Reminder: Church Leaders, Be Aware of 'One-Man Show' Leadership Model

A big empty church.
A big empty church.
By Steve Sun September 30th, 2021

Becoming a church leader is a constant test of one’s spirituality and humanity. The significance of the existence of the shepherd is to become the channel of God’s words and to be the supervisor, watchman, and guide of the whole flock. But the lonely situation at the top often makes pastors feel lonely, and church leaders sometimes fall into temptation (self-righteousness, vanity, and busyness), and even gradually lose themselves in the way of service. As church leaders and pastors, what do they need to be particularly vigilant about?

The following seven points are for your reference. 

1. The hardest part of being a church leader is controlling yourself.

As a church leader, it is a kind of courage and freedom for you to train yourself to do the right things and not to do the wrong things when you are alone. One’s loss of spirituality begins with the loss of the ability to reflect.

According to Romans 2:21, we see that the apostle Paul denounced the hypocrisy of the Jewish faith community of the time. Today, we also see the danger that those who are willing to teach are more likely to lose themselves in teaching. They even do things that worry the Holy Spirit in the lure of money, in the temptation of sex, and in the control of impatience and the flesh.

As a church leader, it is even more important to practice reflecting on oneself three times a day in Christ. Only on this spiritual basis can we experience Paul’s victorious declaration of “punish my body and slave it”. If church leaders fail to learn and grow from their mistakes, that is a true failure of church leadership.

2. Self-denial and compassion for those served

To become a leader is not because of how good or special a person is, but because of God’s special trust and mercy. When church leaders accept that their own lives are not perfect and stop harshly criticizing themselves from a self-centered perspective, such pastoral leaders are likely to develop more compassion for those they lead and thus bring out life-affecting and wonderful service outcomes.

When a church leader’s mind is caught up in legalism, he(she) habitually criticizes himself for his own inadequacies. At the same time, he also berates the people he leads. In this process, it was difficult for him to feel God’s love for him. In the long run, church leaders tend to lose their attachment to God’s spirit of love and compassion. He forgets that he is the first to be forgiven and accepted, and if he does not get out of this mistake, he becomes ruthless and self-centered.

3. Be like the people you’re facing, and always remember to save some people.

Referring to 1 Cor. 9:19-23, church leaders need to ask themselves: Am I the same person no matter who I am with?

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

4. Be aware of the leading culture of “one-man show”. 

Church leaders need to look at whether there is bureaucracy in their service. As church leaders, can we let go of our own cognitive framework, experience, heritage, and past glories? In order to love people with all kinds of personalities, we should be willing to become their servants. Is he a leader that is humble enough to listen to the hearts of those he leads, to bear burdens, and to comfort their wounded hearts? It takes humility to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, and this is the life of service that church leaders seek from God.

In the face of their own blind spots, the church leaders can either choose humility and cooperation or pretend to be strong. They clearly need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to give their fellow workers to complete the work of the Lord, but if they always insist on what they think is right, they will eventually make those who follow them become the objects of failure.

In the process of building God’s kingdom, when the shepherd needs to lead people to places where they have never been before, it is not suitable to pretend to be brave, but to admit our weakness, to open ourselves up to God, and to ask others for help. In this process, the Holy Spirit will double the wisdom and revelation to everyone, and then everyone will see so that the whole service will be twice as effective. It can also help members of different parts of the church find a sense of purpose and belonging, thus strengthening the body of Christ.

5. “I am Irreplaceable” -- be alert of self-contained leadership.

According to 2 Timothy 2:2, being a leader is essentially being a servant to all, just as Jesus did throughout his life, being a servant to all. In the midst of so much respect and admiration, it’s easy to get the illusion that “I’m completely irreplaceable”, “they can’t do well without me”, and “this place can’t function without my guidance”. These thoughts are in themselves a hindrance to God’s work and a contempt for his workers.

The all-knowing and omnipotent God can complete all his works in an instant. In order to enable sinners who are not perfect in love to participate in the service, their lives can be shaped and grown. Therefore, God called for simple clay vessels to become church leaders, pastors, and co-workers. The selection of church leaders and talents are not the reasons for God’s use, but because of his unfathomable wisdom and abundance of mercy.

6. The resonance of heart comes from the answer after humble listening.

The compound word “understand” means “you understand when you stand below”. How else can you understand the mental and emotional struggles of those under your leadership if you fail to stand in a position of humility and understand the real needs of the other persons before you give advice wisely? How can you truly and accurately lead them with God’s will?

A pastor may have overlooked the fact that if you listen first and ask questions without humility, your limitations and ignorance will hinder God’s work on those in need.

7. Does your ministry burn wick or oil?

The Chinese character for “busyness” means “death at heart”. The church leader may be busy every day, but without prayer in the Holy Spirit, it would have been easy to become like Martha’s service. Church leaders stand in a position where life influences life, and their hearts need to be humbler and more united with The Lord.

Without prayer in the Holy Spirit, spiritual dryness and weakness would have manifested themselves in different ways in the service of the flock, becoming a regret in the way of service. The Spirit of truth most longs for the workers of The Lord to return to him for prayer. The prayer in Gethsemane is the key moment of victory over the cross. On the path of servanthood, church leaders need to be Mary while doing the service of Martha.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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