Staff Meeting

When a pastor has other staff working together with him (or her) he should, inevitably, have regular staff meetings. It baffles me when I come across churches that don’t do that. And unfortunately some of those who do don’t do it well.

Why do we need staff meetings?

The twin reasons are, to gel the team together and to put everyone on the same page. There is nothing like a shared time together as a team. Information may be passed from the leader to the others individually, but it will not foster team spirit. However, if the whole team were to think through (and pray through) issues together it would inculcate ownership and create resonance.

“Without a regular staff meeting, you will be like soloists who belong to an orchestra but who never have a rehearsal. They end up without harmony and without beautiful, heart-lifting concerts.” (Harold J Westing, Church Staff Handbook, p144).

In the church office there are two kinds of staff meetings.

  1. Staff Group Devotions

Some churches have it once a week, on the first day of work-week. Some have it every day, which I think might be too often. In a former church where I was the Senior Pastor we had it twice  a week, on Tuesdays (first day of work-week) and Fridays.

Typically it was in three parts: worship in song, devotional sharing from the Word and prayer. Everyone is put on a rota to lead in the singing or to share the devotions. Usually the prayer segment is preceded by sharing of personal prayer needs, church members’ needs known to us, upcoming church events and national issues.

This regular time together is certainly important for people who work in the same office. And if the church staff cannot model this, we certainly cannot expect it of the rest of the ministry teams in the church. Furthermore, to quote an adage (with some modification), the staff that pray together stay together. 

  1. Pastoral/Ministry Staff Meeting

In medium-size to large churches that have three to seven pastoral/ministry staff one set meeting a week should be the norm. In mega churches with a few levels of pastoral and ministry staff there will be further divisional or departmental meetings, and including the top level SPO (Senior Pastor’s Office) comprising of the Senior Pastor and a few of the most senior members of the pastoral team.

There are so many things that may be brought to the table at the pastoral staff meeting that we can easily miss the forest for the trees. It is important to keep the main purposes of the meeting constantly in focus:

  • Informing. To bring everyone up to speed on what’s going on in the church and ministries.
  • Uniting. To discuss issues and get everyone on the same page. Reading and discussing a church ministry book together will help the team develop a common philosophy of ministry. This is critical in church work (read my blog on Know Your Philosophy of Ministry dated 27 Aug 2017).
  • Evaluating. To evaluate how the church is doing and determine what needs to be done to correct and to advance.
  • Planning. To work out the plans and steps to do what needs to be done
  • Acting. To assign responsibility to one of the pastoral staff to take action.

Regular and well-led staff meetings are important because they have a rippling effect on the well-being of the church. The lead pastor needs to sharpen his tools to do a good job with this.

The Misunderstood Ephesians 4:11-12 (Part 2)

In Part 1 I wrote about how the church has continually misunderstood the role of God’s gifted-persons such as the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers). The wrong understanding is: Since they are gifted by the Lord then they should be the ones to do ministry, while the rest of the church just sit back and soak. Ephesians 4:11-12, however, teaches to the contrary. The right understanding is: The primary job of the gifted-persons is to empower; it is the job of all in the church, who have been thus empowered, to do ministry. In this way the body of Christ is built up.

Alright, so we now know what the gifted-persons are to empower God’s people for. The follow-up question is: What is the former to empower the latter with? A misunderstanding of the former usually leads to a misunderstanding of the latter.

It’s apparent that we can only empower another person in the area that we ourselves have the ability or talent. A non-musician can’t teach someone to play the piano. A drummer can’t teach someone to play the saxophone. To state the obvious, only a bassist can teach a guitarist how to play the bass.

As it is in the natural; so it is with the spiritual. We can only empower others to do what we ourselves have been gifted to do. The apostle, among other things, pioneers ministries. Correspondingly, when raising up leaders in the body of Christ, his job is to empower others, for example, to plant churches or to start new Christian ventures.

As for the prophet, he is to train believers to hear and to speak a now word from the Lord. The evangelist is to raise up the people in the church to effectively share the Gospel with unbelievers. The pastor is to train the members in the body to provide pastoral and spiritual care for one another (and also for those outside the church). And the teacher is to teach others how to teach the Word of God.

It doesn’t mean that these gifted-persons don’t do ministry with their giftings. If they had not, they would not have gotten to know their gifts and ministry, and to develop them to the extent that they are now able to pass them on to others.

In fact, they rightly never stop exercising their gifts. The evangelist still evangelises the lost and the pastor still nurtures people in the faith. They still have to walk their talk; and not just talk about how they used to walk! More than what they had done, it is what they are doing that gives them credibility as they train others. It is from their current experiences of ministry that they can best illustrate and inspire others to do what they are doing.

I like what John Maxwell says in his Leadership Bible. I think it might be appropriately called “Multiplication Maxims”. They are stated in the first line of each point, and I follow-up with a bit of my own commentary.

  1. It takes one to know one. We tend to see what we possess ourselves.

It is not that we can never see what others have if we don’t have it ourselves. But it would be true to say that we can more easily recognise something in someone because we know what it looks like in us. Furthermore, we are able to evaluate the degree of the gifting and its potential for development.

  1. It takes one to show one. We cannot model for someone what we haven’t done.

I am stating the obvious: Nobody can teach what he doesn’t know. He won’t be able to explain it nor show how something is done when he has never done it himself. We can only model for others how to operate in a certain spiritual gift or ministry when we have experience in doing it ourselves. Besides the issue of ability it is also about credibility.

  1. It takes one to grow one. We cannot train someone until we’ve done it ourselves.

This kind-of-follows Maxim No. 2 about modelling. This is about training. And the more we have developed the gift and ministry the more we will be able to grow others in these areas.

Clearly, when a church puts into practise Ephesians 4:11-12 it will have many more people with an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching giftings and ministry (though, in varying degrees). Imagine how more effective the church would be when that happens.

The Misunderstood Ephesians 4:11-12 (Part 1)

Ephesians 4:11-12 is about one of the most misunderstood Scripture. Misunderstanding and misapplying it do not muddy-up our doctrinal beliefs but they certainly impede our effectiveness in building the church.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of  service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Whether there are four or five gifted-persons (I am being gender-sensitive) is not the concern of this post. Whatever your interpretation, you still have God’s gifted servants functioning as pastors and teachers; as a combo or separately.

The first misunderstanding I want to raise concerns their role. What do they do? What are they supposed to be doing according to this Scripture?

Many would say, the job of the apostle is to plant, organise and oversee churches. It includes laying a Biblical-strong foundation for these churches, and also to raise, train and appoint leaders who will eventually take leadership of these churches.

As for the prophet, his (or her) job is to bring a now word of the Lord to the church and to the world. The evangelist is to preach the Gospel and win the lost to Christ. And the pastor-teacher, is to provide spiritual nurture to the converted, which includes teaching them the Word of God.

It is simply logical to expect a particular spiritual gift to naturally lend itself to a corresponding ministry. However, to say that the above descriptions are then their jobs is to miss the point of Ephesians 4:11-12. If we asked the second question, “What are they supposed to be doing according to this Scripture?”, we will get a totally different answer.

Verse 12 states that the job of these gifted-persons are “to prepare God’s people”. To put it succinctly, in the context of your local church: The job of the pastor-teacher is to equip and empower the members. Does the pastor provide spiritual nurture and teach the Word of God? Of course, he does. But that is not his primary role. His primary role is to equip and empower the members.

To what end? “…for works of service.” The gifted-person’s primary job (or ministry) is not to do ministry but to prepare God’s people to do ministry. Unfortunately in too many churches they expect the pastor or the hired-hand to do all the work! From preaching, counselling and visitation to driving the van, printing the bulletin and being the key-man (literally).

If that is the culture of a church then what we have is just one man serving the rest of the body. Or, a bunch of paid staff serving the church. This is certainly not the body-ministry envisaged by the New Testament, where all the members of body builds up the whole body. Furthermore, 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others also”, is not going to happen. Multiplication is not going to take place.

Now, part of the problem is the gifted-persons themselves. Unfortunately, many among them also have a misunderstanding of their own role. They believe, like so many others in the church, that they are the ones to do the ministry. “That’s my job!” “I’m the one with the spiritual gift; so, I’m to do the ministry!” In fact, for many, their identity is so tied up with their ministry that they cannot give it away—by empowering others to do “their ministry”.  They can’t see themselves doing “less” by empowering others to do “more”.

The awesome truth is that the body of Christ, the church, is only going to be built up when every member does ministry. It’s the kind of ministry ethos that says, ministry is not to be left to just the specially gifted-persons, but to be expected of all. The former is to focus on empowering the members—so that the latter can do ministry. In turn, the gifted-person is freed up to from having to do a lot of hands-on service and give more time to equipping, guiding and mentoring their mentees. Hence, effectively, multiplying themselves. That’s the import and genius of Ephesians 4:11-12 which both the pastor and members must heed if we are ever to see the church built up.

We now know what these gifted-persons are to empower God’s people for. But what are they to empower them with? The answer will surprise you. That’s the other misunderstood item about Ephesians 4:11-12. Click here for Part 2. 

Bringing Change Without Being Shown the Door!

Recently I watched Thom Rainer’s webcast (CEO of Lifeway & a church consultant) on the reasons pastors get moved out (or made to move out) from the church they had been serving. One of the big reasons was because the pastor had led change too rapidly. Another reason, although not among Rainer’s big four, is because the pastor had led change too slowly.

It is not surprising that when too much change is made too quickly there will be resistance. If these are leaders or influential members the pastor can expect a pushback. It may even cost him his job. Change is a necessity. All churches must continually make changes if they are to progress (read my blog “Change or Plateau”, 9 Jan 2018), but pastors need to be wise on how fast and how much change to introduce without incurring pushback; and instead, get a buy-in.

I like what Rainer said about a leader: He is someone who is leading sufficiently out front, but not so far out that he is mistaken to be the enemy and gets shot in the rear!

On the other hand, if a pastor doesn’t make any changes, or ever so painfully slowly, it will, inevitably hinder the development and growth of the church. The church may even fall into decline. Members who want to see the church go on an upward advance will leave and look for another church that they can channel their passion. For others in the church, a mix of lethargy and dissatisfaction will set in. In the United States, the pastor may be asked to leave because of his poor leadership. In Malaysia, from my observation, I don’t think this often happens.

Bringing change, especially in the context of a church, is one of those things which is not going to please everyone. Whether too fast or too slow it will have its detractors. Is there such a thing as the right pace? Yes, but it is not a one-size-fits-all. For one church, a certain kind of change may be too fast, while for another church it may be too slow. Too fast, too slow or just right depends on a number of factors:

  • How much is the church used to change?
  • What is the magnitude of the change on the “Change Richter-scale” for the church?
  • How much credibility does the pastor have with the church to initiate change?
  • How much is the leadership team with the pastor and with this particular change?

On top of the above the pastor still needs to bring change wisely so that the change will not cause a fallout in the church but will bring about the desired results. In order to do this the pastor must be able to:

  • Get a buy-in from the whole leadership team and other influential people.
  • Communicate to the church early and frequently on the why, what, where, who, when & how.
  • Listen to feedback from other leaders and church members.
  • Cultivate a culture of change in the church.

I learnt all this from the school of hard-knocks. I have pastored two churches, and in both churches I introduced changes. In one I successfully brought about changes that enabled the church to move forward. In the other I wasn’t so successful, and was shown the door. The former was ready for change; the latter was not. If I had known then what I know now maybe things might have been a little different in the latter church. 🙂

Change or Plateau

Many churches in Malaysia [1] that had their heyday in the ’80s and ’90s have plateaued or declined over the last decade (probably longer). Each church may have its own unique reasons, but I suspect that there are common causal factors.

They may be due, in part, to a waning in critical areas such as prayer, evangelism and dependence on the Holy Spirit. I think, however, one of the biggest factors is the churches’ failure to change: to connect with the young, the new and the unchurched and to pursue a culture that enables them to adapt, be fresh and progressive. From my observation, only those that have embarked on change have been able to buck the trend.

Generally speaking, the newer churches are doing better—those that were planted in the last 20 years by younger people to reach their own generation and the next. They are more successful because, in part, they appear to be more attractive to them. And the reason for this is because they are more in sync with the younger generation. This is seen in the form of worship they have adopted, the way their sermons are preached, and even how the announcements are presented. These are just the more noticeable things because they happen at the worship service; the primary place of church attendance. As you go deeper, you will realise that its more than just about the lights and sound; it’s about culture. These newer churches have a culture that appeals to the younger generation.

It might help if I drew your attention to a similar situation a few decades ago. At that time many of the traditional and conservative churches were already experiencing a plateau. Some even lost their members to the up-and-coming newer or revived evangelical churches. Why? A large part of the reason was because the former refused to change. Their inflexibility to change their church culture prevented them from moving with the new things that the Lord was doing during that time. On the other hand, the latter, knowingly or unknowingly (as they were moved by the Spirit of God) made changes that brought freshness to the church, they became attractive, and relevant even to those who were outside the church.

It is my observation and opinion that, unfortunately, many of these evangelical churches that had their heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s are repeating the same mistakes of the traditional and conservative churches of the past. If they don’t change—which primarily means changing their church culture—they will continue to plateau and eventually decline. And that’s sad, when you think of how they were once riding high on the wave of God.

I sincerely believe that all churches ought to prayerfully consider what they need to do, including what they need to change, so that the young, the new and the unchurched of today can relate with them much more readily.

There are a number of related matters that need addressing, and I’ll take them up in my following blog posts.

Let me end by pre-empting a question in your mind. I know that some are going to argue that the Christian faith and good news are about Jesus. It is He whom we are to faithfully lift up; and He will draw people to Himself. I will not contend with that; Jesus is the centre of it all. But the Church is never far from Him. Jesus is the Head; the Church is His Body. When people see Jesus they will also very quickly cast their eyes on the Church. More than that, it is the Church that makes Jesus known to people. And so, how a church presents and represents Jesus will colour people’s perception about Him.

This statement still rings true: The message is the same, but the method must change.

Apply this to the larger context of the whole church. Many of the methods, forms, structures and even church culture need to change if we want to be able to continually connect and reach the young, the new and the unchurched of today and tomorrow.

—————————-

[1] I’m limiting my comments to the English-speaking churches as I do not have much interaction with the vernacular churches.

The Rookie, Leadership & Culture

Most pastors believe that when they were called by the Lord to be pastors it came with the mandate to lead the church. On the other hand, most lay leaders believe that the pastor’s role is simply to provide pastoral or spiritual care for the members. Leading the church, especially with regards to organisational matters, finance, direction of the church, policies and staff issues are supposed to be under the purview of the Board or Council. In the end, the pastor has a very limited leadership role.

One way to mitigate the clash of expectations is for both pastor and church leaders to iron them out before the pastor comes on board. Candour and honesty are indispensable elements. Terms and conditions, role and expectations, and especially the leadership role of the pastor, need to be spelt out and agreed upon; and put into writing. This is not a guarantee that there won’t be problems later. Still, it is better to have this done. If all parties are people of integrity, the agreement will be honoured. If not, the parties will know where they have erred.

Clarity and agreement are vital if the pastor, the leadership and the church are to avoid confusion and second guessing about the pastor’s role. What is his leadership mandate? Who leads the leadership team? Who sets the direction for the church? Who is the staff accountable to? Who determines how the resources of the church are to be utilised? And more.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. And most churches have not even begun to consider these things, or, think it necessary to deliberate on them. But they will still function—according to the culture of their church—the set of beliefs and values they hold in common that causes them to do things in a certain way.[1]

If culture is so critical to the life of a church, the most sensible thing to do, then, is to establish a good church culture; including a culture of leadership that honours the leadership role of the pastor.

How does this work out for a rookie pastor? It is unlikely that a church would be prepared to entrust leadership to a newbie. I can understand that. So, what should he do? For starters, a rookie pastor shouldn’t join a church where he is the only pastor. Rather, he should work under a Senior Pastor who is serving in a church that has given the latter the mandate to lead.

Following his time of apprenticeship, one of two things can happen. One day, the Senior Pastor may move on or retire. The rookie pastor has blossomed and come into his own. If he is suitable he may be asked, either by the Senior Pastor or the Church Board, to take over as the new Senior Pastor, in a church that already has a culture that understands the leadership role of the pastor.

A second option for the rookie pastor is go out and plant a new church. After having served a number of years under a Senior Pastor he is no longer a rookie. He knows how to “do” church and lead the church. It is very likely that his fellow-lay church planters will give him the mandate to be the lead man. If this happens, the culture of leadership by the pastor is already set at the beginning of the church plant.

While it is not impossible to change the culture of the church, it will, however, take a lot of hard work, patience, grace, wisdom and prayer—if we don’t want to see a church-split, people leave the church or the pastor’s services prematurely terminated. Getting it right—right at the beginning—is a far better way of tackling this problem. But it calls for Senior Pastors, rookie pastors and church leaders in these “enlightened churches” to understand and work together on this.

[1] Read my blog posting dated 29 Feb 2016 on Church Culture

Know Your Philosophy of Ministry

One of the most important things I ever did was to write out my philosophy of ministry. It was an assignment for a refresher course I took at a Bible school in Penang. By then, I had been in the pastoral ministry for 14 years; doing ministry from out of convictions that were being developed during those early years in the full-time ministry. In fact, some of the convictions had already begun to form while I was studying in a Bible school in Singapore, and even going further back to the time as a new Christian that was influenced by both the Charismatic renewal in New Zealand (where I was converted) and the Navigators (that I had been a part of for a while).

Sometimes I was conscious of my philosophy of ministry. Other times it was operating at my sub-conscious level. Writing it down was immensely helpful because it made me see more fully and clearly my philosophy of ministry.

What is a Philosophy of Ministry? Simply put, it tells us why we do what we do in the way we do it.

All Christians who have been serving for some years (paid and volunteer) do it from out of their philosophy of ministry. Whether they are conscious of it or not, whether they have thought through it or not, it is there. It guides them when they make ministry decisions and it directs them on how they do ministry. Where did it come from? General speaking, it was likely passed on to them by their church and ministry leaders and/or picked up from books they read which influenced them, and eventually internalised along the way of service.

Unfortunately most Christians have not thought about their philosophy of ministry, much less worked through it. At no point did they consider whether it is Biblical or not, and whether it is the best approach to their service or not. This becomes critical for those who are in positions of influence like leaders of a ministry or a church; more so if they are the lead pastors or the key leaders of a Christian organisation.

Why is knowing your philosophy of ministry important? For starters, knowing why is critical for clarity; not only just for yourself but also for those who are working with you. If you are clear, it will help you to be consistent in applying your philosophy of ministry in every situation. In fact, this is one of the most important keys to help you work through difficult situations; because you know why you are doing what you are doing in the way you are doing it. When you are consistent your fellow-workers will value you as a person of integrity and likely, to be happy to follow your lead. On the other hand, if your philosophy of ministry is fuzzy and you are often flip-flopping, they will be very uncertain about how you make ministry decisions and eventually you will lose their trust in you.

This does not mean that a Philosophy of Ministry is written in concrete. It can be modified or even overhauled if you are convinced that another philosophy is better (and “more” Biblical). Mine has not significantly changed since that time when I wrote it down, but it has certainly developed further.

If you are a ministry or church leader, and especially, if you are the lead pastor or a leader in a Christian organisation, you need to write down your philosophy of ministry. You may begin with something broad and general vis-à-vis your approach to ministry. Then, you may single out some specific areas of ministry to work through. If you are a pastor of a church you will want to look at the role of the pastor, leadership structure, finance, church growth and discipleship, to name a few.

Start working on it and enjoy the journey. I know for a fact that the value that you will get from doing this will far outweigh the effort you put into it.

A Critical Factor When Engaging New Staff

The usual things that church leaderships look into when getting a new pastoral staff is his (or her) character, his beliefs vis-à-vis the doctrinal distinctives of the church, and the match between his giftings with the specific role to be filled. Let’s just call them Character, Convictions and Competencies. If these are rated at a good level, the new staff is engaged and then, thrusted upon the Pastor to manage. In some cases, over time, it becomes clear that the new staff cannot work with the Pastor. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as differences in vision and philosophy of ministry, and a fourth “C” element, Chemistry.

This must be avoided. A gifted staff who cannot “flow” with the Pastor is counterproductive.

To pre-empt this, it is critical that the candidate understands and accepts the church’s direction and way of doing ministry. Which, presupposes that the church leadership have already worked out, agreed on and are clear about where the church is going and how it’s going to get there. The potential staff’s recruitment is to help the church meet those goals, not to go cross grain to them. If he does not buy into it, it is suicidal to recruit him. A staff disaster is simply waiting to happen.

Furthermore (and this is hardly ever taken into consideration in most churches), since the vision and philosophy of ministry of the church are largely shaped and communicated by the Pastor, it follows that he should have the determining say in the recruitment of a team member. Another reason is because the Pastor is the primary person who will be relating, working and managing the new staff; not the church leaders. He must feel that he is able to work with the prospective staff and vice-versa.

This does not mean that the Pastor alone has the responsibility and authority to hire and fire. The input and opinions of the other leaders are equally important, but the Pastor should never be pushed to accept a candidate whom he views negatively. To force a staff on the Pastor will inevitably lead to poor staff relationships and poor ministry performances all round; and eventually a crisis in the church when things blow up.

If you are a Pastor, don’t take on a new pastoral staff out of desperation. You have to make sure that he (or she) is a good fit with your team, and with you in particular; that he is able to flow with you. If you are a church leader, don’t compel your Pastor to take on a person whom he has reservations. Finally, if you are a candidate for a pastoral staff position be very certain that you can flow with the Pastor’s vision and philosophy of ministry. If you can’t, then don’t accept the position even if it is offered to you. It will save everyone, including yourself, a lot of headache and heartache.

 

Please Train Me

Preaching takes place in all churches, as part of the weekly worship service. Additionally, most churches have programmes such as Bible Classes and special seminars to teach their members the Bible, doctrines of the Christian faith and principles of Christian living. However, not as many churches have regular programmes to train their members for Christian service. From what I have observed, “training” is one of the factors that marks out a church that is doing better from a church that is not doing so well.

EmpowermentPreaching, teaching and training have different functions. Preaching is largely to inspire; teaching is to instruct; training is to equip. Preaching is directed at the heart; teaching shapes the mind; training empowers the hands. All three are important. The church cannot stop at preaching and teaching; it cannot afford to neglect to train its members for ministry if it wants to develop the church and advance the Kingdom of God.

In many cases, members are enlisted but not empowered. Someone (anyone) is conscripted simply because there is a need to be met. He is not shown what to do and how to do the job. He is, very likely, not told why he has been asked to serve in a particular ministry, which is important to motivate him. This is unfortunately true for even such basic ministries like teaching in the Sunday School and leading a Cell Group. Training for “simple” jobs like greeting and ushering are usually glossed over. Inevitably, if none or inadequate training is provided, the workers will not be able to do a good job with passion and skill.

Preaching may inspire, but without the complementary training, members may know what they ought to do but they will not be empowered to do it. This often leads to guilt. For example, in the area of personal evangelism, sermons are often filled with exhortations to evangelise the lost; with Bible quotes, statistics and stories of the eternal destiny of unsaved loved ones. However, there is no follow-up to help the average Christian overcome his fear of sharing his faith, nor to empower him with tools for witnessing. He is not paired-up with a more experienced member for on-the-job training. And even before all that, to pray for him to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

The pastor who does not equip his members ends up doing everything by himself. Sometimes it is the fault of the church. Tradition expects the pastor to do everything; preaching, counselling, visitation, intercession, printing the bulletin, and the list goes on. Sometimes it is the fault of the pastor himself; he wants to do all the ministry himself. He may focus on his strongest ministry like preaching or prophesying or ministering to people in prayer, but he does not train others to do these ministries.

Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear that the primary job of the apostle, prophet, evangelist and pastor-teacher is to equip God’s people for service. Does the evangelist preach the Gospel? Yes. But his primary job is to raise up more evangelists who can in turn reach more people with the Gospel. Does the pastor-teacher provide pastoral care and teaching? Yes. But his primary job is to multiply himself via the people in his church so that more can provide spiritual nurture. When this happens the capacity of the church increases and more can be reached and discipled.

Churches need to correct this bottle-neck syndrome; and training is a critical part of the solution. When the “specially gifted man of God” and the “ordinary people of God” carry out their respective Ephesian 4-prescribed roles the church will grow.

Leadership Succession From Within

This blog posting is a follow-up to the previous one I wrote, and I am calling it: Leadership Succession from Within. I wrote this article some 10 years ago for Georgetown Baptist Church’s 50th Anniversary magazine (2006). I have made some minor edits to make it more appropriate for the blog. I believe it is worth a read and  careful thought.

Succession Planning

Many churches start well, but when the pioneers or the pastors move on—the church starts to falter. This may last for years, until it is able to engage another capable pastor. The momentum, however, that had been built up during the previous pastor’s tenure is all but lost, and the new pastor has to practically start from ground zero.

To their credit, the leaders of Georgetown Baptist Church did well to keep the church going when the previous pastor left for Petaling Jaya: ably organizing themselves to provide pastoral care for the whole church and then still had the time, energy and vision to plant a new church in another part of the city.

It was not until December 1993, almost four years later, that I became GBC’s next pastor. Imagine how much more the church would have developed if there had not been such a gap—if there had been another pastor who immediately took over. Not just any pastor, but a pastor who had been groomed from within the church. Engaging someone from outside would mean time for the new pastor and the church to get to know and trust each other. Inevitably, I had to start almost from the ground. As a result the church hardly saw any numerical growth in the first four years of my tenure.

Before I left I was determined that this would not happen again; that there would be a pastor groomed up from within GBC and waiting in the wings to take over…. In such a situation there might still be hiccups, but certainly much less. This is because the succeeding pastor already understands the philosophy of ministry and vision of the church, he has worked with the church leadership, the members know him and have “taken to him”. Not that he will simply carry on doing everything that the previous pastor has done. Any good pastor will definitely introduce change, but he will have the advantage of building on the blocks—blocks that he has helped to develop in the first place.

Leaders must never fear raising up other leaders; even if it means that some of them will outshine us! That was what I aimed for. My goal was to pass the church into the hands of better men and women.

Paul was a great apostle—some say, the greatest. But in my mind Barnabas was the greater man. He recruited Paul because he saw Paul’s potential. He mentored Paul and wasn’t afraid that Paul might overtake him. Eventually when Paul did, he wasn’t concerned for his own face. My hope is to be a Barnabas to some Pauls.

Success is not about growing a great church. “Success” is about having a “successor” to take the church even further.