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Shared Leadership



What is the primary role of the lead pastor? Unrealistic expectations by many congregations can lead to much misunderstanding and great disappointment. There are misconceptions on both sides of the issue. The congregation may feel that the pastor is there to care for their every need and serve the congregation. The pastor believes he is there to primarily preach the word and pray. When there is such a great disparity of perspective you can almost guarantee an eventual confrontation, congregational uprising, or a pastor becoming discouraged and leaving a church way too early.

People need to be cared for, but who has that role as their primary responsibility? The pastor is to deliver the word of God correctly and be a man of prayer – but is that his primary assignment? Is it wisdom for the pastor to announce to the membership that he is there to “serve” them? Has your church clearly defined the role and expectations of the pastor and membership according to the scriptures? Every member of a local church is to serve and to be a minister. While the importance of preaching can never be overstated, discipleship and leadership development is even more important.

The worship service is important but it is not the end in itself. It is the first step in the process. Yes, Jesus preached, but you see Him pouring into the disciples as He leads them through a “come and see” to a “come and be with me” process. The majority of His time (at least 20-24 months) was spent giving the twelve specialized training preparing them to carry on the ministry without Him. Jesus was focused on leadership development and He valued shared leadership by modeling how to reproduce not just followers, but also leaders.

Allow me to suggest that the primary role of the lead pastor is to train leaders to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” Bill Hull stresses the importance of this passage by saying, “The pastor, singular, implies that one person is equipped to meet the needs of the entire flock. This simply is not true.” We must believe and practice the priesthood of every believer.

The pastor needs to see his primary role as preparing people for works of service. One example would be pastoral care. We see in Acts 6 that the people were not happy that some of their needs were not being cared for properly. The solution was not for the leaders to work harder or put in more hours. The answer was to get help from others who could help minister to the needs. It is not the responsibility of the pastor to care for everyone but it is his responsibility to make sure everyone is cared for. The real leadership task is to get the body functioning correctly through training.

The lead pastor must focus his effort and attention to intentionally being committed to reproduction of mature fully functioning followers of Jesus. Your top priority is not preacher but, rather, to be a teacher, trainer, and equipper of more leaders. The only way for any church to experience the multiplication of ministry, as it was meant to be, is through the preparation and participation of every member.

In The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull says, “In the Ephesians (4) text Paul uses katartizo as the primary task of the leadership to bring about corporate maturity. This text presents the only methodology that guarantees corporate maturity. The prescribed means to maturity is the lead pastor’s dedication to preparation of people for deployment into ministry. To ignore this is tantamount to disobedience.” The passage develops this process: prepare God’s people, the preparation and proper training will build them up, and that is how the body will grow up and be mature.

He also says this about Ephesians 4, “Instead of pouring energy into the clear formula for effectiveness, the church has chosen to worship this text rather than obey it…..If applied, this text’s principles unlock the key to corporate maturity, effective evangelism, and a self-perpetuating growth.” Ephesians 4:16 makes this clear, “From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” Pastors must mobilize the congregation toward this goal.

What is meant by “shared” leadership?

  1. The biblical description of pastor does not mean that he is to do all of the work of the ministry.
  2. Every member needs to work and be involved in ministry. Notice in Ephesians 4:16 that it says, “every supporting ligament” and “the proper working of each individual part.”
  3. Preaching is important but you must also be focused on developing leaders who develop other leaders.
  4. To properly pastor any church it will require the combined gifts, wisdom, and faith of a team of godly leaders and team members.
  5. Bill Hull reminds us that, “No one person has the time, energy, or gifts to pastor a church and do it right.”
  6. If you want more out of our team then you must put more into your team. This will require an intentional plan to develop leaders.  Always be looking for those who want to go deeper and desire to do more.
  7. Don’t be guilty of understanding Ephesians 4, agreeing with its truth, but not carrying out and following through on its teachings. The truth is that the work of the ministry is to be done through shared leadership and responsibilities.

Healthy churches teach that every member is a minister and trains every member to do the work of the ministry!