There’s a lot of talk in church circles about how to be a strong leader just take a stroll to any Christian bookstore. Much of this discussion, in my opinion is off track, taking its cues from the world of big business, using the latest corporate practices. In that arena, a strong leader is someone who comes in and gets things done. Now while that’s the way things work in just about every other area of life— it doesn’t work that way for church leaders. Except sadly, it seems many leaders in the church haven’t gotten that memo.
Think of the role model that most church leaders admire and aspire to. I know, I know, you’re gonna tell me it’s Jesus, and in your heart I believe you mean it. But when it comes down to it the leaders we most esteem here in the American church are big on power and image. It’s the influential and persuasive ‘pastor of action’ who appears important and makes things happen that appeals to us most. This is leadership with muscles and a winning smile that’s able to push, charm and manage its way through the ministry by whatever the market demands. It’s leadership that sees prayer as just one of many tools in its belt or uses prayer as a last resort or as a way to get God to go along with and bless its plans and efforts to get things done.
First off, as spiritual leaders I don’t think we’re called to get something done. We’re not looking at people and thinking about what we can get them to do. That’s not the deal. As spiritual leaders we’re to pay attention to what’s going on in peoples lives right here and now. Actually its paying attention to what God is doing and sharing that with the rest of the community. Secondly, spiritual leadership is not problem solving and fixing people and the messes they get into. It’s discerning the actions of God and joining him in what he’s up to, making prayer not a last resort or even one of many things we do but the primary thing we do. Prayer keeps the spiritual leader on track and true to his or her calling. Everything about spiritual leadership starts with and is sustained by prayer.
If we spiritual leaders get that turned around and focus on merely getting things done, we risk turning ourselves into marketeers and our churches into religious businesses. That’s why I think so many church leaders I meet are unhappy and disillusioned so much of the time. They try and try—and keep trying to run the business of the church and they can’t make it work because the church isn’t a business and pastoring isn’t a religious job. It’s as Eugene Peterson wrote, “joining in what God’s doing and caring for souls in a world in which things are always going wrong”.