The following is by Jared Moore. Jared currently pastors New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY and is married with four children. He’s the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to be Tipped. This post originally appeared on LifeWay Church Leaders.
What if I shared with you that I’m thinking of leaving my church because they aren’t “following my leadership”? Upon further investigation, you find out that I’ve only been serving this church for a week. How would you respond? You might think, “You’re being ridiculous!” What if I told you that I’ve been serving a church for 10 years, and they still don’t follow my leadership? Is my reasoning now somehow justified?
First, don’t put an arbitrary timetable on determining whether or not your church is “following your leadership.” Be longsuffering (2 Tim. 4:2)! If you believe the Lord is leading your church in a specific direction, and your church disagrees, then continue teaching them until they agree. If they never agree, then make sure that when you die, the pastor who follows you still has the opportunity to lead the church the direction God is leading. After all, if you love God and your church, you don’t want to hinder their growth just because you want to be the man who leads them in a specific direction. If God really wants your church to go a specific direction, He can tell the pastor after you as well (or the rest of your church, for that matter).
I heard of a pastor recently who left his church because they wouldn’t follow his leadership. Instead of resigning in front of the church in a beneficial manner, he called the youth pastor, and said, “You’re preaching tomorrow. I quit.” Are we really prepared to hurt a church for years, and to hurt her reputation in the community simply because we’ve placed an arbitrary timetable on whether or not our church is “following our leadership”? Even if there are people in the church who have sinned against you, should you punish the entire church?
Second, you’re not the only person in the church who has the Holy Spirit. Since you’re trying to lead the church, you need to involve them in the decision to change. We don’t lead our churches with apostolic authority, but with pastoral authority. In other words, if you think the church needs to go a specific direction, share this reality with your church, and get their thoughts on your idea. If they think the church should go a different direction, try to understand their reasoning. You might be wrong. You’re not infallible.
Third, lay down your life for mountainous Scriptural issues, but not for personal-opinion mole hills. If your church doesn’t follow your leadership today, then divide where you’re hoping to lead them into small parts. For example, if you think the church should build a building, instead of trying to immediately lead them this direction, encourage them to start a building fund. If they don’t want to start a building fund, then have meetings with the church to discuss planning for the future. If they don’t want to have meetings about planning for the future, then meet with individuals who do want to discuss planning for the future. If individuals don’t want to meet about planning for the future, then teach on the importance of planning for the future. If they don’t like this teaching, give up for now, and teach it again in a year. If they don’t like it a year from now, then teach it again in two years. If they don’t like it then, teach it again in three years. Continue following this pattern until either you believe the church needs to go a different direction or until your church agrees with you.
Fourth, ignore the arbitrary unbiblical definitions for “success.” If you try to lead a church a certain direction, and the church splits, but ends up one day being bigger than before you came, then you’re a hero! However, if you lead the church in a direction that causes a church split, and the church never gets bigger as a result, then you’re a failure? See how that works: bigger = success; less people = failure. Where is this teaching in Scripture? If you aren’t loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you’re not loving your neighbor as yourself in your decision-making, then God doesn’t care how big your church grows. He’s not impressed. If you had to hurt fellow believers in order to get your church to where it is today, then you’ve sinned against God.
Fifth, churches should follow the leadership of their pastor(s). Why vote in a pastor(s) to lead you and your church if you’re not going to follow him/them? This reality is true, if you only follow a pastor when you agree with him, then you’ll really only follow yourself. That’s a sinful mentality (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17). This, of course, doesn’t mean you must follow your pastor(s) leadership blindly or silently, but it does mean you should follow his/their leadership. Unless he/they tell you to be disobedient to the explicit or implicit commands of Scripture, or he/they encourage you to violate your conscience, you should follow his/their leadership.