One day Jesus was dealing with a couple of ambitious disciples who wanted to be at the top of the leadership ladder. They boldly requested special positions in His kingdom. The other disciples were no displeased as they watched to see how Jesus would respond to such a request. Jesus’ response was inspired, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NKJV)
Jesus established an important fact in His statement about kingdom leadership. Church leadership is much different than the leadership of the world. Instead of “lording” our leadership over others, we are to be servant leaders. A bossy, harsh church leader is a contradiction of terms. In the 1990’s movie, The Preacher’s Wife, a domineering choir director decided to strongarm the church choir. As a result, she ended up losing most of the choir members. She came to the preacher to complain about the lack of commitment on the part of the people she was trying to lead. Of course, the real problem was the style of leadership she was using. She learned the hard way that church leadership is not the same as the world’s style of leadership.
Church leaders reward those who follow them in the form of gratitude and encouragement. I’m sometimes overwhelmed with the fact that I am required by God’s Word to encourage others (Hebrews 10:24-25). I love to encourage others. It is part of my spiritual gift of exhortation. But how do you give encouragement to hundreds of people in a church on an individual basis? I know it is a small thing, but to me a thoughtful, handwritten birthday card is one way I can encourage each person in our church at least once a year. It is a simple way for a church leader to show gratitude and encouragement for those he or she leads.
I have found that casting a compelling vision is another way to lead people in a church setting. I have pastored smaller churches in my ministry and I have faced the dilemma of inviting people to a church that did not yet have a strong children’s or youth program. A smaller church cannot afford a youth or children’s minister. It is hard to convince a parent to bring their kids to a church that cannot possibly provide all the bells and whistles of a larger, next-generation ministry. I did find, however, that parents would respond to a vision for a strong ministry to their children. They often decided to become members of that smaller church, motivated by the desire to be on the ground floor of building an exciting new ministry.
Church leaders can also motivate people through a sense of community. That is often why people will say, “I like a smaller church.” If we obey the Great Commission, however, there is a good chance the church will grow larger.
As a church gets larger, there is a danger of becoming detached and impersonal. That’s way a growing church must also “grow smaller” through a strong small-group or Sunday School ministry. It’s where relationships are born.
There are no church bosses or CEOs. Jesus is the only head of the church. Pastors, deacons and other church leaders serve at His command and as we serve, we serve as servants—first to Him, and then to others. It is an attitude that must go along with the authority of a church leader.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.