Leadership is a buzzword these days.
Type it into a search engine and you will be deluged with enough books to keep even the most veracious reader busy for a decade or two.
It has also become a high-profile issue in the Christian church. There are conferences, seminars and, yes, loads of books.
You’ve got to set the strategy, define the values, identify your style, and, of course, you must have a vision and communicate it.
Leadership is the name of the game. Or is it? Do our Baptist churches need leaders? Do they even want them?
I used to joke that the average Baptist church liked its pastor to give a clear, strong lead, so that the church members’ meeting has something definite to disagree with.
An old friend of mine had an even stronger view. He claimed the typical scenario went like this: “When you are called to a church, lots of people will say ‘this place needs strong leadership.’ You very soon discover that what they actually mean is ‘this place needs a leader who agrees with me.'”
“After you’ve been there for a while and start taking the church in the direction you believe is right, those very same people are the first to say: ‘This guy’s a total dictator,'” my friend added.
Interestingly, there isn’t a huge amount about leaders or leadership in the New Testament.
Yes, obviously there are leaders of sorts, but I can’t help but feel they were very different to what the world today usually means by leaders. I offer the following brief observations.
The main task of leaders in the New Testament seems to be to preach and teach the Scriptures to people, especially the gospel.
There is virtually nothing about developing the vision, but huge amounts about proclaiming the gospel.
As John Calvin said, the pastor leads the church by preaching the Word from the pulpit.
Paul’s main concern with choosing new leaders for the churches under his care is character, not gifting. In today’s church, it sometimes seems the other way round.
All too often, Christian leaders come off the rails because their gifting carries them to places that their character cannot sustain them.
Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of advice that Timothy should make his own personal growth as a godly Christian and as a pastor of integrity his number-one concern.
This is because pastors are not supposed to model a commitment to endless meetings and ever busy programs.
Rather, they are to be examples to the flock of true godliness worked out amid everyday life.
Modern leadership is full of talk of “servant leaders,” often with a favorable nod toward Jesus of Nazareth.
However, what they mean is if you serve others by helping them get the company’s job done, you will be a successful leader (and get promoted).
But Jesus didn’t say that serving was the pathway to greatness; he said serving was greatness.
In that little difference of words is all the difference between the world and the kingdom of God.
In short, the New Testament doesn’t seem overly concerned about charismatic leaders sharing the vision and achieving goals.
It seems far more focused on godly men and women who make it their business to help others become godly men and women.
So do our churches need leaders?
Yes, I believe they do. But we must rethink our understanding of leadership along biblical lines. There is far too much today of the “christening” of secular ideas.
I am not against learning from the world, but we must be ultra careful in applying the world’s ideas on leadership to God’s church.
Darren Blaney is pastor of Herne Bay Baptist Church in the United Kingdom. He blogs at Preach the Word, and you can follow him on Twitter @PTWblog. A version of this article first appeared in The Baptist Times, the online newspaper of The Baptist Union of Great Britain. It is used with permission.