Captain, commander, caregiver or recluse – what kind of leader are you and what is it doing to your church?
More from Thom Rainer and his book High Expectations.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes but Rainer argues that four leadership styles can be identified that impact a church in different ways. I’ve turned his comments into the following diagram;
Rainer argues that in growing churches the dominant leadership style is high task/ high relationship. In other words what churches need are leaders who are ‘very goal-orientated‘ and also ‘good people-person(s)‘.
Without a goal it is easy for the church to drift but ‘high relationship‘ is crucial in terms of bringing the congregation with you. In his research into growing churches it was these leaders who
cared deeply about people as they attempted to lead the church to change. Though the pastors had an ambitious desire to reach a goal or accomplish a task, they were unwilling to disregard the concerns of others in the process.
A few personal reflections;
1. Look for captains to lead your church. Commanders are likely, in attempting to force change, to cause damage and caregivers will never bring about the change a church needs.
2. Recognize yourself in the table and where possible compensate for your weaknesses.
3. Keep recluses out of leadership! The last thing a church needs is someone who has no vision and no interest in people.
4. Recluses tend to end up working for the denomination! They are maintenance people.
5. Team leadership helps compensate for the fact that it is hard to find high task/ high relationship people. Captains, commanders and caregivers each have something distinctive to bring to the leadership of a church. Caregivers stop commanders racing ahead, commanders ensure that necessary change happens.
6. Build in structures in your churches that facilitate both vision and good communication of that vision. Create a culture in which both change and consultation are expected and embraced.
7. Consult early and expect things to take longer to action.
One minister commented;
I am tempted just to move ahead without a broad consensus, but I realize that would be a big mistake. So I consult with church leaders and take the time to seek input from the members. The process takes a lot longer, but the end result is healthier.
Have I got what it takes to pastor a growing church?
Thom Rainer after 10 years of working alongside churches in the States and studying their trends has this to say about the Pastor.
Acknowledging that if God is sovereign he can and will use whoever he wants, Rainer maintains that
In his sovereignty, God chooses certain means, methods, and persons to accomplish his purpose. I am convinced that one of His primary means of accomplishing His will is through the words, deeds and leadership of pastors. So much does rise and fall on pastoral leaders.
And when it comes to growing churches here are the 8 qualities he identifies in Pastors.
1. They are theologically conservative.
2. They have longer-than-average tenure in the church they presently serve
3. They are more likely to have attended seminary than not
4. They are usually full-time at their churches
5. They love to preach
6. Their preferred preaching style is expository
7. They detest committee meetings
8. They are more visionary than reactionary
Whilst there are no real surprises in this list, I was struck by 5, 6 and 7 in particular. Godly men, who guard the gospel, love the word and love the people to whom they preach it are the hope for the church.
Having just finished preaching through 1 Timothy we find that it is the qualities that Paul sees in Timothy that continue to grow churches today.
The danger of attending conferences (I’ve just come back from the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London) is that you return home in awe of certain leaders. You wish you had the ability, the insight, the godliness and the gifting of those who were invited to speak and the conclusion you are tempted to reach is that there really are a very few people capable of achieving great things for God.
Thom Rainer studied the growth of nearly 300 churches and set out his conclusions in High Expectations: The remarkable secret for keeping people in your church. His conclusions challenge the assumption that only exceptionally gifted leaders grow exceptional churches.
Rainer argues that it is true that we should recognise that there really are some exception leaders out there. But we also need to celebrate the fact that God grows his church through the faithful leadership of ordinary pastors willing to persevere in their situations and grow their churches one small step at a time.
Here is the big take home for me:
Most successful leaders have learned to eat elephants.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You are willing to make incremental gains which result in long-term blessings.
From the inside the growth and progress can look painfully slow. But for ministers who are faithful and are willing to persevere their ministries can be very fruitful.
The secret then is not to try and be something you’re not or to spend your time wishing you were other than the leader God has gifted you to be but to be faithful and persevere because it is God who gives the growth!
In the study of growing churches Rainer comments of their leaders;
They had a long-term perspective of their ministries where they presently served. Though they were always open to the will of God, they did not try to leave every time a problem developed. They did not suffer from the “greener-grass syndrome.”
These leaders were persistent. They did not give up easily. They were willing to take two steps backward to go three steps forward.
We may not be able to expound the Scriptures like Vaughan Roberts or have the insights of Tim Keller but as the apostle Paul writes
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential.
Why so? Because that is the way God delights to work, therefore;
“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord”
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1 Timothy 4:16
Three times a year (now for seven years) I spend 24 hours with seven other gospel ministers from around the UK. We meet to pray, chat, laugh, share our fears, concerns and hopes. One of us also volunteers to lead a discussion on a book or topic that we agree at the previous meeting and for which we have read in advance.
A lot has happened in seven years. We have each changed, our families have changed, our ministries have changed. To date I’m the only one of us who has not changed job or moved city at least once. I realise that it is a great blessing in ministry to have such an opportunity to meet with a band of brothers who play a crucial part in watching over my life and doctrine. In ministry terms it is a life-saver.
What does it look like when we meet?
11 am – Coffee
11.30-1.30pm – In turn we each share about life and ministry including our own walk with the Lord, marriages, spiritual development of our children, church ministry and anything else of importance.
1.30-2.30 – Over lunch we talk through issues of theology, seek pastoral advice or wisdom on situations we’re addressing, discuss the wider church scene.
2.30-4.30 – Off on a good walk in which we chat, often in pairs, asking questions and picking up comments shared in our morning session
4.30-5.30 – Tea and conversation
5.30-7.00 – Session 1 on the book or topic.
7.30-10.00 – Meal out. More relaxed time and conversation
8.00-9.00 Breakfast (during which time we often skype the member of our group currently ministering in Australia)
9.30-11.00 – Session 2 on the book or topic
What is the value of meeting with the same small group of friends and fellow ministers on an on-going basis
As Tim Keller in his book, Reason for God, writes ‘It takes a community to know an individual.’
Keller takes up the observation that CS Lewis makes in his book the Four Loves;
‘No one human being can bring out all of another person, but it takes a whole circle of human beings to extract the real you.’
CS Lewis met with the same group of men for many years during his time at Oxford. Writing of the impact of meeting as a group of friends he said;
‘By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”
So in our little fraternal when we meet together we bring out different aspects of our characters, spot different strengths and weaknesses in each other and each in our own way encourage the others.
Thank you my brothers.
Essentially in evaluating a talk we’re looking at three things;
1. Matter: What was said?
2. Method: How was the content communicated?
3. Manner: Was it said well?
Matter: What was said? Issues of exegesis and hermeneutics
- What was the main thing or big idea that the speaker was trying to get across? (then ask the speaker what was the main thing they were trying to get across) Did they match?
- Was the main point of the talk the main point of the passage?
- Was the main point of the talk what they said it would be? (i.e. did it match their theme/aim sentence)
- Was the sermon in some sense about God? Is God the hero of the text expounded? Would the passage lead the hearer to think great thoughts about God?
- Did they so obviously skip anything that you think they were ducking the issue?
- Did anything need to be put in biblical context? How well did they do it?
- If it was an Old Testament passage did we get to Jesus as its fulfilment? Did we get to see how the OT pointed us to him in a faithful way?
- Were there additional theological points made in the talk that were NOT from the passage, or a necessary consequence of the passage? Were they justified?
- If cross-references were used were they necessary, were they helpful?
- Was there anything in the talk about the passage that you couldn’t understand?
- Did the speaker, in your judgement, misunderstand anything in the passage?
- Did they anticipate possible objections or difficulties with what the passage taught? Did they deal with those objections fairly, sympathetically and clearly?
- Did the applications follow from the main point and the text?
- Was there enough application?
- Was it too vague? Too narrow?
- Was it applied to ourselves? (and not simply to people out-there!)
- Did the talk misapply the passage?
- Was application (principle) accompanied by ‘Action’ (practical examples)?
- Did the talk address our own reluctance to apply the Bible to ourselves, how did it urge us to apply?
- Were the motivations for application the motivations of the passage?
Method: How was the content communicated
- Was it clear from the talk what the points/headings were?
- Were the main points straightforward and reasonably memorable or verbose and instantly forgettable?
- Did they show where in the text the points came from?
- Was there an obvious flow through the talk so that it was clear how the points related?
- Was there a good balance of explanation-illustration-application or did it feel too ‘light’ or ‘heavy’
- Did the illustrations actually illustrate the points being made? Extra marks for capturing the texture as well?
- Did the illustrations ‘drown out’ the talk?’ i.e. were they ‘too good’ and therefore distracting?
- Did the introduction serve the purpose of the talk?
- Was it too long, too short?
Did the introduction make you want to listen to the rest of the talk?
- Was there a conclusion? Did you know when the talk was ending?
- Did the conclusion function as a conclusion i.e. recapping or was new material introduced in the conclusion? (should not do this!)
- Was there any unnecessary jargon or unexplained terms?
- Did the talk work well for its particular audience? (e.g. Christian/non-Christian or youth group, kids talk, etc.)
- Was there any particularly helpful use of rhetorical devices:
- Posing questions to the listeners
- Testimony from own life or example of others
- Coming full-circle (finishing a talk where it started)
- Repetition of words, main points, etc.
Perhaps James McDonald’s blog was not getting enough hits when he suggested that congregationalism (although not congregationalists!) was a tool in the hand of Satan.
Jonathan Leeman of 9marks ministry has responded in a helpful post.
Thanks to Eddie Arthur for the link
This e-book is well worth a look when it comes to matters of vision, values & strategy in a church. Not just in shaping your vision as a church but in ensuring ownership of that vision.
Will Mancini comments
There are 4 kinds of people in your church when it comes to vision.
Passengers to nurture and challenge
Crew members to equip and empower
Stowaways to find and convert
Pirates to confront and eliminate
Here they all are:
1) ‘evangelist’ is a multi-faceted office that should be identified and encouraged
2) God calls non-evangelists to reactive witnessing not driven by guilt but love
3) Social engagement should be a given for any church community
4) Multi-generational and multi-ethnic churches best reflect the gospel
5) ‘Attractional’ church should be a by-product not a strategy
6) Planting new churches rather than enlarging existing buildings is most blessed
The audio of the sessions should be available in the next few days at the MGP site.
Should we all be evangelists?
I want to pick up here Andy’s second point and expand on his conviction a little further.
I’m an evangelist. I’m not a great evangelist but I do look forward to opportunities to share my faith. Andy’s insight is that as church leaders we don’t help our congregations when we fail ‘to distinguish between the gifting of evangelists and the responsibility of believers who have not been gifted in this way.’
So the problem we create as ministers and evangelists is that ‘we seem to think others should be wired as we are’.
What is the result of pushing the evangelism agenda?
Because what we are asking people to be is unnatural to them it results in ‘guilt, inactivity and passing the buck’.
The biblical pattern is that all Christians are called to be witnesses but not all are gifted to be evangelists. So on Colossians 4:6, Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone, Dick Lucas writes in the Bible Speaks Today commentary on Colossians;
Paul’s advice to the Christians is not along the lines of possessing oneself of better techniques with which to approach people. Rather he turns the problem right around so that the Christians can see their responsibilities in a much more promising light. Their privilege, simply put, is to answer everyone. That is to say they are to respond to the questions of others rather than initiate conversations on leading topics; they are to accept openings rather than make them.
This is emphatically, not to sound the retreat. Paul evidently believes that opportunities for response and explanation are to be found everywhere, for everyone is looking to discover answers about life and its meaning. And Paul evidently things that believing Christians should be found everywhere too, ready to take up these frequent opportunities.
What is the result of encouraging witness rather than pushing evangelism?
Patterson suggests at least 8;
- It recognises God’s sovereignty
- It leads to prayer as we seek God given opportunities
- It encourages holy living as we look to live lives that adorn the gospel
- It removes strain and false guilt
- It encourages excellence in our tasks
- It develops genuine friendships
- It allows effective, relaxed and open conversations
- It embraces all personality types
Dick Lucas again;
It is obvious what strain this removes from conscientious Christians. The pressure to raise certain topics and reach certain people can make it difficult to live or talk normally. In any case, we go to the office to work, not evangelize. But by being ready and willing to respond the way is opened in a more serene, and successful, approach to each day’s opportunities. It opens the way, too, for a greater dependence on God’s leading as well as for a more relevant and sensitive witness, suited to each individual.
Check out this fantastic insight from Glen Knecht a pastor who visited the Ukraine after the collapse of communism;
How mistaken the Communists were when they allowed the older women to continue worshipping together! IT was they who were considered no threat to the new order, but it was they whose prayers and faithfulness over all those barren years held the church together and raised up a generation of men and young people to serve the Lord. Yes, the church we attended was crowded with these older women at the very front, for they had been the stalwart defenders and maintainers of Christ’s Gospel, but behind them and alongside them and in the balcony and outside the windows were the fruit of their faithfulness, men, women, young people, and children. We must never underestimate the place and power of our godly women.
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