The pastor started out by doing things without the approval of the church business meeting, church board, and not even the board of elders. The practice went on for some time until members started to ask questions. When members would ask questions, he would bark, “I know what I’m doing.” He would remind them, “I am the one appointed by the conference to lead the church. I have the required training and have been a pastor for several years.”
Over time members began to challenge the “lone ranger” approach to leading the church, and the pastor resorted to using the pulpit to bully, put fear in the members, and manipulate the process of decision making. He would even use a portion of his sermon time as business meeting, (which was not previously published) to announce of his intention to make a major purchase or change a process. When members tried to force a discussion and vote, he would say, “God has given me a vision and direction for this church and those who oppose my initiations do so at the displeasure of God and further deny their own blessings from the Lord.” This kind of leadership may be a result of “my church” mentality or ego problem and may be tantamount to dictatorship.
The Bible gives us certain essential principles to guide pastoral leadership. One of the New Testament images used to describe the role and function of the pastor is poy-mane, which is translated as shepherd. The idea connotes a manager or director of an assembly, or a presiding officer. A management, director, or presiding officer in the New Testament context do not in any shape or form signify lordship, control, manipulation, or intimidation. The function of the shepherd, from the Near Eastern understanding, is that of one who protects the sheep from predators, enemies, and attackers. The shepherd provides healing to the sick and the wounded. When a sheep is trapped or lost, the shepherd goes out to search, rescue, and release. The shepherd lays down his life in love and shares his life to earn the trust of the sheep. Thus, Christ is referred to in 1 Peter 5:4 as the ar-khee-poy-mone; the Chief Shepherd. Christ personifies all the attributes of a shepherd and more. Christ being the Head Shepherd, makes pastors, under-shepherds.
How then should pastoral leadership be in the context of under-shepherds?
1. Love the members. Loving the people of God is a powerful means of winning them to see what the pastor sees and where the pastor is going – vision. Love will cause the people of God to want to go where the pastor wants to go with the church. Clearly, there may be some people in the church who may be unlovable due their attitude toward pastors and leadership. One weapon to disarm such individuals is the love of Christ shown through the pastor.
2. In the spirit of service. Shepherd leadership calls for one to identify the needs of the sheep and seek to meet their needs. Pastors who serve their congregants and not lord over them, win their trust, support, and encouragement. When a pastor serves his/her members by knowing their challenges, crying with them, and making him/herself available to the members, he/she wins their hearts. Winning their hearts and trust further translates into supporting his/her initiatives, vision, and mission.
3. Believe in the church members and empower them. In preparing the disciples, Jesus empowered them with the resources they needed to serve, gave them authority to lead, provided them with the good news to share and the responsibility to report back to Him. (Luke 9 and 10). When pastors, (under-shepherds) empower members of the church to lead and serve, ministry takes place and they see results.
4. Bless the members. Using sermons, pronouncements, and speeches to scare, curse and to put fear in people may work temporarily because members may recoil and not question the pastors’ intentions and initiatives. It confuses the members about who the pastor represents. As under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ, we are called to be agents of blessings.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2-4).
John K. Amoah is the Ministerial and Evangelism Director for the Southern New England Conference