Archives For pastoral leadership

Leadership developers

ib2newseditor —  February 27, 2018

MENTORING sketch on notebook

I don’t recall aspiring to be a leader. I do have childhood memories of realizing that I was one of the fastest on the playground, or that I got better grades than my friends. But the moments when I realized that I might be able to lead were different. Almost always, those moments involved the recognition and encouragement of someone else.

Mr. Showers asked me to consider joining my high school’s student council. Mr. Hsieh encouraged me to apply to be a resident advisor in the college dorm. My parents and then Pastor Oliver assured me that I could lead youth ministry on a church staff.

I would not have considered myself ready for any of those challenges. I believed in their value, and I respected those who were already leading in those ways. But in each case, it wasn’t until someone told me I was ready, and told me they believed in me, and gave me an opportunity, that I was willing to try leading in those areas.

It’s a pattern that I now see looking back over my career and ministry too. Keith told me I was ready to be a manager. Roy told me I was ready to be a director and then a vice president. Tim told me that I could help lead a new church plant.

Churches only stay healthy when they intentionally develop and enable new leaders.

Each of those leadership encouragers in my life were also leadership developers. They not only told me I could do it and gave me an opportunity. They also came alongside me to show me how to lead in those areas, and to support me, both as I grew, and when I failed.

In most cases, they were able to stay nearby until I didn’t need their help anymore. By then, they often had moved on to something else, because my development as a leader actually enabled their own development and opportunities.

In fact, as I look back, not many of my leadership developers had my development as their primary goal. In almost all cases, they were people who had some larger goal, some important job to get done, some mission about which they were passionate. It was their passion to advance that mission that led them to enlist help. And along the way, they discovered that additional leaders are the best kind of help for a mission.

Every healthy church needs leadership developers. In fact, churches only stay healthy and have opportunities to grow when they intentionally develop and enable new leaders. It always involves some risk, and it always requires patience with mistakes. It always demands that current leaders be willing to let go, even in areas where they are leading effectively, because there is always something else that needs to be done.

The “something else that needs to be done” is so important, too, because leaders are not just needed in each local church, but also in the state, national, and international mission fields of that church. One pastor I know has a “preaching school” within his church, where he develops pastors to help other churches in the area. Another pastor I know is intentionally developing church planters and campus pastors so that their church’s witness can expand to other communities.

If you are in any way a leader in your church, or in other settings, you too can probably list the leadership developers in your life, those who encouraged you and gave you opportunities. They are probably among the most respected people of your life. Let me encourage you, in your church setting in particular, to be one of those leadership developers. New leaders are desperately needed to advance the gospel, both in your church, and the mission fields of the world.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

 

 

Jonathan DavisSeptember 2013 will forever be seared in my mind as when I received the phone call every seminarian hopes for: God had called me to my first pastorate.

Recognizing the weightiness of it all, one thing became quite apparent: I was going to need major help. In God’s providence, that help came in a multitude of ways. One in particular was John Piper’s book, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”

With a passion and precision that he is known for, God used this veteran pastor to help shape my understanding of what it means to shepherd the flock of God. His thoughts on preaching were priceless, especially knowing I was to be responsible for the weekly preaching of God’s Word.

Within the wisdom of that book, one practical thought on preaching still reverberates in my ministry today. Piper made sure he preached on abortion at least once a year in his church.

“Pastors should put their lives and ministries on the line in this issue,” he writes. He was appalled at the “cowardice of some pastors when it comes to preaching against abortion.”

“If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.”

The gauntlet was thrown, and I felt the challenge deeply. I can’t fully explain it, but for me, reading those words was one of those moments when a truth concretized in an instant. I was resolved. There would be no cowardice on this issue on my watch.

Tony Merida (an author and pastor in North Carolina) said, “At its most basic level, expository preaching is preaching in such a way that the listeners get wet with God’s Word after the sermon.” Of this I was convinced. But it was Piper who convinced me that if I was going to discharge my pastoral duty faithfully, then I must make a point to preach the truth of God’s Word on the matter of abortion. He persuaded me that some topics are worthy of deliberate considering because they are just that important. The sanctity of human life is one of those topics.

God’s people are immersed in a culture of death. Whether it’s through the world at large, the onslaught of social media posts, or the inescapable daily news cycle, the spiritual forces of evil work overtime to diminish the value of life.

The cosmic powers over this present darkness are crafty in their attacks against the imago dei. They don’t care how they devalue life.

God’s ordained counter-offensive against this attack is preachers who lead their people by their preaching—empowered by the Spirit of God and armed with his Word. If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.

That’s not to say everyone else in the church is off the hook on this matter. But it is to say that if everyone else were to remain silent, there ought to be at least one champion for God’s image-bearers in the womb (and out of the womb, for that matter). That’s you, pastor.

In my own pastoral ministry, I have sought to lead in this way. Over the years, my definition of what I mean by “sanctity of life” has broadened. We generally think of it only being about abortion. But a legitimate category under sanctity of life is the desire for the flourishing of life.

This means in my preaching I’ve not only tried to expose the evil of abortion, but I’ve also sought to bear the gospel on racial reconciliation, proclaim the goodness of God’s design in gender, uphold the roles of men and women in the church and home, and lead God’s people in how to think through issues of euthanasia/suicide.

Now you might be thinking, “Why sanctity of life? Why this issue? Surely there are other matters to fight for as well.” If you think this, you’re right.

The sanctity of life is not the only issue. But it is worthy of a pastor’s prophetic voice in a world full of ears itching for teachers to suit their own passions.

My encouragement to you is the same mandate from Piper that fell on me: “Brothers, blow the trumpet for the unborn.”

Jonathan Davis is pastor of Delta Church in Springfield.

Protect your church

ib2newseditor —  February 27, 2017

Abandoned Desert ChurchEach year, we Baptist state executive directors gather with leaders from the national Southern Baptist Convention. We discuss issues of common concern, and exchange both updates and ideas for future ministry and cooperation.

During our time together this year, a couple of the retiring executive directors were asked to speak briefly on “things I wish I had known before I started in this role.” Of course, some of the observations were humorous. But one serious observation resonated deeply with me, and with others.

This western state leader, a returning international missionary, said, “One thing that surprised me was how much time I needed to invest, and how important it is, to help existing churches navigate pastoral leadership changes.”

Congregations are especially vulnerable during leadership change.

He then referred to churches that had been “lost” to the Southern Baptist family, or that had closed entirely, when they had not done a careful or wise job selecting their next pastor. In some cases the property had been lost; in others the church had abandoned its Baptist convictions; and in still others churches had deteriorated quickly from a couple of hundred of members to just a handful.

I wish I could say these things don’t happen in Illinois—and they don’t happen frequently—but this fellow executive director’s comments brought to my mind even current examples of churches that are in peril here in Illinois. Most I would have never imagined to be vulnerable to losing their Baptist witness, or the church property for which previous generations have sacrificed. But all it takes is one unhealthy or wrongly motivated leader, invited in by one careless or compromising search and selection process.

What can churches do to protect themselves and their legacy? Two primary things come to mind.

First, whenever your church faces a pastoral leadership transition, invite experienced help from your local or state association. There are proven processes that can be employed, and predictable pitfalls that can be avoided, and you have access to experienced leaders who have been through multiple searches, with multiple churches. Of course, your autonomous church can choose which resources to use, and customize any process to your unique situation. But please take advantage of these free resources that are available to help you make a wise and Spirit-led selection.

Second, there are steps your church can take now, even if you are not facing a pastoral transition, to protect both the assets and the Baptist witness of your church. Your church governance documents, and especially the deed to your property itself, can help ensure that your church sustains its Baptist witness, even if it somehow becomes susceptible to an unhealthy leadership situation.

Once my fellow executive director shared his observation about the vulnerability of churches during leadership transitions, I was surprised how many examples started flowing between the rest of us. One executive director said that his state convention had lost 12 churches during the past year. Another told of messy lawsuits entangling a couple of churches in his state, because an unscrupulous leader was seeking to profit personally from the sale of a church property.

So while this isn’t a particularly uplifting topic to write about, I came back from these conversations committed to doing so. Please make sure your church protects both its Baptist doctrinal commitment and its property and assets from the sometimes unpredictable times and people who would take them in another direction. And please call on us at IBSA to help. As my friend reminded us, protecting the doctrinal integrity and lasting witness of our churches is one of the most important things we do.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.