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What Should The Role Of "Lead Pastor" entail?

As I’ve talked with, worked with and coached leaders, we always (usually on the front end) get around to talking about their understanding of their ministry/job description. Some understand it quite well and are on mission with a vengeance and a God-given enthusiasm. Others are not so sure.  They tell me it sort of changes from month to month depending on what the crisis of the month is.

I have never met a leader who specifically told me that having clarity (ministry/job description) on their role with the accompanying explicit expectations was not necessary or beneficial to all concerned.

There is some great material in the “Articles Tab” at on writing good job descriptions. It is the last one on the list. It is as old as the hills, but as relevant as today’s newspaper.  Check it out!

Perhaps one of the hardest positions to create a job description for is the top leader of any organization or church. Yet none could be strategically more important. It is no military secret that many lead pastors in local churches are overwhelmed and overworked and don’t last very long in the role. It seems to me that this role, more than any other, needs crystal clarity and as little ambiguity as possible.

Too many lead pastors are doing too much and traveling too fast to get it all done--or at least what they perceive they are supposed to get done. The pressure is great and their time is limited, not infinite. They all have 168 hours a week (as do you and I) and trying as hard as they can and praying for more time will not change the number of hours we all have to work with. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ESV). It is not simply a matter of counting our days, but also making our days count. Having clarity on what we are being asked or paid to do is a step toward making our days count.

In one of his books (I forgot which one as I have read several by him) Aubrey Malphurs, a professor at Dallas Seminary, an author and a church consultant made this statement (the following is not an exact quote):

The lead pastor of the 21st century has three key roles:

1.  The primary pulpit communicator.

2.  The primary caster and communicator of the vision

3.  The primary leader developer

Then he went onto say something even more staggering. He needs to give away everything else.

His comment is (in my opinion) controversial, spot-on and unconventional, to say the least--especially the part about giving everything else away. Now someone will surely be prone to say, “Well, that’s fine for a large church, but I’m part of a small one, and that will never fly or be possible.”

With all due respect to whomever is thinking that way, it is possible if you invest time in training and placing volunteers and staff (when the funds are there to hire them) to do everything the leader is giving away.

I have seen enough “almost dead” leaders in my years of ministry to convince me that the three items above are a full-time job if done well, with excellence, to the glory of God.

Now, let me rock the boat even more by saying that during my eight years as an elder at Mars Hill Church I have added a fourth one to Aubrey’s list:

4.  The primary missiologist.

In one of my future posts I will unpack each of these four. So now I have intentionally rocked the boat.  Those of you who are in the water, get to dry land, get out your computer and let me know your reaction to all that is above. Use the comment section below. Do you agree, disagree, want to throw me off the boat?  

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Reader Comments (1)

I have been the Lead Pastor of a church re-plant for 3 yrs. (pastor of the original church for 9 yrs) and have been the primary leader and "answer man" for most everything. However, we have grown and have recently hired another vocational elder who is highly gifted in many of the skills normally associated with Exec Pastor. However, we don't really like that term and the corporate connotations that it has. We are considering making him the Lead Pastor and I would become the Pastor for Preaching and Vision. We think the distinction will help our church better understand our roles and that people will begin to relate to him as they have me over the years. I trust him and value the gifts he bring to the church. I also realized the older I get (49 yrs old) that my gift/skill of preaching, vision, and leadership training are where I excel. Our new pastor leads people well in the day to day work of ministry and can push forward our vision very well. Curious about your thoughts on this idea. Any questions or comments would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time. Pastor Jay Mathis. 254-855-5401.
June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJay Mathis

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