Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Pastor as a Transforming Leader (Pt 6) - Pitfalls

As we complete our observations on the identity and ministry of the pastor as a transforming leader, I believe it is also good to look at some pitfalls he should be careful to avoid. Being a transforming leader means extending God’s Kingdom. This is something that will meet with resistance from Satan. It behooves us to remember that spiritual conflict is also involved and that Satan will do whatever he can to bring the transforming leader down. Sometimes it can be through the pastor-leader’s fleshly weaknesses or by transforming virtues into vices, like steadfastness into stubbornness, patience into indecision, etc. The pastor-leader must not forget that he is still not fully transformed and is still prone to sin. If he does not walk carefully, he too can fall. The tragedy, as we can see in current examples, is that his fall does not only affect himself but also the church people whom he ministers to as well. That is why he is a special target of Satan. Therefore, it is good to consider the following which are some examples of pitfalls the pastor has to heed:

In dealing with people, the pastor must expect conflicts to arise as all believers are “works-in-progress” and therefore prone to sin. We can see from Paul’s example that he does not avoid handling it (The dispute between Euodia and Syntyche in Phil 4:2, 3 and factionalism in 1 Cor 1:1 – 13). The pastor-leader should be sensitive enough to know the hostile under-currents that develop and threaten the harmony and continuity of the project.

At the core of the pastor-leader’s ideology should be the thought that Christ is the head of the church and every believer, including the leader, a member called to perform a specific task. Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership) tells us that the leader must guard against thinking only he has the ability and the depth of insight to run the organization successfully. If not careful, he becomes unteachable in his pride and impatient with his followers. He must also remember that Jesus should get the glory and should humbly direct all praise to Jesus. All this simply means he should not consider himself a leader but as a member of Christ’s body who serves by leading.

We have earlier seen that in God’s Kingdom, people matter above programs. While the goal of transforming his environment and extending God’s Kingdom is a laudable one, he should look at the forest and yet not forget the trees that make up the forest. Nehemiah 5 gives us one biblical example of maintaining people sensitivity against being goal-oriented. Halfway through the rebuilding of the wall, the people brought their social and economic problems to him. Rather than rebuking them for distracting him from a “great project”, Nehemiah takes time off to mediate and solve their problems. He knew that the well-being of the people and not the project should always be uppermost in the leader’s mind. The modern-day pastor should bear this always in mind and guard against thinking only of the goal and brushing the people aside.

The Pastor as a Transforming Leader (Pt 5) - Practices

I think the leader of a great church will just need to put into practice two commandments of Jesus – The Great Commission and the Great Commandment. All other considerations of the Christian leader will spring from these two commandments.

The pastor-leader must have a passion for souls. He must have a passion for God’s agenda. If he is seeking God’s will daily, he will be totally committed to mission and evangelism because people are what God is concerned about and God’s concern should be his concern. Therefore, local as well as foreign missions should be spearheading the ministry of the church.

Having evangelized and brought people into God’s kingdom, the next step is to disciple them so that these new converts can continue to grow in their faith. There is a biblical injunction that believers are to grow in their relationship with Christ (2 Pet 3:18) and also in spiritual maturity. The aim is discipleship and therefore the pastor’s ministry of teaching, preaching, visitation, etc., should bear this aim in mind. In Christian life, a believer is already backsliding if he is not moving forward. I believe one of the reasons why factionalism and friction is found in the church is because of the immaturity of church members who put their agenda before anything else. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop and the devil is always busy at work when Christian minds are idle.

Mother Theresa once said “I am God’s pencil; a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes.” The pastor-leader should also see himself in this light, as one in whom God’s compassion and love is written for the people to see and be touched. By adhering to the Great Commandment, the pastor-leader will thus keep his focus on God’s ways and not his own. To the secular leader, the ends justify the means but the pastor-leader has to ensure that both the means as well as the ends please God and glorify him. Paul was a good example of a pastor who was focused on God’s way and not his own in ministry. That is why he said “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:23-24).

In obeying the Great Commandment, the pastor-leader also should not end up setting himself over his followers. Thus, in love, he must be willing to make himself accountable for the decisions that he makes. Nor only that, he should also make himself accountable for the mistakes of those whom he delegates responsibility to. A person gets disillusioned when he sees support not forthcoming from the leader but is strengthened when the leader charges to his own account the blame accruing to his subordinate.

Obeying the Great Commandment also means attending to the needs of his followers. The church leader must never forget that he is above all, one who is called to pastor God’s people. We have already seen one image of the pastor as a shepherd, one who tends God’s people. Unlike the secular leader, who sees failure as unforgivable and is quick to sever the weakest links in the organizational chain, the pastor-leader is willing to slow down and come alongside the straggling ones to lift their spirits or tend to their hurts or lead them to rest so as to prevent lives being broken. I do not think a church ministry is worthwhile if lives are shattered and relationships broken in achieving its goal. The pastor has to remember that he must love his people because they are God’s sheep entrusted to him. The pastor should remember that leadership is not a status symbol or position of power but a responsibility and service.

If the pastor desires to transform his environment, he must therefore model obedience to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Only when he is an example of obedience can he then speak with authority to his members. Love always brings about a positive response and so out of love, people will respond by giving and working towards growth of the church ministry in missions and planting churches.