Friday, May 1, 2009

Interview, pt. 3

On Wednesday and Thursday, I shared parts one and two of a recent interview I had with a member of our church who was completing a school project on church leadership. Here's the conclusion to the interview...

5. Are you leading consistently and biblically?

a. Is your leadership based on biblical principals?

Yes, as much as possible, I try to base my leadership on biblical principles. I do not support an executive model, where a pastor rules from the top down, with an attitude of intimidation and condescension toward others. Nor do I support a marketing model, where a pastor is checking opinions, taking polls, and forming focus groups of current or potential churchgoers to see what is trendy. Nor do I not support a purely democratic model, where everyone has an equal voice in every decision.

God has given leadership to the church so all things can be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Spiritual leadership is best pictured by a shepherd, who must lead from the front. I must be an example in both character and doctrine to my flock so they will trust and imitate me, as I seek to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

b. Do you stand firm in your leadership role against those who try to go against you and the church?

When it is a biblical or philosophical issue, I must stand firm. I do not want to be a pleaser of men, but a pleaser of God (Gal. 1:10). I am called by God to fight the good fight, keep faith, and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:18-19), and can expect criticism and hostility in the process (John 15:19). I am to do this in a way that is “kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 3:24-25).

If it is merely a matter of preference, then I try to be very open and flexible, asking what others think and looking for some consensus. I want to always be open to new ideas, suggestions, concerns, criticisms, etc. Sometimes, change is very good, just to get us out of a rut. Some of the best ideas and changes this church has made since I arrived originated from other people. If I had not listened to them, it would have hindered our health and growth.

c. Are you bold and do you let God convict you instead of listening to others and their opinions?

I believe I am bold and led by God rather than timid and led by people. People’s opinions will shift from one minute to the next. You have to learn in ministry not to take yourself too seriously, nor the compliments and criticisms of others too seriously. If you live and minister for God, it is a wonderfully liberating thing, because He alone becomes the audience you are concerned about. To avoid discouragement or hypocrisy, I frequently have to remind myself I am here to please God, not men.

6. Are you leading by the strength of your character?

a. Do you have a genuine love for the people and for God?

I deeply love the Lord and His church. I count it a tremendous privilege every day to serve God in full-time ministry. There’s nothing I would rather do. It is such a blessing to shepherd the flock of God. The burdens of ministry are heavy at times, as you deal with people’s sin and feel pulled in so many directions, but the joy is incomparable. God always seems to give you a word of encouragement just at that moment when you need it most. And I look forward to the day when First Southern Baptist will be made perfect and will become my “hope and joy and crown of exultation in the presence of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 2:19).

b. Do you lead by example so the congregation will listen to you as the Pastor and see Christ in you?

I can’t expect anything from the church that I’m not first doing myself. It is extremely destructive for a pastor to have a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Many people have fallen away from the faith and left the church completely because of this. I’m not excusing their rejection of God or His church, because they will still be held accountable, but I do know there will be a heavy judgment on any pastor who has caused even one little one to stumble (Matt. 18:6).

Every area of my life should be an example and above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2). I’m far from perfect (chief of sinners would be more accurate), but I am striving to become more like Christ. I’m right there in the trenches, with my people, fighting sin and temptation every day and seeking to put on the full armor of God. I do hope as they watch me, they will learn to love Christ and be all-satisfied in Him.

c. Are you afraid that people won’t follow if you make changes and take complete control as the leader of the church and truly listen to God’s will for the church?

I’ve never really thought about this fear. God blessed me with a great team of godly men who serve as deacons in our church. I know I can trust them and glean great wisdom from them. If they were not supportive of something, then it would be highly, highly unlikely I would ever sense it was “God’s will” to move forward with it anyway. If, on the other hand, I have consulted with my fellow leaders and we really agree we need to move in a new direction and have biblical precedent for it, then I do believe I would step forward and lead with confidence, even if it put my reputation or “popularity” at risk.

I’m uncomfortable with the statement “take complete control as the leader of the church and truly listen to God’s will.” It sounds like something a cult leader would say. I always want to encourage people to search the Scriptures for themselves and discern if I am right or wrong. If I’m wrong, I want to be told. If I’m right, I expect to be followed. I don’t want people to just take my word for it. There’s no authority in that. I want a church full of Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Ac. 17:11).

God has given the church both leaders and a congregation to provide a healthy check and balance. Even the apostles, when proposing the first deacon ministry, gave instructions which “found approval with the whole congregation” (Ac. 6:5). Now, I realize unanimous approval is not always possible, but there should be a general sense that both the leaders and congregation agree to move forward in a new direction. If the people are not with you, then you may need to take more time to teach on the issue and explain the biblical reasoning for it.

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