Growth is what every church needs. Good pastors plan, aim toward, and set goals for the right kind of growth. It will look different for your church compared to others, but it will include some combination of numerical and spiritual growth.
Good pastors, however, don’t grow the church by making decisions unilaterally. They operate with a team of leaders. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes from the occasions for shepherding you get at the meetings, the opportunities to capitalize on the strengths others have that you don’t, and the bond that forms between you and the men who share the mission with.
The curse comes in the form of leaders who get in the way of leading. These men ascend to the leadership ranks because they are genuinely godly, and have been in the church for a long time. But, unfortunately, they don’t have the leadership gifting or guts to guide the church. Here’s six types of such leaders you will inevitably run into during the course of your ministry.
1. Cutting Edge Curtis. This guy assumes that the way forward is to adopt the latest ministry trends of the day. He assumes that what’s new is what’s best, but he doesn’t consider the long-term ramifications of today’s ecclesiological fad. When he’s not attending your deacon meetings, you can find him standing in line for the new product at the Apple store, eagerly peering at the entrance through his black-rimmed, non-prescription glasses.
2. Traditional Tom. Before you can respond to one of Curtis’ shortsighted suggestions, Tom beats you to the punch. Traditional Tom informs Curtis about what your church “has always done” and that is has “worked fine for us so far.”
3. Bylaw Bob. When Curtis returns fire on Tom, insisting that change is the answer, Bob joins the fray. Bob, with the bylaws holstered to his hip John Wayne style, is quick to the draw and shoots down any ideas that remotely appear to be out of line with the church’s constitution. No one can out duel him because he never runs out of ammo – uh – I mean policies.
4. Popish Paul. No one, that is, except Popish Paul. Paul backs up his ideas by pointing out that a famous pastor is doing the same thing at his church. Paul turns John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll, or Mark Dever into a functional pope when he relies on their authority for his ideas. Paul never gives any thought, however, as to why ministry initiatives work in those churches, nor whether their contexts overlap enough for such a ministry to be effective in yours.
5. What If William. Just when you think you’re about to land on a decision (finally!), William drops all sorts of possible, but improbable obstacles, to the plan you are discussing. “What if it rains?” “What if no one comes?” “What if no one signs up?” With all his “what ifs,” William bogs your team down with contingency plans that put your original plan at risk, because now it looks harder than it really is.
6. Seesaw Sam. Sam is pretty quiet in the meeting. He nearly breaks his neck turning his attention to Curtis, Tom, Bob, Paul, Bob, William, Tom, etc. After each person makes his point, he makes up his mind…until the next person speaks up. He goes back and forth like a seesaw, absorbing each argument without processing it critically. When it’s time to make a decision, Sam votes for whoever spoke up last or loudest.
Why these guys stunt your church’s growth:
1. Lack of vision. Growing a church takes leaders who can stand on their tip-toes and peak at the future. These leaders, however, only look at the past and the present. If they do look toward the future (Willy), it is with a pessimistic frown on their face.
2. Lack of wisdom. Elders and deacons need wisdom from above in order to shepherd the church to greener pastures. But none of these types display wisdom of their own. They let present trends and past decisions do their thinking for them.
3. Lack of guts. Ultimately, these guys are afraid. They are scared of appearing uncool, change, losing control, being wrong, failure, and conflict respectively. God has never used anyone who didn’t have the guts (a.k.a., faith, Heb. 11) to stick their neck out and try something to help God’s people. Real leaders may doubt at times, but they come back to trust God and take risks based on their trust.
It may take you a while – years – to weed these guys off your leadership teams, and raise up leaders who will point your church toward growth. During that time, you may be surprised that these guys can change their name. Perhaps you can develop them into better leaders. If you can, mold them and shepherd them. If not, make a prayerful, deliberate, and gentle change to your team. The growth of your church depends on it.