I remember being in a conference listening to Bill Hybels. He recounted a question that he had been asked and was actually, at that time, asked quite often: “Are there any born leaders?” His response was, “Yes, they are all born.”

His point was that leadership, while there are some who are more naturally gifted toward this characteristic, is something that can be developed. Being a naturally born leader may not be on every pastor’s résumé, but every pastor can learn how to become a more effective leader. When a void exists in leadership abilities or when a clash in leadership styles occurs, the church suffers.

Leadership Ability That Does Not Match the Church

The role of the pastor is an interesting one. One of the questions I frequently encounter is, “When do I know when I should leave a church?” Obviously, that question is not only multifaceted in the question itself but also in the answer. One place where the pastor must look for the answer comes from his own leadership capabilities and the current status of the church. Most pastors would like to think that they could stay at a church for however long they like or that they could lead any size church in any situation. For some, those ideas might be true. For most in ministry, they are not.
Because of spiritual gifting, personal abilities, likes and dislikes, and backgrounds, not every pastor has the potential of success in every church. Let me give you an example. I had a young man on staff with me some years ago who was greatly talented. He was good at leading the ministry he oversaw from a teaching standpoint. His problems, though, came from the more internal issues in the church. For instance:

  • He did not like staff meetings. On a multiple staff, getting together for communication and planning is essential. He was bored with these meetings, especially when something besides his ministry was being discussed.
  • He did not like being one of the low men on the proverbial totem pole. At the time, our staff was built on a multitiered hierarchy based upon the size of the staff and the various ministries involved. He wanted direct access to and supervision by the lead pastor, an idea that just was not feasible at the time.
  • He was not a team player. He did not like having to cooperate with other staff within his own ministry, much less with those from other ministries.
  • He did not like the work requirements. Leading a ministry the size that he inherited demanded more time than what he really wanted to give. This perspective not only applied to his workweek, but also to the additional conferences, trips, and camps his ministry required. His wife felt the same way. She wanted her husband home every night by 5:00 p.m. and not gone on any trips.
  • He struggled with the administrative demands of his position. Planning, cooperation, working with a host of others, and more planning all played a role of pressure in leading this ministry.

The list could go one, but the bottom line was, his gifting, likes and dislikes, and personal goals did not match the church at that time. Eventually he left for another church, one that I believe fits his abilities far better than our church did. We remain friends to this day, and I am thankful that he serves at a place that matches his leadership abilities. From our church’s perspective, the ministry suffered under his tenure, not because he was a bad person or a bad pastor, but because his abilities did not suit the current situation.

William Henard, Can These Bones Live: A Practical Guide to Church Revitalization (Nashville: B&H, 2015).

I have just completed a 7 week Bible study based on this theme. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

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