John Ewart on the Pastoral Leadership Equation

Amazingly to me, part of my life revolves around conferencing. I always feel very humbled when asked to participate and never quite adequate for the task assigned, but I want to try to do my best and help if I can. This past week I had the privilege of helping lead two conferences for some really quality people. One was for a national group to which I belong that trains church consultants from all around the world. The other was a state convention event for the SBC of Virginia. Both dealt with church health, church revitalization and church leadership. They once again gave me the opportunity to consult with pastors and leaders and to hear about what was happening in their churches. As always, some of their stories were quite encouraging and some were not.

It is interesting in consultation work how often certain patterns emerge. Sometimes they are patterns of healthy practice but unfortunately, more often, they are patterns of problems and sin. It is very common for me to hear of unhealthy leadership patterns for example. Leaders who seem to lack wisdom or suffer from pride or fear are too common!

There is a statement I have taught those who served with me in local churches and seminaries over the years. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive “secret to ministry” or anything of the sort but I do believe it contains truth worth hearing and practicing. It goes something like this: “If a man could possess biblically based common sense while retaining objectivity and keeping his own ego out of the picture, he could serve well in God’s Kingdom. The problem is…one of the key parts of the equation is almost always missing.”

I refer to biblically based common sense as a superpower in ministry. To have knowledge and wisdom and be able to actually put them into practice well in ministry seems all too rare. Maybe we do not train well or we lack good examples or just need more experience. It is difficult to conduct a seminary class on wisdom and common sense. We need pastoral mentors to help the next generation of leaders grow in their ability to use the knowledge they gain in the classroom in solid ministry practice. This is one reason why I love our EQUIP Network. It intentionally places the more experienced with the less experienced.

Retaining objectivity simply means to be able to see the big picture without being trapped in some myopic vision. To see the pieces of mission and vision connect in ministry and to understand that actions here can affect actions there. I have seen so many leaders operate in silos where they become obtuse as to how their decisions, or lack of decisions, are hindering the overall progress of the church or ministry. Then we get . . . bumper cars!

Humility is the most common part of the equation missing in most of my encounters with leaders. Pride kills servant leadership. Pride is a form of fear where one is trying to protect and preserve oneself because he or she does not believe God can or will. It is a form of idolatry. It is a disease in leadership. Leaders who cannot work in such a way as to not worry about who gets the credit for something accomplished will never rise above the lowest levels of leadership. The ability to keep one’s ego out of the picture and to allow others to shine without jealousy or envy is a gift. In the end we want King Jesus to be the One truly glorified anyway!

Conferencing is an amazing part of my life. This coming weekend we host the 9 Marks conference on campus and on Saturday morning the EQUIP Network of our Spurgeon Center is hosting a special breakfast with Alistair Begg and Danny Akin. I look forward to hearing more about and observing good, biblical leadership!

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