Redeeming Our Ideas of Church Leadership
This is a summary of a chapter in my book Giving Up Sunday: Looking for more from faith, community, and calling. You can find it on Amazon or read more about it here.
My wife is a teacher.
I used to think teaching would be a great gig.
Sure, the money isn’t all that great, but I figured it couldn’t be too bad considering you get done by 4:00 every day, you get all your holidays (two weeks at Christmas! Come on!), and you get the ENTIRE SUMMER off.
That’s a sweet deal
Then…my wife became one.
Not to sound like too much of a Texas hick but…
It is CRAZY YALL!!!
First off, can we just say, getting done by 4:00 every day. Ha. Ha ha HA! No stinking way. She was working until 6:00pm, then she’d come home and do something like buy every sponge at the dollar store and stay up until 1:30am cutting all of them into tiny little squares for ONE STINKING GROUP ACTIVITY!
Thank God, she eventually signed up for the 40 hour teacher club and it has completely changed both our lives for the better!
The point is, being a teacher is often way more work for less thanks than it should be.
It’s kind of like being a pastor.
- 45% of pastors say they have experienced depression and burnout and need to take a leave of absense from ministry
- 52% say their spouse believes pastoring is hazardous to their family’s well-being health
- 57% say they would leave ministry if they had any other viable vocational option
- 70% say they don’t have any close, personal friends
- 94% say they feel the pressure to be perfect and have a perfect family
There’s a Christian hip hop and poetry artist named Propaganda that wrote a poem called “Bored of Education” and there’s a line in it that I think is appropriate for both teaching and ministry.
“If your brightest stars are always dim, there must be something wrong with your glasses.”
Now, everyone can point to some pastor who is the exception. Perhaps you think your pastor is. Perhaps you are the pastor and you’re thinking, “that seems outrageous.” Of course these stats will not apply to all pastors. It is just a study and studies are never comprehensive. The fact of the matter is, there is a very real problem with the expectations and the consequences those expectations are currently having on the people we look to to lead the people of God.
They are burning out. It is either killing them and their families, or at the very least it is watering down their actual ability to minister because there is simply too much to do, and too high an expectation for how they do it.
What’s the real problem
There are two different places in scripture that Paul talks about the role of individual followers of Jesus in the larger church body. In both places he simply says (in my own words),
“Whoever you are and whatever you have, give it”
He also essentially says,
“Every single person is vital in the functioning of the Church.”
He even says that it doesn’t matter who you consider the “leader” because no matter what we do or who does it, it is only God who makes people grow. It is only God who can truly change a person and lead them to true maturity in their faith and their relationships.
One of the biggest hindrances to churches being healthy communities of faith, rooted in love is that
we have stopped seeing ourselves as equally important in God’s way of doing things.
Over the centuries we have settled in to seeing a select group of “called” individuals as the leaders, the visionaries, and the doers of God’s work.
We have become spectators. Or at best, support staff.
This is not any one person or group’s fault more than the others. The truth is, pastors often see themselves as specially called too. Or, perhaps they just think it is their job to grow the church, so since they feel a sense of ownership and are willing to serve, they end up doing WAY more than what a pastor should be doing.
Did you know “pastor” is not actually used in the new testament? Everywhere we find the word “pastor” the actual word used is “shepherd.”
Pastors are supposed to be shepherds.
Shepherds’ only jobs are to watch, walk, water, and feed their sheep. They make sure they get sustenance, don’t die, and don’t get killed by predators.
Nowhere in a shepherd’s job description does it say to balance the budget, lead countless committee meetings, and fix the wifi. A very practical reason these should not be the pastor’s job…
They probably aren’t any good at it!
And it is robbing them of doing what shepherds do best…
Being with their sheep.
Really being present with them. Walking through life with them.
Jesus and the apostles never meant for church to be structured as it is right now.
There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom of Jesus.
And if there was, it wouldn’t be led by the ones with the most schooling. It would be the fishermen, the tax collectors,
the screw ups.
God’s Kingdom is led by the people. It isn’t operated by dukes and princes, it is run by every single serf and peasant the Kingdom has, because those peasants have been adopted as heirs to the throne. And as heirs, we all have great responsibility in seeing that the kingdom, the community, our family is taken care of and greatly loved
in whatever way we can.
“If your gift is to serve then serve. If it is hospitality then be hospitable. If it is words of encouragement than encourage…”
The thing is, we will never start living and operating as The Church if we don’t do some serious identity work.
You are not a peasant. You are not a “simple” laborer doing your best to help the “true leaders” fulfill the mission of God.
You are an heir to the throne. You are next in line. You are royalty.
And it is royalty that has the greatest responsibility of all…
Do whatever you can, and do it with great love.
Help us save our shepherds.
Help us save our churches.
Help us save our royal brothers and sisters from living like peasants.
Recognize that you are the most important person in God’s Kingdom. You have the most precious and valuable gift, and you have people all around you that need that gift.
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For more on church and how to live like Jesus, check out Giving Up Sunday: Looking for more from faith, community, and calling available on Amazon now
This is so true. Unfortunately, those of us who are the “sheep” often get in the rut of being passive and enjoying being led to Christ instead of leading ourselves and others. And the “sheperds” get in the mindset that “more” is always better than less. We all end up on a treadmill going nowhere.
Very good description of what is going on in the church today. Thank God that Pat and I stay involved and we give God credit for that at our age. We are old!
Well Sally, the puzzle wouldn’t be complete without every piece, including the very youngest and the very oldest. They are fortunate to have the two of you!