I’m really blessed to work with the lead pastor I work with. He loves Jesus and he’s a solid family man. He’s humble–the same guy on stage and off. He’s very good at what he does, but he’s always the first to give credit to someone else. He’s consistent, wise, and super creative. The people who know him best would agree with all that. It’s true.
Just to be clear, nothing I’m about to say applies to him.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means (and what it takes) to be a lead pastor. You know, the head honcho. You may call them Pastor, Senior MInister, or Preaching Minister, Heck, you might call them Bishop or something mainline like that. Doesn’t matter what you call them. It’s a tough job. In fact, I think it’s probably one of the most stressful, difficult jobs on earth. It’s right up there with brain surgeon and whatever it is Bear Grylls job is called.
Even so, I’m a little troubled by how some folks carry out their church leadership job description. I think they’re confused. Somewhere along the line, some folks that sit in the lead chair started thinking they were the CEO of a publicly traded corporation or the president of a small island nation or something. They act more like a dictator than they do a leader. To put it simply, they act like big jerks.
You probably know the type — authoritarian, distant and dismissive, verbally harsh, and inconsistent. Great on stage but a grouch in the office. Actually, I hope you don’t know the type. Unfortunately, a lot of American Christians do. A lot of subordinates in churches do. I’ve heard a lot of stories. They come up with strange policies to keep their “employees” in check. They sit in their oversized office chairs and bark instructions from behind a desk. They make rules for themselves and rules for everyone else, but the rules aren’t always the same. They ask for a lot from their team but little extra thanks is ever given. Often, the people in the smaller offices are reminded that it’s “just part of the job.”
Like I said, I am really fortunate to not work with this kind of guy. He’s a strong leader, don’t get me wrong, but you can be strong and not be a jerkface. He acts as the Lead Pastor. The word “pastor” is taken from the word meaning “shepherd.” You know, sheep watcher. They care for the sheep. They feed the sheep. They make sure the sheep have water. They make certain the sheep are protected from wolves. They pat their sheep on the head every once in a while. Read Psalm 23. The Lord is a perfect example of a pastor. Don’t get me wrong, they might have to correct their sheep from time to time. But they do it out of love, not a bloated ego. They aren’t concerned with being the boss, they are concerned for their sheep.
Recently, much has been made of Mark Driscoll’s attitude and leadership style, and to that I say whatever, I’m over it. I think his demise is widely over stated. He’s taken a sabbatical to get help. Cut the dude some slack. I do think, however, that all the coverage of his woes has started a worthwhile conversation as to what type of people should be leading our congregations. The truth is, there are a lot of senior ministers out there that have the same character flaws who aren’t getting help. They continue to quietly bully people and nothing is done.
What’s up with that?
For me, carrying the Lead Guy title is about as desirable is carrying the title POTUS. It’s a hard job, and I recognize that I’d probably not be the best at it. I have it in me to be a big jerk, and stress would exacerbate that tendency, I’m sure. I also recognize that the biggest jerk in the office is by no means reserved for the lead guy. You can be a lousy subordinate as much as you can be a lousy leader. Truth be told, I’ve been there and done that.
But I think it’s at least worth it to land here — the modern American church has some work to do in regards to the type of leaders we desire in our churches. Rather than hiring the most dynamic, alpha male, domineering, management gurus we can find, perhaps we should look to the fields for the guys tending to their flocks with care, attention, and patience. We don’t need more bosses, we need more pastors.
Being a jerk isn’t a leadership style; it’s a liability. If not to the churches they serve, then to the leaders themselves.