A college student in my church had an assignment regarding leadership. So he asked me a few questions on the matter, since I’m the pastor of his church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church).
1) What is leadership? What exists at its core?
At its core, leadership is influence, compelling a group under your watch in a focused direction. Leaders have a vision and a conviction that drives them and, through their influence, should drive others who are following them.
Leaders are not simply leaders by their title. For instance, I have been pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington for almost seven years. Granted, I had the title of pastor on September 7, 2003 (my first Sunday). But for many, I had to move from being “the preacher” to “the pastor” who earned the trust to shepherd this people in a certain direction. I had to love the Scriptures but also show love toward the people to whom I was preaching. If I was to have any influence, then for this church I had to be steady and strong in the Bible, but also loving and truthful to the people as well. Otherwise, I would have no influence at all.
Aubrey Malphurs in his book, Being Leaders, notes that it often takes five years for a pastor to really become the “pastor” of a church. They have to overcome the shadow of the previous pastor/leader of the church, as well as gain influence with the other ‘layleaders’ (leaders who are not official, ordained ministers, but carry great influence as a regular member of the church).
2) Describe your leadership style.
My leadership style is that of equipping and training our people here to, as the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesian church, “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). I do not possess the mindset nor the desire for an authoritarian leadership where I lead simply by the force of my personality. I preach the Scripture with conviction, but also model and partner with our people here and show them how to apply the Scriptures in all areas of ministry and life.
3) Describe your core beliefs about leadership.
Leaders are not simply ones with titles, but ones with influence. Stand in a crowd of people and see the person to whom everyone looks, and there you will see the leader. Some are born with inbred skills to lead, but leadership can also be taught.
Leaders need a vision to drive them. They need to understand the purpose of their organization, whether a for-profit or non-profit. Leaders also need people around them who share this vision and are ready to help implement the grand vision into the minute details of the organization.
4) How did you become a leader?
I have been in the ministry for 18 years. I have served in numerous capacities in music ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry before becoming pastor of a small church in July 2002, and my present church in September 2003.
In coming to Boone’s Creek, I submitted my resume to various places who distributed my resume to different churches looking for a pastor. I sent my resume directly to Boone’s Creek after seeing an advertisement for a pastor in our Baptist state paper, The Western Recorder. Through conversations with the head of the Pastor Search Committee, the sending of tapes (audio and VHS), and numerous interviews with the committee, I came to preach a trial sermon on July 22, 2003 and meet with the various ministries at the church. In August 2003, the church voted as a congregation to bring me to Boone’s Creek as their Senior Pastor.
5) What has been your greatest challenge/obstacle as a leader? How were those challenges overcome?
The greatest obstacle I’ve had in pastoring a church is inheriting a general apathy for the vision of the church. For us as Christians, Christ gave us a commission to “Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Yet, many in our churches believe that the church exists exclusively for them and their needs. Others may be new to the church and not aware that there’s more to the Christian life than simply receiving. We must give as Christ gave to us through His death for our sins and resurrection from the dead, which broke the power of sin, and death, and hell.
Those obstacles are being overcome in a number of ways:
First, I have been making our key leaders in our church aware and ready to move forward with what Christ called us to do.
Second, I have steadily preached about what Christ has called us to do, and given them ways to accomplish that goal as individuals and as a church.
Third, prayer and reading the Scriptures. By connecting with the living God, He gives me a heart, a passion, and direction as a leader of His people to move forward.
You see, all leaders need to be led somehow. If leaders begin focusing exclusively on leading, and yet are not being refreshed and refueled by them continually learning, they will burn out.
6) What has been the greatest reward as a leader?
My greatest reward as a leader is seeing the light click on where they ‘get it.’ Where my leaders here get ‘it’ and have a passion for what God has truly gifted them and called them to do. It’s seeing the non-believer in Christ suddenly understand that they were not created to simply be their own ‘god’ and rule their own life (which is a dead end), but to see that they were created and wired to serve the living God through the only way possible—through Jesus Christ. He rescues us from ourselves and our own agendas, exposes how we have strayed from him, and loves us enough not to leave us that way. He changes us not from the inside out with a bunch of rules, but from the outside in. He changes our heart and will. And to see people ‘get it,’ in that way and turn from their selfishness and turn to Christ—that’s the greatest reward.
7) What is the greatest advice you can give to a potential leader like myself?
Fall in love with the vision and direction of the organization. Fall in love with the people in your organization and take care of them. John Maxwell once said, “If you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just taking a lonely walk.” The vision should never trump your care for your people that you are leading. Otherwise, you will turn from a leader into a manipulator.
8) What leadership books do you recommend?
First, the Bible. The Bible is full of leaders who are flawed (except for Christ) such as Abraham, Moses, King David, Nehemiah, the Apostles Peter and Paul, to name many. Each of them failed, but each of them learned much. Nehemiah had the task of organizing a community to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, which had been decimated by the Babylonians decades prior. Peter was called to lead the new church after Christ’s resurrection and in the midst of great persecution. Their flaws show their humanity, but the lessons they learned from those failures were as golden as their successes.
Here are some others:
· Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.
· Visioneering by Andy Stanley
· The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
· Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
· Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H.W. Crocker
· Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft
9) What’s the most important thing to leadership?
Integrity and character. If you are leading, but have no integrity, you have lost your influence.
10) How do you utilize communication in leadership? What is the relationship between communication and leadership?
As a pastor of a church, communication is the primary tool I have (coupled with character). Again, if I communicate, but have no character to match the truth I’m communicating, they will believe my character before the content which I’m communicating.
It’s like sharing the gospel. Some say, “Well, I just live it and show it by my actions.” Yet, how will they know what drives your actions? Communicating the content that drives your actions brings clarity to your actions.
11) What do you look for in potential future leaders?
I look for a love for Christ, a love for His Word, a love for His people, and the fact that they understand the giftings God has given them to be used in serving and loving His church. Before they can be leaders with a title, they need to show they can be people ofinfluence in their circle of influence.