Monday, January 27, 2014

Multiple Leaders Create Stronger Churches

Many small churches have become accustomed to a single-pastor model of church leadership. Though this model can be effective, it does limit the size of the church because one leader can only accomplish so much, regardless of how great a leader that person may be. In larger churches this model may be modified some because there may be a staff of pastors who serve under a senior pastor, but the basic concept is still that the senior pastor has a great deal of authority over the church.

This single-pastor model is especially evident in the preaching and pastoral care ministries of the church. In a small church the pastor is often expected to do almost all of the preaching and pastoral care. Since most pastors enjoy those ministries, they do not mind doing them. But in situations when the pastor is bivocational and has to work a second job, having all of the preaching and pastoral care duties can be challenging.
Not only can preaching and pastoral care be overwhelming for bivocational pastors, but if that pastor does all of these ministries on his own, it creates the impression that the pastor has more authority than the New Testament grants. Once the congregation perceives that the pastor has all the authority, it follows that the pastor also bears all the responsibility for getting everything done. This tension between authority and responsibility can be significant. Yet this is exactly what many bivocational pastors face in their churches. The church expects them to provide most of the leadership in the church as well as accept most of the blame for any faults in the church. This is not how the church was led in the New Testament and it often puts bivocational pastors in unrealistic situations.
In the life of the New Testament church there was an equal sharing of leadership by a group of people. One example of this multiple leadership approach is found in Acts 13:1-3: "Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off." This passage demonstrates that five people were serving together as the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch. There is no distinction made between the leaders, which indicates a joint sharing of duties and responsibilities between these five individuals.
This plurality shows that the church should not rise and fall on the leadership of just one person. When pastors find themselves in churches that do not have multiple leaders, developing leaders should be one of the first priorities. Paul's young protégé Timothy found himself in such a situation while he was serving as pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul wrote a letter to Timothy instructing him in how to lead the church. Part of those instructions are found in 2 Timothy 2:1-2: "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others."
In this passage Paul instructs Timothy to teach other individuals the truth of the gospel. But they were not just any individuals; they were individuals who must be able to share in the teaching ministry of the church. They were to be trustworthy people who would pass the truth of the gospel on to others. The emphasis was on Timothy training others who would join him in his teaching, preaching, and leading ministries in the church. This should be a goal of all pastors, especially those serving in bivocational roles.
Ministry is never easy. And training leaders to help lead is a lot of work. But in the end, it is worth it because more laborers in the field will produce greater results. Pastors should look for people they can develop into deacons, or elders, or pastoral staff members, or whatever other structure the church is comfortable with. The titles are not as important as the concept, which is that churches that use a multiple leader approach will be healthier than churches with only one leader.
Adapted from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, written by Dr.
Terry W. Dorsett and being used in nearly 3000 churches across North America.


  1. In the life of the New Testament church there was an equal sharing of leadership by a group of people.
    Today its called a committee!!