What Is a Leader?

Part 2 of the Series:

Questioning Church Authority

by Don Enevoldsen

What is a leader? Or more specifically, what is leadership? In church, many titles are used for a variety of functions—pastor, priest, elder, bishop, just to name a few. Paul spoke to Timothy and Titus about those who desired to be an overseer and he spoke about appointing elders in various churches.

I remember the day I was given the title “pastor.” It was a in a large church, at the time about 5,000, so there were quite a few pastors, some on staff, but most unpaid. I had attended the church for a couple of years, got involved in various departments and gradually assumed a few leadership roles. As the senior pastor took notice of my activities, he decided to make it official. I stood before the congregation, closed my eyes while they prayed over me, shook hands with the pastor and his wife and received a certificate along with their congratulations.

In retrospect, there were some good things about this process and some not so good. One good thing was the fact that the title came after I had already functioned in leadership. I’ve always believed that being appointed as pastor does not make you a pastor. Rather you are a pastor because you engage in a pastoral ministry, which might or might not be recognized with a title. My appointment merely confirmed what I was already doing. You can call someone a leader, but if no one is following him, the title is probably inaccurate.

That is not to say the office is irrelevant. People were specifically appointed to offices in the early church, after all. However, my experience also highlighted a potential problem with these appointments. I received congratulatory exclamations and gifts as though I had won a prize. Everyone meant well, but the tendency was to elevate the position of pastor to a place above the rest of the congregation, which created an unhealthy desire to attain the office for the sake of status rather than as a position for ministry.

I saw this attitude displayed often around me. During my years on the staff of that church, I often listened to complaints from various pastors and elders who didn’t get the right nametag to wear on Sundays, the special and distinct “pastor” tag. It was a different color and design from other nametags used by ushers and greeters. One man in particular became such a nuisance that his tag had to be redone several times in order to satisfy his vanity.

The vanity showed up every time we did a conference with guest speakers. We always reserved seats in the front for some of the pastors and elders in the church by writing their names on stickers, which we attached to the seats. Since my staff assignments often required that I be in the sanctuary when the doors were opened, I frequently witnessed the ensuing circus. A mob of leaders rushed down the aisles in a wild-eyed frenzy to find stickers with their names.

Reactions were mixed. Some merely found their names and sat down. Many registered visible sighs of relief. Some smiled with pride. Some scowled as they compared their seats with others closer to the front or the center. Some couldn’t find their names and plopped down in the cheap seats where they pouted for a while.

Then there was the couple who routinely pulled their names off of the chair and sat in the back so other people could take the better seats. That couple stood out to me because their attitude was do different from nearly everyone else.

I wish I could say that I never took pride in my position or in the recognition from the congregation. I hope I’ve grown out of it. I’ll leave that judgment to others. I can say that I’m at least aware of the tendency. A good friend gave me a gift that first day when we went to lunch after the service. She had a beautiful nameplate engraved with “Pastor Don Enevoldsen” and fixed on a decorative wood base so that it could sit prominently on my desk.

I still have that name plate, but as I learned more about the function of a pastor, I turned it toward my chair where I saw it every time I sat at my desk, rather than letting it face the other direction. I realized that I needed to be reminded of my responsibilities as a pastor far more than visitors to my office needed to know my title.

Next, Part 3: Call No One Master

Go to the beginning of the series, Questioning Church Authority: Part 1: False Prophets

Do you have an additional thought on this subject that will assist our search for truth? Please join the discussion and share your insights.

What Is a Leader?
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8 thoughts on “What Is a Leader?

  • March 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm
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    Good stuff, Don… (oops, I mean Pastor Don)… My Certificate of Ordination is sitting prominently on my desk where both I and my visitors can plainly see it. But since no one ever visits my office, I guess it’s just here for me to see.

    I feel a little mixed about mine sometimes, too – Do I really “deserve” it? Is it here to stroke my ego? But before I let it bother me, I remind myself that, if anything, it’s a responsibility to others that I need to take very seriously. Then it’s okay. It can stay on my desk. Along with all the artwork by Skylar, pics of Pam and Sky, and scattered notes about all of the stuff that I’m involved in, whether business-, personal- or Church-related. One aspect of my overall existence… 🙂

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    • March 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm
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      Couldn’t have said it better. The key is not some legalistic notion of how to approach leadership, but an overall attitude that puts everything in its right perspective. As with so many things, intent plays the most significant role.

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  • March 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm
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    I love this–“Pastor Don Enevoldsen”—What happens if various Bible scholars fill with the holyspirit engage themselves in an endless argument over a particular teaching in the Bible, how do we confirm the truth? We need more pastors like you who are willing to take a stand for the truth of God’s word-God bless you always—-

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    • March 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm
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      I appreciate your vote of confidence. Ultimately the truth is confirmed in the lives of the people in the congregation. When we do things in a truly godly way, there is life and growth. When we do not, there is control, shane and restrictive regimentation. Oversimplified a little, perhaps, but God produces life, not rules.

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  • March 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm
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    “Self Edification”, Paul speaks about this subject in 1 Corinthians. So how do you know the the real deal from the ones that want to be up front and receive the accolades. You don’t and you
    won’t until they are faced with a test. Like the one I witnessed at a large church after a service
    where a woman brought in her demon possessed child for help. She took the child to the front of the sanctuary and he promptly fell to the floor in convulsions. The elders there who had been praying over people after the service were at a loss. One of them ran for help, while the others
    shrank back, some crying. Two of us, not part of the elder group dove in and helped, one of us dove in literally. I’ll call the the one who did the actual diving on top of the child a Leader.

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    • March 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm
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      That’s a great example. I had a similar thing happen at the church where I was on the staff. The senior pastor had to leave immediately after the Sunday service because of a family emergency, so he asked me to greet first time visitors in the foyer, something he did every week. While I was shaking hands with a line of people, an usher whispered in my ear that they needed me in the sanctuary. There was a mother who brought her young son to the front for prayer and he had fallen on the floor in demonic manifestation. I asked if there were not other pastors and elders there. This was a church of about 6,000 at the time. He told me there were, so I said one of them should handle it. That’s why they were appointed. After two more ushers came with the same plea, I finished the greeting line and went into the sanctuary. The boy was writhing on the floor at the front of the sanctuary and screaming. About fifty people, half of whom were pastors and elders, were standing around the sanctuary staring at the boy with wide eyes, like deer frozen in headlights. Not one of them stepped in to take charge of the situation. The ones who displayed actual leadership were some of the ushers. They stepped in to take care of the situation as best they could without stepping on the authority of the people with titles who should have led. Once I came into the room, they knew, because they had worked with me before, that they could go ahead and do what they needed to. And they did. Real leaders lead, and you’re right. You really notice it when there is a crisis of some kind.

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  • December 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm
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    Don, I appreciate your insights. We’ve never met, but we attended the same church (and very likely at the same time). I always found it interesting how some people who had titles often didn’t display the character that was supposed to accompany that title. People forget the the leader is the servant, not the one to be served. I am looking forward to finishing reading this series on your blog.

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    • December 29, 2014 at 10:21 pm
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      I was often saddened by the desire for status demonstrated by the majority of leaders around me. It was repugnant to me long before I knew how deeply the corruption ran. It still grieves me to think about it, and I know it hasn’t stopped. I still hear many reports from others who have been mistreated and abused. I hope we do meet. And I’m glad you escaped.

      Reply

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