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The Heart of Church Conflict

I’ve been in ministry for 37 years and at this point in ministry, what seems to be happening is that the Lord is bringing me people in ministry to counsel and churches to counsel. Let me tell you a little bit about what life has been like in the last 6 months. I’ve been involved in consulting or actually counseling with five different conflict situations in four countries—all related to church leadership. Four churches in conflict in four different countries, and then also a pastor and his wife that just have a horrible marriage. My wife and I had the privilege of doing a marriage mediation with them and helping them get reconciled with each other. One of the things that I’ve noticed—and I know you know this intuitively—is that a church will never rise above the level of its leadership.

This seminar will seek to answer the question: Where do church leadership and conflict intersect? And I’m going to explore with you the idea of personality, and talk about what really is personality. Because we often hear people say, “Well, I’m a Type A.” The Type A’s don’t realize how they’re impacting the church. Where do personality and the idea of the heart biblically intersect?

I’m going to seek to demonstrate to you is that what the culture typically calls personality is really the worship of the heart going on. I’m going to show you some definitions from lexicons about what the heart is biblically. We’ll see that it really is about personality.

As someone that teaches future pastors—I teach at the Master’s Seminary and I teach a conflict resolution class—one of my concerns here is that we are training our pastors how to exegete Scripture, but we are not training our pastors how to be relational or heart-aware.

In every one of the cases where I’ve been involved in leadership and church conflicts over this past summer, I would say every one of the church leaders was naive about what was going on in his heart, and how he and his leadership style was actually influencing the church. That gives you a sense of where we’re headed.

Let me tell you one more conversation that I had with Ken Sande. Ken has had a huge influence on my life because of the Institute for Christian Conciliation. I’m not only a member of ACBC, but I’m a member of the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC) and you can go through a whole certification process to become a certified conciliator with the ICC. I’ve gotten to know Ken Sande a little bit and I had a conversation with him in June.

He told me about an interesting conversation that he had with a well-known pastor of an unnamed denomination. The denomination had contacted him out of concern for this pastor, because this pastor was one of their top graduates from one of their top seminaries. This pastor was well known for his exegesis and his theology. He was the star pupil. And the seminary thought, “This guy is going to excel in ministry.”

He got a really top church that was well-known in the denomination because he was such a good student in seminary, and had high recommendations, etc. Well, he got into the church and conflict started to stir because he had an abrasive personality. He did not know how to be relational with the people in the church. The denomination called Ken Sande and said, “Hey, can you help intervene here, and could you go talk to our boy?” He had a private conversation with this man who is now a pastor in the church, and Ken just started asking him questions like, “So tell me about Sunday morning when you’re at church. What are you doing?” He said, “Well, I’m getting ready for the service. I’m getting ready to deliver my sermon.” Ken said, “So do you greet people?” He said, “Well, no, not really.” Ken asked, “Are you in the foyer? Do you talk to people?” The guy looked at him and said, “I don’t even know how to initiate conversations.” Ken was relating to me how concerned he was that we’re putting out seminary graduates that know their theology and they know how to exegete Scripture, but the way I would put it is they don’t know how to shepherd, they don’t know how to love people.

Let me just say this caveat at the beginning. I do conflict resolution. I am not trying to plant disgruntlement in hearts toward pastors. If anything, this should cause you to pray for your pastor. It should cause you to want to support him all the more and the elders of your church. The simple point that I’m trying to make is that what the culture calls leadership style sets a climate in the church. Often when the Institute for Christian Conciliation is called in to do what we call a church intervention, it revolves around church leadership more often than not. It’s more it’s a rare church intervention where it’s the congregation. Usually it started with the leadership and it bled out into the congregation.

What this seminar is about is saying let’s get on the front end of that and ask how can we be preventive rather than remedial. Part of being preventive is we have to help pastors, elders, and church leaders understand how their leadership style is actually influencing the whole flock.

So let’s dig in. In this seminar I want to explore a biblical view of personality. That’s the big picture goal, and I’m kind of geeky about this stuff. I think about what I do as studying humans through biblical eyeglasses. I want to study humans through biblical principles. Every counseling theory has a view of human personality. I’m intrigued with what a biblical view of personality is. Where does personality come from?

Secondly, how does heart and personality influence leadership? We’re going to ask questions like, “How much of this is God’s giftedness and innate abilities and how much of it is the heart?” I would argue that the heart has to be primary. What is the heart? How do heart and personality intersect with one another?

And then, what is a biblical model of leadership? Here we’ll really discuss what it means to be a shepherd. Not just a Bible teacher, not just a theologian, but a shepherd. The overall theme is that my leadership style, my personality, is impacting my flock whether I realize it or not.

If we explore these things, maybe then we can diminish some of the conflict in the church as leaders are discipled to be shepherd leaders.

Defining the Heart

The first thing we want to look at is: What is the heart?

I thought for a long time that this needs to be explored with a biblical counseling view of personality. There is an Adlerian view of personality. There’s a Freudian view of personality. There’s a Maslow view of personality. Every counseling theory or approach has a view of human personality. There’s a biblical counseling view of personality. My argument is going to be that it is primarily being influenced out of the heart, and what the heart is biblically. This has needed to be explored, and I also want to help leaders understand what kind of climate is being set in their organization by leadership style, which biblically is being shaped in a big way by the heart.

Now, what do I mean by climate being shaped? Let me give you an illustration and then we’re going to look at some definitions of what the heart is, and I’m going to be a bit geeky with you here and give you some Hebrew lexical definitions. You’ll have to bear with my seminary instincts a bit.

Here’s the illustration. I live in Southern California and I live in the desert, and it is really dry. I can’t remember the last time we had rain in Southern California. It’s been a really long time. We had a bad wildfire this past summer and I was actually in South Africa teaching and our 20-year-old daughter was home. Our church family had to come rescue her and rescue our horse and take stuff out of the house because the fire got within 2 miles, which is not very far away for a wildfire. We talked about being under a Red Flag Warning in Southern California. A Red Flag Warning means that all the climatic conditions are ripe for a fire just to break out. It only takes one little spark.

There was a fire in our town a few years ago because somebody’s lawn mower hit a rock while they were mowing the lawn and everything’s just so dry the spark set off a wildfire in our area. My illustration would be that the climatic conditions in a church can be the same way. If a pastor has been overbearing, is not open to other people’s input, is very controlling, people slowly leave by attrition because they don’t want to be under a dictator—or after a while another strong leader says, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” and they lead a coup against the church leaders.

On the other hand you can have a Red Flag Warning where a pastor is a people pleaser, or a comfort lover, and he just ignores issues. The attitude is, “I want to pretend like that doesn’t exist. I didn’t see that. I didn’t hear that.” His tendency is to sweep things under the rug and year after year issues really aren’t dealt with in a godly way. That also sets up a Red Flag Warning and sets the conditions for things breaking out into a wildfire in the church.

That raises the question: What is the balance? What’s the balance between being controlling or on the other hand of being a people-pleasing type leader who just avoids issues? Is there a biblical balance? I believe the biblical balance is out of love learning how to shepherd the congregation. I think all of this is being shaped by the heart.

What is the heart biblically? The Hebrew word is “lev.” There’s a couple of things I want to show you in particular. This is what the culture typically would say is personality. Well, what’s personality? It’s my dispositions. It’s how I think about life. It’s the decisions I make about life. Well, that’s exactly what Scripture says the heart is. It’s the mind, the will, affections. It’s also inclinations and resolutions. Why am I inclined a certain way? Secular culture would say, “That’s your personality—you have certain inclinations.” That’s what the heart is biblically, it’s your inclinations. It’s why I make the decisions that I do. It’s really what drives me as a person. That’s the heart.

What’s my engine room? What’s driving me? Well, my thought life reflects that, my decision-making reflects that, even my emotions reflect my heart. In Scripture emotions come out of the heart. Scripture will say things like “he rejoiced in his heart” or “he was sorrowful in his heart.” Emotions are directly connected with the heart. What raises my sorrow or fear or what causes me to rejoice are reflections of my inner person and what’s driving me, which is also reflected in my thought life, my decision-making, etc.

The heart is also our passions. What am I passionate about? What am I hungry for? We all know that people in leadership can be hungry for power. I can be hungry for approval. I want people to like me. What I’m seeking to present is that what the secular culture would say is a personality, the Bible would say, you’re really living out of your heart.

In secular literature, there’s this new study on the brain. Part of neuropsychology is studying brain function, as you know, and there is a new field and in about the last 10 years it’s become more popular: neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the idea that you’re not fixed in your brain patterns, but the brain can actually change. We’ve been saying that for years as biblical counselors, haven’t we? You’re not stuck. You can put off the old man and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man. Psychology is now studying neuroplasticity, but I didn’t realize how it was related to personality theory until about 3 weeks ago.

I have a couple of friends who are psychologists, one’s a neuropsychologist and the other is a clinical psychologist, and I sent them emails saying, “Hey, I’m doing this seminar for ACBC and I don’t want to be ignorant as I stand up in front of people, so what’s the newest research on personality?” The thing that I learned as they wrote back to me, they said, “The cutting edge stuff right now is that the secular world is in transition about the idea of fixed personality.” That means people can’t just use as the excuse anymore, “I’m just a type A, and that’s how Type A’s are.”

If you believe in the idea fixed personality, you can’t believe in progressive sanctification. You can’t believe that we’re growing and changing to be more like are our Savior. The heart is really about what culture says is personality. Probably the most well-known Hebrew lexicon right now is Kohler Bumgardner and they say that the heart is your inner self with its feeling and emotions, inclinations and dispositions. Isn’t that the personality? Your disposition about life. Inclinations. The decisions I make. My mind in general. That’s the heart.

When I go into a church to do an intervention, I really want to help the church leaders understand what they’re serving in their hearts. What’s going on at the root system that has led or could have helped feed and set the climate for getting in this mess as a church?

What really gets served in this church? One of the things that I do is give them heart questions. How do you get at the heart? Well, what do you think about? The heart’s about the mind, the heart’s about decision-making, the heart is about emotions, the heart is about desires. Ask about emotions, decision-making, thinking, desires. As the person answers them, you start to see patterns of what this person is really living for at the level of the heart.

I personally believe that it’s what Jonathan Edwards was talking about when he said the affections—what stirs people on the inside. We’re not into behaviorism. I don’t want go into a church intervention and just say, “Well you as elders need to be communicating better.” Or give them some behavioristic thing for the elders as a fix for the church. I want to teach the elders what’s going on in your inner person that is actually bleeding its way out into the congregation. What are you serving as a leader and an elder in the church? What does it really mean to lovingly shepherd the flock?

The other thing that I do with church leaders (or anybody that we’re doing a mediation with) is at the end of chapter 5 in the book The Peacemaker, there’s very precise questions to ask what you are serving in your heart. I always have people do The Peacemaker Chapter 5 questions. If I’m doing a church intervention, they have to read the book The Peacemaker before we even go in and do the mediation. We have to get everybody playing by the same terms, talking the same language.

They read the book The Peacemaker and do homework out of the book, but I start typically with the chapter on the heart. I really work hard at helping the church leaders understand what’s going on in your inner person. What do you live for? How has that bled its way out into the church?

Here’s a key definition. This is from the Theological Word Book the Old Testament. Scholars Gleason Archer, R. Laird Harris, some other scholars in Semitic languages, say that “lev” is typically what the culture says is personality. “In its abstract meanings, ‘heart’ became the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature.” It is the three traditional personality functions of man: emotion, thought, or will. In another place in the same article, they say this, “By far the majority of usages of lev refer either to the inner or immaterial nature in general, or to one of the three traditional personality functions of man: emotion, thought, and will.”

What is the heart? It’s my inclinations. It’s my disposition, my outlook on life. It’s the way I think about life. It’s the way I make decisions. This is all the same things the culture would say is personality. I’m arguing that you’re not stuck. Even the most unrelational person can learn to be relational, and can learn how to be tuned into other people. I can learn how to be a loving, godly shepherd in a church so that I’m not setting up a climate that is ripe for conflict, either by ignoring issues or by being too harsh on issues.

Every one of these people that I was doing consultation with are all scholars in the Bible. They all know Greek and Hebrew and they know their theology, but they’re in messes with their churches and some really smart people with Master’s degrees and Doctorate degrees are in big trouble. Just because I know my theology and I know how to exegete Scripture doesn’t mean I know how to work with people. Shepherding pastoral ministry is not just about teaching, it’s also about working with and relating to people.

A quick theory on why some seminaries are failing with this: I think part of it is because many of the people teaching classes in seminaries have never done pastoral ministry. They are scholars—praise God, I’m very thankful for the scholars who know Greek and Hebrew and theology—but men who are being trained to be pastors aren’t getting the influence of men who have been pastors and know what it’s like to actually work with people. The atmosphere in a seminary is really different than what the atmosphere is like in a church.

I know you’ve heard this statement before, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I’ve certainly found that to be true as a pastor. No church that I’ve ever gone to candidate at has asked me for a transcript of my grades. They just don’t care about things like that.

What could be some possible heart worship themes that could be influencing church leaders? Then quickly we’re going to look at secular views of personality, and then we’re going to look at some answers. How do we need to be training people?

Themes of the Heart

Some of the typical themes that I see: There are people that live to control their lives. “I’ve got to keep life under control.” He might be saying to himself, “I have a strong drive. I need to be in charge. I’m supposed to be the one in charge. I desire things to be done my way.” Well, praise God if you’re an organized, visionary person. I’m not arguing for anyone to be a passive leader. Rather, I want to suggest, let’s be more self-aware about your tendencies and understand the things that drive you. Please start to be tuned into how that influences other people, what kind of climate can that set in a church if you have this tendency to be a driver, to be visionary, to be in charge. Understand you need to be relational as you do that. You need to be listening to other people, open to their ideas as well.

On the other hand you can have a people-pleasing pastor. “I don’t make decisions. I’m afraid to make decisions because I’m afraid of what people will think. I have a strong drive to keep people happy.” The unfortunate reality is if you’re living for that, it isn’t going to work. It’s just an impossible goal to have in your church to keep everybody happy. The church people are too diverse, sin has affected us all.

Isn’t the church an interesting place? With all the different personalities and the way we interact with each other—it is quite a skill for a shepherd to learn how to get all these people to work together.

Or you can have a comfort-loving pastor. A comfort-loving pastor may like the status quo. “I don’t like change. I have a strong desire to take it easy.” One of my favorite lines is, “I don’t like the status quo because the status ain’t much to quo about.”

I tend to be the more visionary type and I want to see change happen, and I want to see people growing. I want to see us reaching people with the gospel, but I sure have had to learn (sometimes the hard way) that I need to be really tuned into what other people in the church are thinking too and not just lead the charge with the attitude, “If you leave the church because you don’t like my vision, that’s fine with me.” That can’t be my attitude.

Let me mention a resource. I know this will be helpful as we get into the idea of the secular views of personality. It’s called the Leadership Opportunity: Where Conflict and Leadership Intersect. It’s about church leadership. A number of years ago Peacemaker Ministries realized that a lot of the church conflicts that we were going in to do an intervention happened because of the climate that had been set in the church. Ken Sande and the staff at Peacemaker Ministries developed this new material. The goal is for elders to go through the material together and ask, “What kind of climate are we setting in our church? Is this a climate that is a gospel-type climate?” A gospel climate in a church would be a climate of what we find in the gospel—grace, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation. Or is there a climate in our church that’s conducive to the opposites of those things? This material is designed to get church leaders thinking about these topics.

There’s also two wonderful chapters called Leading a Congregation through Change Without Dividing the Flock. I have my seminary class read that because as young guys go out into the ministry, they want to change the world—praise God for all that energy they have—but there’s a right way to do that and there’s a wrong way to do that.

Please lead—don’t be passive. But do it the right way. Here’s some key questions that this raises in my mind.

Is it nature or nurture?

Where does personality come from?

I’m arguing that it’s not just nature and nurture, but as Bible-believing Christians we know that Proverbs 4:23 says we live out of our hearts; “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

What’s going on in my inner person? That’s influencing everything. Is it my genetics? Where does God’s design fit in? Obviously, we have designs by God, and giftedness, aptitudes, and dispositions. I’m not arguing against those ideas. In fact, there’s mystery there. I don’t understand all that. But what I am presenting is that the heart is influencing all of that. The heart is primary. I am living out of my heart. I can’t use as an excuse, “Well, I’m just a Type A and you’ll just have to get used to it because this is how Type A’s talk to people. Type A’s are harsh and I just tend to be harsh. You’re just going to have to learn to live with me because of that.” That’s not an excuse. If I believe that, I cannot believe in progressive sanctification—that I’m growing and changing into Christlikeness. We’re going to see what were called to change into in just a moment.

I’m living out of my heart. Scripture even says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” There takes away my excuse for speaking harshly to people. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, so I can’t just say that’s my personality—that’s why I talk to people the way I do.

Ephesians 4:1 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” So let’s think about what our calling is. If you go back to chapters 1, 2, 3 in Ephesians, we are in Christ. It’s saturates chapters 1-3.

Who are we? We are people in Christ of:

Forgiveness

Redemption

Lavish grace

Ken Sande says, “If Christians are the most forgiven people in the world we ought to be the most forgiving people in the world.” I would extrapolate on that, and say if Christians have been shown the most grace, we ought to be the most gracious people in the world. If we have been shown the most mercy, we ought to be the most merciful people in the world. If we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we ought to be about reconciliation. Second Corinthians 5 says God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. I don’t believe that just means go tell people the gospel. What Paul is arguing here is that it’s a whole lifestyle.

Walk in a manner worthy of your calling. Live up to your calling “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

How do you change your character traits? Work on the heart. Work on surrendering control to the Lord. Don’t be such a controlling person. Or change at the level of the heart with the people-pleasing. Work on the people-pleasing and it will affect the way you start influencing other people. Personality is not fixed, personality can change. Now, are there certain fixed parts of our personality? I’m sure that’s true—just aptitudes that the Lord has given us. But some of this can change, or else these passages can’t be true.

With church leaders, when I go in to do a church intervention, I will look with them at a list of character traits compiled from Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3 and brainstorm with them the opposites of these traits. I’m trying to help them see, how did you set up in your church an environment that made it conducive for this conflict. Here are the character traits from those two passages:

Humility. The opposite of humility obviously is pride. Prideful leaders can set up a very bad climate in a church.

Gentleness. The opposite might be harshness, when a pastor or a church leader speaks harshly to people it sets up a climate in the church.

Patience. The opposite here might be irritable. The word in Greek means small angered. The opposite is easily angered or irritable.

Compassion. The opposite would be hard-hearted. I can’t be a godly pastor and have a heart that’s apathetic or hard toward people. I find this phrase in particular interesting because it’s used of our Lord four or five times in gospel of Matthew alone. Matthew 9 says that he saw them and his heart was moved with compassion because he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus was moved deeply with the needs of other people. I can’t be a good leader if I’m not moved deeply with the needs of other people. I need to have a heart of compassion. Well, what what stops me from having a heart of compassion? It could be my comfort-loving tendency, and it makes me uncomfortable when you start crying. It really makes me uncomfortable. If I’m going to be a person that’s moved with compassion toward others, I need to deal with my comfort loving in my heart and be okay with people crying.

Tolerance. I get the idea of tolerance from the text saying, “showing forbearance to one another in love.” Leaders have to put up with people. What’s the opposite? The opposite would be, “I don’t put up with anything. I squash all opposition.”

Commitment to relationships. I’m getting that trait from the exhortation, “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I’m committed to working through issues. Not as a leader saying, “Well, if you don’t like me, there’s the door. We’re going forward.” Sometimes that may happen. You know this is the direction that you have to go as a church, but let’s shepherd people through that process, not make demands in the congregation of, “Love it or leave it.” That type of attitude sets up a climate in a church where you end up having to call the Institute for Christian Conciliation or some other elders in your area and they come in and do an intervention, because you had a church split.

What is the biblical model? In conclusion, I believe the biblical model is a shepherd. I love the analogy of a shepherd. I grew up around animals—I didn’t grow up around sheep, but I grew up working with livestock and grew up on farms. The whole idea of the agricultural analogy fits well for me with working with people. A farmer has to love his livestock. It’s his livelihood! You love your flock. The idea of pastors—and I used to be one of them, so confession here—who don’t love their congregation is a biblical oxymoron.

Here’s what happened to me (and if you want to read a little more about this, I wrote my story in a little booklet by Shepherd Press called Help! I’m in a Conflict), I went through a very serious church conflict as a young pastor. Part of what was going on is people came to me as the pastor and said, “We don’t think you love us.” I kept hearing this theme. I thought I was a very loving pastor. “I do hospital visits, I preach you sermons every week.” People would say to me, “Yeah, but we just don’t sense you really care about us. You do your duties. We know you’re a dutiful pastor. But do you love us as a congregation?” That was really eye-opening for me to think about how there’s more to pastoral ministry than being faithful in my duties as a pastor. How do I really learn to love people and be more relational with people?

What is a shepherd? Shepherds love their flock. That implies you’re relational with your flock. The idea of a shepherd who is mean to his sheep doesn’t fit a biblical analogy of what it means. Or a shepherd that neglects and doesn’t really lead and is comfortable with the status quo. The one who looks at the grass in the pasture that’s been picked over and thinks, “Well, that’s okay. They can nibble with the roots for a while.” Shepherds want to lead to greener pastures and want to lead people to what’s best for the congregation.

What’s the Role of a Shepherd?

There is a demeanor of a shepherd. It’s not just, “I am faithful to my wife” fulfilling “the husband of one wife” qualification, and I know how to preach. There’s part of these qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that I believe we’re neglecting. We don’t hear sermons preached about the demeanor of a shepherd. We hear things like the qualifications: you have to have been faithful to your wife, you have to know how to preach, you have to know how to do administration. Are we testing guys in their ordinations on gentleness? We’ll get to that in a moment.

What does a shepherd do? As minister of the Word, everything revolves around ministry of the Word, whether I’m doing public ministry or private ministry. Everything’s about ministry of the Word. What am I doing? I’m feeding people—publicly, privately we’re feeding the Word.

Shepherds also protect. I have to protect the church from false doctrine as a shepherd. I have to lead. Where do shepherds lead from? You lead from the front. One of the things I learned through an older mentor as I was going through that church conflict is cowboys drive cattle, shepherds lead sheep. My mentor said to me, “It seems like you’re trying to drive the congregation rather than lead.”

He humiliated me as a seminary graduate. He put a piece of rope on the floor. He said, “I want you to push the piece of rope.” So I did. Here I was with my Master of Divinity degree, and I thought I was the hottest thing on the planet as a young pastor, and I tried to push the piece of rope and it didn’t work. He said, “Now I want you to pull it. Lead it. Shepherds lead, cowboys drive. You lead sheep. You drive cattle. Learn to lead sheep and they’ll follow a loving leader. So learn to love your flock.”

Shepherds protect because they love the flock. They feed because love the flock. Shepherds lead because we want to go to greater depth of ministry. We want to do bigger things for the Lord. Shepherds care. They do soul care, they are involved with the souls of the people of their church. Maybe you’ve heard other words of what it means to be a shepherd, but that’s what I think of as a picture of what shepherds do with a congregation.

Qualifications of Shepherds

In the list of qualifications for shepherds in 1 Timothy 3, I think we often emphasize certain things like “the husband of one wife.”

I’m going to highlight a few words from this passage that we don’t emphasize as much.

“Not a drunkard.”

“Not violent but gentle.” Not a bully is what the word means. And the word gentle means yielding or kind. It fits right in with the dispositions that are in Ephesians 4.

“Not quarrelsome.”

“Not a lover of money.”

“He must manage his own household well.”

I’ve been around in ministry for 37 years. I’ve seen a lot of young church planter-types in all organizations, and it seems like we’ve got a lot of Type A’s out there doing church planning right now. I think it would do them well to get a dose of gentleness, because they really are setting up the churches for a difficult climate.

If we look at Titus 1, we can add a couple of more. Here are qualifications listed for an overseer:

“Above reproach.” So what are the things that make a person above reproach as God’s steward or God’s manager?

“He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered.” Someone who is not inclined to anger—not agitated or irritable.

“A drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

This raises some questions in my mind: How do I learn as a shepherd leader how to be authoritative without being authoritarian? Shepherds have to be authoritative. I have to lead, but I have to do it with the right demeanor. Authoritarian people come across as, “Love it or leave it. I just say what I think. That’s just the way I am.” On the other hand, there are passive leaders who aren’t leading. I was working with a church and a pastor, and made probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make because I was working hard to save this guy’s ministry along with some other people. We were trying to save his ministry, but he had done so much damage by being passive and finally the elder board said, “We can’t stand this passivity anymore. We need someone that’s going to actually lead us.” I had to call him and tell him that he needed to resign. That was absolutely a horrible phone conversation.

Don’t hear, “Don’t be a leader.” What you should hear is, “We need the right kind of leaders who lovingly shepherd the flock.” If you’re a church leader, please understand what the culture would say is your leadership style, personality type—it’s really your heart. Understand what’s going on in your heart and how your inner person and what you live for is influencing this group of people that you have leadership over.

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Ernie Baker
Ernie has the privilege of serving as Pastor of Counseling at First Baptist of Jacksonville where he helps oversee pastoral care and the Grace Center for Biblical Counseling.
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