John the baptizer said, “He must increase; I must decrease,” and that is exactly the formula needed to help our local churches become healthy. We must fight the celebrity pastor syndrome at every turn. Down deep many pastors are hoping they will be the next celebrity pastor. Pastors are like all people and pride is one of their number one battles. We don’t just flock to the big conferences to learn a few new ministry tricks; we go believing we may be hosting our own conference in a couple of years. Here are some practical ways to help churches become healthier places.
1. Do everything in your power as the pastor to decrease your significance. Grow the church in such as way as to work yourself out of a job. If after a few years, you are so entrenched it is difficult to get away on vacation you aren’t doing it right! Take your name off the church sign! You are one member of a team.
2. One of your first tasks should be to develop other people who can speak in public. Sunday services should become a place where the body is built up by the practical teaching of God’s Word but not primarily by one person. This one thing will go a long way to remove one personality from hogging the spotlight. Eventually, the goal would be to have several people with close to equal time on stage.
3. The church needs to budget for counseling time for those who will be the public face of the church. Pastors have as much baggage as anyone else. Acting like they don’t and hiding it to be the rock star of the church is what leads to pastor failure. At first, monthly counseling should be required and later reduced to quarterly but never less.
4. The pastor should never have the final say alone on anything. Teams should be assembled (the pastor can pick his team) for every responsibility that generally falls to one person. At the end of my pastoral ministry I was part of a leadership development team, a staff team and the elder team. I never had to make a decision alone regarding the ministry.
5. Teams should go off together to pray and seek God’s direction for the ministry, for sermon series and for major decisions. When solutions and sermons are birthed through a team seeking God’s face together, confidence and courage is born.
6. I believe I would call a moratorium on going to any conferences for a year or two. Figure out what God has for your particular church without the clutter of what He may want to do in Charlotte, Chicago or Atlanta.
7. The first question I would ask any new pastor or potential full-time staff person is, tell me about how God has broken you. If a person can’t relay how they have been broken, I don’t want to hire them and manage that process. You would be hard pressed to show me a leader in the Bible who wasn’t broken before they were used significantly.
#1, 2, 4, are addressed by having plurality of leaders (you can call them pastors if you prefer). I am not talking about deacons that act as pastors. I am talking about pastors, bishops, elders, ie leaders who are equally responsible and accountable for what happens in the church. Presumably they are 1 Tim. 3 men. In a healthy environment, each man is held accountable to the others. The function of that accountability is to help each man maintain their godliness. Each would share the responsibility of public teaching and leadership, (you may prefer to call that preaching.) I don’t think the church is broken. I do think there are people in the church that are broken. Scott, I am curious by what you mean by the phrase in #7, “used significantly?” Care to elaborate?
Steve, I agree with your comment on the plurality of elders. The models I have seen using a plurality still lend itself to the American Model. There seems to always still be the dominant personality, senior leader, etc. By number 7 I am referring to Moses, Peter, Paul and other leaders who played a major role in the Bible. They were broken, humbled before God put them in their major place of leadership. We are given in Scripture the opportunity to humble ourselves and that is as valid as being humbled, even preferable but seems to easy for the subtle roots of pride to still be present.