The Pastor as an Executive

PASTOR: The Pastor as an Executive

A talk given at the Pacific Union Conference session.

President, Southern California Conference

The best definition of a pastor executive, to my mind, given by Christ in Matthew 20:25-27:

"Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."

The world exercises lordship, authority, and this is usually done to gain certain selfish ends and purposes. The Christian in position of leadership governs only and solely for the good of the group. He will help the group make adjustments, solve problems, and develop its potential. To give this kind of leadership takes grace rather than "lording it" over the group. It may not be quite so efficient as the dictatorial method, but in the long run much more is accomplished, and the entire group working together is happy and satisfied. Consider a few questions:

"1. Do I trust the capacities of the group, and of the individuals in the group, to meet the problems with which we are faced, or do I basically trust only myself? . . .

"2. Do I free the group tor creative discussion by being willing to understand, accept and respect all attitudes, or do I find myself trying subtly to manipulate group discussion so that it comes out my way?

"3. Do I, as a leader, participate by honest expression of my own attitudes but without trying to control the attitudes of others? . . .

"7. When tensions occur, do I try to make it possible for them to be brought out into the open?" CARL R. ROGERS, Client-centered Therapy (Houghton Mifflin Company), p. 338.

The members of the group eventually behave toward each other as the leader behaves toward them. If the leader is warm, friendly, and open, the members of his group will be likewise. The group always identify themselves with their leader. They tend to emulate his behavior pattern.

To give effective group leadership, one must have a sense of security. This security is evident in the leader who has a program but who is still open-minded to revise or discard his plans if the group can offer something better. If the leader is not willing to accept additional ideas from the group, he puts himself in the dictator class.

Selfish Leadership

Ahab, king of Samaria, is a classic example of a leader who will not accept counsel. It was his desire to secure Naboth's vineyard. The Scriptures tell us that the vineyard was close by the king's palace and that the king was willing even to pay a good price. Naboth, however, felt it his duty not to sell. "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee." 1 Kings 21:3. Ahab felt insulted. He felt that his position of leadership was not respected. But he missed the point completely. It was not a matter of respecting an official. For Naboth it was simply a problem of being true to an honest and sincere conviction. To this Ahab was blind, because he thought only of his great position and not of the feelings of other people. So irked was the king that "he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread." Any leader who cannot accept defeat is much better off in bed. He should stay there until he can study a problem not only from his angle but from the viewpoint of others as well. Had Ahab stayed in bed until his pouting was over, perhaps everything would have turned out all right. His wicked wife Jezebel, however, took command, and the result of her leader ship was tragic indeed. Naboth was killed.

Many people have suffered a spiritual death in our churches because of poor leadership on the part of those in positions of responsibility. Too often we discard the will of the majority, and because of our official position we can get our own way, which, as experience proves, is not always right. Those who wish to be successful in group leadership would do well to consider the following questions:

1. Do I respect people and their ideas? Skill in dealing with people does not lie so much in getting a man to think well of you. It might be more important to get him to think well of himself'. No one man has all the wisdom, nor does any one individual have a monopoly on good judgment.

2. Do I, as far as possible, let people decide for themselves? Leaders in government who act as arbiters for various striking groups have their best success by inducing the striking parties to decide for themselves.

"Perhaps the firmest believer in the area-of- agreement approach is John R. Steelman, the first man ever to hold the title of Special Assistant to the President of the United States. For seven years he ran the strike-settling Conciliation Service with incredible success 87 per cent of all disputes settled. I asked the Assistant to the President the secret of this success.

"'Don't try to decide the quarrel for the disputing parties,' he said. 'Induce them to decide it for themselves. You can't make anybody do anything. Our whole attitude is "here TVC are, we want you to get together.'' . . .

" 'Direct the mind of the litigants to areas of agreement, and agreements will follow. No human conflict is so intense that there is no common ground. Find that ground and stay on it.' " DAVID GUY POWKRS, Live a New Life (Doubleday & Company), p. 68.

I realize that church factions are not strikes, as such, but the same principle can be success fully applied.

The Raindrop Analogy

3. Can I direct the group to areas of agreement? In the book Client-centered Therapy a helpful analogy is given on the important matter of guiding the thoughts of people into one main channel. It is as follows:

"All of us have observed raindrops striking against the top of a window. Some of them, after hitting the window, form a little stream which carries the water to the bottom of the window. Different streams form and give the effect of parallel channels, each carrying part of the water to the bottom. If, however, 1 take my finger and link a new drop to an already existing channel, the water will follow this channel rather than forming one of its own. If I were able to provide a link between each new raindrop and the already existing channel, I would then have a steady stream of water streaking down the window in just one channel. Something like the first description seems to happen in most groups. . . One person will say something, and then a second person adds a new idea but does not always convey the relationship of his idea to the meaning of the first contribution. The thought of each member streams down the window in separate channels. ... If, however, the group-centered leader makes an effort to perceive the linkage between each new comment and then conveys this relationship to the group, the discussion takes on the characteristics of the second description. The discussion seems to flow down one channel, building up force as each new contribution is linked to it. This does not mean that the channel cannot be changed once it has started. Using the raindrop analogy again, it occasionally happens that several drops hitting close together may deposit enough water to change the direction of the main channel when they are linked to it. By relating the new contribution to the main stream, the leader may see the group change its stream of thought in the direction of this new influence." THOMAS GORDON. "Group-Centered Leadership and Administration," chap. 8, in CARL R. ROGERS, Client-centered Therapy (Houghton-Mifflin Company), pp. 358, 359.

A strong pastor executive is one who can take the good ideas of his entire group and direct them into one main channel. If this can be done, a tremendous force can be experienced in each church, and much more work can be accomplished.

Giving this type of leadership does not mean that the pastor is to become the football of the congregation, and that they should direct his labors. Nor does it mean that he should never make any decisions. A man who cannot make decisions cannot be an executive.

"There is one requirement without which no man can be an executive not even a mediocre one. No matter how thorough your analysis may be, no matter how impressive an array of facts you may have, no matter how balanced your thinking may be, unless you do that one thing, you cannot be an executive. And that one act is making decisions. Unless you turn your thoughts into actions, you are wasting your efforts on desert air!" DAVID STARCH, How to Develop Your Executive Ability (Harper & Brothers), p. 47.

fairness and Honesty

4. Is my leadership fair and honest? Someone has said that the most attractive quality in any person is personal integrity. The idea of putting it over or being a clever or tricky manipulator never makes for good leadership. It breeds suspicion. Well do I remember a certain executive's going into a church' where there were two factions. There were good people on both sides. They had strong convictions and were sincere. This particular executive, through clever manipulation and fast secretive work, was able to muster enough votes to disfellowship the members of one faction before they had time even to present their case. For this high-handed maneuvering the executive congratulated himself on being a strong leader. What happened to those who were excommunicated without a hearing? Naturally they held their own Sabbath school and church services in private homes. This continued for a number of years. Later on another executive came into the field, and one of the first things he did was to take all the disfellowshiped members back into the church again. The cause of God suffered much because of this situation, which really could have been averted in the first place by a sense of fairness.

Certainly, every member of the church should receive fair and honest treatment from the shepherd of the flock. Honesty is not a matter of policy; it is Christian. Sometimes church business meetings are called the last minute, and then in a hush-hush manner individuals are dropped from church lists. There are times when we do not even notify the ones concerned about our plans to disfellowship them. For some reason or other we do not want them around. This is wrong! Why not give everyone a fair chance? No harm can come by being fair to people. What are we afraid of? Could it be that we have been partial in our relationships with these members, and now we are afraid to face them in a business meeting?

May the Great Shepherd of us all help us to put into practice the instruction of the apostle Peter:

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." 1 Peter 5:2, 3.

If we follow this instruction in our relationships with the members of our churches, then when the Chief Shepherd shall appear we "shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."



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President, Southern California Conference

November 1951

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