Unlike the military or corporate CEOs, ministers demonstrate a unique leadership, for they lead people who have a choice not to follow.
Pastors are dedicated leaders. Many give heroic effort to proclaiming the gospel, giving hope to people in need, and strategizing outreach efforts to reach troubled communities. They persevere despite economic challenges, poor demographics, and trying circumstances. They know that genuine leadership is influential, not positional, and they seek to be influenced by Christ.
Still, some pastors are uneasy about leadership. This dissonance may stem from an uncomfortable fit, like Saul’s armor, or a conceptual difficulty in reconciling models, concepts, and influences. In the inaugural issue of Grace and Peace, Len Sweet bemoaned an excessive preoccupation with leadership—almost branding it a “fetish.” Whether his perception is correct or not, it does underscore the importance of striving toward Christlikeness and surrendering a need to control to the higher purposes of God.
Rather than dismiss leadership or downplay its need, Grace and Peace strives to provide redefinition and reorientation. Missional ministry in an unchurched culture requires a different kind of leadership than what has been common. Terms like “change management,” “systems leadership,” or “cultural intelligence” are becoming common vocabulary among many pastoral leaders. Kennon Callahan, in his highly insightful book Effective Church Leadership, observed, “We need an understanding of leadership that is more intentional and less passive, more relational and less organizational, more missional and less institutional.”
But what does this type of leadership look like, and how do we get there? One thing I have observed is that leadership competencies mature in the presence of skilled leaders. When I ask most strong pastors how they got to be good leaders, they typically point to other strong pastors and leadership professionals. Most churches that experience health and growth have the right kind of leadership, a leadership not so much focused on specific characteristics, but on doing the right kind of things. The art is finding those leaders who do it right and are willing to share their insights and approaches with others.
In addition, we know the church must stay connected to Scripture, Wesleyan theology, and societal trends, as we consider our models, motivations, and language for describing leadership. In his book, Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership, Sherwood Lingenfelter urges us not to neglect biblical admonitions as we consider leadership: “How does the metaphor ‘to take up their cross daily’ define the practice of leadership?” It is a question worth pondering.
For this issue, we’ve asked several strong, capable leaders to share their insights and perspectives, and how they work with others to accomplish their mission. We ask that you help us by continuing to refer other strong, capable leaders, as well as suitable topics and ideas for discussion. Grace and Peace doesn’t intend to be the last word on leadership, but we do hope to contribute something meaningful to the discussion.
Finally, let me leave you with this quote from Phineas Bresee, which anchors leadership in mission: “The preacher must have such an experience of the ways of God that he [or she] can readily lead a soul from any place where that soul is to Calvary.” May the same be said of us, and may we—by the grace of God—be such leaders!