Written by Steven Liechty
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." - I Corinthians 3: 6-7
Most of my work is with church leaders. As a teacher and consultant, I try to support and strengthen those who lead our congregations. So I'm not sure I totally agree with Paul that pastoral leaders aren't anything special ("Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything," wrote Paul). Actually, good pastoral leadership is very important. It really is something quite special.
But part of being a good leader is knowing it's not about you. You are a messenger, a herald, a witness to a higher power, to God's grace and power.
Sometimes in the church we make too little of our leaders, not giving them the support they need and deserve to lead well. But other times we make too much of them. This was true among the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote. In Corinth, people said, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Peter." The Corinthian congregation was divided up into competing factions. This sometimes happens in churches today too. We ally ourselves with one leader or minister, whether past or present, and we very nearly worship that person.
Moreover, it appears to me that many of today's most visible and largest churches can fairly be described as "personality-based" or "personality-driven" ministries. This is dangerous, not only because too much rides on one person, but because it tends to involve all of us -- leaders and led -- in one of the oldest and most persistent of sins, idolatry.
Good leaders are really important, but they aren't God.
Lord, grant your church great leaders -- leaders who know and trust you, and who lead us into your presence. Amen.
ATony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. Tony is the director of Festival of Preaching NW,which is coming up April 28 - May, 2014 in Seattle.