By Michael J. Brooks
Christian tradition says the Apostle Peter was pastor of the Christian church in Rome. He preached the gospel and went about doing good before Nero’s persecution claimed his life. It’s believed Peter was crucified head down when he declared himself unworthy to be killed as Jesus was.
As a pastor, Peter counseled other pastors to be good shepherds. “Don’t serve God for unworthy motives, such as money, but from a heart of love,” he said. “And don’t ‘lord’ it over the church but be examples of Christ-like living” (1 Peter 5 paraphrase).
As a young pastor I heard a number of influential conference speakers who insisted the pastor was God’s vice-regent charged with disseminating the will of God to the people. “You must make them hear and follow you,” they said.
Whereas this statement is true, it’s not the whole truth. Members of the church can and should be involved in discovering the will of God for their congregations. After all, the pastor needs others to be committed to this work since he can’t do it all himself. People “buy in” when they feel they’ve been heard and their opinions are valued.
It’s also true that people grow in their personal leadership skills when given opportunity to be involved in decision-making. It’s a positive thing when the pastor asks others, “What do you think?” Group discussion is cumbersome and time-consuming, but studies show better decisions are made by group process.
Businesses are different from churches, of course, since business leaders have “the power of the purse.” They’re charged to make the organization successful, to produce a product and to generate profit for owners or stock-holders. Thus employees must do what the CEO says. A common refrain often spoken at one organization was, “he IS the president,” meaning everybody does what he says without question or you’re gone!
Churches, however, are different. People attend and participate because they choose to, and they serve as volunteers because they choose to.
I’ve known a few pastors who’ve tried to “fire” members whom they thought were out-of-step, but members are added by congregational vote in many of our denominational systems. Pastors must develop good people skills and try to work with everyone. And today it’s less common for people to belong to a church for 40 or 50 years–they come and go with more frequency due to worship styles and programs. Thus another task is to incorporate new people in mission.
Leadership is influence. Pastors should strive to influence their people to do life-changing ministry and should seek consensus, if possible.
Wise pastors seek to love and lead the sheep under their watch, knowing they’ll give account one day to the Great Shepherd. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.