In his best-selling autobiography, Lee Iacocca asks legendary football coach Vince Lombardi his formula for success. ‘First, teach the fundamentals; a player’s got to know the basics of the game’, he said. ‘Next, you’ve got to keep him in line; that’s discipline. The men have to play as a team. There’s no room for prima donnas. And third: they’ve got to care for – to love – each other. Each guy says to himself: ‘If I don’t block that man, Paul’s going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well so he can do his’. ‘The difference between mediocrity and greatness’, Lombardi said, ‘is the feeling these guys have for each other. When you’ve got that sort of team spirit, you’ve got a winning team.’
If we found the ‘complete’ pastor what would he or she be like? How does a pastoral leader put together a winning team?
Some pastors seem to attract large congregations
effortlessly, but for most it’s uphill all the way. Some have
got it all together in their parishes; others – no less godly,
gifted or hard-working – live lives of quiet desperation. Why?
The tough reality: pastors know that, under God, their leadership
is the single most vital factor in the health and growth of a
church. ‘The difference between a growing church and a stagnant
one is pastoral leadership. Gifted men build great churches and
average men build average churches’ (Elmer Towns). ‘The pastor
heads the list of factors common to growing churches in America.
Show me a rapidly growing church, and I will show you a dynamic
leader whom God is using to make it happen’ (Peter Wagner).
(A caution, however: not all healthy churches are
large, and not all large churches are healthy… It is better
to talk about church health than church growth, effective rather
than ‘successful’ leadership).
My ministry is with pastors, and I’d suggest the following composite of traits and ideas I’ve noted in the most effective of them. (Composite, because the perfect pastor doesn’t exist!).
ACCOUNTABILITY – to God and to others – is the hallmark
of any Christian leader. We are servants of the church (although
the church is not our master – Christ is). Since Watergate, leaders
- politicians, managers, teachers, doctors, and pastors – are
expected to be accountable to their ‘clients’. Authentic pastors
welcome this trend. ‘Six days invisible, the seventh incomprehensible’ won’t do anymore. Pastors have an even more awesome stewardship: accountability to God. In the timeless words of Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor:
‘See that the work of saving grace be thoroughlywrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves lest you bevoid of that saving grace of God which you offer to others…lest you perish while you call upon others to take heed of perishing.Believe it, fellow-pastors, God never saved anyone for being apreacher, nor because that one was an able preacher; but becausethat preacher was justified, and sanctified, and consequentlyfaithful in the Master’s work’.
Be AMBITIOUS but remember ambition’s a slippery idea:
Paul was ambitious (2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), but so was Satan. Saints have a sublime indifference to temporal success or failure. In this competitive world, our business is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves. ‘Wanting the church to grow’ is OK, but our fallen natures warn us that can be a short step from ‘wanting to build an empire’. One model is redemptive – humble, serving, costly; the other is violent – competitive and alienating.
Some pastors are Type A people – goal-oriented, busy,
extroverted, church-builders. Others are Type B – quiet, supportive. If both exist on a team, be clear about leadership roles, spiritual gifts and ministry expectations, or there’ll be trouble.
Effective pastors are BIG persons. They take genuine
joy in the ministry-successes of others; so they won’t be threatened
by the giftedness of talented colleagues. They welcome feedback,
instituting formal and informal channels to get it. They aren’t
conformists; they’re prepared to take risks, even to fail occasionally.
They’re teachable – attending conferences, traveling to learn
from others, getting ideas through reading. Although they know
their ministry-priorities will not satisfy the expectations of
all in their congregation, everyone is loved anyhow. Their egos
don’t have to be fed by parading success stories. They relate
caringly to old and young, to the up-and-out and the down-and-out,
to leaders and to the broken. They have cool heads and warm hearts, and don’t develop ‘messiah complexes’. And they are bigger than their own Denomination; they’re loyal, but don’t have a ‘my-group-right-or-wrong’ attitude. They believe God gives insights and skills, by his Spirit, to Christians and mission groups who also acknowledge Jesus as ‘Saviour, Lord, and God according to the Scriptures’.
‘Left-handed dictionaries’ poke fun at COMMITTEES.
(A committee is a group that takes minutes and wastes hours …
the unfit selected by the unwilling to do the unnecessary… where
the loneliness of thought is replaced by the togetherness of nothingness…). Most church committees are too large, too numerous, poorly structured and/or poorly managed. They constipate the church-as-organization and become sluggish, cumbersome, tedious, and indecisive. Who wants to serve on a committee whose work is alien, distasteful, time-consuming, irrelevant or incomprehensible – or if one doubts that all the work will change anything? One management expert says: ‘Most people clearly prefer the pursuit of happiness to the happiness of pursuit. Only about a third of committee-members perform with little prodding, another third are moderately effective with some needling, the other third are no good at all and not worth the time to chase them up… Remember causes don’t need workers so much as they need informed and dedicated advocates’.
If church-leaders spend more time in committees than
in spiritual growth groups, that’s a sign of the church’s ill-health.
I meet Baptist deacons who never pray with anyone, Anglican church-wardens who never study the Bible, Uniting Church elders who don’t know how to lead someone to personal faith in Christ. That’s just not good enough.
COMMUNITY. You won’t survive as a pastor on your
own. Find a prayer-partner, soul friend, sharing group, or, better,
spiritual director. Research says pastors are lonely: they are
the least likely to have a close friend.
In our preaching, should we be CULTURE-affirming
or -denying or -confronting? Yes, yes and yes: it depends. Will
Herberg (Protestant, Catholic, Jew) says Americans look mainly
for one thing in their religion – security: social acceptance
(mainline churches), or eternal security (the fundamentalists).
Both produce ‘civic religion’, a ‘cult of culture’ validating
culture and society without bringing them under judgement. ‘Love
your neighbour’ sermons make love voluntary, having little to
do with justice. Most churches espouse political neutrality, which
is opting for the status quo.
Good managers DELEGATE ruthlessly. Pastor-teachers,
says Paul, equip others for ministry (Ephesians 4:12). So if the
pastor isn’t training, training, training, he or she is likely
to be doing things other could do, and thus denying them a ministry.
Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself! Run ‘How to Help Your Friend’
counseling courses. Coach elders and lay visitors ‘on the job’,
taking them to hospitals and home visits. Leading worship services
and preaching should be shared by those with competence (and only
those). Delegation and training are the keys to breaking through
the 200/300 barrier. Peter Wagner talks about insecure pastors
who need to know everybody, including kids’ (and even pets’) names. They don’t have a growth/delegation mentality. Being a ‘rancher’ isn’t opting out of pastoral care, it’s equipping under-shepherds. The church’s small groups should be the main focus of pastoral support, with elders/small group leaders as the first ‘port-of-call’.
But delegation isn’t abdication. John Claypool says ‘What often happens in life (is that) persons are given a difficult job and then, instead of struggling with them and helping them find their way, the group sits back and lets them struggle alone until at last they ‘hang themselves’.
An opposite – and common – complaint is that pastors give jobs then meddle themselves (delegation minus training).
Delegation + training + mentoring = DISCIPLING. ‘Go
and make disciples’ is still Jesus’ mandate to his followers.
How? The way he did it. Every pastor should be encouraged to find
his ‘three, twelve and seventy’. The pastors’ task is to spend
half their time with God, half with people and the rest in administration! And half the people-time should be invested in leaders. This is hard work, and tests a pastor’s authentic spirituality, so it’s easier to opt out and succumb to the less rigorous task of oiling church machinery.
We are models: we can’t escape that. Pastors who
model a thankful spirit generally see it reproduced in the congregation. So we mustn’t complain too much: after 3 or 4 years we have imprinted our example onto those people. Indeed Bonhoefer (Life Together) says pastors should never complain about their people – not even to God!
ENCOURAGEMENT. Good pastors have a certain naivete
about them. They see the best in others (‘all his geese are swans’
it was said of one great pastor). They take time to congratulate
those who have helped, and build on people’s strengths rather
than reacting to their ‘rough edges’. Praise is not flattery:
sincere encouragement builds confidence; insincere flattery inflates
one’s ego. Praise never hurt anyone; silence or destructive criticism
are killers! Encouragement draws the best out of people. Like
Jesus, always be gentle with the wounded, and – only if you have
earned the right – occasionally be tough with the lazy or those
whose potential may be realized more by rebuke than a soft word.
Helpful criticism should always – or nearly always – leave the
person feeling he/she has been helped. Goethe said ‘If you treat
someone as they are they will stay as they are. If you treat them
as if they were what they ought to be, and could be, they will
become a bigger and better people’. (Aren’t you glad the prodigal
met his father before his elder brother?). James Stewart quotes
this legend: God decided to reduce the weapons in the devil’s
armoury to one. Satan could choose which ‘fiery dart’ he would
keep. He chose the power of discouragement. ‘If only I can persuade
Christians to be thoroughly discouraged’, he reasoned, ‘they will
make no further effort and I shall be enthroned in their lives’.
An 80-year-old saint in Canada wrote me a note:
If he earns your praise bestow it;
If you like him let him know it;
Let words of true encouragement be said.
Do not wait till life is over and he’s underneath the clover;
For he cannot read his tomb-stone when he’s dead.
Suspect theology but wise psychology.
The most explicit New Testament reference to EXCELLENCE
(‘choose what is best’, Philippians 1:9-11) suggests that it issues
from a loving heart rather than an optimistic ego. This cuts across
a lot of modern self-improvement/positive thinking ideas. ‘Pastor,
you can be a winner’ presumes there’ll be some losers, and that
can be a pagan idea.
Life is a leaf of paper white Whereon each one of us may write His word or two, and then comes night. Greatly begin! though thou hast time But for a line, be that sublime… Not failure, but low aim is crime.James Lowell
The books In Search of Excellence (Peters & Waterman)
and A Passion for Excellence (Peters & Austin) point out that
it was ‘pretty difficult for management to mess up an American
corporation in the 25 years following World War II’. Now that’s
all changed (as it has in the church). A passion for excellence
‘means thinking big and starting small: excellence happens when
high purpose and intense pragmatism meet’. It involves three dynamics: superior service to customers, constant innovation, and the consistent rewarding of creativity of everyone in the organisation. There are many constraints in churches encouraging mediocrity: let’s resist them all, for God’s sake.
Pastors of growing congregations are FACILITATORS.
There are three ways of looking at church-people – scenery (‘good
number out this morning’), machinery (the way they relate functionally) and as complex, unique individuals. Good pastors are gifted ‘networkers’, devising dozens of ways for people (particularly newcomers) to relate to each other. Here’s one idea: invite four or five families (mix them sensitively) to the manse/rectory for Sunday lunch once a month. Get each one to bring a casserole or dessert (enough to feed two families), and, if you need most of Sunday afternoon to prepare for evening preaching, they won’t mind your suggesting a cut-off time. Another idea: get every family to fill in a care-card each Sunday, with feedback/prayer requests on the back. This is more than an attendance slip: it helps us keep in touch with each other responsibly.
GROWTH means many things: people coming to faith
in Christ, growing in Christian maturity, being incorporated into
the church, involvement in ministry in the church and in the world.
All this is ‘church growth’. (Have you heard of ‘Little Bo Peep’
churches? They lost their sheep and don’t know where to find them!)
All growth is trouble! If comfort is your need betterto sleep, curled around yourself forever shelled with indifference,like an unsown seed, like a smooth stone that cannot bleed orput forth leaves or know what the great have known!(R.H. Grenville)
GOAL-SETTING is crucial. Goals should always be specific,
attainable, measurable. Many Western churches balk at setting
numerical membership-goals. That’s OK: find others (50% in cell
groups by 19??; contact every home in the neighborhood in the
next two years; research unmet community needs before December). Set goals for health and growth should result.
A church leader’s HOME LIFE is an important example
to others (Titus 1:6,7). ‘Workaholics’ are not good models for
new Christians. It is possible for a busy pastor to spend 3-4
nights a week at home in quality time with his or her family (you
have to learn to work smarter rather than harder). After all,
ministry begins inside our front door. And how do you answer this
complaint, from a 14-year-old pastor’s son: ‘The church-people
can interrupt our family time or meal-times whenever they want,
but we’re not allowed to interrupt you when you’re with a church-person. So church must be more important to you than our family!’
Living in HOPE isn’t the same as being an optimist.
Optimism can actually be shallow and faithless, whereas hope is
humble and trustful, whatever the circumstances. Hope in God assures us that he will be with us, in our agonies and ecstasies, as he was with his people in the past. So we major on our resources in Christ not the difficulties.
INNOVATION. Effective pastors are creative initiators.
Earlier in my ministry I’d complain about the paucity of ideas/programs/ministries emanating from others. There was a good and bad side to that. I genuinely tried to encourage others to dream dreams and actualize visions. But sometimes it was a rationalization for my ‘opting out’. As a leader I had to learn that if I didn’t ‘make it happen’ I couldn’t expect anyone else to. The pastor, David Watson used to say, is the ‘cork in the bottle’: that’s where the problem usually lies. In business they talk about ‘in-basket time management’ - ‘let’s take each week/year as it comes’. That’s not good enough. Effective pastors believe there’s a better way. There’s a holy restlessness about them. They don’t throw out certain traditions because they’re old, but because they’re irrelevant. They get excited in brainstorming sessions, encouraging ideas – even the craziest ones – to flow freely.
We pastors must never forget that JESUS CHRIST is
the head of the church, not us. The church isn’t a social club
with the pastor as president. Sometimes clergy talk about ‘my’
church, ‘my’ people, ‘my’ leaders: such language may be patronizing, however well-intentioned.
Pastors of dynamic churches KEEP AT IT. Longer pastorates
are needed to build churches. But not every pastor is suited to
the longer haul: some may have a healing or inspirational shorter-term ministry. However, in general, I believe pastors ought to begin
every ministry with the idea ‘I’m going to serve here for life’,
and not view each pastorate as a stepping-stone to a ‘nicer’ one.
As husband and wife, so pastor and parish take each other ‘for
better or worse’.
LEADERSHIP is ‘getting things done with and through
others who want to do them!’ The pastor is a ‘leader of leaders’.
The buck ends with us. The feckless Jim Hacker, MP, of ‘Yes, Minister’ put it succinctly: ‘The people have spoken. I am their leader. I must follow them’. Leadership is God’s gift to the church - every church – but is expressed variously. In tribal societies the consensus of the people is embodied in the decrees of the chief. Monarchical episcopates arise in times of persecution, but sometimes stifle lay-people’s initiatives in democratic societies. Christian Brethren may have no formal ‘pastoral leaders’, but there’ll always be an informal system. Congregational models maximize lay ownership of the church’s goals, but increase potential for ‘little despots’ and schisms.
Autocratic leaders assume people won’t do anything
unless told to, discourage innovation, believe they know best,
are often inflexible and insensitive, tend to use the group for
their already-decided ends. Bureaucratic leaders believe the right
parliamentary procedures will produce organizational rules and
regulations to order behaviour without working too hard at enhancing human relationships. Paternalistic leaders identify almost completely with the group; there’s the danger of hero-worship or the development of a personality cult; when the leader goes the group is helpless. Laissez-faire leadership leaves things alone: minimum direction, maximum individual freedom, non-directive maintenance of existing structures are the hallmarks here.
Effective leaders understand themselves, their co-leaders,
their group, and the social milieu. They accurately assesses the
climate and readiness for growth, know the gifts, limitations
and responsibilities of their co-leaders, and act appropriately
in the light of all these perceptions. They allows subordinates
to take initiatives, or facilitate group-freedom as appropriate.
MOTIVATION is getting people to do what you want
them to do because they want to do it! The leader/motivator must
understand the group’s needs (eg. for dependence or independence,
love and ‘belongingness’, self-esteem and self-actualization),
abilities (eg. knowledge, experience and skill, readiness to assume
responsibility, tolerance of ambiguity), and perceptions (eg.
interest in the idea, understanding of goals, expectations etc.).
McGregor’s well-known ‘theory X’ leaders assume people don’t want
to work, they dislike responsibility, and must be coerced into
effort; theory Y suggests that people will work hard, accept responsibility, and be loyal to the organization’s goals if they are ‘handled right’. So when a pastor complains ‘the blighters won’t work’ that pastor is making a judgment about his or her own leadership.
MISSION. In his seminal book Christianity Rediscovered
Vincent Donovan talks about the ‘choke law’: once a church is
established, pastoral and administrative work tends to choke out
continuing evangelization. The ‘static and paralyzing idea’ of
the mission compound replaces real mission. He quotes Hoekendijk:
‘The idea of church without mission is an absurdity’. A church
vestry minuted its solution to a declining membership: appoint
two committees, to organise fetes and socials. ‘Remember Jack?
He used to run the hamburger stall. What’s happened to him? A
fete would bring him back to church…’ Can you pick the fallacy
here? There’s another choke law operative in some churches: the
legitimate desire to evangelize chokes out other aspects of mission,
such as deeds of compassion and works of justice.
In every dynamic, healthy church the MUSIC is done
well, and the musicians are clearly under the authority of the
pastors. Anglican Canon Michael Green says, ‘As soon as renewal
hits your church, sack your organist!’ There’s an old saying:
‘When the devil wants to enter a church he usually comes through
the choir vestry!’ Why? Music is the easiest church activity enjoyed
for its own sake. A bad choir views the congregation as audience.
A spirit-led choir worships, and leads the people of God into
the presence of God.
NAMES. In a brotherhood – and sisterhood – let us
be known by Christian names, rather than titles or offices. So,
pastors, take ‘Rev’. off the front and degrees off the back of
your name: you don’t need status that way (unless it’s helpful
in civic contexts). Here’s a good word from the diary of Brother
Roger of Taize: ‘In the life of the church the shepherd, the one
who is at the heart of the living cell which a community is, has
only one charge, to be the servant of communion. [The shepherd]
is there to keep alive what otherwise would dislocate and scatter…
I have never wanted to be called ‘prior’ of our community. I am
their brother. For the same reason, I refused the Legion of Honour.
Why? Because today it is impossible for those holding positions
of responsibility in the church to add honorific titles to their
service of God’.
Pastors are NURTURERS, not primarily performing tasks
but growing people. We nurture by example and by exhortation (in
that order, I Peter 5:3; I Timothy 4:11,12; Titus 2:7).
ORGANIZING, says Norman Blaikie (The Plight of the
Australian Clergy) ranks ‘seventh in importance, third in terms
of time spent, seventh in satisfaction, and fifth in terms of
effectiveness’ of eight key pastoral roles. (Eighth in both importance
and time: social reformer!). Organizing, he says, is the role
that causes clergy the greatest frustration. Astute pastors are
constantly looking for administrators: is someone about to retire
who could help – even without cost to the church?
PRAYER, preaching and planning are three key clergy
roles. When Moses’ father-in-law told him he was killing himself,
he suggested three priorities: teaching the Lord’s statutes, intercession, and appointing co-judges. Jesus, too, was a teacher, a person of prayer, and delegated ministry very early to his disciples. After a social welfare foulup, the apostles appointed special helpers so they could be devoted to prayer and the ministry of the Word. These remain the top three priorities for spiritual
leaders. In Spirituality for Ministry, Urban T. Holmes says prayer is to spirituality as eating is to hunger. Prayer, he says, is more than a ‘wish-list’. The deepest prayer involves contemplation (‘knowing ourselves in order that we might know God so that we might know ourselves’) and ‘coinherence’ (bearing in God’s presence the pain of those we serve). Henri Nouwen in Reaching Out wrote, ‘Without the Bible, without silent time and without someone to direct us, finding our way to God is very hard and practically
impossible’. Most clergy confess to reading the Bible for sermon-ideas or clarification of dogma rather than ‘praying the Bible’.
Good PREACHING – by itself – will not grow a church
anymore, but bad preaching will certainly empty it! The era of
preaching is by no means over – I believe it never will be. In
a better-educated church a declamatory style ought to give way
to what John Claypool (The Preaching Event) calls ‘confessional’
preaching. Good preaching is evangelical (people won’t follow
an uncertain sound) and the best method, I believe, is expository.
However, as Alfred North Whitehead perceptively stated, ‘religions
commit suicide when they find their inspiration in their dogmas’.
Christianity is essentially relational, so preaching must ‘relate’
too. Some clergy seem to believe they ‘supply religion’ to people
in their homilies. A once-a-week sermon is a very thin diet for
a growing Christian: many people ‘attend Church’ regularly but
can’t say what God is doing in their lives. There ought to be
bookstalls, audio- book- and video-libraries, printed sermon outlines, study-guides, etc., to supplement the spoken word. And you can pick a preacher who isn’t doing careful study and reflection in the first three minutes. Our people deserve better. An hour in the study for each minute in the pulpit was Fosdick’s suggestion!
Good leaders are good PLANNERS. If we fail to plan
we plan to fail: to make no plans is a plan in itself. Planning
‘clothes our dreams’. Good planners know their goal, think backwards by writing down the steps needed to accomplish that goal, working out the time, money, and effort needed to complete each step, scheduling dates when each step takes place.
Pastors ought to be well QUALIFIED for their calling.
What does this mean? Academic qualifications are important (Moses
and Paul were both highly educated), particularly if our church-people are getting a better education these days. However, spiritual and moral attributes dominate the lists in the pastoral epistles (I Timothy 3:1-3, Titus 1:5-9, 2:1-15). Truly great pastors are stretching themselves theologically; they do short courses in the social and management sciences; they’re reading widely in many secular fields. But above all they are striving for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, running their best in the race of faith (1 Timothy 6:11,12).
RELAX! All the great leaders in Scripture spent a
disproportionate amount of their lives in deserts. ‘Stress’ (in
physics) is the impacting of outside forces on a body distorting
it. Psychologically, it results from trying to do too much, living
in the fast lane. ‘Burnout’ results from a combination of idealism
+ helping others sacrifically + vulnerability to excessive demands
- fatigue and frustration. It’s ‘compassion fatigue’. You’re not
meant to work harder than your Creator: take a day off each week
religiously. Develop hobbies. I met a pastor who goes skydiving
(‘you don’t think about anything else doing that!’), another makes
stained glass objects, another joined the Country Fire Authority
(‘putting out other kinds of fires!’), another restores old furniture.
Others read a novel, play golf, go to a movie. Take a sabbatical
after six or seven years, and insist your leaders ‘rest’ after
six years in office (write that into your constitution). Every
day ‘waste time with God’ as Sheila Cassidy suggests (Prayer for
Pilgrims). You spend time helping clients, parishioners; you give
time to those whom you love. Someone said: ‘We tend to worship
our work, to work at our play, and to play at our worship…’
Church STRUCTURE should reflect priorities. If worship
(all we do, gathered and scattered, to the praise of our God)
community (enhancing, Christianly, the lives of others), formation
(the process by which the Spirit of God applies the Word of God
to the heart and mind of the child of God so that he/she might
become like the Son of God) and mission (everything we do in the
world – evangelism, acts of mercy and justice) are the only purposes
of the church (and they are), then most of our time should be
devoted to these. Finance, administration, music, buildings, special
interest groups, and constitutions are means to those ends. The
degree to which church organizations devote time and energy to
means rather than ends is the degree to which that church is dying!
That is, most committee-time should be spent discovering ways
to enhance worship, fellowship, formation and mission, not merely
turning the wheels of the church-as-organization.
SINCERITY, n., freedom from pretence or deceit; honesty;
genuineness. When leading worship, the pastor, too, genuinely
worships (doesn’t shuffle papers, peer over the hymn book to check
who’s not there etc.). Prayers are from the heart, whether read
or extempore. Pastors love evangelism, and don’t merely issue
exhortations about it. (Recent surveys among evangelical pastors
tell us they believe evangelism is very important, but they don’t
see themselves as taking primary responsibility for it!). Every
letter, phone call, visit, committee meeting is an opportunity
for the sincere pastor to move people a little further into the
THEOLOGY. Ordination for ministry (for every Christian)
is a gift from God: given, I believe at baptism. The whole church
is pastoral, priestly, prophetic. Ordination for pastoral/priestly/prophetic leadership, is a special gift to the church. Theologies of ministry and ordination vary, but * it’s a ministry of the Word, so pastor-teachers will daily soak their minds and hearts in Scripture; * the preached Word is Christ’s Word, more than mere human words.
Managing TIME and volunteers are clergy’s two key
hassles. James Stewart (Heralds of God) writes: ‘Beware the professional busy-ness which is slackness in disguise. The trouble is we may even succeed in deceiving ourselves. Our diary is crowded. Meetings, discussions, interviews, committees, throng the hectic page. We are driven here, there, everywhere by the whirling machinery of good works. We become all things to all people. Laziness? The word, we protest, is not in our vocabulary. In all this unending tyranny of routine the central things are sacrificed or carried through inadequately…’
UNDERSTANDING people and groups (psychology and social
psychology) can be learned, to some extent. More and more pastors
are buying cheap ‘remainders’ to keep abreast of insights into
these fields. One example: in any group committed to an ideology
(eg. every church), people will range across a spectrum from radicals, through progressives, conservatives, to traditionalists. Radicals want to change everything, progressives many things, conservatives some things, traditionalists nothing. Radicals are angry (concerned for justice as impersonal structures rip off the poor); traditionalists are fearful (with a great emotional investment in the status quo, so ‘law and order’ is their catchcry). Prophets (eg. Jesus with the pharisees) are always radical, priests are traditionalist, passing on a tradition (cf. Jesus’ teaching about the law). Incidentally, if pastors are perceived to be too prophetic or traditionalist, they’re in for trouble with people at the other end! Pastors as change-agents will note that change cannot be commended by people two removes away. For example, conservatives don’t listen to radicals, but may be persuaded by a progressive.
Pastors of dynamic churches are VISIONARY: they ‘envision’
a certain shape for their church. I heard an effective leader
tell a pastors’ conference: ‘Figure out what the big idea is and
give your life to it!’ Expect great things from God; attempt great
things for God (Carey). These pastors are dreaming dreams about
all sorts of outreach ministries. Knowing that ’80% is full’,
they’re weighing options: shall we extend (both buildings and
parking), relocate, multiply Sunday services, plant a daughter-church? (They have an option to buy all the properties surrounding the church’s). They’re constantly inventing theoretical structures for their church’s government: how can we operate with more people-ownership of our goals, but with fewer people-hours in administration?
Pastors differ as to whether VISITATION is a bane
or blessing. We can all learn to visit from love of sheep rather
than from the tyranny of obligation (I visit you, so you come
to my church). Tom Allen (The Face of My Parish) says: ‘Unless
our visitation is truly pastoral it is irrelevant. There is little
virtue in seeing every member of our congregation once a year
if our visit is spent in amiable conversation. It may raise us
in the esteem of our people. But assuredly it is distracting us
from the work of God’.
The management of VOLUNTEERS is the subject of burgeoning
literature. Volunteers serve without financial remuneration. They
are committed to a cause, desire to meet a challenge, wish to
contribute to the well-being of others, have some spare time,
and enjoy the gratification of a job well done. The theory that
if you give someone a job so they’ll become active in the church
generally isn’t true. The best way to select volunteers is not
‘from the floor’, but through the careful work of a nominating
committee. One expert says ‘You don’t elect the best people, you
pick them’. And you don’t put people on committees simply to fill
a quota or membership requirement. Volunteers need to feel they’re
both doing something useful, and participating in an opportunity
for self-growth. They need recognition and appreciation, training,
involvement in the planning and setting of goals, development
of team-spirit, delegation of responsibilities, and evaluative
We pastors need special WISDOM (Ephesians 1:17, James
1:5) for living a good and humble life (James 3:13), and for counseling and instructing others (Colossians 3:16). More conflicts would see ‘win-win resolutions’ if we were wiser. Pastors, don’t move too far or fast until you’ve developed trust. Don’t share your dreams, visions and goals too early: those attracted to the church by a previous pastor’s aspirations will misinterpret your enthusiasm. Public anger or rebuke by a pastor is usually counter-productive. Even secular psychologies are now counseling self-control rather than ‘letting it all hang out’. Listen to feeling-tones, hidden agendas, and past hurts when people react irrationally: as an authority-figure, you’ll sometimes be ‘dumped on’ (counselors call it ‘transference’).
WORSHIP – the individual and the gathered community
serving the Lord – is the essence of all we do. To what extent
would you describe your ‘worship services’ as celebration? Sometimes they’re more like funerals than wedding-feasts! How often are we ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’ before our God?
Healthy pastors and churches promote XENOPHILIA (love
of other or unlike persons) and don’t suffer from XANTHISM (a
disease which yellows the skin)! You draw the implications!
YOURSELF. Pastoral ministry sometimes attracts maladjusted
persons – the narcissist (others’ admiration and dependence feeds
their self-image); the ‘over-generous’ (kind and reassuring, but
whose chronic anxiety is alleviated by being oversympathetic,
overprotective, too willing to give to others – particularly ‘clinging
vine’ types); the autocratic (power-oriented, needing docile followers giving obedience, respect and maybe flattery). Pastors are the last professionals to visit members of the opposite sex alone in their homes, so these three groups are ripe for seduction.
Pastor, you’re not perfect, you’re not always a hero
or a mature sophisticate! Watch your self (Acts 20:28, I Timothy
4:16). ‘Gold, glory, girls’ are three of the ‘fiery darts’ the
devil aims at under- (or over-) developed egos.
Do you and your spouse plan regular communication-times?
One method: Set aside an hour; pray, then write feelings down
for 10 minutes; exchange papers, and go off alone to read each
other’s; after 15 minutes, discuss. Four rules: (1) don’t defend
behaviour the other finds objectionable; (2) don’t attack verbally;
(3) don’t argue about the factuality of what the other has said;
(4) if there are heated statements, don’t react heatedly: repeat
back the essence of what the other has said to try to understand
It’s fine to be ZEALOUS says Paul (Galatians 4:18)
‘so long as the purpose is good’. Spending the one short life
you’re given caring for people in churches is a good purpose,
it’s hard, glorious work, and the rewards are out of this world!
Therefore to thee it was given Many to save with- Matthew Arnold, Rugby Chapel.
thyself; And at the end of thy day, O faithful shepherd! to come
Bringing thy sheep in thy hand.