Do Baptist churches need leaders?
First in a new series on leadership from Baptist minister Darren Blaney
Leadership is a buzz word these days
. You only need to type it into the search engine at Amazon.co.uk and you will be deluged with enough books to keep even the most veracious reader busy for a decade or two. It has also become a high-profile issue in the Christian church.
There are conferences, seminars, and yes, loads of books. You’ve got to set the strategy, define the values, identify your style, and of course you must have a vision and communicate it. Leadership is the name-of-the-game.
Picture: "Leadership" by bplanet/freedigitalimages.net
Or is it? Do our Baptist churches need leaders? Do they even want them?
I used to joke that the average Baptist church liked its Pastor to give a clear, strong lead, so that the Church Members’ Meeting has something definite to disagree with!
An old friend of mine had an even stronger view. He claimed the typical scenario went like this: “When you are called to a church, lots of people will say ‘this place needs strong leadership’.
"You very soon discover that what they actually mean is ‘this place needs a leader who agrees with me.’
"After you’ve been there for a while and start taking the church in the direction you believe is right, those very same people are the first to say ‘This guy’s a total dictator.’”
Interestingly, there isn’t a huge amount about leaders or leadership as such in the New Testament. Yes, obviously there are “leaders” of sorts, but I can’t help but feel they were very different to what the world today usually means by 'leaders'. I offer the following brief observations.
The main task of leaders in the NT seems to be to preach and teach the Scriptures to people, especially the gospel. There is virtually nothing about ‘developing the vision’, but huge amounts about proclaiming the Word. As Calvin said, the Pastor leads the church by preaching the Word from the pulpit.
Paul’s main concern with choosing new leaders for the churches under his care is character, not gifting. In today's church it sometimes seems the other way round. All to often, Christian leaders come off-the-rails because their gifting carries them to places that their character cannot sustain them.
Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of advice that Timothy should make his own personal growth as a godly Christian and as a Pastor of integrity, his number one concern. This is because Pastors are not supposed to model a commitment to endless meetings and ever-busy programs Rather they are to be examples to the flock of true godliness worked-out in the midst of every day life.
Modern leadership is full of talk of ‘servant leaders’, often with a favourable nod towards Jesus of Nazareth. However, what they mean is if you serve others by helping them get the company’s job done, you will be a successful leader (and get promoted). But Jesus didn’t say that serving was the pathway to greatness; He said serving was greatness. In that little difference of words is all the difference between the World and the Kingdom.
In short, the NT doesn’t seem overly concerned about charismatic leaders sharing the vision and achieving goals. It seems far more focused on godly men and women who make it their business to help others become godly men and women.
So...do our churches need leaders?
Yes, I believe they do. But we must rethink our understanding of leadership along Biblical lines. There is far too much today of the 'christening' of secular ideas. I am not against learning from the world, but we must be ultra careful in applying the world's ideas on leadership, to God's Church, which He purchased with His own blood.
In this series of articles, aimed at young and emerging leaders in the church (whatever their title may or may not be), I want to explore what leadership means from a Biblical perspective, and how we might grow into more godly, effective leaders.
The Revd Darren Blaney is Pastor of Herne Bay Baptist Church