>Loving, Serving, Pastoring

>I’ve been thinking about what it means to care for the people you’re leading a lot lately. I blame seminary. No, really. I’m finishing up the Pastoral Care class we started this intensive. And we’re headed into a Ministry of Leadership class for the longer fall term. And then there’s the internship I’m doing at the presbytery and the work I do the rest of the week with an organization that is all about developing leaders.

So… it’s been on my mind and heart. God’s funny that way, giving me stuff to chew on mentally and emotionally at the same time. You’d almost think that God knows me and knows what I need….
As someone with pretty strong leadership instincts, it’s taken me a while to understand that not everyone thinks in those terms. Not everyone connects the art of following to the art of leading, understanding that there is a delicate balance between the two. And when the leadership of the church loses the respect for that tension between the two, it is very easy to slide from an ecclesiology that lives out the communal nature of leadership into one that prizes individual or group control over a given situation.
But church leadership goes beyond the group dynamic and family systems that make a congregation functional or dysfunctional. The leader of a church must also become a spiritual leader (director) for the families, couples and singles in their care. It is in this setting that the leader truly shows his or her mettle. It is in these interactions that one has the opportunity to lead with compassion and integrity, to be loving and firm, and to be a presence of hope and reality. It is when I think about a good leader that I envision the parent I wish I were. And it is in that vision that I can understand God as the Father with no gender-strings attached.
A godly woman or man who can help a person find where Christ is at work to redeem the unholy mess that is this earthly life… that is a leader.
The one who can give that burden to Christ and not carry the weight of empathic conversations to the dinner table or bedroom… that is a leader.
The one who can bring the needs of the whole congregation to the Lord without prejudice, preference or judgment… that is a leader.
The one who seeks other believers to stand alongside her, trusting the Holy Spirit to bring the gifts the body needs at any given time, and encourages them to do those things that she finds difficult or impossible… that is a leader.
The one who brings out the best in the people around him, tells them, “this is what I see in you,” and then gives them every opportunity to succeed… that is a leader.
The one who cries with the brokenhearted, but does not leave them in tears.
The one who laughs with the joyful, but does not leave them in the shallows.
The one who loves courageously, listening for God’s “yes” and “no” regardless of how the world would answer.
That’s the leader I want to be when I grow up.
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