Friday, July 22, 2011

There's No Substitute for a Real Leader

Consider the contrasting leadership styles of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan.  Carter entered the White House with a social agenda and sought to enforce that vision for the nation.  Unfortunately, his leadership style was such that he was involved in all levels of decision-making and became overwhelmed in the operational minutia of the government.  Consequently, his administration brought about very little change during his one term in office, and he holds the ignominious distinction of being one of the most ineffective presidents in American history.

Regan, on the other hand, left the details to his lieutenants.  He focused on the larger goals and strategies associated with his agenda.  The tactical operations were turned over to his associates.  He saw his job as focusing on the big picture, and making sure that capable people were in place to cover the details.

Both men had their successes and failure in office.  But history has shown that more positive changes were accomplished during the Reagan administration, largely because he was willing to have others address the details, freeing him for more pressing concerns.

Likewise, an effective pastor is more a leader of people than a line worker.  He has a grasp of the big picture and a clear sense of God’s vision for the church.  This person is in tune with the details of what’s going on in the church, but is not bogged down with them.  He understands how important it is for someone to address the minute decisions that must occur.  However, he is not likely to be the person who will plunge himself into every program and activity undertaken by the church.

In contrast, some pastors reject the idea of delegation largely because they fear it may diminish their own significance in the church, or believe that others simply can't do it as good as he can.  In either case the result is a stunted ministry, and a stunted church, in which the pastor continues to bear the brunt of responsibility for everything.  Often, he crumbles under the weight of it all.

Another attribute of an effective pastor is that he is visible.  While he does not seek the spotlight, he tends to be at the right place at the right time.  This ability to remain IN focus without being THE focus means he maintains his finger on the pulse of the church without every activity having to depend on him.  He will show up at certain events even if he is not directly involved in them, because he recognizes that his presence adds a certain sense of credibility to the ministry event, and it communicates to people that he is in touch with what is happening in the church.  Although this is somewhat a symbolic role, the strong pastor feels no guilt or embarrassment in making appearances.  At this level, the success of the church depends on the success of others.

While an effective pastor is usually authoritative, he ultimately is a team player.  It is the team orientation that enables him to disperse authority and responsibility to others, and move forward.  This is similar to the model used by Moses in Israel’s history.  No biblical figure is a stronger individualist than Moses.  This is the man who was authoritative enough to make his people drink water laced with gold dust in punishment for making and worshipping the golden calf.  Yet Moses was not threatened by shared leadership.  When overwhelmed, he learned to delegate the responsibilities of ruling the people to his chosen deputies (Exodus 18).  In other words, he did not need to inject his presence into every decision.

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