Every church deserves to well fed and well led to the glory of God. Well fed churches are nourished in rich doctrine through the preaching of the Word and discipleship. Well led churches are organized with clarity of vision and a plan for accomplishing it. It has been my experience that most pastors focus on feeding the flock, but very few approach leading the flock with the same passion and sense of importance.
I have pastored The Journey Church for twelve years. In that time, I have found it easier to focus on theology and put leadership as a secondary matter. I created a list several years ago to remind myself how important it was for me as pastor to lead the church well. The list is not exhaustive, but it helped me. I hope they can be of help to others too.
1. Remember that good leadership is make or break for my church.
My church needs me to lead well. The greater leadership I demonstrate, the more my church benefits. If I neglect my role to lead well, my church is the one that suffers. While a healthy church has lots of leaders, not just one, if the pastor is a poor leader, everyone is affected. Show me a healthy church and I will show you a healthy pastoral leader. Show me a sick or dying church, I will show you a pastor not leading well.
2. Remember that leading well happens in the context of daily choices and actions.
We often imagine leadership is displayed by vision talks or meetings where the church’s future is being decided. While those are certainly leadership actions, most of our leadership will play out in the everyday business of interacting with people, choices about events, messages, handling conflict, and so on. Leading well is a day-to-day affair in the small things.
3. Remember the short life span of my leadership opportunity.
Someone is going to replace me. I am pastoring someone else’s future church. While recognizing this is sobering and humbling, it also motivating to lead well and courageously while I have the opportunity. I need to lead recognizing that I am a steward of something bigger than me.
4. Remember that my position gives me a seat at the table, but my actions determine the extent of my influence.
I am the Lead Pastor at The Journey Church. This gives me a seat at the table on leadership discussions and decisions. I have built in authority because of my position. But my position does not determine my influence, my actions do. This leads me to focus on what I do instead of where I am on the org chart. The most influential people are not always the ones with the most authoritative positions.
5. Remember that getting better doesn’t happen by time and chance but by intentionality and investment.
The passage of time does not guarantee development as a leader. Growth happens as it is pursued and sought. Purposeful action breeds results. Intentional growth as a leader includes reading books, attending events, networking with others to learn from them, and taking time to examine the roots of your successes and failures. Many leaders have not grown in years because they assume tenure makes them better leaders.
6. Remember that my leadership credibility hinges on my character.
There are too many stories of pastors and leaders falling into sin and leaving ruin in their wake. Great leadership capacity and abilities without character is failure. Period. Our leadership is only as valid as our character. We must be men who pursue holiness and obedience over our positions and platforms.
We all need reminders. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and forget the bigger picture of our job. John Maxwell re-popularized the saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If he is right, then these reminders—and whatever others you need to add to the list—can serve to help us remember how important it is that we lead our churches well.