a lead role on stage or screen. They’re just not wired that way.
There are exceptions, of course. But, for the vast majority, it’s unrealistic to assume these two gifts get automatically and abundantly bundled into the same person.
So, how does a ministry provide great messages and great leadership? Well, training can help. But usually the situation calls for the realization that different people are required for different roles. In many churches that means the main speaker/preacher needs to acknowledge a deficiency in leadership disciplines, and allow others to provide leadership services.
That may require some serious self-examination. Look for natural tendencies. For example, good leaders instinctively:
- Select staff whose expertise exceeds the leader’s.
- Meet regularly (weekly) with staff members to support, encourage, evaluate, and coach.
- Listen to staff’s personal concerns and pray with them.
- Generously give away responsibility and power to others.
- Promptly address staff performance issues, individually, face to face, with tact and love.
- Clearly and simply communicate the mission and vision to all.
- Allocate resources (people, things and money) according to the mission’s priorities.
- Promote necessary change, and pro-actively manage the ever-present change resisters.
- Creatively solve problems.
- Resolve conflicts.
- Keep cool under pressure.
- Personally accept responsibility when things fail; give credit to the team when things succeed.
- Exude servanthood.
- Learn from others.
- Listen abundantly.
- Pray consistently.
Give thanks for the gifts God has given you. And give thanks for the gifts God has given to somebody else.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
And then we can do it the biblical way which is to appoint a plurality of Elders from within the fellowship who then have the responsibilities of oversight, teaching, shepherding and correction.
In churches where I have been involved where this has happened, the problem you have outlined does not exist which proves to me that doing it God’s way always works.
Worth noting – the “biblical way” may be misleading since there are several forms of leadership in the Bible. You have everything from prophetic individuals who were given the task of leading when the masses were in confusion, as well as elders (as you mention) who had a role in the Church that was likewise less about lording over things/people and more about releasing the work of others. While many may tend to follow the New Testament standards of the early church, we have to likewise recognize we can be selective in what we call “prescriptive” vs “descriptive” ideals.
I liken it to how some folks say the “right” way to be a Christian is to have a quiet time devotional every time, especially early in the morning. Arguably, we don’t do devotions to have a relationship with God but to fan the flame of our relationship with God. It’s through Christ alone that the relationship is possible.
Perhaps the tension point is in any situation regarding church leadership is we have to wrestle between being the point leader(s) versus being the person/people who show God is our Point Leader. Just last night I mentioned to someone, “I like how Chris Tomlin has this way of stepping onto a stage where crazy applause is happening for him, then somehow in a matter of minutes saying, ‘Thanks… but I’d like to show you Jesus now.'” Pastors and elders alike can both become more focused on the structure of the church than following the Spirit… who ironically just may speak through the most foolish in the room.
I also have seen this plurality work well. However it does bring other issues to the table. Who is the leader? Who do people go to when needed, for what? All workable but must be worked out ahead with room to flex.
This is why I like the LifeTree solution, no one person becomes the focus, simply the Bible and people.
Yaholo wrote on Facebook: “I believe one of the biggest problems with the church is that we have forgotten that “ministry” means to administrate. At best, we have confused “evangelisation” with ministry. At worst, we have confused “entertainment” with ministry. A great administrator can do more for the needs of their congregation than any preacher.”
What you describe sounds like something that has a complex design yet is not being used to its full potential since all the pieces are not being used to fulfill their designed purpose.
This led to one pastor’s downfall (or at least exit from a particular church)–he wanted to do it all and had done it well for over 25 years. But when it was suggested that someone be brought in to do administration, the you-know-what hit the fan.
Right on point as usual, Tom. This is one reason the teaching pastor – administrative pastor model is working well in many congregations
Yep, worked for a pastor like this for 7 years! He had no idea how to manage a staff; but people sure liked him in the pulpit. Very frustrating, and it breeds resentment with staff, and staff spouses.
And it doesn’t alter the fact that only 1% of churches in America are growing and here they are losing ground. Must be doing something wrong especially as the church in Asia, India, Africa, China and Latin America is growing at the rate of knots.
Reality Check. Churches are growing in Asia and Africa because it IS the word of God penetrating and changing the minds and hearts for Jesus Christ. America has truly lost the focus “in God We Trust” and is paying for it in our schools, government, etc. We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, need to get back to our purpose and the basics; Loving God and Loving others. Not saying we are not doing this, but since I have returned to the United States after a decade, so many distractions I have seen. The most important thing, we have trained the best to be sent to these areas of the world to train others to take upon the leadership and responsibilities of Christ living in us. Getting back to Thom’s point of ministry vs. entertainment. I have seen the difference, only hearing from others while visiting many churches, if we do not have the latest technology, other churches will, and will draw the next generation closer? I find this hard to believe…..Thom why do you think leaders of today cannot deter the difference between leadership/servanthood? Leaders behind the pulpit need to administer, but to what extent? Hence, great speaker….lousy leader.