I have experience working with pastors who believe they are the only people who can hear the voice of God when it comes to shaping the vision and ministry strategy of a church.
Here are some observations I have about these pastors and the churches they lead:
The pastors are generally lonely and insecure leaders.
The pastors tend to surround themselves with people who are motivated by fear.
Because the team is conditioned to believe that only the pastor can get a vision from God, it’s unlikely anyone will ever push back on a new idea or an established strategy because they would be, in essence, disagreeing with God.
The pastors tend to get frustrated when their team isn’t creative even though they’ve been trained to expect any new vision to flow through the senior pastor.
What’s crazy is that I’ve heard well-known pastors advocate this approach to leadership at conferences through the years.
Let me be clear: this approach to ministry leadership predates Jesus. It’s not the model for leadership in the New Testament church. I’ve previously written about developing a theology of leadership based on New Testament teaching and practices, so I won’t delve into that here.
In short, I believe these three things:
Jesus’s death on the cross opened the door for every believer to have direct access to God.
We are the priesthood of believers. It is not necessary for a pastor to speak and listen to God for us.
We are the body of Christ.
We all come with God-given gifts, personalities and experiences that make us better together than any one of us is on our own.
Jesus modeled it and demanded it.
Even in the first days of the early church, he sent leaders out in teams of two. There’s something critical about the accountability and encouragement that comes from engaging ministry and leadership as a team.
Rather than using this article to share, again, a Scriptural basis for this approach, here are some observations about churches that advocate a team-based development of vision and ministry strategy. When the team works together, my experience is that:
- The collective wisdom and experience of the team leads to a stronger and bolder vision and strategy.
- When the team develops the plan, it ensures buy-in rather than having to find leaders who will acquiesce to the top-down approach.
- It invites more creativity and innovative thinking about new ideas and improving those ideas that the church has previously implemented.
- It creates space for millennial leaders who expect and demand a more collaborative environment.
- When the team shapes vision and strategy together, the team can also share peer-to-peer accountability for follow through on that plan. Accountability isn’t solely on the senior pastor’s shoulders.
- The senior pastor doesn’t have to carry the unnecessary burden of being the only person who can hear a vision from God for the church.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of great churches including:
- Journey Christian Church in Apopka, Florida
- Cross Timbers Community Church in Denton, Texas
- Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas
- Sun Valley Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona
- GT Church in West Lawn, Pennsylvania
- Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California
- Ginghamsburg Church in Dayton, Ohio
- Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Stafford, Virginia
- First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina
You may not recognize the names of most of these churches. Though they are distinctive, they share a couple of common attributes. First, all of these churches are megachurches that are gathering thousands of people in worship every week. Each is having huge impact in the communities they serve. Secondly, they are all led by senior pastors who were willing to open the development of future vision and ministry strategy to other leaders on their team.
These churches are led by pastors who don’t claim to have all the answers. They aren’t under the illusion that they, alone, will hear the voice of God. As a result of that, all of these churches share a third common attribute: they have a team of leaders who know they have the freedom to live out the gifts God put in them to help shape the ministry of the church today and into the future.
I don’t know where my journey will take me in 2018, but I’m looking forward to working with leaders who dare to dream big by inviting others into the development of future vision and strategy.
Are you waiting to hear the voice of God? He may have already talked to the leader in the office next door.