As many of you know around 2 years ago I left a church of 18,000 people to start a church that met for the 1st time in my living room with 22 people. It has been a crazy journey going from the mega church to a small missional movement. I want to simply give some thoughts to some course corrections that I have had to take in the way that I lead & in the way that I pastor. These may not be applicable to everyone and I am in no way saying smaller is better, or mega is bad. What I am saying is these are things God has changed in me. So please as you read the following posts know two things. I love big churches and I love small churches, the following blog is not an indictment on one and a blessing on the other. This blog is about what God is doing in me! These ultimately are far bigger issues than leadership or pastoral issues because they are ultimately how God is shaping me & making me more like him.
So I want to start with the topic of Church Leadership
I used to be a huge fan of church leadership material. I went to all the conferences, I read all the books. I had a huge library of business books along side of my theology books. I had even learned to be an effective and efficient church leader. I grew in my ability to be an effective manager, I grew in my ability to resolve conflict, I grew in organizational leadership and I grew in my ability to create compelling vision & strategy for our team to follow. I learned how to be a non-profit leader – I am just not sure I learned how to be a spiritual leader!
To be fair I wasn’t that great at church leadership, at one point as a young leader because I was a competent youth minister I was “promoted” to become a “cluster leader” at my church. The name explains exactly what followed! A cluster leader meant that I led a cluster of ministries. Early Childhood, children’s, student and young adult. All in all I oversaw all the teams from ages 0-30. It was a huge responsibility and one I was not ready for! I was terrible at it! My character had not caught up with my competency so I became arrogant, I wanted to climb the ladder and I wanted to receive a larger platform, I was afraid, and I was not being lead by anyone myself so I lead from a template. I didn’t like who I was becoming so I asked if I could simply lead our college ministry and get out of the way of everything else. No one argued with me they gladly “demoted” me!
This is my great fear with the Church leadership movement! When young pastors are not taught to hear the voice of God and respond, when they are not taught to walk by faith, then they begin to lead from a template of all the books and conferences and leadership lessons they have been taught.
So when a problem arose between two employees I would seek wisdom in business and leadership books and I would walk through the 5 steps you take when dealing with conflict. They were good steps, they just weren’t God steps! When a team struggled with where to go next, I would pick up the teaching from the leadership conference I went to & listen to the 5 keys to vision and I would walk through those steps. They were good steps and they my have even been Gods steps for someone else but they weren’t necessarily his steps for me.
Here is the major problem for me & the course correction I have had to make. I can’t call myself a pastor and lead from a template. I can’t lead from a book with some good ideas. All I find there is veiled wisdom!
I have learned that in order to be Gods leader, I need to hear his voice. The most important place for me to turn when issues arise is not the 17 laws of church leadership but it is the God who loves me & desires to speak to me and teach me and work in my life. I have also learned that Gods ways are not always the ways of the world. As a young leader I lead from a template and expected things to fall in place, I thought if this is what this “celebrity” pastor did and God blessed his ministry than the same thing must happen for me. So the problem becomes many young leaders live out other peoples faith instead of discovering Gods plan for them.
I am going to make a bold statement –
Church leadership material without the voice of God in our lives is worthless and dead!
My fear is that there are far too many young leaders reading church leadership material and applying it without learning to hear the voice of God direct them, lead them and guide them. I want to see a listening conference and a following conference that teach young leaders how to get out of the way and to let God lead!
Our goal ultimately is not to create church leaders but Godly men and woman who know the voice of God and know where he is leading his people.
So here is the Course Correction I am learning!
I can not lean into my gifts abilities or leadership principles I found in a book.
I can not lead by a template – I need to lean on God
So here’s a few Questions to reflect on:
1) – Am I or the church I am a part of creating leaders or disciples?
2) – Where am I tempted to lean into the “template” of church leadership instead of the voice of God?
3) – Is the way we are training young pastors creating church leaders or is it creating Godly men who walk by faith?
4) – What changes need to be made in the way we train young leaders?
5) – is the church leadership movement helping or hurting the church?
I am very interested to hear your perspectives!