Ron Heifetz, in Leadership without Easy Answers, suggests that the leader that creates change need not be the person in charge.  It just needs to be someone who cares and is willing to inconvenience themselves to make the change happen.  When the person in the leadership office (the pastor) is the person excercising the leadership actions, change is possible.  (When the pastor actively opposes the person excercising leadership, one of them will leave.

The effective leader must evaluate what needs to be kept in the organization and what you stop doing. Sometimes, all it takes is to remember why you began doing what you’re doing and restore it back to its original purposes. Note that this involves pruning programs and projects, but not just running off the troublemakers. If God has placed them in your congregation, it was for a reason. There may be behaviors to change, with pruning and shaping, but the church leaders must find a way to make those changes be about the behavior, and redeem the person.

When Jesus entered the temple on his last week before the cross, he took special effort to change a practice that had been going on since before his birth. Sometime in the past, people had forgotten that the purpose of sacrifice was to give away something that was important to you, and they begun to adopt a practice of buying their sacrificial animal after they arrived at the temple, rather than having to protect and feed it during the long journey from their home to Jerusalem. The officials at the temple noticed that some late-comers were only able to buy the left-overs, which were not always pure and spotless, as required to be accepted according to the law. As a service, they began keeping a stable of clean animals, weeding out those with blemish and offering for sale only those animals that would pass the standard.

It was perhaps a good thing, at the start. But then someone worried over the currency fluctuations, and attempted to standardize the rates by adopting a “temple” currency for transactions of a holy nature. Needing a place to set up the business that was close to the point of need, outside the holy area, and inside the area controlled by temple guards (rather than the civil police), they began to occupy a corner of the vast outer court that wasn’t being used. The business was so successful, they needed to expand, and get closer to the door, so people could find them and not waste time trying to present an unclean animal. Then other merchants set up nearby, to take advantage of the money flowing through the currency exchange booth. This continued for a number of years until the original cautions were forgotten and it became a habit.

Jesus had seen this happening all his life. He had seen it when he was a 12-year-old separated from his parents and debating with the elders. He had seen it each year he visited Jerusalem for Passover. He had seen it when he began his ministry. But it was wrong in God’s eyes, and at that moment in history, God said it was time to end the good practice gone bad. What Jesus did was to reset the standard to the original, to move the marketplace out of the place where Gentiles could come and pray. He cut away tradition to get to the root purpose, so the place could again bear fruit.

We joke that I could walk into almost any church service and know what comes first, second and next. There are minor differences for denominational variance, like the taking of communion in more traditional churches, but where it is placed in the order of service is little different from the Episcopal to the Baptist to the Pentacostal church. It’s a tradition. If you want an uprising, vary the order of service on Sunday morning without warning the people at least a week in advance.

Schwartz reminds us that when you move a leader out of a ministry they have occupied for some time, you create a vacuum for someone else to fill.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[ix]<!–[endif]–> The new person could never express their giftedness in that area so long as Betty Sue was serving, because she was the acknowledged master. It’s been said that it’s better to leave a job empty than to fill it with the wrong person. One church in this region lost its pastor (and a third of the members), but the remaining congregation actually grew spiritually stronger and more mature even as the years passed before a new senior shepherd arrived. That new pastor was able to build on the strength of “stronger branches” as the congregation was free to try new approaches to ministry without a strong central leader describing the central vision (and blocking all other approaches).

Leadership magazine’s “Out of Ur” blog took up the topic of “why the long-term members leave churches.” Of particular note was a reply that indicated the problem that causes members older than 50 to leave the church is almost always “spiritual dryness”.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[x]<!–[endif]–> Schwartz would say that you should move your volunteers occasionally, in part to help out struggling areas of the church that need leadership mentoring, and in part to create opportunities for junior workers to grow. One local church had had the same children’s leader for years, well past her expertise. Additionally, she was unwilling to accept that anything she did needed changing or updating. Many good workers grew frustrated and left their positions, some to merely “sit and soak” as uninvolved members, or to wither from lack of use. It wasn’t until after many of the best workers had left and the leadership became unable to staff the openings was she asked to consider serving elsewhere. It took effort to rebuild.

Some smaller churches are like that, except when the leader who is inflexible and unwilling to change is the pastor, the volunteers don’t just leave that area of ministry, they leave the church. Mary and John had hung on long after their friends and their grown sons had left the declining church, because of all they had invested there. I’m not sure what the final straw was, whether it was when John’s work schedule changed and Mary was forced to attend alone – which she didn’t like to do – or the business meeting where the church refused to tap into a long-dormant special fund to pay for building upgrades needed to keep the church presentable. In any case, that family left, taking a half the choir and a third of the tithe. Within the next year, the music director, youth pastor and one key deacon/trustee/teacher also left, bringing the income below the amount needed to pay that pastor’s salary out of weekly collections.

Even though it is the working out of the Spiritual Gifts given to the people of the congregation are important to church vitality and growth, no one has more power to STOP a work of the Spirit than the pastor. I remember a particular Sunday morning. The guest singer did a mini-concert that touched our hearts. As he sat down, the pastor even commented “I should give an altar call right now.” And he should have. If the pastor had called for commitment at the altar at that moment, I believe revival would have broken out. Instead, he went straight into his prepared sermon and 20 minutes later we dutifully sang 3 verses of an invitation hymn that no one responded to.

Christian Schwartz warns that not only is a dynamic spiritual superstar not needed as senior pastor, but the superstar pastor is almost an impediment to becoming a healthy church. We see this in some of the more well-known and TV preachers, it’s almost that they see the church as “their” church. Some are almost sociopathic in the way they use (and use up) people in their efforts to make a name for themselves.

Sometimes it’s the ego of the pastor that gets him in trouble. One pastor I know had every staff and deacon meeting in his office, where he sat behind his oversized desk and everyone else sat “down” on a soft couch or at the edge of vision in an easy chair. Great for conversation, poor for participatory business. Not like another pastor in the area, who’s desk is the 2×3 stand for his computer, with a basic armless chair; the rest of the office is chairs and couches in front of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and every conference there puts everyone on a level footing.

The forceful pastor who runs off leadership potential – or worse, actual serving leadership – thinks more highly of themselves than they should, and will hinder the church’s long-term success. In one congregation, the new pastor was at odds with the long-term music director. He couldn’t really fire him, but he did hire the replacement before the incumbent left! When this happened, the music director finally quit, as did 20% of the workers, taking their tithe with them. The church, which had been growing like topsy, flatlined, and giving slowed to a crawl. The church then experienced 4 years of tight budgets and no net growth in attendance; when that pastor finally left, one quarter of the attenders left as well, and a year later, all the numerical growth the pastor had brought was gone, and there weren’t enough leaders left to staff the normal summer programs.

In every case I’ve seen this forceful leadership played out, outside of biblical discipline, it has yielded counter-productive results. It is clear that while no one person can be the church by themselves, the pastor working counter to the principles described her can, by himself cause immense harm the church.

According to Reccord and Singer, it’s part of the myth of Christian service, where the most spiritual go to foreign missions in the hardest places, those with less conviction become state-side pastors, and at the bottom are the “common” lay people without the faith to do anything except a “secular” job.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[xi]<!–[endif]–> The wise pastor will place people where they will flourish. I have some plants in my garden that love the hot sun, and others that would wither in a day if taken from the shade. The person misplaced will feel empty and will look for something to fill it. Unfortunately, whatever they choose to fill it, be it succumbing to a persistent sin or becoming “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good,” that thing will get in the way of effective service.

Tom Peters sees effective leaders as those who not so much empower their people, but rather they remove the impediments stopping the organization members from being fully empowered. In Christian terms, the pastor helps the member find avenues to express the member’s God-given gifts in authentic situations that enhance the quality of the local church and further the conduct of the Gospel in the world. In my professional career, when I am paired with a detail-oriented “people person,” we have created great things. Ray hated the big plans and standing up to brief the boss on what might happen next year or a new strategy for doing things better. He much preferred checking in on how things were working day to day, doing a good hourly job and going home on time. He made it possible for me to make grand plans that radically restructured how we did business as an office and to find ways to cut our support budget in half.

Schwartz also stresses the need for “Empowering Leadership”. This is described as helping Christians attain the spiritual potential God has for them. These pastors, church, and lay leaders equip, support, motivate, and mentor individual members, enabling them to be all God wants them to be. They equip and release others into ministry. Think of Barnabas. It’s likely that’s not his given name, but a name he earned, in that it means “son of encouragement.” He was the one who vouched for the persecutor-turned-preacher Saul and brought him into the Jerusalem congregation. After Saul went home to restudy the Scripture in light of his new understanding, it was Barnabas who came and brought him to Antioch. The early mission journeys begin with “Barnabas and Paul” until Paul was mature in his faith, and the journeys afterward were “Paul and Barnabas.” Finally, when John Mark wanted a second chance at mission service, it was Barnabas who vouched for him, and left Paul’s company to mentor the young man. It must have worked – at the end of his ministry, Paul asked to be visited by Mark, whom he described as “useful.”

Remember when Jesus brought new life to Lazarus, and he was raised from the dead. (This is a great picture of salvation: we were once dead in our sin, and Christ breathed into us the Spirit of the Living God, and we were filled with new life.) It’s what happens next that is so fascinating to me. He tells the people to “take away the bindings so that Lazarus can move, and to give him something to eat.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the leader should be doing. Remove those obstacles from the person’s life – usually habits left over from the pre-Christian days, or learned from immature Christians – and release them to move in the power of the new life that has been given to them. And to feed them. The leader is the equipper, who provides the spiritual instruction and motivational encouragement that they have the strength to continue to walk in these new-found opportunities.

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One Response to “Leadership of the People”

  1. johnny Says:

    nob7AP Thanks for good post

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