pastor or leader

Keith Giles has a good post about the conflation of the concepts and tasks of pastor and leader such that we think they mean the same thing.  He writes in part:

Beyond the obvious misuse of the word, the real danger is that we’ve completely redefined the verb “to pastor” so that it no longer has anything to do with loving people, caring for them, serving them, feeding them, strengthening them, making sure they are spiritually healthy, or anything remotely close to what a “shepherd” would do to take care of the sheep. Instead, we have reduced the term “shepherd” or “pastor” into the most narrow function – leadership.

I think Keith is absolutely right, and honestly, I think this is why so many “pastors” are burning out of ministry never to return.  The church current addiction to the notion of pastor as a “strong leader” (usually this is code for controlling).  Its also because of the commitment of most churches to the “extrovert ideal” that you read about in Susan Cain’s book Quiet.  Unless someone in the pastoral vocation is a “strong leader” (aka: an extroverted control freak) then we think he or she is not too good a pastor – so then, to even get work, many are forced to continually operate outside their personality and giftings to the point that they burn out.

Now I want to be careful here – this is not to say the pastoral vocation does not involve elements of leadership – in truth, we are all leaders, we all lead each other in various ways and the pastor/shepherd leads the sheep pointing them to Christ.  It’s just that I think we need to keep in mind more biblical models of leadership as seen in the life of Moses, David, Paul, even Christ himself in how we both understand and do leadership in a pastoral context.  This is not to say current models of corporate business world aspects of leadership are not applicable, but I think they need to be subordinated to the biblical models.  For a good book on spiritual leadership and the pastoral ministry consider Reggie McNeil’s book: A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Joesy-Bass).  Additionally, the best book out there on Christian leadership is Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Crossroad).

Blessings,

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3 responses to “pastor or leader

  1. You mention Moses, David, Paul and Christ — the 4 examples used by Reggie McNeil in “Work of Heart,” which I read last semester for Dr. Rance’s class on leadership development.

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