Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Pastor Davis wanted more than anything to be great at his job. So, to be a better pastor, he got in his car and drove across town to the Christian book store. Using his pastor’s discount card, he purchased ten different books on Leadership written by various business-leaders, professional speakers, and motivational authors. After reading all of those books he was good at one thing: Leadership. Unfortunately for Pastor Davis, being a great pastor has absolutely nothing to do with leadership.

The problem here is that we have redefined the term “pastor”as it was intended in the new testament to reflect our modern day ideas of what church should look like. See, the noun “Pastors” only appears once in the new testament scriptures, and then it is used in the plural sense, not the singular. Not only that, the group of people called upon to “shepherd the flock”in the local assembly are called “Elders” not “Pastors”.

Beyond the obvious misuse of the word, the real danger is that we’ve completely redefined the verb “to pastor” so that it no longer has anything to do with loving people, caring for them, serving them, feeding them, strengthening them, making sure they are spiritually healthy, or anything remotely close to what a “shepherd” would do to take care of the sheep. Instead, we have reduced the term “shepherd” or “pastor” into the most narrow function – leadership.

Pastor Davis made the mistake of reading books and attending conferences and listening to audio books about leadership so he could inspire people to listen to him, or to motivate people to do stuff, or to convince people to invest in his church. What should he have done instead? Well, if the function of being an elder (who is part of a group of other elders) is to nurture the spiritual development and growth of his brothers and sisters in the church, maybe the first thing would be to spend time praying for those people? And then maybe you could spend time with them? Perhaps you might decide to read books about how to listen more, or how to encourage people? You might also want to try doing all of these things without an ulterior motive like wanting to use your influence on people to get them to do stuff, or to give you money, or to volunteer for something. Just love them and listen to them and bless them and encourage them because you love them, and because you genuinely feel called –and gifted – by God to care for people.

See, Pastors who are obsessed with leadership are like husbands who expect to improve their marriages by reading books about monster trucks. Not only is leadership not related to loving people, it will train you to become more self-focused and less others-focused.

Books about leadership make you a better leader – in the worldly, CEO, “I’m the boss” sense of the word – but if you really want to learn how to please Jesus and be the best “shepherd” you can be, just focus on learning how to love people more, and to serve people more. It’s what Jesus did. It’s also what Jesus commanded us to do. He got down on his knees and washed the feet of this disciples, and then he said, “Now that you know these things you will be blessed…if you do them!” (Not if you read them, or if you know them, but only if you “do” them).

Biblically, a good shepherd or pastor is one who loves people and serves people and helps people to depend more on Jesus. Good pastors do not train people to depend on themselves. They constantly point others to Jesus and they teach them to hear the voice of the One, True, Good Shepherd who is more than capable of speaking to His own sheep and leading them where He wants them to go.

Pastoring is not about being a good speaker. It’s not about being a good marketer. It’s not about motivating people to do stuff. It’s not about being a smart business man. Simply put, pastoring is about loving and serving people.

Don’t be like Pastor Davis. Be like Jesus. Get on your knees. Serve others. Wash feet. Teach people to look to Jesus, and to cling to Jesus, and not to yourself. Then you will be a good pastor, and you know what else? You’ll also be a leader who sets an example worth following.



Thanks to Aaron [@CulturalSavage] for his Tweet that inspired this blog.


Anonymous said...

Are there any pastors there you respect as good Sheppard's?

Unknown said...

I'm taking both a Spiritual Leadership and Foundations for Ministry Coaching class right now in seminary. I think what you're saying is right, but I also think there is a way to balance both; to be a good leader and pastor. I agree 100% that we have redefined and misused the term "pastor" to fit our "Americanized" concept. But I think a great leader "is" one who serves others. Ministry Coaching teaches us to serve others, let them think for themselves, and simply just come along side in a relational way...the Jesus model. Maybe I read wrong, but I wouldn't get too caught thinking a leader and pastor are mutually exclusive terms. Other than that, I think this blog serves a huge purpose in helping us regain the true term for pastor.

Chris Jefferies said...

One of the major issues is that we expect professional management on church life. And we set ourselves up to need professional management.

That idea comes from the world of government and business, not from Jesus. Tell me where in the New Testament I can find any hint of 'professional' about church structure or function.

Because we meet in large groups and need a building and have programmes and budgets to manage, we need managers.

If we did what Jesus told us to do we wouldn't need paid managers at all. We only need them because of what we have added to what Jesus taught us.

Ingalill said...


Josh McDowell said...

Justin Boothby - I loved this article and I know you were disliking the article, but I still want to say that I disagree with you. Now don't jump to conclusions... I'm not one of those guys who has never considered leadership - in fact I've read probably a hundred books on leadership including everything that John Maxwell has written and nearly everything my favorite business author has written - Patrick Lencioni ( I don't know if I spelled that right or not ) Anyway - I disagree because balance is what you called for and I'm arguing that you have to be intentionally totally out of balance toward ministering and love and relationships to the point that it appears that you don't give a rip about the ABC's (attendance, buildings, and cash) in order to be a genuine minister. I don't even use the term pastor because it is so corrupted today.

But I want to be the kind of pastor this article is speaking of.

Fred Shope said...

Justin, I agree with you that a good leader is one who serves others. I don't think that's the issue. The problem comes when we accept the world's idea of leadership and the pastor becomes the CEO of Church Inc. That model of leadership is what Jesus spoke against in Matthew 20.

Morgan Guyton said...

Thanks so much for this. I'm sharing it!

Unknown said...

Hey Brother,

Good post. Question though:

What does "teach them to hear the voice of the One, True, Good Shepherd," look like to you?

If Jesus sheep hear his voice, then do we have to teach them to hear it?

Not being snarky... just very interested in your take.

Keith Giles said...

Miguel: I only mean that we should encourage people to go to Jesus and not to come to us. So, we encourage them to pray and to seek the scriptures for wisdom and to listen for the voice of Jesus instead of allowing us to be their guru.

How do you see it?

Unknown said...

Two things on hearing God:

One, we are fellow-workers with Christ 1 Corinthians 3:9. He may choose to speak through us. In fact, he has, and there are some good examples in Scripture. Cornelius and Paul come to mind.

Two, Jesus said all authority has been given to me "therefore go, and teach, and baptize." While we should never compel anyone to come to us, we must always be ready for when they do.

Practically speaking, it seems that whenever I've done a "how to hear Jesus" lesson or the like, it's always morphed into a "how not to hear other voices."

Which comes right back to your point. Leading them to Jesus

Marshall said...

pastor Dave might find himself leading people who would not be led by Jesus? He might even feel some pride as a leader of a few people whom the Spirit of God wasn't leading?
To the glory of God, Dave (with the rest of us) best not gain a following as leaders do. follow along with me only as I follow Christ.

Unknown said...

Love the thoughts expressed here and I agree but would add that we (pastors) lead best by caring for the people we are entrusted to by the Father.