A pastor is a leader; there is no real dispute about this claim. Pastors are called to lead people. Another title given to the pastor could be “overseer.” This term simply means superintendent. So by definition a pastor is one who supervises or watches over a group of people. However, this is a different type of supervision or leadership. In the corporate world a manager or supervisor leads a team of people that they have likely chosen in order to carry out certain tasks for the health of the company. This implies that sometimes the goal of leadership is materialistically focused. The pastor is not concerned though about materialistic gain. He has been called to guard, serve, and love those that are under his leadership. It is spiritual leadership that the pastor must tend to. The scripture makes it clear that people need guidance, as Proverbs 11:14 affirms, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Although it is highly beneficial to have much help in a time of need, people need to be counseled by scripture. Responsibility has been entrusted to the pastor to give the whole counsel of God to the people. Paul told Timothy that, “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then immediately gave him the charge in chapter 4:1-2 to “preach the word.” Leadership in Christianity is a serious task; a pastor-leader can have an influence on someone’s relationship with God so as Acts 20:28 admonishes to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” As one who serves God it seems that the task has gotten weightier.
According to Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges in their book Lead Like Jesus, they describe leadership as “a process of influence.” They continue with, “Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader.” The point is that a pastor leads by influencing peoples’ thinking, behavior, and development. Since this encompasses just about all things that form a person’s character, it could feel a bit daunting to know that this depth of care is delegated to your list of daily concerns. The good news is that part of being a leader is delegation. A pastor needs to seek out people with appropriate qualities whom he can trust to care for the people as he does. Reproducing leaders well is a mark of an effective leader. A church has elders that can assist the pastor in leading as well as holding him accountable. The goal is, putting proper leadership in place. Alistair Begg and Derek Prime, remind us in their book On Being a Pastor, “Without good leadership, chaos so easily follows.” They further conclude, “Most unsolved problems in church life can be traced back to defective leadership.” This of course references what Paul told Titus in Titus 1:5. There is a more primary and proper way to achieve a peace of mind when confronted with the leadership responsibility of the pastor; it is to draw helpful conclusions from an analysis of Christian leadership. An outline of this analysis goes like this: two fundamental questions, one key concept, and one over-arching truth.
The first question the pastor should keep in mind is, “Whom do I follow?” It is only natural that we should find someone to follow. Someone might be our own guide and make decisions independent of outside sources while dependent on our own abilities and insights. Note, that it is not entirely possible to be independent of outside influence and we will be very limited when seeking just our own insights. Others such as a peer or someone we have high regard for might be another model of leadership we try to follow and imitate. However, people have the same propensity to fail in such tasks. The pastor is first and foremost a believer in Christ and the Bible clearly indicates that He is to be the Lord and leader of our lives. So the third option is to follow Christ and His example of leadership. This is a fundamental aim of the pastor not just as overseer but as a Christian. Paul, in Philippians 2, tells us that we are to have the same mind set and attitude as Christ. Speaking of following Christ, D.A. Carson in an article entitled “Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me” says, “ If one is going to follow a leader, what better leader than one who demonstrates his love for his followers by dying on a cross to win them to himself?. . . Only God does that . . . and then, in a small piece of mimicry, his followers are challenged to take up their cross follow Him.”
This leads to the next question, “How do I lead?” If Christ is the master example, what qualities should one reflect for effective pastoral leadership? Christ focused on the will of God and He abandoned His life to do what the Father wanted. He prayed for those that God gave to Him; this is evident in John 17. He studied scripture; He constantly quoted the Old Testament and so, from this we can also infer that He talked to others about scripture. He also served people; He washed the disciple’s feet and once again in Philippians 2, Paul tells us that Christ took on the form of a servant. Therefore the characteristics a pastor should pursue boil down to abandon to God, pray to God, read the Word of God, and serve God.
This leads to the key concept. The most effective pastor-leader is a servant-leader. Serving God also means to serve others. These two concepts combined form the greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). J. Oswald Sanders also asserts this as the “Master’s master principle” in his book Spiritual Leadership by highlighting the fact that the Biblical text uses leader only six times and servant more frequently. Also Sanders reminds us that Mark 10:43-44 indicates those who want to be great must be servants. The over-arching truth is that God is sovereign. The pastor-leader need not be afraid to lead for it is God who is leading. The pastor is merely an instrument. A pastor must humble himself before the One who has called him. He must “take up his cross and follow”. Follow by obeying, trusting, and praying in constant communion to faithfully lead the people that God has given him the privilege to serve.