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Pastors and Leadership: Spiritual vs. Organizational

In Series, Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone

The first three parts of this Pastor series has largely been about how people should deal with their pastor.

This one is for the pastor themselves.

It’s a little weird writing a piece about pastors and leadership when I’m not a pastor myself. That fact opens my thoughts to being written off as inexperienced and naive. And yet, I press on. Because if we are to change the relationship the church has with the world, we have to examine the way we are handling God’s body. And sometimes, a voice crying out in the wilderness can help in that examination.

Today, mine is that voice.

So, let’s just get right to it. When it comes to church there are two kinds of leadership: organizational leadership and spiritual leadership.

Organizational leadership is the type we find nearly everywhere in our society. It’s just what it sounds like, leadership that facilitates and maintains the physical structure and growth of the church — be that money matters, member growth, physical church upkeep, etc… Organizational leaders are more administrative in nature, and they require a set of skills that allows an organization to walk forward without tripping over its own feet.

Many a pastor do not excel in organization leadership (though they may not need to, as we’ll see below).

Then there’s spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership focuses on the spiritual growth of the church, both corporately and for the individual. Here, teaching and preaching plays a part, but it’s just the start. Ensuring  the church is a living organism, growing, working and serving in the world requires much more than 45 minute sermons on Sunday mornings, awesome as they may be. Spiritual leaders are tasked with not only nurturing the spiritual welfare of those in their congregations, but also with understanding the changing dynamics of the unchurched, and the many ways to reaching them.

“The Harvest Is Plenty”

While churches require both forms of leadership, most may be putting too much focus on organizational leadership, especially in the areas of money and overall church membership. In essence, organizational leadership is designed to grow up, not out. When overemphasized and out of balance with spiritual leadership, good stewardship will be defined as profit and excess rather than service and sacrifice, and competition will ensue over existing Christians, and what programs attract them, rather than inter-church cooperation, and facing the challenge of creating relevant avenues for reaching the unchurched in the emotional, financial, and academic margins.

Our pastors must take up the mantle and lead with the latter in mind. In my view, pastors are meant to be spiritual leaders in our churches. They are called to teach and to strive with us to love God and our neighbor in balance — with proper measures of heart, soul, mind and strength. Many are doing this, and doing it well internally with the members they shepherd. But when it comes to reaching the world, loving the world, I’m afraid we are missing great opportunities.

Sure, the church is great about meeting the physical needs of those who are physical poor. Charity in this sense is a popular, fairly easy, feel good thing to take part in. And it’s biblical. Jesus told us to care of the poor and needy. But much like we must love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, I think we can try to love our unchurched friends in those same categories.  We may be meeting physical needs of those without food, but what about the mental needs (cynicism, atheism, intellectualism, etc…), or the soul needs (finding purpose and identity) and even the heart needs (emotional support) of those far from Him. The parenthetical comments in those previous sentences are just a few of the areas where we need more creativity and leadership.

The bible says, “the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few” and for a long time, I thought that meant that there were many people in the world that need to be saved, and not so many that are willing to go save them. That’s true to some degree, but now I think this passage may also mean that there are several avenues to reaching people with the gospel. There is no silver bullet. People may need the gospel presented to them through any combination of academics, apologetics, service, intellectualism, simplicity, acceptance, charity, preaching, worship, art… the list could go on.

Each of these are their own harvest. It is the mission of the church, even the mission of the spiritual leaders of the church, to be ever mindful of the changing landscape of these unchurched harvests. Pastors must prepare and mobilize the body in concert with God’s promptings, to go out and be able to serve in these areas.

Jesus spoke to whatever need of the person he came in contact with. To some he healed, and to others he fed. To some he  challenged with the law, and to others he appealed to intellect. I believe our pastors much model and teach along this same paradigm.

Spiritual leadership, that is the true calling of the pastor. If you are pastor, ask yourself, “Is my church prepared to meet the many needs of the “harvest”? Do we love God fully, with our heart, soul, mind and strength? If not, it may be time to re-think your strategy.

Previous Post in “Pastors: A Blog Series”

 What is the biggest challenge for a pastors when it comes to leading? What is the proper balance of organizational and spiritual leadership (50/50, 80/20, etc…)?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.