From Beyond the Pulpit – What Pastors Want for Christmas (NOT Leadership Skills!)

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

For 38 years people called me “pastor,” as well as some other things. “Pastor” means “shepherd,” which often connotes sheep feeding. And while I’m on that, let me elucidate that no one feeds sheep! The proper translation of Jesus’ command to Peter is “tend My sheep.” Guard them while they feed themselves, which is what sheep and shepherds do. Literally, “pasture them!”

Which gets me into the subject of the day: Leadership is not, repeat NOT, the single missing piece in our churches in North America, the part that most often (were it present) would lead to continual, God-blessed growth. And this despite every Conference-supported leadership seminar that has come down the road and been urged upon us. Then, what IS missing?

In a word: “Followership.” Conference administrations love to promote good leadership techniques among the pastors and make this sound critical to success. Goals, you simply must have goals! And this is understandable, as pastors are employees, and conferences can’t exactly order congregations around. So perhaps there’s a wish for a trickle down effect or something?

An often-quoted aphorism is “want to know if you’re a leader? Turn around and see if anyone is following!” So, let’s see how that has worked in various Biblical stories. ‘And they all forsake Him and fled.’ Poor leadership? ‘And the dragon drew a third of the stars (angels) away from God.’ Was God having a poor day leading angels?

Let’s see among God’s appointed human leaders. Did they ever want to stone Moses? Or David? How many did Noah attract to his ark-based church plant? And we could go on. What’s missing in all of these examples? Good followership. People and angels have to cooperate with leadership for things to get done.

I, like so many young pastors, came out of college bound and determined to help usher in Pentecost II. But what killed that dream? Laodicean people. And I’m not saying I don’t have my share of that spiritual laziness. But I’ve known many very capable pastors, young and old, who are ready to see the work finished. And when they have presented their plans to their churches often there are yawns and people checking their watches. Want evangelistic meetings where all the church members attend and support this Jesus-directed call to ministry? Then what you want for Christmas is followership!

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