HOUSTON – Many leadership styles exist in churches today, and to help pastors and leaders be the best they can be, Texas Baptists held a panel discussion to dialogue about issues and strengths of various leadership methods.
Chris Seay, pastor of Eccelsia in Houston, George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, and David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, served on the panel moderated by Ron Herring, director of the Center for Effective Leadership.
The dialogue was part of the G-5 Conference, a concept based on Texas Baptists needing to equip, encourage and engage in theological and leadership discussion relevant to the fifth generation of convention leadership that exists right now. An additional session discussing Calvinism also was held as part of the G-5 Conference.
Each pastor brought a different leadership perspective to the table, but all had one goal – to see the people of God grow into productive followers of Christ who serve for the sake of His kingdom.
Mason, who sees leadership as a partnership between a pastor’s strengths and those who have strengths to complement, believes a leader must be willing to let other people help and lead in areas where he is weak in leadership, pulling in the body of believers and training others in that instance.
“The fact of the matter is, who you are determines how you will best lead the church,” Mason said.” You will lead best out of your strengths. If you find people who complement you, then let those people do that job, and it will go well.”
Dykes, whose leadership style is based on helping his congregation see that they are all ministers whether volunteer or vocation or bivocational, strives to lead in a way his congregation understands this and serves accordingly, losing the separate laity and staff mentality.
“I am committed to enlisting and developing leaders in our congregation,” Dykes said. “I see that as more of my role than being a leader – developing the greatest staff team and then others.”
Because of that, he doesn’t allow the term layman to be used in his church.
“We have removed this clergy, layman distinction, and we talk about servants and ministers,” Dykes said. “We have some who are vocational ministers, and others are bivocational or volunteer ministers. That is the philosophy that guides our church.”
Seay agreed with Dykes, saying pastors have been lifted to a level of leadership that is unhealthy at times.
“We have been professionalized and elevated to a point where it doesn’t serve us or our people well,” Seay said.
To help people step into places of using their gifts and talents to serve the Lord and the body of Christ, Seay said pastors must be willing to call people into tension, to address cultural aspects that may be uncomfortable but to help the people of God see that it is possible to change, becoming more kingdom-minded people.
“I think part of what a pastor is called to do is much like the prophets,” Seay said. “What the prophets do is paint a picture of what life is but also to paint a picture of what life could be …. It is a unique pastoral role to call people into that tension and it is that tension that calls people to change.”
He shared that he and some other pastors did this through addressing how the culture has turned Christmas into a day of consumerism rather than celebrating the birth of Christ, challenging the church to not spend money on more stuff but to spend in a way that furthers the kingdom of God.
Spending with a kingdom mindset “is a simple statement that the reality of Jesus’ birth is not an occasion to celebrate consumerism,” Seay said.
Though they are guiding others, pastors and leaders don’t have to know all the answers before they lead, stating that a leader who keeps all duties to himself or herself is robbing the body of Christ of opportunities to serve and use their gifts and talents for the Lord, Mason said.
“I don’t have to know everything but there is some sense as a pastor that you are supposed to be the professional that gets it all,” Mason said. “You went to school for this and should know everything. But that isn’t true …. If someone joins our church, then there must be a need here that God wants that person to fill. It builds the people of God for the sake of the church.”
Dykes also mentioned that there is a difference between management and leadership that some people do not grasp. He believes it is about casting a vision and helping others take part in that.
“Early on, I had my hand in everything, and I was preventing other people from serving the Lord,” he said. “When you are leading, you can’t really manage. And when you manage, you can’t really lead.”
All three men spoke about casting a vision and developing the next generation of leadership. Mason, who has created a pastoral mentoring and internship program at this church, said the church must decide its purpose before it can develop new leaders.
“This is passion of mine,” Mason said. “I really do think that churches have to decide whether they are merely going to be like a hospital that is just a service provider or be like a teaching hospital, constantly working to be training the next generation of leaders to do that work.”
Leadership training is not just about fostering growth in people to carry out God’s plan now but also to carry it out in the future, he said.
“We need to adopt an understanding that the church is multigenerational because we have to think about what happens to the church when we are gone,” Mason said. “This is our special work and the question is who will come after us. It’s not just the question of who will be the next pastor.”
To do this, Mason suggested that pastors notice, name and nurture – notice young people with potential, name and make known what is seen in them and nurture those characteristics, talents and gifts.
Seay said that listening to the next generation is the key to building them into strong leaders as well as fostering personal growth in the leader in the process.
“If we are going to build into young people, we must listen to them,” Seay said. “The definition of maturing in Romans is those who are most flexible. They understand the difference between the gospel and personal preference. They are going to have some radical ideas, but I think we can learn from them in ways that we will be astonished.”
To help a whole church grasp a ministry or service, Dykes said leadership must be about casting a vision.
“A few years ago, God broke my heart for China,” Dykes said. “I felt as a church that we should adopt a city in China, but I never really announced that for a few weeks. I am a consensus builder. It’s a matter of sharing the vision in a way that allows others to get in on this too.”
Before the discussion ended, all men stressed the need for leaders to not do everything themselves, but to include and train the body of Christ to work together, allowing for growth within members and avoiding burn out within the pastors and leadership.