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16 February 2010

church leadership - course adjustment?

The following is a guest post written by my friend Robby Newton. Robby is a follower of Christ who is a gifted writer and communicator, and his observations on Christ-centered Church leadership are refreshing. If there is any hope for the institutional Church in America to correct its overall focus, what Robby offers here, in my opinion, would be a step in the right direction. (Don't tell anyone, but I've been encouraging Robby to write a book.)

Robby can be contacted at DrRobbyNewton @ (remove the spaces from either side of the "@" symbol.
Church Leadership – Is a Course Adjustment Needed?

While there is much to celebrate about American Christianity, most would agree that there is still plenty of room for improvement. For example, I think that over time it has drifted into what could be characterized as a pastor-centric culture instead of being one of Christ-centricity. This drift was likely unintentional and didn’t happen overnight, so any re-alignment will take time, much prayer, an atmosphere of grace, and lots of holy perseverance. Having said that, here’s my take on what a Biblically healthy leadership structure might look like within the local church:

While Christ is the foundation of the church, the two essential pillars sitting on this foundation are evangelism and discipleship. Most often, we demand that senior pastors be gifted in both pillars, yet very few, if any, are so. To me, the appropriate scriptural model is one in which the ‘senior’ pastor has an exceptional gifting and passion in one of these two areas AND, he is secure enough in his calling such that he readily embraces God raising up another person(s) as gifted and passionate in the other pillar.

In addition to the men described above (more appropriately referred to in Scripture as ‘elders’), rounding out the senior leadership team would include those gifted in worship, and leaders of other key, strategic ministry arms such as youth pastor, children’s pastor, senior adult pastor, etc. Additionally, it would be highly desirable that the treasurer become a trusted and frequent advisor to the leadership team.

The church would be lead by this cadre of key leaders/elders. Yet, a re-aligned leadership structure, even if one thinks it’s the ‘more Scriptural one’ in itself does little to help us all better love God and our neighbor or guarantee that the body stays Christ-centric. If the church is to prosper according to God’s plan, this group would have to become a holy, open-hearted yet close-knitted group…willing to share their lives as well as their gifting with each other as they lead the body. It would be expected that they strive for consensus and unity regarding all leadership/spiritual issues regarding the church, with the senior pastor being ‘first among equals’ in the rare case in which unity isn’t possible. And I’ve not even touched on the other side of the leadership coin, the side called ‘followship’. It does little good to have godly shepherds working within a balanced, Biblical framework of leadership if we sheep refuse to walk in the Light as we go about our daily routines.

I’m open to hearing from you on how I may have missed the Biblical boat on all of this. Just the willingness to openly dialog about this important topic is great step in the right direction. After all, we all are on the same team, desiring the same outcome…that being to reach our community and world with the Good News.


Jeff said... timely, I just can't tell you.

Mark H said...

I think you are on the right track and it is definitely time for a change!

Christy said...

I think this is right on track and vitally needed. However, I also think that the implementation is the challenge. How does one go about making the necessary changes without causing a ruckus? I believe that the changes CAN and WILL be made IN TIME. Robby was correct in that it will take a measure of both TIME and PRAYER. If those of us who feel strongly that these changes are needed press too hard and too fast, then things (people) will be broken. We MUST be still and know that God is God, wait on Him and His timing. God will bring His will to pass, if we seek it and search for Him with all of our hearts.

Robby said...


I want unity as much as everyone else. Yet, I think more things (people) are already broken than we know. For those unwilling to even consider change, everything done by those open to change is seen as causing a "ruckus" and as "pressing too hard too fast".

I in no way consider myself better or more spiritual than anyone else. I have been still and am certain that God has told me to move on with the message that it's time to not only be open to hearing a fresh word from the Lord but that it's also time to ACT on what He says...not sure what or where it will lead, only time and obedience will tell.

Jeff said...

Well spoken, Robby. And I want to take it another step further, if you'll allow me: "who are we trying to reach?" Yes, church members and attendees struggle with change, but they are going to be in heaven with us, for crying out loud!

LOST people need to see these changes taking place in the church today; they're going to hell without the gospel, and we're dragging our feet, claiming that "change takes time," and "we have to be careful not to hurt believers in the process." That is NOT a Biblical definition of church least not in the Bible I read.

The only thing that line of reasoning accomplishes is to slow down the process of preparing us to reach our world; at that point, we simply sacrifice more lives to being lost without Christ. When are we going to realize that a lost and dying world is hungry to see the church be more than just a social club? When will we actually change for the better? The church in America is dying, we know it, and we're busy in a role-playing game as bureaucratic decision-makers.

I personally suggest to anyone who is brave enough, read "Already Gone" by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer.

Dean Lusk said...

Robby and Jeff beat me to a couple of concepts that I intended to present. I'm not "piling on," as it were, but wanted to offer some thoughts.

In defense of Christy's direction, at the core we desire for Godly change to be embraced by the largest number of people possible, and unfortunately this would be going against the grain of what is established in many, and likely the majority of, churches in America (by the way, we're not just planting churches all over the world, but our concept of "church" as well -- saw this when in Haiti last year).

However, believing that this is a more Biblically accurate model of church leadership than the one that is most prominent today, as Jeff pointed out, I don't see a Scriptural pattern (or direct instruction) for slow implementation. In every instance of of conviction, sin-realization, and repentance in Scripture, I see an about-face rather than a measured, "low-impact" reasonse.

Some (like Robby) are more gifted in their presentation of why and how we should embrace change. Some are more graceful, as Paul was at Mars Hill, while I tend to be more like a bull in a China shop.

Maybe that's how things get broken -- not the message, but the messenger -- but I believe there is Scriptural license and mandate for both approaches depending upon the situation.

Anonymous said...

I must be in the minority b/c I would want a pastor who is a teacher and a shepherd.

As far as church structure, we must ask "What is the most effective way to carry out God's message?" "What does our lost and dying world need?" "What is the most loving way?"

It is very hurtful to God's ambassadors when a church splits because of new visions. Seen it happen. When you have a church/body of believers who aren't deep in the Word to start with or aren't involved in service, new concepts on 'structure' may seem pointless and annoying. They need to see the need for the change.

Robby said...

Dear anonymous,
Thanks for your post. If I understand what you mean by ‘shepherd’, I would say that most pastors have a shepherd’s heart to a degree or they wouldn’t be in the ministry to begin with, regardless of whether or not they are a gifted preacher, teacher, evangelist, etc. and this will come through in everything they do. But most pastors are being stretched way too thin because we expect and ask too much from them...usually in an area in which the Holy Spirit has not given them a spiritual gift. With respect to your comment about church structure, I think the most effective way to reach the lost and dying will also be the most biblical way, which brings me back to my original post about structure.
I agree that churches sometimes split because of new visions, but no more so than those that spiritual die because of refusing to let go of old ones when God is clearly urging them to do so. I’d just like the church to get to the point that they can have the conversation about meaningful change and whether or not it is needed. We have a long way to go to just get to that point.

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