The commonly accepted criteria for pastors’ leadership is that they bring a great vision with them when they become leader of a congregation, they know how to get people to follow their vision, and the results are a numerically growing, spiritually vibrant and missionally significant congregation.
If all these things are not true for pastors, then all flawed pastors should resign. This could mean 80 percent or more of pastors need to resign.
The commonly accepted criteria is the standard
But what if this is not the criteria for a successful and significant pastorate? What if there is a different way to look at the issue of vision in congregations?
If you believe this is not the commonly accepted criteria for a successful and significant pastorate, then you do not read the articles I read — some of which claim a deep research base for what they are saying. You do not listen to the pastor search committees or staff parish relations committees with which I talk. You do not talk to the laypersons in congregations who are convinced if they had the right pastor with clear vision and decisive leadership their church would grow.
This standard is consistent. First, the articles I read say 20 percent or less of all senior or solo pastors truly get it about their role as the primary source, chief vision caster, and manager of the actions that make vision come alive in congregations.
Second, the assumption of many committees is that senior or solo pastors bring vision with them to congregational leadership, or the pastor is not a leader.
Third, many people in congregations expect their pastor have a clear vision for the future of the church, or the pastor is the wrong pastor and they need to look for another leader.
If this standard regarding pastors and vision is correct, then 80 percent of all pastors were not intended to be pastors. They misunderstood the voice of God speaking into their lives. They should consider another way to live out their ministry.
When the 80 percent of pastors attend conferences where they are told they are the key source of vision, they feel guilty and inadequate. When reading a book by a highly successful pastor who brags about having a dynamic and empowering vision for their congregation, they feel ashamed. When talking with a pastor search committee or a staff parish relations committee, they develop an elevator speech that provides a spin around vision that sells their leadership prowess in a positive way.
They do all this because they believe this viewpoint about vision is true. But is a terrible lie.
The terrible lie exposed
I personally agree this commonly accepted criteria or standard is a terrible lie that allows congregations to avoid their responsibility to be captured by God empowering vision. It also heaps guilt on the 80 percent of all pastors who do not get it about vision in the traditional way it is promoted by our success-oriented church and denominational culture in North America.
I contend our Triune God is the only appropriate source of vision for congregations — not pastors. God has an empowering vision for every congregation which they must discern and act on.
However, it is my hope the pastor is among the first — if not the very first person — in congregations to be captured by God’s empowering vision. They can then use their preaching, teaching, leadership and interpersonal relationships, as well as their own missional engagement, to cast vision.
I believe if the pastor, plus staff and laypersons equal to at least 21 percent of the average number of adults present on a typical weekend for worship, are not also captured by God’s vision, the congregation does not have vision.
Vision cannot happen by the pastor pushing the congregation forward. It can only happen because the congregation allows God to pull them forward.
God calls people to be pastors who have various gifts and skills. God does not call only pastors who get vision in the traditional ways our society says leaders get vision.
Congregations must discern God’s vision for them, own it deeply, and act on it passionately. In this process, pastors are not called on to be the source, crafter, or owner of congregational vision. Pastors are called on to continually hold up God’s empowering vision, cast it before the congregation, and be an example of vision fulfillment in word and deed.
Is it possible that a 100 percent of pastors can do this if we unchain them from the vocational prison that says pastors — rather than God — are the source of vision?