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Who leads the church?

My resignation from FBC Elberton has come at a difficult time in the life of the church. Because many former pastors in this church have left under questionable circumstances (either on their own part or someone else’s), I have told everyone that my door is always open. I will always tell the whole truth about the circumstances surrounding my departure. Ask me the hard questions. I’ll give you the hard answers from my perspective.

In a nutshell, though there were some difficult things happening at FBC to help me see that God might be moving us away, the real crux of the matter is that He has ordained another work for me in another church that has been without a music minister for close to two years.

But, again, this comes with great difficulty – on my part leaving a church I love and friends I care about, and on their part for losing a valued staff member and being made aware of church issues that many have turned their eyes away from for too long. As a result, many great questions are being asked. “What do we do now?” “How do we get there?” “Who’s going to lead us there?”

So allow me to give my understanding of leadership structure in a church setting and what we know about how it affects people. There are really only two models (some variations in each model).

The first is the Deacon/Committee led structure. Since pastors often move in and out (sometimes too often!), this structure allows a lot of continuity. It allows the church to really lead itself, make the tough decisions, and accomplish many great things. Unfortunately, this structure often supersedes the pastor’s authority in a negative way. It can often create a tenuous relationship between the pastor and the governing structure of the same church. This model of leadership is a long-standing model that hearkens back to “Little House on the Prairie” type community churches that rarely had pastors that did much more than preach. The church needed a structure like this to manage the day-to-day activities and week-to-week needs.

The second model of church leadership is a Pastor led model. This model gained its momentum in the 1980’s and 1990’s with pastors like Bill Hybels (Willowcreek) and Rick Warren (Saddleback). These pastors formed a structure where the pastors had the final say in anything involving the church. They still used “checks and balances” with other committees, but those committees did not lead the pastors, they were led by the pastors. The advantages of this are that the pastors could do whatever they felt God was desiring from them. The “red tape” was dissolved in order to get to the work of ministry as soon and effectively as possible. The disadvantages of such a structure can be seen in remembering some of the old “televangelists” that swindled thousands of people out of millions of dollars. Those men lost sight of their calling and used their position of influence to gain monetary prestige.

You can make a biblical case for either as the “right” way to do it…just as easily, you can make a biblical case against either structure. The bottom line is this…if the Deacon/Committee led structure follows God’s will or if the Pastor led structure follows God’s will, doesn’t God’s will still get accomplished?

Honestly, I believe the pastor led structure is more pertinent to our current cultural needs. The church should always be seeking to grow “younger”, in that without consistently reaching younger people, it will eventually die. Younger generations simple do not desire to deal with or concern themselves with the “political” tendencies of a Deacon/Committee led structure. The younger crowd simply wants to come to church, worship God Almighty, be fed by the Word through preaching and teaching, connect to others through fellowship and discipleship, and find a place to connect themselves to opportunities to minister to others. The younger crowd, in general, has no desire to be involved in the governance of their church. They want their pastors to lead them because they have complete faith in their calling to do so.

So I ask you this…who leads your church? Is it working in helping grow the church younger? Consider the following quote from Rick Warren in a forward of Erwin McManus’s An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind, “The church is a body, not a business. It is an organism, not an organization. It is a family to be loved, not a machine to be engineered, and not a company to be managed.”


One Response

  1. Well put, Bobby. Wow, how many times have we heard, “It NOT about us … but Him.” Will we ever get that through?
    I guess the horn will have to relocate to its original location. It was wonderful that you could put it to use as you did.

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