The Conference Pastor

Ever taken a look at the typical speaker list for most Christian conferences put on nationwide? Just about every pastor leads a church of over 5,000 people and has written at least one best-selling book.

I recently had a conversation about how church conferences could easily make a pastor feel completely inadequate. 99% of pastors will never help lead a church of over 500 people, and they won’t ever write a book that gets read worldwide. But they will likely attend conferences to learn from the “successful” pastors who have figured everything out.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for those pastors whose churches God has been using to reach a lot of people and for the pastors who God has given an ability to write well and handle the spotlight. This isn’t about those pastors. The problem comes when these conferences only use men and women who’ve had “success” in the eyes of the many to help lead the other people who’ve had less “success.”

We start to think being a good pastor means doing what they do or being a good leader means leading like they lead. After we realize we can’t, we begin to think of ourselves as inadequate.

After attending The Global Leadership Summit last week I decided to read a book on servant leadership. The conference, while one of my favorites, focuses a lot on 2nd level leadership. Strategies, personnel development, and vision clarity are all 2nd level leadership areas and they are important to keep in mind. But the base level of leadership is the ability to be led (by God), modeled perfectly by Jesus, and it is the core of becoming a good leader. Henri Nouwen gets right to the heart of this:

“It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word, and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?” (In the Name of Jesus, 43).

The question for us is, have we become so focused on the 2nd level of leadership that we’ve abandoned our call to be led by God?