As God’s people, we are to live the reality of who He has declared us to be. He has rescued us and given us an incredible identity as His children, His bride, His priests, and His friends. As God’s people, our activity must be rooted in the identity He has graciously given us. The same is true for those of us who lead in ministry. Here are six essential identities of a ministry leader:
1. Theologian: Teach and guard doctrine.
Without the Word of God, a ministry has nothing transformational to offer because the Lord uses His truth to change hearts and sanctify people. If leaders are not consumed with the Word, ministry will be shallow and discipleship will be scarce. Ministry leaders must care deeply about what the church believes about God. They must be continually teaching and guarding the faith delivered to the saints once for all (Jude 3) and guarding the flock from false doctrine (Acts 20:28-30). The sheep can be severely harmed if ministry leaders stop teaching the truth and guarding the flock from error.
2. Missionary: Champion mission.
As we follow Jesus, we follow Him knowing His heart is to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). Believers are invited to join Jesus on His mission of making disciples of every nation, of pursuing and rescuing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The commission the Lord has given His people must consume a ministry, and this will only happen as ministry leaders continually remind God’s people of their holy mission.
3. Shepherd: Love people.
Without love for people, ministry leaders are merely clanging cymbals, making noise without making an impact. People need to be loved to receive care. While expressing love for people in a ministry will mean distributing care through others and not feverishly attempting to meet every need, a loving shepherd wants the sheep to be cared for. The apostle Peter challenged pastors to willingly and freely shepherd God’s people (1 Peter 5:2), and the Lord rebuked leaders in Jeremiah’s day for failing to attend to people (Jeremiah 23:1-2).
4. Equipper: Develop people to minister.
There is a typical approach to local church ministry, and then there is the biblical approach. Typically pastors or other staff persons are hired to perform ministry. When this happens, many of God’s people are sidelined and a church’s ministry is reduced to what can occur through a few people. The biblical approach looks very different. Pastors are to prepare others for ministry, not perform all of the ministry themselves (Ephesians 4:11-13). When pastors/teachers train and prepare God’s people for ministry, the result is the body of Christ is built up. Quite simply, a failure to equip people for ministry results in an unhealthy church.
5. Steward: Faithfully manage resources.
In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul called the overseer “God’s administrator” or “God’s steward” (Titus 1:7). Ministry leaders are stewards, not owners, as Jesus owns His Church. Jesus promised to build His Church, not ours (Matthew 16:18)! The resources the Lord blesses a church with are ultimately for Him. The ministry leader, as a faithful steward, is responsible to ensure the resources are managed faithfully and leveraged to advance the mission. The ministry leader must not be a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:3) but one who is generous because Christ has been generous to us.
6. Strategist: Provide a clear how.
A church needs godly, Spirit-filled leadership much, much more than a church needs strategic leadership, but a ministry benefits greatly from both. When a ministry leader leads well, the ministry leader will give strategic direction as an administrator or steward (Titus 1:7). Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: A pastor is a man who is given charge of souls… He is the guardian, the custodian, the protector, the organizer, the director, and the ruler of the flock. To organize and direct the flock well requires ministry strategy. Strategy is essentially how the mission is accomplished. A ministry leader must do more than declare the mission of making disciples; a ministry leader must provide a clear process for discipleship.