Churches die for two reasons. They change what they should never change or they refuse to change what God gives them the freedom to change. In the first, they abandon the message of God and in the second they abandon the culture they are trying to reach out of their dedication to antiquated methods. In either case, it is essential to determine what things are okay to change and what things should remain constant.
Check out I Thessalonians 2. The apostle Paul’s enemies are talking negatively about him and in this passage, Paul defends himself as a leader. From his defense we can extract 6 key essentials for our own leadership.
We need to be creative and innovative in our methods, but we must not compromise our message. We need to remain committed to the Word of God and Biblical truth. Paul reminds the Thessalonians in verse 2, “we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
2. Exemplary Character
As leaders, there are four motives that threaten our character. Three of them are mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 and the fourth is mentioned in other writings by Paul. These are the pursuit of popularity, the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of power, and greed. Keep both your motives and your message pure and untainted; methods can change.
3. Divine Accountability
Focus on pleasing God only. There is one Lord of your church, Jesus Christ, not your elder board, staff, congregation or yourself. It is tempting to be a people-pleaser, but this can lead to making “masters” other than God in your life and ministry.
4. A Parental Leadership Style
The most commonly known metaphor for a pastor is the shepherd. But I Thessalonians 2:7-12 gives us another model – fathers and mothers.
Like a mother, we need to be caring, gentle and tender. Like a father, we need to exhort, encourage and implore.
Four elements of parenting that can enhance your leadership if used with your congregation are: (1) know your child well, (2) lead with a loving and gracious spirit, (3) encourage confidence, and (4) celebrate faithfulness and success.
5. Focus On Your Unique Abilities
Your unique abilities are the intersection of your experience, passion and natural talents or gifting. As your church and ministry grow, you should not be doing more. You should be focusing on your unique abilities and delegating the rest. This will allow for maximum impact without burnout.
6. Nurture Your Personal Health
Commit religiously to taking a day off once per week. God did it and we should too. You are a finite resource and the health of your ministry depends on your own personal, spiritual and marital health.
If you want to learn more about this topic, I have a 4-part audio seminar recording called Relevance Without Compromise: More Effective Ministry in the 21st Century (approximately 3.5 hours in length) available for purchase and download for $9. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.