Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Too many Pastor-Teachers in Leadership?

I've been doing some reflecting recently and some thinking about the future too. In fact we both have. Being busy can get in the way of planning the "what next" stage of life to the point where you suddenly find yourself in your own future without any real idea how you got there. That sound pretentiously profound to me, but the point is that you can just drift into things and it's good to stop every so often and do some reflecting and thinking. So that's what we're doing.

We wouldn't be giving away anything by saying that eventually we will probably move back to Bedford. Ally and David seemed settled there and it was probably the place we felt most at home during the 20 years of moving around the country as manse family. The question is more a when rather than an if. Of course it brings up all sort of other questions, mainly about where exactly we would look to live. But there's more to it than that.

We spent 8 years in Cotton End serving the church there. We learnt so much during that time and explored so many things. I still can't quite get my head around how willing the church family were to experiment and grapple with new ideas and opportunities. Moving away was quite a wrench. The next 2 years would turn out to be both the most difficult and challenging 2 years, and they would also mark the end of full-time ministry for us. What we did learn in that period was the God was challenging us and shaping us in quite a different way and that the legacy model of church was no longer a sustainable model for us. That isn't to say that it can't work, it's just that we could no longer do what was required. Okay, so I never could do what was required, I simply wasn't wired up to fulfil that sort of of role.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I think too many of our churches, yes I still see myself as part of the church, are lead by pastors. Looking at Paul's leadership traits in Ephesians it strikes me that too many pastor-teachers (if you want to combine the roles) lead churches. These good folk have all the skills and gifts to get alongside people, to comfort them, guide them, teach them and encourage them. The church needs them. But does it need them to be the primary leaders?

When you look at Paul's list you have to ask where are the apostles and prophets and evangelists? Church leadership is a multi-faceted process. It needs all of these gifts. Perhaps the problem is that we've elevated pastor-teacher above the rest and in so doing have actually done the church a dis-service. I think we've also excluded many good leaders because they don't have those pastor-teacher skills.

I'm not saying that a pastor-teacher can't have vision or can't be an effective leader. I just think we've missed out on so much by promoting one dimension of leadership to ordained office at the relegation of others. When we only put a pastor-teacher in charge, then we get the same result every time. We get legacy model church because that's what legacy model church looks like. It's pastor-teacher lead. It meets on Sundays and does worship. It produces Bible study notes for house groups. All good things, but not all that the church is called to be. Apostles and prophets and evangelists are are pain in the side of the legacy model of church because they see something different. We need the pain. We need leaders who aren't necessarily gifted pastorally or even as great teachers but who see things differently.

 If the church is ever really to leave the building then it will be because visionaries and pioneers, the apostles and prophets and evangelists, will take us there. The pastor-teachers will still be important, but they won't be leading the charge.