The Essence of Church Leadership

The Essence of Church Leadership

  1. Know Where You Are Realism
  2. Know Where You Are Going Vision
  3. Have a Plan Strategy
  4. Move the People Motivation


          Where We Are: The real disasters I see in leadership occur when leaders do not have a realistic sense of where the congregation truly stands concerning their buy in, core values and readiness to follow a particular vision.  There can be several reasons for this:

  1. Spiritual Arrogance: “Hyper Spirituality” in a leader is a defense mechanism. It creates distance between the leader and the people God has asked that leader to lead. Think more like Sheriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) and remember that you are in the people business.  If you want to be an enigmatic mystic, become a monk.  If you want to lead people, you are going to have to be someone to whom people can relate.
  2. Failure to Listen: We learn more from our enemies than we do our friends. When I receive “push-back” I go through a process:
    1. Consider the source. Some people are perpetual whiners and others are misery missionaries.  I pay attention to these critiques but not very much.  They are normally stating personal preferences and that is not helpful to me.  But some critique comes from unexpected people who never complain and these garner significantly more of my attention.
    2. Consider the critique. Take the emotion out of it on both sides and just get to the content.  Don’t be defensive.  What is really going on here?  Does the person have a point?
    3. Get trusted feedback from others. You must have to have an inner circle that love you enough to be honest with you on one hand and not impressed with you on the other.  Let them read the correspondence and ask them if they think there is anything to the criticism of you.
    4. Ask what God may be trying to teach me.
    5. Isolated Inner Circle: Listening only to a few homogeneous or “rubber stamp” voices are traps. Don’t fall into them.
    6. Inability to Read Trends: If giving, attendance or participation is trending down or there is too much formal discontinuity around a particular subject, there is a clear message being sent. People vote with their presence, their opinions and their wallets.

The final piece to “knowing where you are” is that the leaders must establish why staying “where we are” is unacceptable.  This can be approached theologically, through a sense of mission, practically or all of the above but it must be addressed.  Of the four steps, this is the one where you will most likely need outside “eyes” to help you.  A bad read here has doomed you for failure before you even start!


Leaders must convey a clear sense of a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  What is your vision of your church in the “great about to be?”  Live in this vision, describe this vision, preach this vision, theologically contextualize this vision and get people excited about this vision!


Many pastors will need help here.  I know more realists than I know visionaries and I know more visionaries than I know strategists.  What is your plan to move your congregation from where you are to where you are going?  This is the essence of leadership!  If you can’t do this, you can’t lead.  You do not need hype here, just a great multi-step plan that regular people can understand!


This is about motivation, strategic celebration and time lines!  This is being a cheer leader and a 24/7/365 encourager!


You build a great church with “Excellence over Time”

You can’t cheat either factor.  We have all tried to cheat both…


  • Leaders create chaos…managers manage chaos Know how you operate under extreme stress. If you shift from leader to manager because things are too hot, you will not only fail in leadership and make all the wrong people happy, you will hang your best people out to dry!
  • Don’t forget in the valley what you saw on the mountain
  • If you are on course and hit a storm…batten down the hatches Some things just have to be weathered. Keep the ship on course and realize that hurricanes don’t blow forever.  When the storm is over, repair the damage and keep moving forward toward your mission.
  • Celebrate every victory! Every step toward a mission deserves celebration. Preach, write and personally share enthusiasm with everyone one you can any time you can!

Shane 2015 Winter

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairveiw Heights, IL



Published by Rev. Shane L. Bishop

Senior Pastor of Christ Church, Fairview Heights, IL since 1997. I am an orthodox Christian but I am not in a bad mood about it.

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