Five dangers in pastoral leadership

1. Making a difference:

Good leaders desire to make a difference in the world. But true and lasting differences are borne out of faithfulness and perseverance through the mundane and difficult challenges of life. In a culture driven by hype and distorted notions of success, leaders can easily fall for superficial standards for measuring success. This easily leads to  discouragement and inordinate desires for validation. When a leader begins to fish for affirmations from those around him, he should recognize a need to take inventory regarding his view of leadership (see: Galatians 1:10).

2. Feelings of inadequacy:

The task of leading God’s people can be daunting. It’s not strange to often feel that the opportunities outweigh the resources. The apostle Paul asked, “Who is equal to such a task?” Even strong leaders battle feelings of inadequacy. But when these feelings begin to dominate a leader’s life, adverse affects will be brought on those under his leadership. Invest some thought in Psalm 62:1-2 and II Corinthians 4:5-10. Build a team of leaders following the prescription of Scripture for a plurality of eldership over each local Church (see: Biblical Church leadership).

3. Unrealistic diversity:

There is widespread confusion about a pastor’s role. Is a pastor a shepherd who tends a flock or an entrepreneur leading a business and marketing a product? Pastors are expected to be spiritual teachers, overseers, biblical scholars, administrators, CEOs, financial advisors, professional counselors and friends. If a pastor tries to be effective in all of these areas, insecurity and inadequacy will intensify and possibly result in higher needs for affirmation. 

4. Unstable backgrounds:

Before one is appointed to leadership, careful consideration should be given to the potential leader’s upbringing. Relationships with parents form the basis for one’s identity and security and future relationships. If a man, for example, had a father who constantly degraded him or one who never affirmed him, he will be more vulnerable to using leadership as a means for building his self-esteem. In principle, this relates to the prohibition in I Timothy 3:6 with Romans 12:3.

5. Fear of being wrong:

No one likes to be wrong, but some people attach their egos to a deep need to be right. For such people, being right is a matter of identity and security. Leaders sometimes assume that if they let others see them sweat or find out they’re wrong about something, people won’t respect their leadership. Often the opposite proves true. If you feel you always have to be right, stay away from leadership roles! If you say, “It’s just that I typically end up being right,” Repent!

Insecure leaders hurt team:

Insecure people are not fit for leadership because they hinder the needed unity of team leadership. These people tend to wear their sensitivities on their sleeves and attach their egos to their ideas. They will sacrifice team unity to promote themselves and their ideas.

For the past 25 years, I’ve been blessed with a great team of leaders. Some of us have served together at our Church for most of those years. Team leadership requires deference, mutual honor, servanthood and love. All of these must be centered in shared commitments to callings greater than any one person on the team. Commitments to shepherd God’s flock in the context of the first three requests of the Lord’s prayer should consume the focus of leadership.

    1. Honor God’s name
    2. Advance God’s kingdom
    3. Doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven

My current role as senior pastor is to be a leader among equals —  a leader to our leaders. Our equality as a leadership team is in our shared office of eldership, not always in our years of wisdom, experience and function. This means that younger leaders must be humble enough to defer to those with far more years of experience. If new leaders give in to pride  and insecurity (and these traits always travel together), they will miss the valuable learning gained from those who have acquired wisdom with years of work. Yet older leaders must learn to listen and be willing to recognize that wisdom doesn’t fully reside in one generation.

Without hesitation, I can say that we’ve experienced a small taste of heaven in the unity and fellowship of our team leadership.

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Church, Church growth, Church Leadership, Elders, Leadership, Life of a pastor, Pastors. Bookmark the permalink.

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