Call- The Call of God
The first essential requirement for leadership to make sure of, if you are going to pastor a church, is the call of God. It is not enough for people to think that you are a great shepherd, a great carer, that you are great in counsel, in preaching, are available, etc. You need to know, beyond a shadow of doubt in your own heart, that God has called you. This mission is not easy and it is certainly not meant to be. People that have often embraced ministry with the wrong motives almost always regret it. The call of God will be a key component for your own peace at times when the road gets tough. The key thing to remember is leaders are called by God.
We need more than that when it comes to leading a church, though. We need something that is unshakable, no matter what comes our way. Paul repeatedly said things like, “Paul, called to be an apostle…” (Romans 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 1:1). He starts some of his other letters with, “Paul, an apostle by the will of God…”, or, “Paul, called by the will of God…” You have to be able to say that, whatever your name is. “
Guidance, called to be a pastor by the will of God.” You have to be able to say that with such genuine conviction that whatever the world can offer (monetary benefit, prestige, popularity, etc.) has no attraction.
Many who have been called have not settled that issue yet, and they are open to temptation. When we do settle it and live with the conviction that Jesus Christ has called us personally, face to face, then nothing is going to ever tempt us away, no matter what people offer us.
If you are in it for money, do not pastor or lead in a church. I am not saying that we should be poor, or we should reject money. All I am saying is that those things must not be our attraction or motive. If you want to make money, get out there in the marketplace. You can do it far quicker there.
There are too few people who know beyond a doubt that they are called, and there are too few people who go through Bible College, or similar training, who last in ministry. It is estimated that within three years of graduating less than ten percent of the students from most of the Bible Colleges worldwide are still in ministry. Why? I would say that it is because, if they were called, they did not settle other issues, or else they were not called to begin with. When you are called, though, it is very difficult to be happy with anything else.
Character and Personality Traits
Secondly, to pastor or lead a church we do not only need to be sure of our calling, we also need to have our character sorted out and develop a number of the personality traits required. One of the results of that will be that we become secure in who we are and what we are in the church. That is vital if we are going to become church leaders.
Simphiwe, with my weaknesses and with my own personality. I may not be as good-looking as many others. I do not communicate as well as some of the other preachers around. I would like to improve on my communication skills, but I never try to imitate anyone else but Jesus. In fact, I do not want to be anyone else. I do not want to be Steven Furtick. I do not want to be TD Jakes. I do not want to be Benny Hinn. I do not want to be whoever the latest spiritual hero is. I simply want to be me, because God made me who I am and I am secure in that. That is where we all have to be.
I know that God made me a team leader of Ascend Church for a season. Without a shadow of a doubt God made me that. Therefore I did not ever worry when people tried to steal it from me or began to slander us and promote themselves. I would be concerned for the sheep, but never for myself or my role in the team.
I do not need to have any qualms or fears when I am secure in what I am. Not just in who I am but also in what I am. We need leaders like that, and not leaders who are always insecure because someone can sing better than they can, can preach better than they do, or because it seems that the people like someone else more than them.
There are some on the Ascend Church team with us today who people may like much more than they like me. I can honestly say that that does not worry me one bit. The only thing that would ever concern me is if they are building towards themselves. If that is the case, then they are going to hurt the sheep and, because I love the sheep, I do not want to see the sheep hurt.
The point we are making is be secure in who and what you are. Let me say this as we move on: You are the only person who can sort that out. Your leaders cannot sort it out for you. Even God cannot sort it out for you. He can help you, but you are the only person who can sort out whether you are secure or not. No one else can do it for you.
At this point I want to mention briefly a few of the characteristics related to leadership that it is important to cultivate. This is not intended to be a detailed discussion, it is merely a list that is intended to spark some thought around this. These are not exhaustive, simply a few character issues that are vital if you want to be a leader:
- Are you honest?If you aspire to leadership, or are in leadership, are you honest? Looking back over the last week, two weeks, two months, two years, twenty years, how many lies have you told? There is no such thing as a white lie. Any distortion of truth is a lie, no matter what the motive.
- Integrity is another characteristic that is an essential requirement for leadership.
- Are you consistent?In other words, are you the same today that you will be tomorrow. Even though God is changing you, you are not up and down emotionally. Neither are you chasing after one thing one minute, and another thing the next. Be consistent.
- Are you disciplined? Of course, most people think they are disciplined spiritually, but if you want to know if you are disciplined, go and have a look at your bedroom. Go and have a look at yourself in the mirror. Examine your eating habits. Do you know when to say no, enough is enough? Can you, as Kenneth Hagin said, do push-ups from the table? That is the exercise he said that he did. Before he was full he pushed himself up from the table. Are you disciplined? Do you train? Do you bath or shower every day?
- Are you sacrificial? Are you willing to pay the price?Faithfulness in the small things and the big things. Faithfulness related to your partner in marriage, your partners in ministry and in the tasks that you have agreed to do. Is there anything left undone that you said you would do?
- Transparency. Do people only see one you? Is what they see on the outside really what you are inside, or are there two faces (or more) to who you are
Next, here are a number of the personality traits that we need to develop and mature in.
- Are you flexible and yet stable? We must banish the statement, “I do not want to do this because I have not done it like this before.” Most often that is only a resistance to change. That is not to say that we are always ready to try something simply because it sounds like a good idea. Our approach should be to hear what God says and, even though we have not gone that way before, to do it because of what He says.
- Are you passionate and yet sensitive? Make sure that you do not only have a lot of passion and no sensitivity. Without sensitivity we will not care about who gets hurt. That is not godly passion; that is zeal without knowledge.
- Perseverance. “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). There are too many who give up too quickly. We mentioned previously the statistic that suggests that many of those who go through Bible Colleges and Theological Training institutions do so with the express purpose of going ‘full-time’. Of those who do go into ‘full-time’ ministry, less than ten percent are still in it three years later.
- Are you ‘wild’ and yet not weird? We need to be wild for Jesus but not weird. When we are weird, we are simply giving expression to our own ideas and it is not really an authentic expression of what God is saying or doing. There is, however, value in having a ‘wildness’ in God that is always ready to respond to Him in everything and that combats conservatism. Conservatism cripples people.
- Are you authentic? Are you the real thing or do you know how to put on the appropriate act when the world is around, when tongue-speaking Christians are around, or when non-tongue-speaking Christians are around. Is it really the authentic you that is seen, no matter who is around? Something that relates to this is the need to do away with the unreal (unauthentic) distinction between the secular and the sacred. I listen to some ‘secular’ songs and they are great. I would not be ashamed if Jesus came and sat next to me while I listened to them, because I know they are clean, even though they do not have Christian lyrics. There are, however, other songs that do have Christian lyrics, but the beat is diabolical. It comes from voodooism and occultly influenced music. I would say it is actually witchcraft with Christian lyrics.
- Are you a self-starter? In other words, you do not have to be chased to do something, or checked up on to see if you have done what you said you would. It is wonderful to be surrounded by people who do what they say they will. It is wonderful, too, when they see where God is going with something and they do it before they are even asked.
- Are you confident and yet vulnerable?
Coaching and Commissioning
Thirdly, to be a leader in a church we need to be coached. First is the call, second is character, the third is coaching. I use the word ‘coach’ in order to keep the Cs there, but what we are referring to is the need to be equipped. That is what coaches, or mentors, do.
In order to be a successful leader, we have to be trained and equipped. A very important aspect of that is one-on-one theological training. We need to have an adequate grasp of theology in order to lead a church effectively. If I may use some slang here, we cannot simply ‘operate’. We cannot simply be a ‘crazy charismatic’ or ‘cruisomatic’ operating out of what we feel rather than a sound theology.
Without a sound theology the potential is far greater for us to preach unbalanced messages or to become distracted from a focus on God and the truth of His Word. For instance, we can easily become overly focused on one thing that we may consider to be wrong. Perhaps we see one woman on the platform with a bare midriff while she is contributing in the ‘worship team’, and then that becomes all that we concentrate on, or the ‘wrongness’ of that.
We become so focused on the way that one woman is dressed that when we come up to the platform we proceed to attack everyone on the issue of dress, when in fact there is no one else that has a bare midriff. That is not the way to handle these issues. A good theology will help us to avoid this, and even more serious mistakes, when we preach.
There was, however, a time when theology was almost a curse or a swear word in the body of Christ, especially amongst Charismatics and Pentecostals. We considered theology to be something that brought death when, in fact, good, sound theology brings life and keeps life.
One of the most significant benefits of being well grounded theologically in the Word of God is that we will not be easily shaken by crisis. Nor will we be easily moved to follow every passing fad that sweeps through the church. With a sound theology comes a conviction that there is a whole Bible to be lived out, the whole Bible to be taught and that the whole Bible is the food for the ‘sheep’, not only one aspect.
Theological training is absolutely essential. There is no way around that. We can flow on anointing for a little while, but anointing without theology will end up in disaster. It will eventually destroy people.
Most importantly our coaching also then teaches us humanity. Jesus was the perfect blend of theology with Humanity. If you want to lead people, you must also learn and become equipped to simply relate to people. The world is not looking for a CEO they are looking for shepherds. These men that are willing to sit in with people and show them a better way, even if that process is long. The shepherd gives their life to physically lead his sheep. We must learn humanity from our pastors and leaders so we can be real in a world that desperately needs real men. Our coaching should never be focused on divine issues alone or human issues alone but on both. I have met many men who are great preachers but horrible administrators or particularly bad with people skills and their shortfall with one thing will hurt their ministries nonetheless
Fourthly, in order to pastor a church, we need to be commissioned. There must be a time when we rise up into the call and get on with the job. Some people start off down that road but become sidetracked and never get to this point. I have watched many people that became students of the word and ultimately never mobilised to actually start the work. Only to spend decades as students.
It is great to study and know, but even more important to do..