In all my years of pastoral ministry, I’m pretty sure I’ve made enough leadership mistakes for several men. But I also have learned much—from my mistakes, but also from sound biblical principles.
We at Poimen Ministries field many questions about the pastor and his connection with his leadership team. How does pastoral leadership work? What is the best structure? How do you raise up healthy leadership? There is much to say in response to these (and other) questions, but here are seven absolutes which I offer as starting points:
I. YOU NEED PASTORAL OVERSEERS.
You can find men from the business world who will run things, but it is best to find men with business acumen and a pastor’s heart. Do your leaders have a heart for ministry? Do they love people? Can they grasp ministry principles and truth? Beware of choosing men who are only number crunchers or system organizers. They may operate well in the secular arena, but they will secularize your ministry to death if you let them. Allow the Lord to help you train and recognize the right kind of men—men who have a shepherd’s heart.
II. YOU NEED TO PICK YOUR LEADERS WELL.
How do you choose? It’s not as hard as one might think. In the words of Yogi Berra, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Remember the old adage: “It is easier to hire leaders than it is to fire them.”
Here are four ways to know if a man is truly called by God:
A. Does the pastor point to himself as being called? In other words, does he have a sure calling; does he know for sure that God has appointed him to lead God’s people? Does he have a strong testimony of his calling?
B. Does the Holy Spirit point to the man as being called? If the Holy Spirit is pointing to him, this man will have character qualities and a gifting for the ministry. Do not overlook the measurement of the man as in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. WARNING: Do not select a man on the basis of his gifting alone. Giftedness without godly character is like the tongues speaker who has no love (1 Corinthians 13:1). He may make noise, but that is all. Remember, Lucifer was gifted, so was Solomon, but their falls contributed to the ruin of many.
C. Do the people in the fellowship point to him? A godly overseer can also be identified by who is following him. If his influence is Spirit-led, the people who follow will be inspired to walk in the Spirit. The fruit betrays the root. The fruit of the authentic leader is evident.
D. Does the existing church leadership point to him? True leaders will be able to recognize other such men (they also will be able to smell a rat). Had it been after Pentecost, the eleven remaining apostles would have recognized Judas for what he was. So it will be true of your Spirit-filled leadership team; so be sure to use them to help you discern and decide (Proverbs 11:14).
III. YOU NEED TO FIND MEN WHO AREN’T “YES” MEN.
They need to speak the truth, albeit in love. They need to provide all the input they can, without turning their input into demands. And after a decision is made, even if they disagree, they need to practice unity, and stand by the decision of the pastor and board. They do not criticize or second-guess their decision afterwards. They will show esprit de corps.
IV. YOU NEED TO FIND MEN WHO ARE STRONG, GIFTED MEN.
The secure pastor wants strong men around him. These are men who may be pastors themselves someday, or who are serving and leading well in their own right. The pastor wants God to use the men serving with him, and doesn’t mind at all if they surpass him in specific areas of ministry. The secure pastor loves for his leaders to succeed. Note: The insecure pastor wants men around him that he feels superior to, those who do not pose any threat to his “kingdom.” Do not be that guy. Do what you can to be like David, who had his mighty men. Strongly avoid being like Saul, who hated that admiring women were singing David’s praises.
V. YOU NEED TO FIND MEN WHO ARE TEACHABLE AND SUBMISSIVE TO YOU.
No, there is no contradiction here with number III above. You are the leader, the one God has called to oversee the church as a whole and also oversee the overseers. If they cannot learn from you, it shows they do not respect you. If they do not respect you, they will not submit to you. You will never get anywhere with them, and they will stall or outright hinder the work of God.
VI. YOU NEED TO FIND MEN WHO ARE MEN OF VISION.
Perhaps they will not have the visionary capability you have, but they will be able to grasp the vision God has given you, and love the fact that they get to work with a pastor and leadership team that have vision. They get excited about hearing from God and moving forward. They are outward thinking. They are rooted in scripture, theologically and practically, and are thinking about God as they serve with you. They are not stuck in the past, or mired in the mud of tradition. “But we’ve always done it that way” is not something you will ever hear men of vision say.
VII. YOU NEED A GREAT BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
These men will help you organize legal matters and look after financial matters with the utmost integrity. Budgets are important. Good bylaws are important (many churches have been forced to fold because of badly written corporate documents). Not only do you need a BOD, you need to meet with them often enough to do the legal and financial things with excellence. Board meetings aren’t as exciting as the altar call, for sure; but they are very important nonetheless.
For a church to grow deep and wide, the pastor needs these kinds of men. If he doesn’t have them, he needs to pray and wait for them. They may already be in the church—yet undiscovered and undeveloped. He needs to find, train, and coach them up. This is how Jesus did it; pastors today need to do the same.