How Pastors Should Answer the Hardest Leadership Question

Sam Rainer: It’s the most challenging leadership question to answer: Am I humble? Humility is the most difficult leadership trait to determine about ourselves. Pride is the most dangerous leadership trait. Arrogance is the root leadership problem. Our sinful nature propels us to an excessive and unhealthy focus on ourselves. It’s the quintessential leadership struggle. We stand on a sliding scale somewhere between healthy humility and unhealthy pride. Even at our best, determining where we are on this scale is tricky. We almost always believe we are more humble than we are. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize our pride until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are three key questions to ask to reduce the potential for pride to puff up. Are you capable, and are you striving to learn more? This question involves competence. Quite frankly, do you know what you’re doing? Too many leaders fake it. Too many leaders do not want to swallow pride and ask for help. Too many leaders fear looking small by

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How to Spot a Wolf

Rutledge Etheridge III: The Bible commands Christians, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (Heb. 13:17, NIV). But God’s Word also tells of times when we shouldn’t trust and submit to leaders. What are the circumstances when honoring God means disobeying, fleeing, or even calling out those who minister in his name? Paul warned the Ephesians elders of wolves who would come and not spare God’s flock (Acts 20:29). The apostle borrows the image of the wolf directly from Jesus (John 10:12; Matt. 7:15). As patterns of abuse come to light in the church, we urgently need this biblical warning that shows us the difference between a godly shepherd and one who preys upon the sheep. False teaching—preaching “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6–7)—is a primary way a wolf reveals his true nature, but what are some other ways to tell a true shepherd from a wolf

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Why Gentleness in Ministry Matters More Than You Think

Michael J. Kruger: Well it’s that time of year. This Friday we will graduate another class of seminary students at RTS Charlotte, sending them off to serve the Lord in a variety of ways.  And during each of these graduations, I have an opportunity to give a final “charge” as the president of the campus. This year, I have been reflecting on RTS’s motto: “A mind for truth, and a heart for God.”  At RTS, we care very much about the mind—we value rigorous scholarship combined with a commitment to the historic truths of Reformed theology. But that is not all that matters to us. We also care about our students’ hearts; what kind of person they are, and where their affections lie. In other words, preparation for ministry involves more than intellectual-doctrinal development. It also involves the development of one’s character. Now, there’s lots that can be said about what should mark a person’s heart, but I think we can

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How Is Ministry Going?

Darryl Dash: “How’s ministry going?” I confess I never know how to answer this question. I sometimes offer the response I once heard: “Reasonably well, all things considered.” If I had the time to explain, I think I’d offer a three-part answer: it’s hard, joyous, and difficult to measure. Ministry Is Hard I’m preaching through 2 Corinthians right now. A group of super-apostles invaded the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 11:5). They were powerful, impressive, and successful. Paul confronts the Corinthians with the truth: ministry is rarely impressive. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself,” Paul writes (2 Corinthians 1:8). “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians

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10 reasons pastors need pastors

Jeff Robinson: I hadn’t been in pastoral ministry but a few weeks until the thought occurred to me, “I need to get in touch with Brian Croft.” I was facing a set of circumstances I was certain would wreck my ministry and would leave me wanting to find another vocation. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong. And I was a pastor who needed a pastor. I’ve been friends with Brian since the early days of Practical Shepherding, and I’ve watched the ministry grow exponentially. I’ve been instructed, convicted, and helped in too many ways to count by the ministry of Practical Shepherding. For me, the most delightful aspect of PS is this: It serves as a strong, balanced, gracious, biblical pastor to pastors. Brothers, pastors need pastors and here are 10 reasons—all of them represent valuable insights Brian Croft personally and Practical Shepherding overall have taught me through the years. We need pastors: 1. Because our hearts need shepherding just like

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5 Reasons Ministry Staff Conflict Can Be Good

Rebekah Hannah: Conflict among ministry co-workers is inevitable. A staff of sinners trying to pour themselves out in service will be susceptible to many temptations. They can be tempted to not believe the best of one another, to disagree with the direction of ministry, or to be hearers of the Word but not doers (1 Cor. 13;James 1:22). Conflict may be uncomfortable, but it isn’t all bad. Here are five reasons why God may permit conflict for your benefit as a ministry leader. 1. Conflict exposes the heart. Church leaders spend a lot of time saying the right things. But when conflict happens, our hearts are exposed, and we can see if we really believe what we say. James 4 explains if we have a conflict, it’s often because we aren’t getting something we want. Conflict reveals what we love most. Do we want to please Christ, or do we want to please ourselves? Are we gracious like Christ, or do we force others to bend our way? Ephesians 4:3 teaches we should

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Five Marks of a Servant Leader

Jon Bloom: All professing Christians agree that a Christian leader should be a servant leader. Jesus couldn’t be clearer: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25–26) Where there’s not always agreement is how servant leadership should look in a given situation. Sometimes servant leaders wash others’ feet, so to speak (John 13:1–17), but other times they rebuke (Matthew 16:23), and even discipline (Matthew 18:15–20). Sometimes they serve at their own expense (1 Corinthians 9:7), but other times they issue strong imperatives (1 Corinthians 5:2; 11:16). Wading into Muddy Waters Other factors muddy the waters even more for us. To begin with, all Christian leaders have indwelling sin, which means even at the height of their maturity, they will still be defective servants. Add to this

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True Leadership Is Sacrifice, Not Privilege

David Mathis: It is one of the filthiest lies Satan whispers in the ear of our comfortable and entitled generation. From before we can even remember, we have been indoctrinated, at nearly every turn, with the idea that being “a leader” means getting the gold star. Leadership is a form of recognition, a kind of accomplishment, the path to privilege. Being declared a leader is like winning an award or being identified among the gifted. Leadership is a form of success. And since you can do whatever you dream, and can achieve whatever you set your mind to, you too can be a leader — at home, at work, in the community, in the church. Why would you settle for anything less? Leadership means privilege, and no generation has considered itself more entitled to privilege than ours. The Lie About Leadership The world’s spin on leadership is in the air of our society, felt in the subtext of our adolescence,

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The Humble Leader

Kevin DeYoung: According to Numbers 12:3, Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. What was it about Moses that caused this scribe (whom I take to be other than Moses) to come to such a lofty conclusion? No doubt, there are many examples of Moses’ humility in the Pentateuch, but let me point out three that are present in Exodus 18. 1. The humble leader shows respect to others. Moses was a big deal. He was God’s chosen instrument for leading the Israelites out of four centuries of slavery. He stood face to face against the most powerful man in the world (Pharaoh) and won. He was in charge of 2-3 million people, handling their complaints, leading them through the wilderness, and acting as the Supreme Court for their toughest disputes. Moses was the man. And yet, when he was reunited with his family, he showed Jethro, his father-in-law the proper respect by going out

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5 ways to critique without crushing

Eric Geiger: As a leader, you owe it to those you lead to offer them feedback. Without feedback, development is hampered, as people don’t know what actions to repeat and what actions to tweak. Giving encouragement and accolades is not something leaders dread, but offering feedback that could be perceived as critical is something many leaders struggle with. Yet wise and loving leaders critique because they love those on their teams and long to help them develop. The goal of a leader’s critique must be to equip and prepare, not crush and demoralize. A leader who critiques haphazardly is likely to harm team members and not help them. Here are five ways to critique without crushing those you lead: Check your own motivations. Before you have a feedback conversation, check your own motivations. Do you want to prove that you are right, that you are smarter? Or do you really want to help the person? Do you want to unload

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Church Leadership – is the ‘Moses model’ a recipe for disaster?

  Sam Storms: What accounts for the relational disasters, financial corruption, and moral failures that continue to erupt in our local churches? There are undoubtedly numerous explanations that could be cited, but I want to focus on one that most people typically ignore: bad and unbiblical ecclesiology. I have in mind those churches in which the senior pastor is given excessive and often unbridled authority and remains largely unaccountable for his decisions. This is often the result of an appeal to the Old Testament as a model for local church government. Joshua 3:7 comes immediately to mind. There God said to Joshua: “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Some refer to this as the “Moses Model” of local church government. The almost unilateral authority that God invested in Moses, and in his successor, Joshua, is embraced and

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Speaking of speaking…

Ray Ortlund: Your church can be a gospel culture. Here are four categories of speech church leaders should keep in mind at all times: 1.  Wisdom Saying only Christ-honoring, life-giving things.  Always asking oneself, “Do the words I feel like saying rise to the level of wisdom?  If not, they have no place in my mouth.  Good intentions are not enough; leaders must show good judgment.  I will hold myself to a strict standard, because Christ’s honor and people’s safety are at stake.” All the words of my mouth are righteous.  Proverbs 8:8 2.  Indiscretion Well-intentioned, good-hearted, “loving” but unguarded words.  A sincere desire to be helpful and consoling, but violating a personal boundary of information ownership.  Indiscretion erodes people’s willingness to “walk in the light” with honesty about their problems (1 John 1:7).  As a result, indiscretion is a spiritually dampening power. When words are many, transgression is not lacking; but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.  Proverbs 10:19 3.  Gossip This might

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Questions to Diagnose Your Leadership

In his booklet, Leadership: How to Guide Others with Integrity, Stephen Viars asks these instructive, recalibrating questions: Do people understand more of God’s mercy because of the way I respond to their mistakes? Do people understand more of God’s holiness because of my high ethical standards? Do people understand more of God’s patience because of the time I give to grow and develop? Do people understand more of God’s truthfulness because of the way I communicate honestly? Do people understand more of God’s faithfulness because they see me keep my promises? Do people understand more of God’s kindness because of the tone of my voice? Do people understand more of God’s love because I go out of my way to help and serve them as I lead? Do people understand more of God’s grace because I avoid being harsh and unreasonably demanding? To what extent does my leadership actually model and teach something about the character of God? (HT: Justin Taylor)

Pastoral Bullies

This is why biblical eldership in the local church is so important. Sam Storms: In his instructions to Elders/Pastors, Peter insists that they must not lead for love of power, which is to say they must not “domineer” those in their charge but rather be “examples” to them (v. 3b). How might a pastor or elder “domineer” his flock? In other words, what makes a man a pastoral bully? Here are some ways: A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his

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The Twin Temptations of Pragmatism and Authoritarianism

Jonathan Leeman: It is easy for church leaders to look only to their left or only to their right in seeking to avoid the errors of others. Something I have learned from watching Tim Keller is the importance of looking in both directions. Hence, the man always seems to have a “third way” on offer. When the topic turns to philosophy of ministry or church practice, it has been the tendency of 9Marks writers like myself to look leftward toward the squishy tendencies of mainstream evangelicalism. This is a response to the evangelicalism of my youth that was constantly anxious to avoid slipping too far rightward toward some type of authoritarian fundamentalism. Many things in life are binary, and there is no third way. But I do believe there are errors both to the right and to the left of a biblical philosophy of ministry. On the left are the errors of pragmatism, and on the right are the errors of authoritarianism. What’s most

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Little Jumps in Studios

This is a good piece from Tim Challies: I am too young to remember much about Margaret Thatcher and to know a lot about her role in world history. I will definitely read a biography of her at some point in the future and learn more about her life and times. (Writer’s note: I am trying to establish that I’m not interested in bickering about the legacy of her policies since I know too little about them.) When she died last month there were the inevitable outpourings of both spite and affection. In the midst of all of this, I saw several people draw attention to one mostly unremarkable interview. As the interview drew to a close, the host asked Thatcher if she would do just one small thing—stand in front of the camera and jump in the air. Jumping in the air was a gimmick the host asked of all her guests and apparently all of them complied. But Thatcher

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Recognising and dealing with insecurity in leaders

Some good observations from Ron Edmondson: Here are 7 traits you may see in an insecure leader: Defensive towards any challenge – The insecure leader flares his or her insecurity when ideas or decisions made are challenged in any way. They remain protective of their position or performance. Protective of personal information – The insecure leader keeps a safe distance from followers. Their transparency is limited to only what can be discovered by observation. When personal information is revealed, it’s always shared in the most positive light. Always positions his or herself out front – Insecure leaders assume all key assignments or anything which would give attention to the person completing them. They are careful not to give others the spotlight. Limits other’s opportunities for advancement – The insecure leader wants to keep people under his or her control, so as to protect their position. Refuses to handle delicate issues – Insecure leaders fear not being liked, so they often ignore the most difficult or

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The Difference between a Theologian of the Cross and a Theologian of [Power] Glory

Justin Taylor posts: Carl Trueman on “the most glorious contribution of Martin Luther to theological discourse,” first revealed in Heidelberg during a meeting in 1518: At the heart of this new theology was the notion that God reveals himself under his opposite; or, to express this another way, God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect.  The supreme example of this is the cross itself: God triumphs over sin and evil by allowing sin and evil to triumph (apparently) over him.  His real strength is demonstrated through apparent weakness.  This was the way a theologian of the cross thought about God. The opposite to this was the theologian of glory.  In simple terms, the theologian of glory assumed that there was basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is: if strength is demonstrated through raw power on earth, then God’s strength must be the same, only extended to

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Tips for Leading the Church in a Healthy Direction

From the first appendix to 9Marks of a Healthy Church: Be truthful.  Ask God to keep you faithful to His written Word. Never underestimate the power of teaching truth. Be trustful.  Rely on God rather than on your own gifts and abilities. Spend time in prayer privately, with others, and with the congregation. Be positive. Pray that you neither be nor be perceived to be fundamentally a critic. Be particular. Contextualize God’s concern for His church. Use the good resources of your church’s own history. Learn from older members about the history of your church. (HT: Michael McKinley)

5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Apologize

Love this from Daniel Darling: For some reason, the hardest two words for a leader to say are often, “I’m sorry.” This is especially difficult for young leaders. Especially young pastors. But here’s the thing, an apology may be your best leadership tool. This I know, because as a young, green, inexperienced pastor, I’ve had to do my share of apologizing. So here are five reasons why pastors should have a quick trigger with their “I’m sorry.” 1) It gives builds respect A young pastor often thinks he has to assert his authority, to let everyone know at this church that he’s the boss and it’s “his way or the highway.” This, he thinks, gives him more respect and authority. Aside from being unbiblical (Matthew 20:25-26) (Titus 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:3), what a young pastor doesn’t realize is that admitting when he is wrong or hasn’t fully weighed a matter actually builds respect. People begin to think, “Okay, he’s young, but

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