Category Archives: Leadership

The Challenge of Being a Pastor…

… is remembering that it’s not about you!

I read R. C. Sproul, Jr.’s, article today, written for Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors coming up on February 4–6, 2013. The theme of the conference revolves around recapturing and re-centering pastoral ministry around the reality and power of the Holy Spirit to work through pastors. This is an amazingly refreshing theme and I wish that I could attend.

Over the last few weeks various articles have been written to gear up attendees for what will be presented during the conference. Sproul’s article was particularly poignant because it fires back against a general misconception within the church. There are many who believe that more information, more knowledge, will help to stem the tide of nominal Christianity. This notion simply does not hold water. It may never have. However, we followed the trend and now we are reaping the results of an intellectualized religion.

In the article, Sproul argues that this is not the case. We do not need to find more subjects to study, books to collect or workshops to attend. The root of the problem is found in trying to educate ourselves into faith. Here is the fundamental reality that we, as church leaders should learn, “It is more important to us and our sheep that we would learn to believe more, than that we would find more to believe.” As a self-professed bookaholic I completely understand how easy it is to fall into this trap. More learning is not what we need. We need more living. Living out the convictions that we have felt as we have been confronted by God’s word. Living out the love that we have experienced in community and in communion with God. Living out the truths that we have seen as we have tried and failed, or succeeded.

The piece is not very long, but there is a section that really grabbed my heart as I considered my calling and God’s desire for his people.

We are not to give our wisdom, our insights, the fruits of our scholarship. Rather, like Paul before us, we serve up our weakness, our frailty, our need. That’s how the Word breaks through, where the power comes from.

Brothers, your flock may need some more information. What they need more, however, is someone to lead them, to show them the Way. They need to see you repenting. They need to see you wrestling with your sins. They need to see you preaching the gospel to yourself, not because you like the sound of your voice, but because you hate the sin that yet remains, and you need grace. They need to see you rejoicing in the fullness of His promises, and mourning both sin and its fruit, the last enemy, death.

“Professional Christians” is a phrase I coined a couple of years ago, but I find opportunities to use it more and more to describe the pitfalls of vocational ministry. As a professional Christian, I have found the transparent life more difficult to achieve. There are so many reasons to promote a facade of transparency rather than genuine vulnerability.

  • “I don’t know how long I’ll actually be here!”
  • “What if they betray my confidence, my ministry would be over.”
  • “How is anyone going to take me seriously if I share this?”
  • “They just won’t understand what I’m talking about, so why bother?”

These and other thoughts like them are the reason that many in church ministry hide behind the sacred desk, the pulpit, and retreat into their ivory tower of Greek, Hebrew, exegetical rigor, homiletical precision, hermeneutical accuracy, blah, blah, blah. Please don’t misunderstand. I am one of them, one of us. This is me at my worst. But, what my youth need (I am a youth pastor), what our churches need is not another authority, what they need are leaders that are unaffected. Leaders that will hold their ground biblically against the persistent effects of wave after wave of cultural ambiguity and moral atrophy.

The reality of full-time ministry is this, it can breed many contradictory characteristics than those needed, dare I say, required of those whom God has called to serve in leadership. I am praying to get better. To move away from a ministry life impinged by preservation, to a servant’s life defined by freedom. I may be naive. It may well be true.

However, if that is the case, then leave me to my dreams.

Leading vs. Being in Front

I was driving home from work about a week ago and a thought came to my mind.

“What is the difference between leading and being in front of a group of people?”

I know that there are probably many different ways of answering that question. And I am not about to pretend that I have the final answer on this question. To be honest I am not even sure why I had this thought come to mind other than to say that God put it in there. So, taking that for what it is, this is what I believe God’s answer to me was. The difference is purposefulness.

This is more specific than purpose because you can be out front choosing the direction, but that may not mean that there is an end in mind. We can become so used to the idea of enjoying the journey, that we fail to recognize that the journey does have an end. All of this will come to an end. There will be a moment in time when we will no longer be about “smelling roses” but will finally get to “pushing up daisies.”

Over the last several years I have tried to become more intentional about what I am doing in and for the kingdom of God. I am not here to just share some platitudes or make people more comfortable where they are. This does not mean that I am trying to be difficult. I want to be challenged to do more, to go further, than I have ever gone before. I want to see and be a part of great things. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of God and his glory.

By the grace of God he called me to be a pastor. I have not always appreciated what this meant. I have struggled to do it my way. I have made a mess of things because of this attitude, and I still do (I just hope lest frequently). In spite of my shortcomings, I have seen God do some amazing things. I have witnessed transformation and renewal.

As of late, however, I have realized that many of us in professional ministry have not taken ownership of what God is calling us to do. It is not enough to be out front. It is not enough to have the title without also taking hold of the responsibility. Another way of talking about this would be to ask a simple question:

What is the vision that God is asking you to fulfill?

What is it that God has put inside of you, that you need to see through to the end? I have been grappling this with this question. While it is possible that the ultimate vision is the same, the way that we accomplish it will be as varied and as unique as the ridges on our finger tips. God made us unique, and that uniqueness cannot be stripped from us as we go into the world.

I want to be a leader worth following. My heart yearns for the ability to help others find their way to Jesus. But, in order to do that I have to accept that fact that what God has put inside of me must find its way out of me. Leading is dangerous because there will be those that do not agree with what you are doing, how you are doing it, or why you are doing it. There are many who would not even venture into some of the places God has placed on your heart, but that should not matter. We go were the spirit leads. We go because that is where are hearts are being pulled.

Being a leader is not about popularity. Leaders go where no one else has gone. Leaders are usually alone because the risk can be too much for others. The risks of leadership are not careless or impulsive. Leaders should give careful thought to what they are doing. To chose a path is to own the effects and result, whether good or bad.

Which are you? Are you leading, cutting a new path? Or are you just in front glad to have a better view.