Though I don’t believe a plurality of leaders is the only New Testament model of church, I do think there’s great wisdom in the accountability and shared leadership that come with a plurality. At the same time, though, the significance of the person who preaches most Sundays cannot be overstated. As I’ve studied churches over the years, I’ve seldom seen a church that is stronger than the primary preaching pastor in these areas:
- Personal godliness. Of course, pastors have fallen morally, so there are exceptions to this rule. In general, though, a church sets its standards for personal holiness by the person who opens the Word each week.
- Evangelism. A church may have pockets of evangelistic people even if the pastor isn’t evangelistic, but the evangelistic heartbeat that changes a church comes from the pulpit.
- Missions. In this case, I’ve never seen a church with missions in its DNA unless it has a pastor whose heart bleeds for the nations. Even then, the pastor must work hard to turn a church in this direction.
- Prayer. For many people, the only prayers they hear all week are the prayers they hear from the pulpit. They’ll model that prayer simply because that’s all they know—and if it’s dispassionate and perfunctory, their prayer will be, too.
- Scripture memorization. Church members take note when it’s clear the pastor knows the Word without opening his Bible. They’re watching and listening, and somebody who’s paying attention will want to memorize the Word, too.
- Hermeneutics. The best pastors I know not only interpret the Bible well, but they also model for their folks how to do it. They give them knowledge and skills.
- Family. Congregations can figure out when pastors love their wives as Christ loves the church. Women then long for that kind of husband, and men want to be that type.
- Fasting. I realize that believers differ on whether fasting is expected today. Churches I know that build the discipline into their lives, though, are led by pastors who regularly practice it.
Here’s my point: churches often learn about all of these areas from the one in the pulpit who preaches to them week in and week out. Pastors who walk in godliness, do strong exposition, develop relevant illustrations, and practice personal application have much influence over a congregation.
Pastors, how well do you model these areas?