Wednesday, December 01, 2010


The Balance of Leadership

MMI comments on a NYTimes op-ed. The op-ed is typical whining pastor syndrome - been there, done that. Let's look at Tod's comment:
MacDonald then goes on to describe what he considers 'consumer-driven religion' as something that has completely rewritten the job description of many pastors. He says: "They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly."

I clearly don't run in the United Church of Christ circles, abut I find MacDonald's assessment of the 'consumer-driven' church to be a little off-base.

If anything, I don't find these trends to be 'consumer-driven' but rather 'pastor-driven'.

Starting back with the old Willow "seeker sensitive' style of worship service, emphasis shifted to make the worship experience more palatable, not necessarily for the believer, but for the unbeliever. Music, message topics... literally everything was turned upside down in order to reach a target audience. Some still argue that that in the rush to be more relevant, the gospel was watered down. Of course, Willow has since changed its strategy because of a number of reasons. (and we could debate the whole SS movement all day long). But my point: this wasn't consumer driven. It was pastor-driven.

In fact, many of the church's that I have the opportunity to work with that are really kickin' it are FAR from consumer driven. They are staff and lead pastor driven. Services are crafted, not by what Jill or Jane in the pew wants to hear; but rather by what the leadership feels will make the greatest impact on their lives; and what will communicate the gospel in the most powerful and dramatic way.
I think both MacDonald and Rhoades are right. Pastors switched "audiences" and the audience they switched to is demanding - that demand is not often expressed directly, but is rather expressed by how full the pews and plate are.

Leadership is funny stuff - the best leader generally cannot take people where they do not want to go. Hence most military leaders are much more happy with an all volunteer force - everybody in the military wants to be there and will therefore do well. Hence problems in public education where education is not valued. Even the best teachers can educate to only a limited extent if people do not want to be educated. And finally, hence politicians seem to be all things to all people - they have to be to get enough critical mass to get elected.

See, leadership is really about assisting people on a journey they have already started.

So back to the church, MacDonald is right in this - we now view pastors as evangelists and they are not the same thing. Paul was an evangelist - Timothy was a pastor - hence Paul traveled and after a time Timothy had to stay in Ephesus. The roles compliment each other - but they are not the same thing. Evangelists "make" Christians - pastors "build" disciples. (I use quotes around those verbs to indicate that it's really the Holy Spirit and the individual that do that work, the evangelist or pastor is just an aid.)

We need both. The trend seems to be to have a central evangelist (the preacher) and many pastors (the congregation functioning in small groups, etc.) Traditionally there were many evangelists (the congregation bringing friends to church) and one pastor. I am unsure why we changed models - becasue to paraphrase Chesterton - I don't think it failed, I just don't think it was ever well executed.

The problem with the new model is it breeds immaturity in leadership and thus robs us of any leadership towards discipleship.

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