Over time, most local churches begin to take on the personality and reflect the values of their Senior Pastor. It makes sense that this would happen since the Senior Pastor generally influences the congregation more than other leaders in the fellowship. It is a fact that most people attend a church because there is some connection with the Senior Pastor – they like him as a person or like the way he speaks. For sure, there are other, more important reasons, to attend a fellowship, but honestly, most people don’t stay at a church when they don’t like the leader.
So what am I supposed to do with all this influence? First, I am supposed to make sure the church is not built around my personality or my charisma. In fact, I should be pointing people to Jesus and trying as hard as possible to not block the view. There are some practical ways to make this happen like sharing the pulpit with a team of communicators instead of feeling the pressure or having the ego that demands constant stage presence. This is why I speak at New Life only 35 to 40 weekends each year. It keeps me fresh and rested, and allows others with different gifts and viewpoints to teach and lead.
A second responsibility that comes with my position is making sure my private world is in order. I really believe we can only impart who we are on the inside. I can talk to the church about any topic in the Bible with some degree of expertise, but I can only impart the values I am living in private. For example, I can teach on giving generously, but the church will never embrace generosity unless Pam and I are generous givers ourselves. I can teach on marriage, but it will sound less than authentic if my own marriage is not strong.
I take this stuff pretty seriously and I want to challenge my fellow pastors to do the same. Let’s regularly examine our motives to make sure we are not building personal empires and are indeed, serving and sacrificing, to build His Kingdom. Let’s focus more on who we are becoming and not so much on what we are doing. Our churches will look like our homes over time so let’s make sure our own house is in order so His house can look the same.
Influence is a powerful weapon that carries with it awesome responsibility. It can be used for good or evil and it can be taken away in a moment when not nurtured and respected. Let’s use our influence for the purpose for which it was given – to make Jesus famous and not ourselves.