Monday, December 18, 2006

The Pastor as Leader - Part One

The Leadership Seminar

On Friday, December 08, 2006, I was pleased to bring three of my good friends in to my pastoral theology class for a panel discussion. Kirk Wellum, professor of New Testament at TBS; Carl Muller, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington, Ontario; and David Robinson, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Cambridge, Ontario. I have known and loved these men for many years. Each has served for some time in pastoral ministry (Kirk pastored for over 20 years before joining TBS full-time this fall) and each is a faithful minister of the Gospel. More than that, these men live what they preach. I love to be around guys like that! They humble me, challenge me and encourage me!

Our class had prepared a number of questions in response to our semester of looking at a pastor as “leader.” That is why the questions move in the direction they do. One of my students, Peter No, was gracious enough to type like mad and get down a lot of what was said. In reading over the manuscript, I realize there is much that you miss from not being there – the looks, the laughter, the “weightiness” of a particular moment... but I thought other pastors might enjoy reading what these fellows had to say. Like every time I am with them I left our class refreshed, provoked to think through some things and just plain happy I know these brothers! So, here is part one of the Leadership Panel. Enjoy!

The notations are as follows: K – Kirk Wellum; C – Carl Muller; D – David Robinson; P – me!

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P: What is a leader?

K: In some ways it is intangible. Either people will follow you or they don’t. There is a gift of leadership and it must be possessed to some degree by pastors or church leaders. One thing I object to is leadership that gets in your face. The best leadership is leading by example and proving yourself by what you do. You’re not a leader if you’re using titles to win respect. A leader is someone God has equipped to help others within the church. At the same time, there are many ways we can enhance our leadership. There are leaders and there are followers.

P: But don’t you think that some form of leadership can be taught – at least to men? I am thinking here of commands to husbands...

K: In one sense, yes, men have leadership responsibilities in ways that women don’t in society, family and church. We are all capable of providing leadership. When it comes to leading a church there is a gradation of leadership within the church.

C: It’s leading by example. If you’re a pastor and you don’t live it and your family doesn’t reflect it, your conversation and character don’t reflect what you’re teaching and preaching, then you have cut the heart out of leadership. If you’re not an example, you might as well quit. I think there are degrees of leaders. There are certain leaders who are great, but God also uses others who are mediocre or poor.

P: So, a good leader is one who is going to model for others, but there are some leaders who never back it up in their lives?

C: There are leaders who are charismatic and dynamic and they just have specific qualities that attract people to them naturally. In terms of Christian leadership, being exemplary is crucial.

D: To be a leader means leading people somewhere. Sometimes people rebel and sometimes people follow you. Like Moses, however, being a leader means being resolute towards your goal. Being a leader means setting a direction and doing what Scripture commands us to do, even if that may not be popular today. It is the strength to go against the grain of the world because this is what you believe God is telling you to do.

P: Does a pastor have to be a good leader?

D: Yes, otherwise the church suffers.

K: We have to introduce the idea of servanthood which is characteristic of all types of leadership. There are a lot of intangibles in leadership, but what the Gospels speak about is servanthood. That is what distinguishes Christian leadership from the rest of the world; taking an interest in people and serving them. The biggest thing that I learned is that you have to be genuinely interested in the people you serve. If they start to think that you’re not interested in them, then you’re in trouble.

D: Ezekiel 34 talks about shepherds who don’t care about the sheep at all and God removes them. It’s an excellent picture of what a shepherd should be; caring, leading, etc. Do people see someone who wavers back and forth, or someone who is standing firm on the truth? People want to see someone who boldly proclaims the truth, coupled with love. It’s an intangible quality.

C: You can have a leader who is reluctant. There are those who are eager to enter into leadership roles, but others are less so. The pastorate is exposing yourself to ridicule and criticism, and if your natural disposition is to shy away then you will face challenges that are unique to your personality. You’re not there to promote yourself. You’re there for the good of the flock.