Pastors have to lead their leaders.
There is no other way. Someone has to teach church leaders how to be people of faith, of compassion, of courage. And, as the shepherd of the flock, that falls to you, the preacher.
This is the first of three articles. What follows is the first one, “Teaching the leaders to be people of faith.” Next will come “Teaching the leaders to be people of compassion,” and then “Teaching the leaders to be people of courage.”
I’ve preached in churches which were rich with Godly and mature leaders, people who supported their pastor and led their people by example in matters of faith, compassion, and courage. And, I confess that I have sometimes envied those preachers. Any of us would give a year of our lives to shepherd a congregation that is solidly Christian and faces problems calmly in faith.
I see it all the time. With this country’s economy still struggling to recover and with a lot of churches hurting financially, congregational leaders start to panic. The offerings are declining, the bank balance is dwindling, and fear moves in, unpacks its baggage, and takes over.
The pastor who is a non-leader will sit back and watch as the most fearful of the church’s elected leaders rule the day. They will recommend cutting programs, laying off staff, and trimming next year’s budget to the bones. They will do this from strong convictions–and honorable ones, too–that the church should be solvent, responsible, and exemplary.
But they are missing a key element that should be standard equipment in every church leader: Faith in Christ. What does the Lord want His leaders to do with His church?
A carnal leader who has found his voice now that the church’s finances are hurting (in most cases he had nothing to say when the congregation was giving well, but now that the church is hurting, he finds a ready audience for his lack of faith and his fears) will sound forth on the foolhardiness of stepping out on faith. “We have to be responsible, pastor! All that high-flying rhetoric about living by faith is all right for you preachers and missionaries. But for those of us in the real world, we have to pay our bills. And if the money isn’t there, you can’t do certain things.”
Don’t miss the condescension in that. As a pastor for over four decades, I assure you I’m not making this up. I’ve heard those actual words spoken by church treasurers to their idealistic pastor who had said they should be asking the Lord what He wanted done in this financial crisis with His church.
The solution is not an easy one, and definitely not a quick fix. The pastor should teach his people–all of them, but particularly the leaders–what it means to exercise faith. This will require that he remain at the church for a number of years in order to earn their trust and establish his credibility.
Teaching God’s people how to resist their fears, face the problems, and step out on faith is one of the key responsibilities of the shepherd of the Lord’s flock.