I believe there are two essential things that God blesses within the local church. In all reality, there are more, but these two in the life of pastor or staff leader can make a massive difference. What are they? The personal development of the church leader and, in turn, their development of new leaders within the church. I do believe this is the Biblical model that God gives us within the local church. Let me explain.
Someone once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I do believe that is true. But I believe if you back up even before that, we could say it this way: Everything rises and falls on the personal development of the leader. Immediately, when I say that, your mind may turn to sanctification. I define sanctification within our church like this – “It is the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus.” If your mind went there right away, you would be correct. The personal, spiritual development of the leader can never be underestimated. Without a consistent growth in likeness to Christ, we are all toast! We’ve seen countless examples of when church leaders fail to continue to grow in sanctification.
I want to challenge you towards sanctification and I also want to simply challenge you in your own personal development as a leader. If there’s one thing that is true across every church in our convention, it’s that our churches all have leaders in them. Some are leaders in their business, others within the local school system, and so on throughout the different avenues of life. What all of this means is that they lead people every day and are used to being in circumstances where great leadership is being demonstrated. Why should they expect anything less at church? Why should they expect anything less from their spiritual leaders?
It is often these types of things that get church leaders in the ditch. Rarely does a pastor get fired because of a drift in theology. That does happen, but I would suggest it’s not the norm. What is way more prevalent is that church leaders get themselves in trouble when they fail to do the other aspects of ministry. These are the things that sometimes don’t come naturally or don’t fall in line with our passions. But they’re still critically important. These can be things like organization, planning ahead, leading a meeting effectively, and doing relationships well.
If some of these or other leadership characteristics don’t come naturally, who can you reach out to for help? How can you grow? I have found that most great leaders are extremely curious and coachable. I recently read a book on the New England Patriots and their dynasty throughout their Super Bowl years. The author told a story about Hall of Famer Randy Moss and his first team meeting with the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichik showed the team every negative play from the previous season’s last loss, all the while ripping the greatest quarterback of all time Tom Brady in front of the entire team. As Moss looked on, he noted how Tom Brady sat on the front row with pen and paper taking notes while his coach berated him in front of the team. Moss turned to another newcomer and asked, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Why do I tell that story? The greatest quarterback of all time who is also considered to be a masterful leader sat there and took coaching. He didn’t walk out, get his feelings hurt, or complain. He actually took notes.
What’s the message for us as church leaders? God has given all of us countless resources for us to grow as pastors and leaders. There are books, conferences, podcasts, and more. Some of the greatest resources that God has ever given us will be the people in the pew. There are great leaders in your church who are able and willing to help carry the burden of church leadership. There are also great leaders in your church who can teach you lessons and principles that are better than any book you’ll ever read or any conference you’ll ever attend.
This brings us to our second essential action that God blesses and this one will be much shorter. God blesses the church whose leaders have sold out to the Ephesians 4 call to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” When you put a priority on your own development as a church leader, the Ephesians 4 equipping naturally flows into the church. It’s hard to be an equipper if you’re not equipping yourself. It’s hard to pour out when you’re not pouring in. It’s hard to lead others if you’re not leading yourself.
I want to be a part of a church and ministry that God is blessing. I think when the leader is growing in likeness to Jesus and developing personally as a leader, everybody else in the church wins. When those things become the focus of the leader, other people in the church become developed in their own likeness to Jesus and minister in their own context. May we be men and women of God who commit to our own development and the development of the people within our church!