February 23, 2007
Sayonara, Senior Pastor (Part 2)
Is ministry more missional without a senior pastor?
David Fitch's church, Life on the Vine, is a missional community that has abandoned the leadership model that most churches employ. Life on the Vine has no senior pastor, and they don't want one. In the first part of his post, Fitch outlined three reasons why the "CEO-pastor-leader" model is difficult to reconcile with a missional philosophy of ministry. Here are five more reasons why a multiple-leadership model is better:
4. Because pastors benefit from being bi-vocational. Or, should I say bi-ministerial (since being in the secular workplace is ministry). Pastors who have jobs outside the church can get to know non-Christians and spend time in non Christian settings. They are not entirely bound to the church. Dan Kimball speaks to this in his new book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church (Zondervan 2007). Up until last year, I had always worked outside the church. I will forever be impacted by the many years I spent working outside the church, and as a result I will continually be seeking non Christian connections.
5. Because it models the diversity and interrelatedness of the Body. The notion of a senior pastor puts up a false impression that one person is especially qualified and elevated to ministry. But with multiple pastors, he/she does not stand alone. The whole body is called to minister the gospel inside and outside the church as a way of life.
6. Because it protects pastors from the temptations which lead to moral failure and/or disappointment. With multiple leaders in mutual submission to each other in Christ, there can be no temptation to put any of the pastors on a false pedestal as an image of the perfect Christian. Given the mutual subjectivity of the leadership, and the smallness of the church, there is no reason to try to act like an archetype for everyone else to imitate.
7. Because it is hard for pastors to be servants when they are put on a pedestal. All pastors should have to clean toilets, serve the poor, and vacuum floors after potlucks. We should see ourselves in submission to the Body of Christ not over it. (Mark 10:42-45). This "amongness" is not always possible as a senior pastor.
8. Because the senior pastor position is an impossible position to live up to. Therefore, by accepting this role we are setting ourselves up (and the church) for inevitable failure.
I could think of other reasons. And I am sure that in other contexts and ways of being the Body of Christ, the senior pastor position may still have validity. But for our church, in seeking to be missional, these reasons seemed to suggest the senior pastor position won't work.