Sometimes, I need a refresher on leadership. My current ministry is as the pastor for a 128-year old church in a medium-sized coastal town. We are a medium-sized church that is learning to more closely focus on missional ministry. As with all churches, we have a history of growth and decline. Now that I’ve been here for 16 months I did a bit of personal inventory recently. The following four ideas came to the surface.
Drop the buzzwords. Modern leaders in the church are just like ancient leaders in the church – we love our buzzwords. For the first century, it was the Gnostics talking about their secret knowledge. Today, we have made words like postmodern, Gen X, mission, and missional into junk-drawer terms. They mean everything and nothing at the same time. Don’t use hollow terms. Set the vocabulary of your church and use it wisely.
Know the context. You are likely the only leader in your church that has done self-training to think missiologically. It is the default of most people to simply address a small circle of needs around them. Become a cultural expert about your city, your state, and the world. I know that I’m asking you to know a lot. But no one else is going to do it. I suggest you to make it a regular part of your teaching. Help your church to think about the application of biblical truths not just to their lives but to the life of their community and city.
See farther. In order to tell a better story, see you have to develop the discipline of seeing farther than others. It does not mean that you have to be prophetic in an Old Testament kind of way. As a leader, you need to find time for prayer and then planning that helps the church to see what they will do next, how they will minister going forward.
Seeing farther is not a normal skill possessed by most people in leadership. But, it will require – like so much else – extra time. There are plenty of books and resources out there to help you with the process of setting the vision, putting together the strategy, and seeing farther. Let me give you a few practical suggestions to get the work done.
- Take one block of time at least each quarter to simply pray and dream. It does not have to be hard-core strategizing. You need to give yourself time to hear from the Spirit in an unhurried environment.
- Do it with the other leaders of your church. I think you need to have time between just you and God in order to prepare for time with the community of leaders in your church. But don’t ever think that they cannot also see farther with you.
- Discipline your reading. Pick a book each quarter that will challenge you to think beyond the norm. Business books, theological books, novels, change theory – something that will stretch your mind.
- Interact with other pastors who are completely different from you. Get out of your normal network. Meet other leaders from other streams. I’m Baptist, but some of the leaders I’ve learned the most from are from Pentecostal denominations, AME Zion friends, and Anglican priests. They help me to see the wideness of what is happening in God’s kingdom.
Set the pace. Don’t ever just point in a direction for your church and say, “Go!” Go first and bring everyone with you. You simply cannot lead strategically without putting yourself into the strategy. The moment strategy degrades to just an assignment for others, you have lost your footing as a leader.