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The Church and Pastoral Leadership

Updated on March 4, 2019
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology

Almost total dominance of Baptist pastors have over laypersons has been implemented, based on this statement of a prominent conservative leader, W.A. Criswell: “ Lay leadership of the church is unbiblical when it weakens the pastor’s authority of ruler of the church.”- pg. 42

Pastoral leadership does walk a fine line. It is hard to be God’s leader when lay leadership thinks that they are above God’s anointed. The role of the pastor is hard to define because he must serve God and lead the people at the same time.

There is a lot of temptation that the pastor must withstand and overcome. This includes taking control of the local church congregation and denomination as its ruler.

The Pastor is Not the Ruler of the Church

As we look at scripture we see God’s clear instructions on who can lead the church. Paul gave clear instructions on those qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus. At no time did those qualifications grant the person assuming the role of pastor or overseer in the church as ruler of an individual congregation or denomination.

In Ephesians Paul made it very clear that Christ was the head or ruler of the Church. His anointed leaders were mere stewards of the church, given a holy task to lead the church to Jesus and the truth. Titus 1:7 makes that appointment very clear.

The pastor does not rule the church but takes his marching orders from Christ and the Bible. At no time has Jesus given up his role as head of the church.

The Church is Not a Democracy

At the same time, the church doe snot exist as an independent agency that decides who runs it or what rules are to be followed democratically. The church is under the authority of God and God ha snot made the church a democratic state. He is still in charge and he expects his church to follow his rules.

While the church may have a say in who is their overseer, pastor or steward, ultimately, it is God’s choice and the elders and church members must be in tune with God to make the right selection.

As you recall, not even the original disciples took it upon themselves to appoint arbitrarily replacements for Judas. They turned to God to find out who his replacement was to be.

The guiding rule was that the person had to have walked with and known Jesus from the beginning (Acts 1). Then they put the candidates before God and waited for God to tell them which man was the replacement.

Too often church leadership processes leave God out of the equation.

Paul Was Not the Only One Providing Pastoral Leadership Qualifications

Everyone turns to 1 Timothy or Titus to see what qualifications a pastoral leader has to have in order to be placed in a pastoral leadership position. Yet Paul was not the only bringing the church those requirements.

Jesus brought them as well. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus’ words on who can be a follower of his, how they must act and much more. The pastoral leader has to be the salt of the earth, the light unto a dark world, following the spirit of truth, not lustful and a lot more.

Jesus had a lot to say on who the leaders of his church were to be and unfortunately for women, he remained in line with his father and made men those leaders. While women had a role in his ministry and in the ministry of his church, Jesus did not over rule his father and allowed them to be pastoral leaders.

No One Cares About the Modern World’s Requirements

That is those who are true believers of God. What the modern world and secular culture demands in a leader are not the same requirements God has for his leaders. In the secular world one false statement or deed disqualifies a person forever in secular terms.

In God’s kingdom, he sets the example of grace, forgiveness and restoration by allowing Moses, David and other sinners to lead his people. The secular world look son what they want to see, the surface of a person while God looks on their hearts.

Acts 1:24 says

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen

It isn’t the deeds the person cannot change that matter to is the heart of the person that directs the man. The heart condition is what sets men apart for Pastoral leadership and God chooses the man not the people.

Pastoral Leadership is Not Easy

It is a very difficult task to be a pastoral leader. Men are torn on how to act because they know already what the response will be from the people. But the pastoral leader must side with God in all cases. Even though that decision will hurt then greatly.

Moses did it so we know it can be done. He was called the friend of God and that is what a good pastoral leader must be. He must have God’s desires at heart, God’s love for the people and he must remember that it is God’s church and he is only a trusted steward, given a duty that is not meant for all men to fulfill.

Being a Pastoral Leader is not a popularity contest, it is not for the good looking only, or even for the best biblically versed person. It is for the man who is humble and knows his place.

As John the Baptist said, ‘he must increase and I must decrease’. The good pastoral leader knows that the church is all about Jesus and not himself. To get the right leader, the church needs to do what Peter and the initial disciples did- let God choose.

© 2019 David Thiessen


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