Leadership by Dictat

Please allow me to introduce what I want to say about a certain leadership style by way of analogy.  I tell pre-marital couples, during the lesson on sexual intimacy, that basically anything goes in their sexual relationship except that which violates the other’s conscience or sense of propriety.  If he wants her to do something that she doesn’t want to do (or vice-versa), she will begin to avoid the marriage bed.  She will go to bed before him, after him, have a perpetual headache – or whatever.  She will avoid intimate moments because he is violating her sense of what is right and appropriate.  Because he insists on his way he damages and wounds the spirit of his wife and weakens the marriage bond.

Transfer this same mentality to leader who, by his actions, damages the sensibilities of his staff.  When this happens with regularity, the glue that holds an assistant pastor to the senior pastor is weakened.  Even as a husband should make decisions in light of his wife, a pastor should make decisions taking into consideration their impact upon those in ministry with him.  Will this decision affect their conscience or sense of ministry propriety?  I have heard so many stories of arbitrary pastoral leadership and I know that this is more than just an occasional gripe from a disaffected staff member.

As pastors, we so often shoot ourselves in the foot.

  • When loyalty is demanded and consideration is not given, a falling out is inevitable somewhere along the line.
  • When unquestioning obedience is expected and unprincipled leadership is offered, division is sure to come.
  • When those affected by the decisions of leadership cannot appeal to that leadership for clarity and understanding, a kingdom model of leadership is not being followed.  (This is what caused the Revolutionary War!)

This has really made me revisit my leadership style and how I think through the impact that my decisions and direction has on others.  It’s been a profitable meditation.  In James 3, the wisdom from above is easily entreated.  Have you ever known staff members/staff pastors who are afraid to question a decision the senior pastor has made?   The Jesus style of leadership is not time efficient.  But since much of the church operates according to the corporate model or the military model, pastoral leaders are often full bore ahead with the expectation that the staff will adoringly and obediently follow.  Sometimes, as leaders, we need to be forceful.  I don’t mind pushing someone, but I’m not into pulling them apart.

All too often Calvary Chapel pastors look at staff as functionaries and not as partners.  I want my staff and elders to have the sense that they are working with me and not for me.  I think I have largely achieved that without sacrificing any pastoral authority.  In fact, I believe this model enhances pastoral authority.  My staff and elders are following and walking with me at the same time.  For me, church leadership is like a marriage.  I am the head of my home – and my wife follows me and walks with me (and occasionally reins me in).

PS – I will be out of the office when this publishes and don’t know if Wi-Fi is available where I’ll be going.  I may not be able to interact with any comments that are made until I return.

7 replies
  1. Josh Olson
    Josh Olson says:

    Great thoughts, Tim. Very succinct and well said.
    When I think of Jesus and His “ministry model”, one thing that stands out to me this morning is that he had a way of involving people in that ministry…wherever he was.
    He is still doing the same thing today with his disciples…involving them in his kingdom’s work.
    May the Lord give us that wisdom that we may be able to be more like him in this regard.

  2. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    PTL – I have wi-fi!

    That’s good, Josh. Even when I have felt as someone else’s functionary, I have always sensed that though I am God’s servant, I am also partnering with Him.

  3. Matt Kottman
    Matt Kottman says:

    Some great parallels. We can forget that leadership is as much about relationship as it is about directing and modelling. If we have to rely on our authority to get our people (or staff of which I have none) to walk with us, we have missed it. People will gladly walk with us because of our influence, and that is the result of people being confident that we are team players, we are concerned for their good, and that we are competent. Authority at times may need to be stated, but influence is the real strength of the relational and humble leader.

  4. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Amen, Tim. I wish I’d have been secure and confident enough in my earlier ministry to follow the model you’ve described.

    Instead, I was often firm with no desire for any interaction re: my decisions.

    Since then, I’ve tried to encourage folks that serve in the fellowship to give me input. I want and need their input, I tell them … but I don’t want their demands.

    Thanks for the post. Always an important reminder, to revisit the heart of leadership.

  5. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi,Bill – yes, it takes a secure man to be open to the input of others. Often, someone has a better idea than us, or sees the weakness of the decision we have made. We don’t easily give way to the wisdom and strength of others. We fear it will make us look weak. We are afraid people will not look to us anymore. But humility is always a strength.

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