NPPN - ARTICLE #016 - UNITED LEADERSHIP
#016 THE POWER OF UNITED LEADERSHIP, A Pastorís Pamphlet† By Rich Reid
THE POWER OF UNITED LEADERSHIP, A Pastorís Pamphlet
Written by Pastor Richard L. Reid, MA, MDiv
Copyright, January, 1998, Richard L. Reid, Park Forest, Illinois
Permission granted to copy unchanged for fellow Christian leaders
Graduate of Wheaton College and Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois and of
Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana. Pastor for twenty years
in Minnesota, Montana, and Illinois. Currently pastoring the Village Bible
an Evangelical Free Church, 245 Monee Road, Park Forest, Illinois 60466
Phone: 708-747-2888 Fax: 708-747-8252 Email: VBEFC@Juno.com
WHY SHOULD I TAKE TIME TO READ THIS?
Because youíre a successful pastor and there Ūs nothing left to challenge you. Hereís a new idea. Because success just wonít come your way and you need a shoulder to cry on. This might bring encouragement. Because you are too busy to spend time with other pastors. There might be a way. Or because you have a hearts desire to do things Godís way. Why not see if this Pastorsí Pamphlet points toward the latter? Itís Lonely at the Top.
Judd had a tough, manly appearance. That is important for a pioneer, son of a homesteader. Youíve got to be tough to make it out west. I felt he was a good friend and a leader in the church. I wanted to really love my people, and especially give myself to my leaders. How else can you help them grow in Christ, develop unity and minister together? We needed to be in the Word together. Why? Well, he had some problems to work through, and I had some principles to teach so weíd be on the same page. We agreed to lunch once a week. We could meet in my study for privacy and really get down to business. It would be on his lunch hour, so my wife agreed to fix us lunch, the study being in the parsonage.
Two years came and went. We made real progress one time. Another time saw real regression. I poured my heart out in prayer, teaching, personal concern, and occasionally, confrontation. But all that didnít stop him from following his best friendís lead in dividing the congregation against me, leaving and helping to start a deliberately competing church in the same town.
Well it was tough, but after all, it is lonely at the top. The top of what?
What do we mean by that? When you accept leadership you have to lead. When you lead, you get shot at, right? When youíre right and others are wrong, you have to take a stand. You have to serve the Lord first. It gets even lonelier than that.
A pastor I know was trying to deal with conflict in the church in the most godly way possible; seeking to self-evaluate, be humble, listen to criticism, yet be faithful to the scriptural truths involved. His closest leaders had been slipping into the same critical spirit that had captured the congregation. That was almost the last straw. How can you continue when you have no support, even if you are right before the Lord? Then the fateful day came. That darling wife, so faithful through the years, supportive and helpful as a good wife should be, couldnít take it any more. "Dear, donít you think you should rethink what youíre doing?≤ It wasnít quite Jobís wifeís "Curse God and die" advice, but it felt like it to that pastor. It is really, really lonely in the top leadership job. They didnít tell us what to do with THIS in seminary. It is lonely when you are all alone!
Have you ever confided in a trusted leader a personal concern, and then been misunderstood? Often the first person to welcome you to a new pastorate, to take you for a tour of town, to offer any help needed, turns out to be the leader of the opposition, given 2 or 3 years. And does he ever have ammunition, since he has been so close to you. I had been told this, but I didnít understand till it happened to me. It gets lonely at the top. Who can you ever trust again?
Well, most pastors learn, you canít share your hurts & concerns with people in the congregation. Either theyíll lose respect for you as a leader, or youíll be accused of having favorites. It just wonít work, right? Youíve got to go it alone. Itís lonely at the top.
Life in a big church can be challenging. Oh, itís exciting with so much going on. Ministry is happening. Each age group has its ministry and its ministry leaders. You still have the challenge of filling all the personnel slots. Youíd think that with 600 people I could find one person to lead the college ministry, especially in a college town. That was not the case, I couldnít.
The church needs to be reaching out into the community, but the leaders are so busy just keeping the programs running, they canít do another thing, they tell me. And just when Iím almost to get my thoughts together about preparation for the Elder Board this evening, my secretary buzzes me. An irate mother of one of our teens has to see me immediately about the youth directoróagain. Oh well, I guess the buck stops here.
Those are the tough lessons from bitter experience. Leadership is lonely by its very nature, is it not? But there is something not quite right about that statement of principle: Itís lonely at the top. I think I know what it is: this is what experience teaches us, but it is not what the Bible teaches. In the first place, we are not at the top. And in the second place, we are not suppose to be alone. Maybe weíre missing something that, just perhaps, could keep a few more pastors from burning out, as we say, and leaving the ministry. Something that, if it werenít missing, could make pastoring a whole lot more enjoyable. See what you think.
YOU ARE NOT AT THE TOP
Let me ask an elementary question. Who is the head of the church? I know that all pastors know the answer to that. The Bible says it is Jesus who will build his church (Mat. 16:18) and it is He who is head of His body, the church (Col. 1:16). He walks among the lamp-stands, which represent the churches (Rev. 1), and passes judgment on them in the next two chapters (Rev. 2 &3). But knowing these things has not stopped church leaders in the past from becoming unaccountable leaders, answerable to no one. It has not stopped the formation of the papacy, nor the impositions of Puritan rule by Cromwell in 17th century England. It has not kept main line denominational leaders from leading away from the Bible into religious-robed secularism. It has not stopped evangelical leaders in our day from feeling above the crowd, only to fall into immorality in view of the watching world. I, as a pastor, am not at the top. Jesus is! Now that simple truth should have an impact on my attitudes, my schedule and my relationships. If I am at the top, I am very impressed with how much I have to do. I am important because I am busy. People need me. I hold this organization together. If all is going well, or at least holding together, then I can feel pretty good about that.
To be honest, this is a male thing, you know. A man finds fulfillment in his job, whether it is a job in corporate America, farming or foreman in a factory. My job is what I do, and that is important to me. How is it different, I ask, that service for Christ also takes me away from family and private devotions, all in the name of ministry? Just as I would counsel one of my men, I often need to be told to get my priorities straight, to let the Lord run the church, while I obey Him. I must live by Biblical priorities, rather than the tyranny of the urgent.
Alone in my study, I stared into empty space. People in whom I had invested my life and had seen spiritual growth take place were turning against me. For the period of about a month, someone came to the study to see me several times a week and announced, "I just want you to know I am not with you.≤ To explain and defend my position only seemed to be interpreted as further evidence of my guilt.
How could this be happening? We had seen the church double in worship attendance in 5 years. We managed to approve having two services, and it was going well. Why was this disease sweeping the congregation? Even my leaders, the ones supporting me, were dropping critical remarks. Nothing could be causing this but Satan. As I sat there alone, I desperately prayed in Jesusí name to push back the forces of evil influencing the lives of my leaders and people. And I left the burden with Him. After all, he is the head of the church. It is his church, not mine. The next time I was with my key leaders, their attitude had changed. They were positive and supportive; we were a team again.
There are many lessons there. One of them is that when we are capably succeeding as CEO, whether skillfully steering a church enterprise of a thousand or comfortably fathering a family-like church of fifty, we can feel like we are on top of things. We are busy enough. We are praying enough. We are preaching and teaching enough. The Lord and I, we can handle it in the realm he has given me. But when I cannot handle it, and it certainly seems that He is not handling it either, then I face a choice. Will I decide I canít handle the ministry and quit, whether I leave for greener pastures or quit all together, or will I decide the Lord Jesus has got to handle it and I have got to do a lot more praying?
We donít have to be desperate to realize our need for prayer. We could read the Bible and discover that Jesus could of his own self do nothing (Jn.14: ). He did only those things that pleased the Father. He lived in dependence on his Father. We could do that in obedience to a proper understanding of Scripture. But we are independent creatures. Even as a saved, maturing and experienced pastor, I still must have a need to push me into real prayer. The Lord often obliges me there.
Now let me ask you a question. If one of your people in the church conveyed the attitude that he or she could worship God alone by the lake or in the woods, would you agree and say that was perfectly fine? Suppose everyone felt that way. You would have no church to pastor. Now suppose you told me that you, a pastor, can pray alone for the needs of your church. Well of course you can, and you should, but it is hard to either worship or to pray corporately, in unity claiming the promise of Mat 18:19, 20, when you are alone. If Jesus is head of the body, am not at the top, He is. If I need to call on him, since he is the top leader of the church, I need to call on him in unity with others, since I am part of his body.
Would you agree? That will affect your schedule. When a leader in my church said, I think we need to pray for this vision of ours or it will never happen. I was elated. And I made a hole in my schedule to pray weekly with him, because I am not alone at the top, Jesus is there, and we need Him.
When I got serious about praying for the evangelization of the people of the Far South Suburbs, I realized that there were more people to reach than our little church could reach. There are also more than any large church can reach. Ted Haggard found out that it takes lots of large growing churches before the people of the community are confronted with the gospel. His book Primary Purpose, Making It Hard for People to Go to Hell from Your City, (Creation House, Orlando, FL, c. 1995) is an inspiring challenge, telling the story of Godís working in Colorado Springs. But how can we reach these people together, if we not only donít pray together, we donít even know each otherís names? It is really lonely, when we see the challenge, but we are not doing the big job Christ gave us to do together.
Whether you are thinking about being the one who is responsible, or wondering just whom it is you can trust, dealing with conflict, leading corporate worship or praying, we pastors are not at the top at all. Jesus Christ is Lord! He is the one who wants the people around us to hear of his salvation. When will we join hands to build His kingdom, and not just our own?
YOUíRE NOT ALONE AS AN UNDERSHEPHERD
Then Why Do I Feel Alone?
It is true that, no matter what level of responsibility I have, I am the only one who has it. However, the Lord tailors it so that I frequently realize that my responsibilities are just a littleóor a lotóbeyond me. He wants me to depend on His Spiritís power to be in me all that He has called me to be (I Thess.5:24). Iíll feel alone, if I am not dependent on His Spirit.
But the Lord has designed His body so we need each other (I Cor.
12). We often feel alone because we donít cultivate peer relationships. Peers do not typically exist for pastors within the congregation, and we are busy there most of the time. So often we simply do without such fellowship, encouragement and accountability.
Why Pastors Donít Get Together
The Lord has placed pastors in a local setting, would you agree?
Yet, some do not meet with other pastors outside their local churches. See if one of these reasons for not going to a meeting of fellow pastors fits you.
1.†††††††† Past Experience
While attending seminary, I had a friend who was a pastor, from whom I was glad to learn a number of things. But there was one thing I didnít want to learn from him. He had been to pastorsí meetings, but didnít want to go any more. "Why not?≤ I asked. He told me he felt like all they talked about was how big their churches were, and church politics. Maybe that was his experience, but it has not been mine. He later died of cancer, and from my view, a very lonely man. I must confess, though, that I have been in pastoral meetings that were poorly led, or not led at all, and were an unproductive waste of time. Such experiences cause us to feel that we have better things to do with our time.
2.†††††††† Too Busy
There is always more work still undone. We have many expectations placed on us. We can never get it all done. How can I take another hour or two out of my week? It will be worth it only if it is a higher priority than what I am already doing. I hope to show it is a very high priority to meet with fellow evangelical pastors.
3.†††††††† The Movers Arenít There
We do need to network to promote our ministries. But unless I need to do that right now, we may feel there is no need to go. Maybe those who could really help me donít go, so the other pastors that are there regularly canít do much for me. Iíll save the time. Does that sound as self-promoting to you as it does to me? Well, we are human, arenít we.
4.†††††††† Uncomfortable Disagreements
If I get involved with other groups, with other men, who hold views I am very uncomfortable with, how will we ever get along, let alone work together? Thatís a good question. Do you disagree with your wife? Yes, but we love each other, anyway. And we have things we agree on that are more important than those we disagree on. Some things I feel strongly about, donít you? But there are issues to divide over, and there are issues to disagree on while maintaining our unity, relating and working together.
Youíll be living with ≤the brothers≤ in heaven, but you wonít be married. Think about it. Should we begin building those brother relationships? (Iím not suggesting you neglect your wife to do it.)
5.†††††††† Lack of adequate scriptural motivation
This pamphlet is intended to help provide some of that.
Seeking Help with My Unsolved Question
I have had a question that may have bearing on our motivation to meet as pastors. How do we apply ≥appoint elders in every place≤ today? Depending on your denomination, or non-denominational group, our views of church polity may vary. Church history has developed three primary approaches to church government, with variations on theme. The Episcopal form sees a bishop, usually outside the local church, overseeing the local churchís leadership. That is rule by one person. The Roman church is the prime example, but not the only one. Rule by a few, multiple leadership, outside the local church is the Presbyterian form of government. And, often in reaction to the above hierarchies, the congregational form places power with the people of the local congregation. May I suggest for your consideration, that all three are correct when taken together, but any one alone is not? Jesus is the churchís monarch, Paul said to appoint elders in every place, and in Acts 6, 13 & 15 we see the congregation making decisions, together with the leaders and the Holy Spirit. Acts 15 displays all the parts working together. There we see the leadership team of elders meeting for a united sense of Godís leading, the Spirit moves in the body of people to give united direction and Christ is being head of His church, as both leaders and people respond to Him. Their commitment to one another was horizontal and mutual, and resulted from their commitment to Christ.
Whether you agree with me, or with others on the issue, perhaps you will acknowledge that Paul does say to ≥appoint elders (plural) in every town≤ (Titus 1:5). Perhaps you can advise me here. I have tried to apply this in our day, given the church history with which we have to live. In one church I pastored, I was able to lead them in rewriting the constitution completely, including elders. One problem with small churches is the lack of an abundance of qualified leaders. Given the uncertainty of such men, we established an elder board, but with acting elders until each man qualified according to procedure and according to I Tim. 3 and Titus 1. The result was, after I left the church, that the procedure wasnít followed and... well letís just say, they still had trouble finding qualified men.
So in my current church, now a little wiser, we are focusing on building disciples and leaders first, before giving them titlesóhopefully. We have Deacons, as the church did before, but when we have functioning leaders who are ready for the challenge, we will have elder training. Following that, we plan to develop a process of recognizing the qualifications for office and then vote them in as elders. But the problem remains: how can a small church with only one elder, the pastor, have the protection and wisdom of "elders", plural? I canít help wondering if it isnít through the association of pastors/elders of various evangelical churches in a given local community. I am not proposing we turn back the clock of church history, but that we build relationships as fellow servants of the Lord of the church and let Him lead us together. What do you think?
Copyright © 1999, NPPN - Permission granted for duplication or distribution among facilitators and intercessors who are committed to gathering pastors for prayer.
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