This week Graham spoke to us on how we should respond to a new leader and their role in leading and shepherding the congregation.
You can listen again to the sermon here:
Written at a time when many of the first leaders had already died and the newly appointed non eyewitness leaders were appointed:
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.
Looking ahead. The new pastor of this church
The new pastor of this church, leader or chaplain? My successor, the new pastor of this church. How will you respond to him/her? Will it be very different from how you have responded to me? I am going to suggest some things, as well as teach from scripture. Research was done many years ago looking at how difficulties often arise within churches around the leader and the subject of leadership. This research was published. I learned a great deal from it and in my mentoring and support of church leaders I have often referred them to this.
The Berry Bucket Balance.
The research suggests some behaviours that the new leader can bear in mind but it assumes the church in question already understands some things about leadership within a Christian Church.
There are many models of leadership outside of the community of faith but we see from the words of Jesus that in his Kingdom a leadership position is a position of servanthood. The leader serves the people they are placed among. But how does the leadership and servant role go together?
One minister in another denomination told me that his denomination’s beliefs about leadership means he has no leadership mandate in his church. He said that in his denomination he has to hope he is eventually held in such good standing that his opinions may carry weight. There is another denomination that has no designated leader in their churches with a claim that have a leadership group in each fellowship and that all those lead equally. That group is known for their tendency to fragmentation and scism.
We have almost no information about leadership structure within the early church. Therefore there are, and have been, a whole array of different forms of leadership, some long lived, some experimental and short lived. Most are based upon the clues we have in scripture.
Almost all church structures across the denominations have a leadership board of some sort whether the Church of England PCC, Diaconate, Eldership, etc. They almost all have a presiding person looked to for overall leadership and pastoral care. In Elim the ministerial role can be shared with elders, but not necessarily. Even with a team of elders, the pastor in Elim has sole responsibility for all the services and is chair of all committees and teams (though this is routinely delegated). No visiting speaker can be invited without the pastor’s authority. The intention was that this leadership structure would preserve unity and good order and promote flourishing. History tells us it has worked rather well.
Another intention of the leadership structure within Elim was the idea that the leader has a duty to seek God for the direction of the church. I have always sought to do that even though I have usually referred my ideas to the elders for their feedback. Sometimes God may speak to another outside of the leadership structure who may brings a suggestion that is then accepted by the leadership. A good leader rejoices at such a thing and does not feel in any way threatened or diminished as a leader.
So leadership is expected within our church. Will you look to the new pastor as your leader or chaplain?
1 Peter 2:13-17
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor.
1 The shepherd feeds and cares
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
The whole job the church pastor can be summed up with the description of feeding and tending the sheep, and looking out for wolves. See John 10:1-18 for more of that.
2 The shepherd leads
1 Peter 5:1-4
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
When we read Peter’s teaching here it is worth reminding ourselves that Peter was a fisherman, not a shepherd. He had learned of shepherding in the community of faith from Jesus himself.
In those days shepherds walked ahead of the flock in their care and the sheep followed. Church leaders today are expected to lead the flock in their care by personal example. This example should say, “This is how you can live.” Because the shepherd walks ahead, the church leader seeks to say, “This is the way we are going.”
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
It is thought this teaching is because it is at the point where some early leaders are going to be with Jesus and new ones are being appointed. The writer was keen to ensure good continuity.
The word ‘leader’ in Hebrews 13:17 is the same Greek word (hegeomai) used to describe Joseph as ‘governor’ over Egypt in Acts 7:10. That was a real rule, though exercised in the people’s interests. The word is used also of Jesus in Matthew 2:6, where it says of Bethlehem “From you shall come a ‘ruler’ who will ‘shepherd’ my people Israel.”
I am handing that over to the new leader of this church.
2 The shepherd corrects – calls sheep back into the flock
Admonish means: To correct by verbal teaching, urging, or reminder. Is Scots law it can be part of a court of law sentence.
The pastor is not expected to have all the right answers but is expected to be able to call member of the flock into living according to the values of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes this means correcting someone. In scripture this is mentioned as admonishing someone, and the pastor fails to admonish when it is required is failing in their duty. In almost all cases, when I have had to admonish someone, it has been accepted with good grace and has led to good results. The instances when people have reacted badly, or imaturely, have been so few I can count those occasions on my fingers.
See Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [ESV]
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. [NIV]
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
How should a person respond to being admonited? How will you respond if you are admonished by the new pastor?
See 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
- Pray for the right appointment
- An appointment like this is like an arranged marriage. Both sides need your prayers for wisdom and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Pray for yourselves, this present fellowship. You should desire the new people who will be added to this church, even if they do take it over.