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A lesson in leadership

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Community Columnist

The young pastor wanted to see his church grow. The fact it was relatively small and stable in the middle of a growing community was burdensome to him. But he didn’t have his team on board. He didn’t know how to build relationships with key leaders and how to solicit their help in ministry. In fact, he lost patience with those who didn’t share his vision, thinking them unconcerned or unspiritual.

The pastor listened to leading pastors in his denomination for direction. Several mega-church pastors talked about their being “vice-regents” under God, and accountable to him for making major decisions about church health and vitality. One of these large-church pastors called himself a “benevolent dictator,” and in pastors’ meetings told about doing things without his deacons’ knowledge or approval because “God told him.”

The young pastor believed he was well-schooled and had a good grasp of biblical knowledge, but continued to listen to the leading pastors in his denomination—the practitioners—to shape his thinking about leadership.

Tensions developed over several major issues. One was the pastor’s suggestion to take a large Sunday School class and make two classes—commonly believed in his denomination to be more advantageous in reaching new people. Another issue was the church’s historically generous giving to mission causes. Some believed the church gave too much. Another issue was meeting space. A local architect recommended a new building, insisting the older building, constructed by members of the church, needed a lot of improvements and was a fire hazard. Some church leaders believed the old building could be sufficiently renovated.

Fortunately for the young pastor he enrolled in a new off-site degree program at his former seminary. Requirements included meeting with an area pastor as a mentor and submitting assignments to the main campus through him.

The older minister sensed growing tensions and one day counseled the young pastor in what to say at an upcoming deacons’ meeting.

“You go in there humbly,” he said. “You say, ‘I’m a young pastor and I’ve made some mistakes. I need you to help me and pray for me.’”

The young man did so. He learned later that two deacons had agreed to ask him to resign that night, but they backed away when they heard his plea for help. The pastor moved to another church in a few months, but it was his decision to do so. He started again as a wiser man, seeking to build relationships with members.

Did the pastor retreat from conviction, or did he grow in his understanding of leadership? I think the latter. According to Scripture, the pastor is a shepherd who leads the flock, but he’s also called to love the sheep.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

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