Are You a Good Pastor and a Good Leader?

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Are you a good pastor? A good leader? Both?

Reverend Matt Woodley, currently Mission Pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois, wrote an article for Christianity Today back in 1999 entitled, Good Pastor, Lousy Leader. He started off by relating this scene:

Five solemn-faced people assembled on the other side of the conference table, eyes averted. It was time for my performance review. Nobody seemed particularly festive.

For several months there had been rumblings about my pastoral "performance." Nobody doubted my gifts as a preacher or questioned my commitment to Christ. But everyone at the table that day knew there was a growing discontent with my skills as an administrator and leader. Still, I remained confident, ready to admit my faults and defend my record as their pastor.[i]

Let’s just say that Pastor Matt’s confidence did not go unchallenged in the meeting.

Many pastors struggle with the reality that pastoral roles, particularly senior pastor roles, require a set of skills for which seminary did not prepare them: organizational leadership.

I believe most pastors today would concede that shepherding – preaching, sacraments, pastoral care, relational ministry – differs significantly from organizational leadership – casting a vision, leading change, developing other leaders, communicating well.

As Pastor Matt learned, serious problems arise when a congregations wants or needs a leader but the pastor’s paradigm of ministry focuses primarily on shepherding.

It’s not simply a matter of training. Personality differences and spiritual gifts come into play. Fact is, some of us simply are not entrepreneurs nor are we all gifted with the Romans 12:8 gift of leadership.

Other writers have provided some thoughts on how to identify whether or not you are “shepherd or leader”. [ii] Acts 6 provides a great example illustrating the Apostles moving toward organizational leadership – setting up a system to feed widows – and away from relational ministry – taking care of the distribution of bread personally.

I’m not saying at all that one style of leadership is more meaningful or necessary than the other. I am saying that emotionally intelligent, personally insightful, relationship-savvy pastors will make an accurate assessment of their gifts and calling. Then, they will do what needs to be done to best serve the church: make personal adjustments, learn new ways or move to a different kind of ministry position.

I note that Pastor Matt now works as on staff of a large church as Mission Pastor. That’s after working for a number of years as Managing Editor of Christianity Today’s

At the time of his article, though, he made adjustments to his leadership style and said, “Mine is a unique brand of leadership that may not fit everybody's model of the leader-pastor. But as I grow in Christ and in ministry skills, Christ is beginning to close the rift between good pastor and poor leader.”

I am thankful for Pastor Matt’s transparency and humility as he address his challenge.

What about you? Which side of the scale best matches your style? What struggles – or successes has your style brought you? Have you made necessary adjustments?


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[i] Retrieved 4/13 from


Dr. JeannieComment