Recently a friend interviewed me for a paper he was writing on the topic of leadership. The interview wasn’t specifically on Christian leadership, but since I’m a pastor the interview unavoidably went in the direction of pastoral and local church leadership. Here are the questions and my answers:
Mr Colin Marshall, author of The Trellis and the Vine. He first mentored me from afar through his books. Then in 2012 he became my personal ministry coach and carefully examined and critiqued my life and ministry. The most helpful facet of his mentoring is his ability and willingness to speak difficult words into my life with sincere love for me as a person.
Mostly from creative people in my congregation. I encourage people to dream of ministry ideas, I welcome them, and, so long as they’re consistent with our philosophy of ministry, help bring them to realization. As the sole pastor of a 100-person church, you’ve got to unleash the congregation, otherwise you’ll burn out or get ingrown.
Those pertaining to time management. Should I use my day to study, visit shut-ins, work on a project, pray, etc.? Everybody has the same 168 hours a week; how you use those hours makes the difference between a sluggard and an effective, fruitful pastor.
A close experiential relationship with the Lord, cultivated through regular time in prayerful Bible meditation. Your walk with the Lord provides you with the motivation to do what you need to do even when it’s extremely difficult. It also functions as a compass to prevent you from going off-mission.
Neglecting regular time in communion with the Lord. Most pastors assume they can minister in the flesh and their natural giftedness, so they either skip Bible reading and prayer entirely or make it an insignificant token routine on their daily schedule. People can generally tell when you’re ministering out of a vibrant relationship with the Lord and when you’re a plastic professional.
Sexual sins of different varieties: pornography, adultery, fooling around with youth group girls, having some secret Facebook mistress, etc. In my experience, this generally happens only after pastors have first begun to neglect their time in communion with the Lord.
You’ve got to communicate your core values constantly, otherwise people forget what they are, don’t know what they are, and assume they’re different to what they are. We’ve posted these prominently on our website and people generally read these before they even visit our church. Every January I devote a few sermons to teaching and clarifying our core values and then describing how they’re fleshed out in our particular context. I also take time to reiterate them regularly throughout the year in sermons, meetings, Bible studies, etc. Do this over and over and over again—not only will people not suggest ideas inconsistent with your core values, but they’ll conceive of good ideas that are consistent with your values that you hadn’t thought of.
Here are four specifics on pastoral leadership:
Other than, as I’ve said, prioritizing your walk with the Lord, nail down a very clear and thorough philosophy of ministry. So many pastors don’t seem to know what they should be doing. This results in wasted time, worthless projects, and meandering meetings. Figure out exactly what you should be doing in your particular role (maybe even write your own job description) and you’ll save yourself tons of stress and confusion.
Personal holiness. So many pastors are well-educated, eloquent, charismatic, and gifted, but they don’t really know and walk with the Lord throughout the day. This leads pastors into sin (see question six!), miserable marriages, neglected kids, superficial ministry, going through the motions, guys quitting the ministry, etc. Listen to this relevant sermon: ‘The almost inevitable ruin of every minister… and how to avoid it’.