We recently interviewed Rev. Dr. Jamison Hardy on the topic of pastoral leadership. Leadership and shepherding as a pastor is synonymous. I know there is debate on this topic. I believe Rev. Hardy’s book settles the debate.
Jesus is the Savior of the world and the most excellent servant leader of all time. Jesus led and developed the disciples, especially Peter and Paul, as seen in the book of Acts, to start the most significant movement of love the world has ever known through the local church, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, why would we not utilize the pulpit to help lead our congregation closer to Jesus? Why would we not utilize the pulpit to bring God’s people closer in love for each other and love for their lost neighbor? Preaching is our weekly leadership invitation, all centered in God’s Word.
This preaching leadership invitation is all by the power of the Word and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Great Leader, leading us to Christ in the waters of baptism and then leading us in love for our neighbor.
Said differently, I am praying for more Gospel-centered preaching exhortation of God’s people as we engage our unique contexts. I truly believe God’s people, especially in this secular age, are eager to hear their pastor exhort them in his preaching as a lion-hearted leader. Allow me to give you one example and one word of exhortation.
Example: St. Paul was an amazing leader. 2 Timothy is his last letter from a Roman prison. He knows his end is near and paradise and the resurrection await. Paul boldly invites Timothy to follow him as he follows Christ.
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me” (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
St. Paul wants Timothy to follow his lead. He then gets specific about what characteristics he wants Timothy to follow (life, faith, patience, love, etc.). Leadership was discipleship.
Yet, I hear your objections. But Paul was discipling one person, not the entire church. Well, if that is your objection, I would politely invite you to read the end of almost every one of Paul’s letters to the churches.
“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down” (2 Corinthians 13:8-10).
I will not give the specific context of these words (in short, there was unrepentant sin in the church), but there is no doubt Paul is leading in this passage. Granted, Paul is using the Law, but often the Law must be preached to lead God’s people to repentance. Paul is a wonderful model toward this end.
Exhortation: Dream with your team. Then, develop language, centered in the Word of God, that helps you engage your community with the Gospel. Some call this a vision statement and/or a short tagline. You may think utilizing this sort of marketing language is selling out to corporate America. Keep in mind–God’s people are being marketed to all day long. How much more so should the church market the greatest story of all time in Christ to help members know who your church is and where your church is collectively going?
For example, the church I pastor has a tagline of “You Belong Here” for our family of ministries. Our vision statement reads, “To see lives transformed by Jesus Christ in our family of ministries.” Your language will be different because your congregation and surrounding context is different.
Word of caution to pastors. Don’t develop this language by yourself. Discovering language that shares who you are and where you are heading is hard work that requires engagement of the entire congregation.
Finally, once this shared language is developed…share it when preaching from your preaching platform. Don’t be afraid. Lead from your pulpit or platform.
If the ULC can help develop your congregation’s unique vision language please reach out to us at uniteleadership.org.