Tag Archives: pastoral leadership

Whatsa mattah wid you Galatians?

I guess I just didn’t get it. I just started reading the epistle to the Galatians again and just realized how much grief and aggravation Paul had to deal with. Paul gave both of these churches the straight scoop and both of them just kind of gratuitously blew him off. I guess I need to give both churches a little slack. There wasn’t a lot of history, writing/teaching, they were just getting Paul. Having said that Paul certainly was in a position to know what he was talking about. Sure both churches couldn’t readily know that, however. They chose to give a lot of others a platform and seemed to exercise little if any discernment as to whether the others were for real or pretty much making it up. Seems that they should have known they were not getting the correct story.

Having said that, I can readily identify with Paul. Here Paul is giving them the straight story and, as we see with many “churches” today, seemed to think that this was more in terms with what they liked/didn’t like, versus who here is really giving us the consistent narrative of God’s word. They all seemed to agree that it was about Jesus, but…. the others seemed to ignore the Christ’s full atonement of all sin and, like most other Christian churches today, seemed to tie it to the things that were still necessary. Jesus’ sacrifice was good and got you up to the finish line, but then, well you just had to add a little to it to push you over the line of salvation.

Yes, we have the consumer mentality, not so much what is right, what I need, but what I like, make me happy. Either that or follow the crowd, as if God saves you in Jesus according to the polls.

And for those who like to make the New Testament all goody, sweet and sparkly, we see Paul lighting up the Galatians, as he did the Corinthians. Here are some of Paul’s comments to these shallow end of the pool, listeners:

ESV Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-ESV Galatians 1:7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

ESV Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. [Put another way, “what’sa mattah wid you, you stupid or something?”]
Are you really going to believe these snake oil salesmen, risk your salvation just because they’re telling you a more appealing story? I’m not interested in what you like, I’m telling you what you need to hear in Jesus.

Paul’s not exactly using gentle words, wasn’t being our smiley, good-time Charlie, pretty please pastor of today. Now,  now, you shouldn’t do that, but Jesus still loves you. Ya Paul is the direct approach, “cut the nonsense and you need to cut it out now, we’re not playing, this is for real and you better get yourselves together and get with the true ministry of Jesus and not what these other guys are trying to dissemble and embellish. I’m telling you the way it is, I got it straight from the source, this is what Jesus wants you to know!

Paul was angry, frustrated, and I believe genuinely fearful of the lack of discernment on the part of these people and frightened for their eventual fate. Paul cared what happened to these people, to the Corinthians to all the many people he ministered to, helped build churches with. Not telling them what they wanted to hear, but telling them what they needed to hear and having no compunction to push them if they were choosing not to get it.

That is a real pastor, not the sickly sweet posing we get today. I can hear Paul saying, I am desperately in fear for you, that you drift so far away from Jesus that you end up on the nice smooth, wide road and gently drift into hell, to death, eternal separation from Jesus. I’m going to do everything I can think  of to prevent that and if it requires yelling or whatever, I can’t let you keep drifting down. That is a pastoral heart, not worried about whether he’s liked, popular the true pastor is scared to death that one member of his flock ends up lost to eternity. The pastors of today should take note, they will have to answer and I do not want to explain why I just waved goodbye with a smile to someone who was condemning themselves. Take the pastey smiles off, the nice guy “I want everyone to love me” attitude and note what Paul had to do with the Galatians and Corinthians and no doubt a lot of others. Focus on what you’re doing and get over your desperate need to be loved. There will be plenty of that in the resurrection from people who wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t been so determined to be used by the Holy Spirit to effect their salvation.

A new paradigm of Christian pastoral leadership

Please don’t misconstrue what I’m about, this isn’t bitterness, this isn’t angst. If anything it’s more on the level of  disquiet. You have highly educated pastors, but people who really don’t know how to lead. If anything pastors genuinely feel it’s not up to them to lead, they leave it to laity that are even less qualified and yes, you really get the blind leading the blind. Yes, there are churches that have qualified, experienced lay people in leadership and pastors who can not only preach and teach, and exercise some degree of leadership and there is a mutual respect, the potential to work together effectively. These are very rare situations. It seems to me, as I see other churches, is that there is a laity who really have very little clue and a pastor, who has never done anything else in his life, has been brought up to believe that he really does sit and think great thoughts and then goes back into his pastor’s study until he’s trotted out again on Sundays. Some seem to not even do that.

There has to be some semblance of reality. More and more the church is declining because it is taken less and less seriously and mostly because of such a bankruptcy of leadership. There’s either passivity, shilling, patronizing, or being good time Charlie. It’s pretty hard for men to take seriously the church as it is being presently led. Being a Christian is not about emotionalism, yet most pastors indulge emotionalism as the quick and easy solution. Just as bad, up until the 1960s there were pastors who were the complete opposite, autocrats who were equally unqualified and having some odd self-perception that they did know everything.

OK, I am generalizing, but generalities come about because the evidence starts to become compelling. The church has lurched from one silly extreme to another. Too many pastors took advantage of uncritical congregations because neither knew any better. The pastors went about imposing petty nonsense as “Christianity” and expected the congregation to jump through hoops. The tide turns and now the congregations expect the pastor to jump, the laity exercise leadership and are at least just as clueless. In the last fifty years we have congregations who were/are theologically clueless and expected to impose on a clueless/compliant pastor their each individual whims, businesspeople who “knew” the church should be run like a business, all expected to be entertained and not accept leadership or instruction from the pastor (who way too often only had academic qualifications and nothing else), who didn’t know how to practically apply the academic training, so no need for it and never grew out of it.

One can see why people, accomplished in other fields (or at least who thought they were), who were loathe to accept directions from an otherwise incapable pastor. Instead of pushing the pastor to exert ecclesiastical leadership, and Luther certainly expected pastors to exercise leadership, he did and by example, the laity filled the vacuum, despite lack of qualification. Since the pastor couldn’t/wouldn’t, the laity did, having some belief to the effect “how hard could it by?”. You had people who couldn’t tell you the “solas”, the basics of the faith, but since the pastor was an entertainer and not a teacher, the fundamentals of the faith just couldn’t be that important.

The new paradigm has to be this and especially in terms of renewal efforts being undertaken in the downtown old “cathedrals”. It is time for pastors to step up, be professional pastors, versus the smiley/accommodating stereotype. Pastors need to knowledgeably assert control, lead, push when necessary all those in the church to start becoming mature Christians, even, wow, disciples of Christ. The “Old Guard” laity and yes even some clergy needs to understand that the old paradigm has been failing for decades, backoff and support the new paradigm, even through the “discomfort”. Might that require breaking up the old guard? Certainly the desirable outcome would be overall acceptance and a unified front to move the church ahead. Certainly it’s up to the pastor to be open, accessible, willing to go as far as possible, but not back to the old paradigm or the failed practices of the last fifty years. Certainly we want to try to balance the old and new, do as much as can be done, but to what end, giving up on the faction that just won’t move and accept?

The pastor needs to keep asserting leadership towards a positive goal, quit playing, accept that there are going to be losses and yes, even up to conflict. The church is not a business, we’re not in the people pleasing business, we’re in the building mature Christian disciples business. While we’re trying to be faithful, that entails trusting God while we deal with whatever the fallout. Are we going to be serious, or continue to slide into country clubs that have been failing for fifty years.

Paul certainly had no compunction calling out the Corinthians and Galatians, at least. They had all kinds of issues and Paul did not pull any punches holding them accountable. We have to follow Paul’s model and stop trying to be the intellectual, complacent, indulgent patsy that too many people see pastors as now, a model that has just wreaked havoc on the church. Paul certainly demanded those churches to cut the nonsense and doing what he could to lead churches back to true Christian integrity. Playing church is not doing anyone any favors. I frankly take seriously that I’m going to be held even more accountable and I intend to be able to tell God I exercised as much integrity as I could to build disciples and not patronize audiences. It’s up to the pastor to lead the church to be a genuine Christian catholic and apostolic church and not just a “feel good” zone.

Lay people do yourself a big favor, expect to be led by a pastor who will assert true pastoral leadership a la St Paul of Tarsus, to make true Christian disciples. Support him and encourage him. It worked for Paul it can work for you. If he is just going to be an enabling, feel good guy, get yourself another man, yes a man!

Sin is sin, trust in your pastor and quit thinking you know it all

I am still pretty much of a rookie pastor. I try to listen more than yap when others who have more experience, more education than I do, so that I will be a better pastor. Can’t say that everything I hear or am told is correct, that I should follow it. I do have a lot of life experience, so there are times when someone is telling me something that is just wrong. Just because someone else has been making mistakes for years, doesn’t mean that I should make the same mistakes.

Dr J Vernon McGee was the pastor of one of the largest churches in California. He also had a world-wide radio ministry, wrote a bunch of books, etc. He went to be with the Lord in 1988, but his radio ministry is still alive and well.

One of the observations I’ve made as a pastor is that people continue to try and impose their sin on me, as a pastor, or they expect me to endorse their sin, often due to their tortuous reasoning. I’m sure we all know which types of sins that people are finding all kinds of justification for. My overall favorite is “the church is full of hypocrites so who is a pastor to tell me I’m sinning, and so therefore I can continue to pursue my personal sin.” Yeah, like I said, those in the world live a very delusional life.

Let me make one aside, for those who recognize their sin, struggle with it, lift it up to the Lord for forgiveness, continue to ask God to deal with their sin and overcome it, “…If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins…” (1 Corinthians 11:31) God does forgive, will help us and is not there to beat us down on something that we are genuinely trying to deal with and conform to His will. Christians do not live deluded lives, our sin is sin. We’re not kidding ourselves that our particular sin and circumstances are justified, that, for those simple minds in the world, is what hypocrisy is. Maybe you ought to look into your own heart and be a little genuine. For those in the world, get over all your petty little justifications, get real and deal with your sin issues and be a part of a genuine Christian church that will help you in this area.

As a rookie pastor, I have had the experience where people pretty much confront me and demand that I justify their particular sin. Really! Yea the world really does bully and thinks that most pastors are entirely lacking in integrity and genuine biblical faithfulness, that you (me the pastor hears) just don’t know what you’re talking about at all and those in the world will be happy to set me straight. The hypocrisy, naivete, bullying, and straight out ignorance is just breathtaking.

Dr McGee had a wide breadth of experience and accomplishment for the Kingdom, a very accomplished pastor and these are his words: ” “What if there’s a sin in the Christians’ life that he/she won’t deal with, reveal it, confess it? … it’s amazing the number of people who are in sin, who come to a pastor and what they really want, is for the pastor to approve of their conduct and they become very much incensed if he does not agree with what they are doing or with their solution to the problem. When he attempts to put the Scripture down on their lives, why they wince under it and they get angry with the pastor and they say ”my he’s cruel, very unkind, he’s not the kind of pastor he should be, he’s not as sympathetic as he should be.” A lot of pastors know what this is because so many people will not deal with their sins. Now when they won’t, God will deal with them at the judgment seat of Christ and a great many people are going to find out, though they were busy down here teaching Sunday school classes, being the president of the missionary society, singing in the choir, leading different groups… yet they were disobedient and they would not deal with the sin in their lives, they won’t receive reward, they refused to deal with sin in their lives.” (Dr J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible” Broadcast Dec 26, 2015)

I’ve had this experience. The person doesn’t want to discuss, they are going to tell and if you don’t listen and get it, then you  have a problem you’re wrong and I’ve had people tell me how lacking I am in what they consider to be the proper pastoral characteristics. No, I don’t get too spun up over it. I’ve had a lot of life experience (usually more than the person who’s telling my how it really is) and I get it, people are often not going to really think it out. They’re sure they know what it’s all about and they’re going to make sure that they give you the benefit of their “knowledge”.

Which leads me into another observation, Mr or Ms “I’ve been successful” in my world. They’re going to tell you how you should successfully run this church. I have news for you Mr Successful, God bless you that you’ve achieved some success in an area, I wish you the best. What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand, despite their obvious smartness in their success, is that success in one thing doesn’t necessarily translate into success in another thing. Not that I’ve achieved any level of success, but we certainly see that in so many individuals who have presumed that their success in one thing should ipso facto, translate to success in another.

Sorry Mr Success “so you should listen to me”, if you were as smart as you think you are you would know that. I have no problem whatsoever listening to others suggestions, direction and assistance. Frankly I find myself kind of begging for that. Having said that, it does not mean that I can always use and apply the input. Often times part of the problem is that the input just does not conform to the proper functioning of a Christian church. I think the church has done itself a great deal of damage in the last maybe 100 years, because it has allowed the world to dictate to it, instead of doing ministry in accordance with Scriptural direction. When pastors fold up and function according to the world, the world and the church realizes he as a pastor, or a Christian, that is not to be taken seriously.

It is amazing how much hypocrisy there is in the world and the world is the first to wag it’s finger at the church to criticize it for hypocrisy. The world’s hypocrisy really does border on the delusional and is absolutely breathtaking to see in action.

I hope that 1) people start to deal with their sin honestly. I’m not saying that because I’m perfect because, I’m not. On the other hand, I don’t try to delude myself into thinking that I’m above all that, if it’s my sin then it’s really not sin, it’s just A Skippy OK.

2) To Mr/Ms I know it all. I know that you don’t know it all, I can tell. You’ve been in church for decades, but I know that you don’t have even the most basic Christian/Scriptural understanding. You’ve been sitting in church because you think you should, just waiting to tell everyone how it should be.

The truly smart people who I know, recognize when others know more than they do about a particular subject. I really try to make sure, that when I can tell someone obviously has a grasp of something that I should shut-up and let them talk. I inevitably learn something and am thankful that they shared with me. Mr and Ms I Know It all, you might actually get smart and rely and trust those who actually know more about something. That doesn’t mean blind submission, that does mean realizing your limitations, recognizing someone else’s expertise and listening. That’s the smart thing to do and if you were really that smart you’d understand that.

Leadership skills always need work, refinement and study. Ministers are no exception

I spent twenty years in corporate finance, I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard Reserve, 4 active duty during the War On Terror, four years as a pastor and a modest amount of sports participation. I certainly don’t speak on leadership as an expert. But I certainly do try to keep growing and learning and trusting that God will put me where He wants me and equips me to be the leader I should be.

So maybe when I go back to a good article that I see on leadership, it is to share something that both of us need to continually remind ourselves of and work on. All the areas that I’ve participated in require meaningful leadership. I’ve seen real live examples of good, sometimes great leadership and likewise really poor. While most people don’t think of pastoral ministry as an area of leadership, there’s no doubt in my mind that ministry requires leadership skills. The challenges to ministry require many skills and in an era that sees more challenges and antagonism then ever to Christianity, ministers must be better leaders then ever. The church has done enough damage to itself as the result of weak, vacillating and accomodating ministry, now more than ever pastors need to stand up as leaders for Christ and for those who trust them with ministry.

“Inc Magazine” is a great source of managerial and leadership information and an article by Peter Economy is a great reminder of the skills necessary for successful leadership (http:///www.inc.com/peter-economy/leadership-how-to-get-from-good    Mar 14, 2014). In summary  lots of effort, relentless pursuit of knowledge, constant practice and willingness to accept failure. Having had three different careers, the need for continual study, read, go to seminars and further education are a requirement, it doesn’t take much to fall off the beam.

Vision – Christian ministry should be an obvious area of having a vision, come on, God gave us His revelation in the Bible. If you can’t work from there for vision, you may want to reconsider ministry as a career. Now obviously ministry takes place in different environments, so your vision has to take into account facility, neighborhood, resources, but always has to be to the glory of God and to make disciples of those in your parish.

Communication – Ministry is teaching me over and over you have to use every means of communication available, you have to repeat your message over and over, even when people are begging you to stop and when your sick of hearing your own voice, you repeat your message again.

Collaboration – I’ve had a few opportunities at collaboration with people who aren’t in my church and in areas that you’d think might exclude the church. Despite what an antagonistic media and other aspects of the culture try to propagandize, business, education, government, sports almost anything you can think of benefits from leadership in ministry. Too often those in the church are easily intimidated and chased away from the arena. Pastors have constitutional rights too and there is nothing to exclude them from any aspect of society and with a scarcity of talent and resources anyone who tries to exclude them should themselves be removed from authority. The stakes are too high, while there is a lot of phoniness and lack of preparation by people who just hang out a shingle claiming to be a pastor, there are many, yea like me, who have extensive training and experience and it would border on negligence to exclude anyone with that background from other areas of society.

Decisiveness – There has to be a high level of decisiveness in ministry as much as any areas of leadership. While all leaders have serious barriers to overcome, those in the ministry have to endure a lot of challenges in probably a lot more respects. The public sector is probably the worst offender. While it is the “public” sector there is an element that seems to feel that their area in the “public” sector is their private domain. That has to be challenged by leaders in the corporate areas, religious areas and other parts of society. Religious leaders have to learn to confront those who loosely throw around nonsense that they don’t even understand. Too many seem to think that they only have to know slogans and cliches, and little substance. These people have to be decisively confronted and overcome. They do not own their office, if they do not function in that office for the public good and the church is as much the public as any group or individual, those people have to be removed and frankly prosecuted, they are undermining public administration, education and public safety.

Integrity – Ministers are held to a higher standard of integrity than anyone. Sure there are those who fail, but by far, I would compare ministers to ANYONE in ANY walk of life, by far. The world will continue to treat Ministers as mascots and with lightly veiled contempt, we have to push back, with integrity and often function under difficult circumstances with dignity and integrity.

Inspiration – Napoleon said “A leader is a dealer in hope.” The one thing that the world lacks most of all is hope. Oh the church has had its failures and has been less than inspiring in the last few generations, with many notable exceptions, but ministers have to start to assert the truth in Jesus Christ. The only hope of anyone, anywhere is in Christ. We’ve seen massive, almost cataclysmic failures in government, corporations, education, science, medicine, none are immune to failure and many of these sectors edge closer to a time that they need to either radically redo how they do business or be overturned and rebuilt. Christian ministry should provide inspiration, not just in terms of the Resurrection, but in terms of Christ being the only hope for the world in the here and now. More and more man tries to compose fraudulent codes of conduct and ethics, all of which they try to exclude themselves from or justify why they are special exceptions. Christian ministry has one mission, to faithfully proclaim the hope, promise and Lordship of Jesus Christ, that can take many forms, but the only thing that truly inspires is in Christ and we must be the faithful proclaimers of same.