Sunday, April 28, 2019

Groomed for leadership. . .

Got an email the other day from an organization which was formed to make leaders of pastors.  Perhaps it is too difficult to make pastors of leaders so this group is starting at another point.  I do get regular emails from them and print communications as well.  All of it is designed to equip pastors to be leaders, to survey the landscape of our changing world, and to accomplish the complex work of being missional and visionary forces in the world today.

Strangely enough, there is not much there on being a pastor.  There is a never ending supply of modern buzz words about the demands and opportunities thrust upon well meaning but unprepared pastors (implied if not stated bluntly).  There is the promise of research from all the most current sources on what it takes to be a leader, a missional leader, and undertake a strategic plan for great success in this moment.  There is much about the Millenial Generation (guess they did not check my own birth date) and how they believe God is harvesting this generation for leaders who will lead in the Kingdom of God.

When you do the hard work of self leadership you end up doing more of...
  • the stuff that stirs your soul.
  • the stuff that you want to spend the rest of your life doing.
  • the stuff you’re flat out uniquely good at doing.
You beat back the natural, creeping, “Do I Have What It Takes?”
Most leaders quietly question when they get out of bed in the morning because...
  • They skipped getting clarity about themselves. They think it’s too late. (It’s not.)
  • They drift. They know their sweet spot but they let others call the shots for them.
As a result they get trapped in round peg/square hole org charts doing what they’re not good at doing...and not doing it well.

Today, I want to simply acknowledge the two other common combatants that contribute to the "Do I Have What It Takes?"

Are you feeling called to a higher level of leadership? Are you being groomed for more responsibility in your organization? Do you feel overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of leadership and long for some help?
We are covering topics that you didn’t get in seminary such as hiring, firing, and strategic planning for complex ministries. We will study together the latest research on leadership and what it means to be a missional organization in today’s cultural context.
 I have no doubt that these people are sincere, well meaning, and desire only the best for the Kingdom of God.  I just think that they have confused pastors with leaders (at least in the usual definition of leaders as the business or political or social context would speak of them).  Pastors are not those kind of leaders.  God has not given us special wisdom to discern the crystal ball of societal and cultural change nor has He promised to raise us up as people with a visionary perspective on the present or future.  He has not equipped us for general leadership but for the special role as pastors who preach and teach the Word of God, who baptize and preside at the Lord's Table, who absolve sinners, who visit the sick and shut-in, who admonish the unrepentant, who counsel those in distress, who warn the erring, who bury the dead, who comfort the sick and grieving, who give hope to the dying, and who pray at all times for all conditions and manner of people within their care.  If this is the leadership to which they are calling a cohort and if this is the pastoral vocation for which they offer help and aid, then God bless them.  But is it?  Or is this idea of leadership notably absent of the very things that the call documents outline as the duties and responsibilities of the pastor and the promises and pledges he makes when ordained and installed?

God knows I want to be leader.  I suspect every pastor secretly wants to be.  Well, perhaps that is not true.  We may not want to be leaders as much as we want to be saviors who rescue the flawed and failed churches in our care if only by the sheer strength of our will, the magnetism of our personalities, the sharpness of our wit, the gift of our humor, and rally a world for Jesus.  That is not our strength but our weakness.  

Perhaps the gift of the ministry is that God is trying to save me from myself and my grand ideas and my sinful presumptions.  Perhaps that is exactly the reason why God did not select leaders but apostles and called them to select pastors and not leaders and why the Church has followed in their steps.  Perhaps that is why God took off the plate the idea that we invent, control, or manipulate the resources and set pastors aside to preach the Word in and out of season and administer the Sacraments (means He established, still controls, and uses to accomplish His purpose).  Perhaps the Church suffers less from a lack of leaders than she does faithful pastors who do what God has set apart pastors to do.   

Oh, well, you know me. . . always an opinion. . . and some meandering thoughts. . .


Paul said...

I've wondered at times how leadership should be discussed properly in the church. I agree with the basic premise of the blog and reject the nonsense that makes up the core of programs like Transforming Churches Network, Pastoral Leadership Institute, FiveTwo, whatever this program Pastor Peters is referencing, etc.

However, there are Scriptural references to leading with zeal/diligence, and even pastoral "leadership" that exists in a general way, of which preaching and teaching specifically demand double honor. There is some Scriptural recognition of leadership that is typically dismissed as "administration" or "executive" among confessionals. Especially in this time when an acedia linked to the general nihilism of the culture has infiltrated the Church, we should be willing to hold up a proper understanding of the various responsibilities in the congregation and church, which include leading and leadership that is not coterminous with faithful "pastoral" activities defined in the ordination vow. I don't see this kind of more nuanced discussion occurring anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Leadership? As in acting like a CEO of a company? Having a masters degree in Theology including a basic understanding of Hebrew and Greek are not enough? Perhaps the target audience of leadership classes are Regarding "being missional," wouldn't it make more sense to encourage all LCMS pastors to head overseas for 3-5 years, obtain firsthand knowledge of "pounding the pavement" in a foreign culture, and then return to the USA reinvigorated? What better way to have the "missions" mindset infused into the LCMS DNA when witnessing in Mexican-American neighborhoods?

It would be ideal if the LCMS would require a course in how to generate and maintain an effective online presence. Most Lutheran congregations are known for having outdated and unattractive websites. In our post-Christian society, church websites should be used for witnessing to pagans and to disaffected Evangelicals. Lutheran seminarians should also be required to take a course in audio podcast creation. The Millenial Generation and Generation Z are tech-savy, so what better way to reach these cohorts?

Anonymous said...

In response to the last Anonymous, the ideas you list are good, but probably not affordable, due to the other coursework seminarians do.

Lutheran Hour Ministries website does a good job with its website. Maybe the developers there can offer templates for the various congregations.

Ted Badje

James said...

Part 1

Pastor Peters wrote: "There is the promise of research from all the most current sources on what it takes to be a leader, a missional leader, and undertake a strategic plan for great success in this moment."

I see where this is going. Smaller, struggling congregations are the target audience. We can no longer plant and grow congregations using the same methods that were effective during Walther's time. The traditional Caucasian demographic is collapsing. Somehow this statistic is conflated with the premise that numbers are down because "young people" are turned off by "traditional" church and are heading to non-denominational, big box congregations.

The "remedy" states that the only effective way to grow mainline congregations in the 21st century is to convert said congregations into large, "cool" megachurches. Small congregations, irrespective of denomination, are consolidating into larger, regional worship centers. People no longer think twice about driving 15 miles to church. Neighborhoods and the Andy Griffith-style "Mayberry" sense of community that they provided are gone. Churches are eager to fill that role as community centers. Fellowship in such places is awesome.

So, here you go: Introduce a praise band and start small groups. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with using these things in any Christian congregation. However, any confessional Lutheran who has been paying attention to historical Lutheran theologians and hymnals will notice the shallowness of the praise songs and small group curricula. I maintain that worship is prayer put to song. How should we pray while we sing and play instruments? Remove the music and examine the lyrics of both hymnals and of praise songs. Could any of those be recited as prayers? If not, then why bother to sing during a church service?

The praise band sounds good, and the small groups are chugging along. But wait, there is more than can be done to reinforce what small groups study. The confessional Lutheran pastor then decides to use the latest book by a pop-Evangelical author in an all-church study. A new sermon series about the book is launched. As a result, the traditional, confessional Lutheran law-gospel sermon has been replaced by a shallow "how to" sermon. People who grew up hearing law-gospel sermons start to notice that something about the pastor's messages is "off," but no one wants to complain and be accused by the elders of being an old grump who wants to prevent the church from growing and moving forward. We are doing this to attract and keep the "young people," don't you know?

James said...

Part 2

As a result, there is nothing about the new pop-Evangelical materials that would differentiate Lutheran theology from generic, Evangelical theology. Other than mumbling some words about Real Presence during the Eucharist and baptizing babies, the theology in the revitalized confessional Lutheran congregation is generic Protestant. Mission accomplished. Confessional Lutheran churches that have implemented this model should rejoice. That is the result that the Church Growth marketers have envisioned.

Confessional Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough routinely critiques the most popular Evangelical megastar pastors on his podcast Fighting for the Faith. I sensed that there was something seriously wrong with my LCMS congregation after noticing that the preachers featured on Pastor Rosebrough's program were the same authors that were promoted in the small groups. After making this realization, I am happy to testify I am no longer a member of any small group. The Church Growth consultants would consider me a failure for not having embraced the modern way of "doing church. Some of the elders would also think I was "weird" for objecting, but so be it:

Click here to listen to the Fighting for the Faith podcast

However, Lutheran denominations such as the LCMS have a new problem: Why then, would anyone deliberately attend a Lutheran congregation when the non-denominational church down the street offers the same product, but does it better? After all, pop-Evangelical theology originated with the non-denominational churches. It is a theology foreign to the LCMS. Everyone but the non-denominational church leaders will openly admit that non-denominational congregations are merely generic Baptist but with a cool sounding name.

Congratulations, LCMS leaders, for recruiting more members to the non-denominational congregations!