How to love your new pastor…..

by Rod Smith

Walk wisely with new leadership

Let’s talk about the part you play when the new pastor arrives. How do we intentionally love (really love) the new pastor? I am fully aware the new pastor could be a woman but I am gong to use the pronoun “he” and avoid the bulky “he/she” during the entire sermon.

Let’s read this Scripture from Philippians 2. It so alerts us to the need for the Spirit of humility within us all that is always helpful.

1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Wow – what a challenge to us all. Remain who you are, keep your personal vision, and your individual calling and yet be united. Be like-minded. Avoid vain conceit. Such people would be a joy to lead and the leader who is Christ-like would be a joy to follow. Perhaps not!

Let’s talk about leadership:

Leading anything can be very lonely

Leadership, leading anything, is perhaps among the toughest of challenges any man or woman can face – I’d suggest the other tough challenges, and not in this order are being a stepparent, running a family business, grieving the death of a loved one. These are the true tests of life that stretch the full capacity of our humanity.

But let me stay with leadership: I am of the opinion that people often say they want a leader, a leader who will foster the organization into great growth and change, to paradigm shifts, and into a new era, but then immediately begin to behave in a manner that suggests they do not want any of the changes they hired the person to implement.

Even Jesus found leadership difficult. Study the Gospels and you will see him struggling to lead people – even his disciples. It seems that on one day he is enthroned, and the next day he is derailed, denied, and dismissed. Early in his ministry he gains enormous popularity, while also he is asked not to enter some towns. They don’t want him or want what they think he represents. We see him hailed as the one who would “say it like it is” – until he “says it like it is” is to the “wrong” people.

This is part of the difficulty of being a leader, there are always fans and followers, and there are always tough decisions to make, decisions that put the leader’s relationship with those very fans and followers in jeopardy.

While he is hailed as a leader people who knew him from his hometown question his qualifications, and some are cruel enough, as recorded in John 8, to try and put him in a spot about being born to unwed parents. At one point the crowds want to march him to Jerusalem and declare him King. At another point, people want to hoard together and kill him. Being a leader is a tough job. Putting yourself “out there” as a leader is always costly – and it will be to whomever comes on a permanent basis to serve this community as pastor. Ministry is costly business. Leadership is not easy. It’s messy.

Browse the mega-bookstore and there you will see hundreds of books on leadership of every kind and for every institution. The pitfalls are so many and it is quite common to blame the leader whenever anything in any organization goes wrong.

But the followers, or the co-workers, also have a role when it comes to leadership and to being led. People tend to visit their leaders, especially church leaders with all kinds of personal issues, and often will be as petulant and demanding with their pastors as they once were in their families as they were when children. In a manner similar to our political leaders, we elect them so that we can spend the next four years trying to get rid of them.

As we prepare ourselves for a new pastor, let’s be reminded that:

Prepare yourself for new leadership

1. We, the church, are employing the pastor, not his wife or his children. Let’s let the wife and children off the hook.
2. Be careful not to love him too much, too quickly. Any kind of love takes a long time to develop, and people who are quick to enthrone will usually be as quick to dethrone. Perhaps you have noticed this phenomenon already? And look at the kind of love you offer. We tend to want to take care of our pastors as if they are not quite capable of taking care of themselves. It is very subtle. I have seen people scurry to the pastor’s every need as if the church was the parent and the pastor was a spoiled child.
3. Give him a lot of room to be human and it is likely he will allow you similar latitude.
4. Don’t expect too much from your pastor. A lot has to occur for change to occur. And change just might not please you very much. It might be a little different than you predict. It might challenge your stereotypes of what makes a healthy and growing church.
5. Be fully responsible for your own spiritual health and wellbeing. It is unfair to place such a burden on anyone – and I have heard it so often and in so many places. “I am just not being fed. We are moving to the bigger better church. The one with the food court and the roller coasters for the young people.”
6. Try to be honest enough to allow God’s work within you to occur, without getting into a flurry because he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you on the hot issues of the church. Look for purity in your own life before you test his theology on political or theological issues. There are more important matters in the Body of Christ than you getting your way.
7. Any person coming to be your pastor will be a cross-cultural experience, even if he is from your neighborhood. Every community has its own well-defined culture, its own set ways of thinking and seeing and doing things, and any person coming will have to take some time to understand you – as you will have to give them time to be understood. He might have different politics than you think any Christian could possible ever have, he might believe something you could never consider a Christian believing. This is a complex and diverse world and we all get to learn something new from the experience of calling a new pastor.

Leadership is fraught with perils as people almost naturally resist leadership that is good. Good leadership will challenge everything about who you are and what your faith is all about. This is no because he tries to fix you, or change you, or manipulate you (leadership never stoops to such ploys) but because he will be living fully in your midst and his living fully will shake you up. Become prayerful about the new pastor – not in a manner you have already been doing – but in a way that changes you and not him – and makes you ready for his (or her) arrival.

One Comment to “How to love your new pastor…..”

  1. Important thoughts on leadership and spiritual well-being remind me of this, Rod — I think it’s worth repeating here. “…We are fighting today for costly grace [i.e. following Jesus Christ]… What has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 1937)

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