Does God’s Vision Really Only Flow Through the Senior Pastor?

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josh p's picture

Thanks a lot for posting this. This is one area that I am surprised is not being addressed more. Cessationists in particular should be addressing it. There is an IFB church in my area that is a church plant. The website makes it quite clear that the (single) pastor has the vision for the church. Pretty strange in a congregational polity church. To my mind it tends towards the pastor-ocracy.

TylerR's picture


How silly. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Rob Fall's picture

The late Dr. Richard Weeks taught a rotation of homiletics and church administration to upper-class Pastoral Studies students at MBBC.

In the church admin class, he said:

Gentlemen, there will be times you present what you think to be the Lord's direction for your church to the deacons [with Dr. Weeks the deacons function much like ruling elders]. If you do not get any agreement on the idea, drop it. The Lord doesn't speak to just one man."

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Bert Perry's picture

I've been in churches where it was one man, my way or the highway, and what strikes me is that the men who did this to their flocks would, in my view, never admit to it.  I'm guessing that if one desires to bring such men to repentance--and if Paul indeed told Timothy to appoint elders, plural, in churches, it is indeed an issue of repentance--you've got to convince them, subtly, that they've created a one man shop and that this is, Biblically speaking, a crisis for their ministries.

I don't have easy answers, but it strikes me that the frontal approach may not work, even though it is, as far as it goes, correct.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I spent a decade under a man like this. He was hyper-dispensational, strongly anti-charismatic,  hated Gothard and his Chain of Command, and was a protege of the "big man fundamentalist" leaders of the early 20th Century. I remember hearing things in board meetings like, "God speaks through me!", "If you're following me, you're following God!", "Disloyalty to me is disloyalty to God!", and "Just tell people that you support (his name) and God will bless you".

For over 50 years he led his church and ministry, which are still in existence, into financial mismanagement and bankruptcy and separation and isolation from nearly every other ministry.

He handpicked his elders and successor, who thankfully doesn't have his personality but still worships his memory and carries his baggage.

BTW, I've recovered.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mark_Smith's picture

-Once the decision has been made to move in a direction, support it!

-The article speaks of making room for millennial leaders. OK. My experience with millennials is (as a college professor) that they want all the goodies and none of the responsibility. So be careful with that. A person has to earn a seat at the table, and they have to make the effort to stay there.

Bert Perry's picture

One thing I've learned in my work in quality engineering is that very often, the guys doing the "individual contributor" level work know exactly how to solve the problems if the dumb engineers (e.g. me) and management will only listen.  If you want to see the principle in a more formal way, look up Kaizen.  

Drawing a picture of how it works, imagine a problem with a microwave connector (obviously a real story), and the dumb QE going to the operator who built the suspect lot, informing her that there had been a problem due to such and such found by the customer, and what did she see in the process that might have led to this result?  As a rule when I did this, I got some serious feedback on which parts were causing problems, what steps needed to be corrected in the build instructions, and very often got some updates on the person's family life,and questions about mine.  

A good picture of this in the church came from a time when I wasn't even a member of the church I was attending, but various events in my family's life were being held there, and when I presumed to ask him for permission, he would say "it's your church".  In other words, as long as cops or firefighters weren't being called, or heresy entertained, he wasn't going to interfere.

Signs that your church is overly pastor-centric--and of course it takes some discernment to figure some of this out.

  • You don't get any nominations for deacon/elder or ministry heads 
  • You don't get comments in Sunday School when the pastor is teaching
  • Chairs are arranged in such a way as to prevent attendees from interacting with each other
  • Pastor only calls when he needs something done
  • Not much discussion on the deacon board--deacons simply approve, but don't head ministries.

Really, as Ron notes, this is a great topic, and perhaps deserves a lot more discussion here, IMO.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.