EFAC Australia

Church Leadership

Paper presented at the 2006 National EFAC Conference

At a conference on "Growing Gospel Passions", my topic is Passion for Ministry – and I must say preparing this talk has made me sharpen my thinking about both passion and ministry. People who know me will say that I'm not a particularly passionate person (apart from the occasional shout at the TV when watching football) and as an adult convert I, to begin with, sort of drifted into ministry…

But over 25+ years of being involved in ministry and observing others in ministry, I have reached the conclusion that ministry and passion for ministry are all about our response to the grace and mercy of God – loving God and loving one another. Let me expand on that – first, by having a look at:

A. Passion

1. Definition - the what question

Passion – what is it? My dictionary says passion is: a very strong emotion; an intense enthusiasm for something – which is not all that helpful as it could describe what's going on in anything from a football crowd to a suicide bomber. It seems to me that words like passion and vision are bandied about pretty freely these days and its generally assumed we all know what we are talking about when we use them – but I must confess that I get a bit muddled at times. So, its been good for me to think through what passion is all about, in the context of ministry.

Godly integrity + Godly relationships = Godly influence
A reflection from a country archdeacon

I have now been ordained just over 21 years. All of my ordained life has been served in the Diocese of Bendigo. I now find myself as the Archdeacon of Bendigo and Vicar General of the Diocese. This involves me being in regular contact with the Bishop, being on a wide range of diocesan committees, offering pastoral support to various clergy as well as the leadership of one of the few growing parishes in our diocese.

Over the years, it has felt at times that I have been serving two masters. Sometimes the diocesan demands have meant that I haven't devoted the time needed to grow the parish as quickly as I would have liked. At other times my serving in the parish has led to frustration at a diocesan level where I have not had enough time to think clearly through key issues.

Practical principles for growing a congregation and being a transformational leader.

There is sometimes a real tension between biblical theology and some of the pragmatics promoted by proponents of Church growth. But there can also be a false dichotomy created between them, particularly by those who do not understand the difference between ministry and leadership.(1) To plant a new church successfully requires not only ministry by a godly and biblically-grounded person but also ministry by a leader with a certain set of gifts and abilities. It is also true that to renew and grow a small church in serious decline requires not only ministry by a godly and biblically-grounded person but also ministry by a transformational leader: someone who has acquired or will learn particular skills and is able to initiate a particular process.

If a leader wants their church to grow what do they do? Where do they start? Well there are no simple pre-packaged solutions but here is a set of principles to follow:

The leader has to accept responsibility and be accountable for growth or decline.

Paper from 2006 National EFAC Conference

In this seminar I am not beginning by arguing that we should employ specialist local church evangelists but simply working from the assumption that this is something to think about. However, towards the end of the seminar, a couple of questions arise as to whether such a position really is the best way to sharpen and grow a church's evangelism.

What to look for in an evangelist
Of course the baseline requirements for any Christian leader are that they measure up to the biblical standards in passages such as 1 Tim 3:1-10, Titus 1:7-9 and 1 Pet 5:1-4. These qualities and gifts are required of all in Christian leadership. Beyond this, we must also specifically look for a person of both truth and love – someone with a passion for the Word and also for the world around them. It is no good being an evangelist if you are only interested in theology and doctrine and don't have a real heart for the lost.

Earlier this year the editor and Peter Corney were discussing the idea that 'a small church is intimate and good'. This is part one of a resulting two part series by Peter Corney.

I recently attended a service at which a senior Anglican Church leader spoke. I was encouraged by his obvious enthusiasm for mission and his concern to contextualise our churches in the local culture. But the bit that made me nervous was his idea that small congregations are better than large and that as Anglicans we have a particular talent for the small church. He listed the usual comments about them being intimate and having a strong sense of community. He did not define what he meant by "small" but he contrasted them to "mega churches." What is usually meant by Mega is the very large – in Australia 1,000 plus in regular attendance. I suspect by small he means the average Anglican congregation with a regular attendance of between 60 -100. In Melbourne in 2006 we had 275 worshiping congregations. When you take out the ten largest congregations you get an average attendance of 62 for the other 265! In fact it's not as even as that, and many have only 30+ regular attendees.

These ideas about smallness may make some Anglicans out there in our many small churches feel better but it is neither correct nor very helpful and full of myths and misleading ideas. The great danger is that it can be used as a justification for complacency or at worst failure.