Spiritual leadership myth: Pastor, you didn’t build that!

Forgive the not-so-subtle use of political buzz words in this article. This is NOT a political article, but simply a discussion on leadership in the church. Now, please read with caution.

Many pastors and leaders pride themselves on their church’s culture. Prominently on most church websites these days is a “core values” list that seem to communicate that statements of faith and creed are weighted equally to church culture. Also, it is common to see the faces and vision of these leaders on the front page of the church site. It is clear leaders impact the values and language of a church. I do see a significant problem, however. Are we more proud of our church’s culture than we are of given away ministry? Are we more concerned with our personal legacy as spiritual leaders than making the next guy succeed? You see, pastor, you didn’t build that–the church, that is.

Building campaigns, church logos, sermon series turned into books, and the lure of micro-celebrity “platform”, seduce those at the top into thinking they built the church. God brings sheep because they need to be fed, not because they represent a platform or legacy. Now, there is nothing wrong with buildings, groovy graphics, and writing down sermons and presenting them for future use. And, it is alright, in my opinion, to be wildly successful at all of those. However, have we turned our individualistic and capitalistic American values into our spiritual values? Where do the community of believers come into play?

While I agree a small business person builds a business with a unique vision, a spiritual leader can only build anything that lasts with the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s vision.To think otherwise is just a fallacy, and a tired myth of our leadership-addicted church pastor culture. People like to flock to star-studded churches. So, many feel the goal is to fill the bill. The Mecca for any given movement today can be a source of inspiration for those that then travel back into the desert of their daily grind in ministry.  But, to make that the goal removes the unique call of our leadership as well as our flock.

Some are celebrity leaders today. However, these very successful leaders are not the problem.  The Mark Driscolls, Rick Warrens, Perry Nobles and Steven Furticks need less heat from the jealous pastors and bloggers out there. I have met a few leaders of this stature personally and believe God simply has his hand on some of these men. Some have five talents some have ten. The problem is with the rest of us.We try to reverse engineer what God has done in one place to reproduce the same results. You see, this is all wrong. You can’t build that.

Now results are good to celebrate! In fact, I think it is just fine to brag about your church in the context of God’s working through people. Every father should feel a healthy pride in his tribe, just minus the ego. The leader indeed has significant influence as this is how God uses him or her. But, when we take the stream of God’s work in a particular church and then try to bottle it up and ship it out we miss the point! God drafts leaders to serve, but he builds his church on the backs of average people who submit to his mission and are open to his empowerment. Every good leader I know recognizes this fact. And, this is how the good ones truly lead. I will admit some get results and still have the ego that they built it. That is why this article is here–to warn all of us of our own success or desire for it and the potential to forget God’s power in it all. This is also for those that feel defeated. You don’t have to be a celebrity church leader to dream big.

The culture of a church is indeed something a leader feels he owns. In fact, he or she should feel that way. But, even this unique expression of influence in a church should be seen as God-breathed, not manufactured. The biggest secret is that average people in places that have not yet seen amazing results have the capacity to reach their cities more than they know. The “priesthood of all believers” is something we forget. God needs leaders who are not gonna say “I built that” but who look into the eyes of the sheep they lead and see an army that has potential to win the war. While as leaders we should say, “No, I can’t” on my own the best of us who lead should surely say, “Yes, WE can.”

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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