Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Star, Superstar or Coach

by David Tait
I have the privilege of attending numbers of different churches of varying 'hues', giving the opportunity to observe different styles of leadership.

By far and away the biggest category is the 'star'. These leaders are often the only pastor or minister in the church, but they may have an assistant. They 'lead' the service, displaying a dominant role in proceedings, from worship to prophecy, from prayer to preaching. Some are more subtle about it, but you can still them 'pulling the strings' in all aspects of the service. This is justified by the perceived need to keep decency and good order.

Then we have the 'superstars'. By definition, there cannot be so many of these, for to qualify, they must stand out as 'special' amongst the stars. The superstars have biiiiig
ministries. Either mega-churches with a large pastoral staff, or itinerant or media based ministries of various sorts.

Virtually all 'stars' feel the calling to become 'superstars' at some time during their ministry careers. Of course, by definition, not many can. So most end up disappointed, resigned to their situation. They may then exert even greater control over the group to which they are the 'star'. Or they may simply leave the ministry disillusioned, seeking another occupation through which to display their talents.

You may think I am exaggerating, but I am not. Ask any keen young pastor their vision, and I can almost guarantee they will see themselves as pastoring a large church or having a worldwide ministry of one sort or another. And all at God's leading - of course! If every pastor had the sized church, 'God tells them' they will have, the whole world would be in the church!

You see, my friend, (If you still are, having read this far!) we have the wrong perception of the role of the pastor or minister. Indeed, for other ministry gifts also. Even those with God-given ministry gifts (sadly not all who are in the ministry, for there is now so much emphasis on formal training to the detriment of the Spirit's call.) have been misled into the necessity of being a ministry star or superstar.

The true pastoral role, or that of any ministry gift for that matter, is to be the 'coach', not the star. It is the saints to whom the leader ministers, who are to become the stars. The Bible is quite clear about this.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Who is to be built up - the pastor or the people? Quite clearly, 'the body of Christ'. The people are the ones to be built up.

Why is this? The answer is simple really. Christianity is 'relationship'. Relationship with God and relationship with others. The best form of evangelism then, is our life, witnessing to others on a personal basis through day to day living.

The pastor or minister, no matter how gifted, cannot hope to minister personally to everyone in the world. This is a physical impossibility! Therefore, the pastor's and other leader's role, is not to be the stars, but to coach their people to be the light to the world. In Christianity, we call this 'making disciples.' A good coach doesn't hog the limelight. In a sports team the coach is there to motivate the players, to bring the best out of them, helping hone their skills so that the whole team may benefit and win the game. The players are the stars, not the coach. The coach, in practice, is a servant who helps the team meet their goals.

Of course, some coaches do become famous, not for their own skills, but rather, because of their ability to develop the skills of others.

One giant problem we face is that the people are happy to let the stars be stars. To let the paid professionals do their work for them! Simply, to sit in the pews. And, worse still, to revert to the Old Testament view of their pastors and leaders as being priests, that is, intermediaries between themselves and God. This is fatal, even to the people's very salvation! And to the leader's ego!

By the time you read this, I will be ministering in Africa, where I could easily be put on a pedestal. I am very conscious that my role is simply to serve and train the pastors and leaders I relate to, to better train their people 'for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up'.

Until there is a major change of attitude in both leadership and people leading to the re-establishment of the God given roles, the church will continue to stutter along at a greatly reduced level of effectiveness than it is capable of by doing things God's way. So let's get rid of our 'star' mentality, truly becoming trainers of our people, always giving the glory to God when they achieve far more than we could possibly do by ourselves.

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