pastorsleadersMany if not most of the pastors I meet have a huge goal. Their aspirations are not to be rich or famous or anything temporal. They want to make an eternal difference in people’s lives. They want to bring people closer to Jesus. Talk about a vision! Talk about a goal that requires leadership!

Yet pastors somehow have a disconnect in their minds between pastoring and leading.

A pastor exercises influence through preaching and teaching and counseling and so on. They do it without apology! They discern what is needed at any given moment: law, gospel, admonition, encouragement, prayer, etc. and they step in and do it. They would never think, “I don’t care, whatever you want!” They cannot but speak when it has to do with someone’s spiritual life. Is this not leadership? Of course it is! It is being a pastor exercising leadership and thus influence upon others that they would hear the Word of God and grow closer to Jesus.

Yet ask a pastor to provide leadership for the church as a whole and somehow some pastors shy away or disengage or act passive saying that’s not for me or that's not my calling. I can understand that in some areas the pastor is not equipped. Accounting systems, plumbing, maintenance of the building and grounds (although some very well might!), issues of finance and insurance and so on. Right, pastors do not know it all. They should step back and let others with this technical know how lead the way in these areas. They should listen to other voices of experience and wisdom.

Yet as a whole, isn't the church supposed to be about what the pastor identifies as their primary goal (see above)? Isn’t the church to make disciples, nurture disciples, spread the Word of God and do good to one another and their neighbor? Then why or how can the pastor shy away from exerting some influence in that for the whole church?

In other words, the pastor can and should exercise influence (a.k.a. “leadership”) over the whole program of the church. The pastor is the “chief steward”  just like Rev. C. J. Hermann described it in 1951 in his book entitled “The Chief Steward.” If the boards and committees or even the whole church goes off the rails or focuses on the wrong things then the pastor should step in and help them get refocused on those things that will accomplish the Lord’s will for the church. That is leadership. The pastor is well equipped: law, gospel, admonition, encouragement, prayer, etc. The skills for leadership of the church as a whole are very much the same as the skills the pastor uses for pastoral care.

Maybe the issue is that the pastor needs to be able to see themselves stepping into that role. Perhaps it means they and maybe their lay leaders and members need to give the pastors “permission” to exercise influence or leadership for the overall direction and work or ministry of the church. (Many are already begging for it!) The truth is that these are not competing roles but complimentary roles. Where we ever got the impression that pastors should be bold as pastors but timid as pastoral leaders is a mystery.

So just as pastors do not apologize for exercising influence as pastors, neither should they apologize as pastoral leaders. It ought not be a controlling, demanding, “lording it over them” (1 Peter 5:3) kind of leadership nor an abdicating, retiring and passive leadership but rather an influential, winsome, encouraging, empowering kind of leadership where the pastoral leader celebrates what God does in and with His saints. The pastor doesn’t have to take the spotlight but instead always put the spotlight on Jesus, as the church is busy doing the work of Jesus. The truth is that the pastor is a big part of whether that happens, happens well or happens at all.

Thinking homework:

  1. How can a pastor shift to include advocating and influencing for the common goals of ministry for the whole church while empowering others?
  2. How can the pastor transfer pastoral care skills into pastoral leadership?
  3. How can any Christian leader live into the middle ground of neither controlling nor giving up control?
  4. Now, what will you do? When will you do it? Who will hold you accountable?

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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, or

"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"


Leadership and Pastoring

2 thoughts on “Leadership and Pastoring

  • September 18, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    I just heard the first part of your interview with Reggie Mcneal, and it was inspiring! I heard him speak at a conference about 20 years ago and was bowled over by him then. Thank you for reminding me about him and his views of the Kingdom

    • September 24, 2021 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks John – my experience with him too – I hope it is a blessing!


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