The following is a dissertation written by a Senior Pastor. To aid in making the information more readable on the web, the footnotes have been removed. To view footnotes, tables, appendices and the bibliography, please view the PDF found beneath the article.

Chapter One

From a human perspective the outcome of the redemptive drama being played out on planet Earth will be determined by how well church leaders lead. —Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership

Leadership works best when it is provided by teams of gifted leaders serving together in pursuit of a clear and compelling vision. —George Barna, The Power of Team Leadership


Living and confessing churches are clear in their purpose. To the glory of God they obey His command in mission: make disciples, mature them, and get them to repeat the process of evangelism, discipleship, and reproduction. Whatever the local church uses for a mission statement, if they are serious about biblical ministry, these mandates are held to, at least in theory if not in practice. They expect their leaders to support and direct them into fruitful mission. Senior pastors are key influencers in this process.

The senior pastor is an accepted icon in the multiple-staff church. The executive pastor, on the other hand, often meets with a quizzical, “What does he do?” On the church scene for over twenty years, there is still no common definition or job description for the executive pastor, nor is it universally accepted that an “executive pastor” is biblically permissible. The meaning of the title ranges from church business administrator to traditional assistant pastor to a full senior associate pastor. Various leadership and relational analogies have been used to try to explain this executive pastor officer. Most executive pastor positions have come to exist through church travail, and their job descriptions have been invented from within the organization.

This exploratory study seeks to contribute to a growing but limited body of literature dealing with the particular church leadership team comprised of a senior and an executive pastor (SPEP). Specifically, the focus of this study is the contextual and relational factors involved in legitimate creation and maintennance of an effective SPEP team. Church environments and leadership giftings and limitations, are factors in the deployment of this paradigm for team leadership. The unique relationship between these two senior leaders is critical to the local church’s vision implementation, operational success, and overall satisfaction.

Leadership experts agree that working relationships either enhance or diminish personal and organizational health. “Leaders are enriched in terms of what they can accomplish through the quality of relationships they have developed with each other,” says leadership researcher, Bruce Avolio. Consequently, the quality of the working relationship between the senior pastor and the executive pastor is vital to the success of the team, and also to the team’s potential to successfully shepherd, lead, and manage the growing church. The present study is designed to discover the contextual factors and relational dynamics at work around and within the SPEP team.

This study presents findings from four focus groups conducted in four different cities in the United States (one city from each of the Western, Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern regions). The groups were comprised of executive pastors from large churches, i.e., with attendance in the range of 1,000, to around 5,000. Phone interviews with the corresponding senior pastors were conducted, as well as supplemental interviews with several high-profile executive pastors from around the country.

This chapter provides an overview of the study. A brief review of the problems that led to the rise of the SPEP team, the specific purpose of the study, and the primary research questions are presented. The significance of this study’s contribution is given, along with definitions of terms, and a brief overview of the remaining chapters.

Statement of the Problem

As churches in America grew and added staff, the senior pastor suddenly became the chief of staff, chief fund raiser, mentor and coach, and he just ran out of steam. And so churches experimented with associate pastors to help, but that just didn’t work. What those churches needed was a point person who was responsible for managing and leading the whole church.

As the church grapples with growth, appropriate systems are needed to manage the congregation’s ministry. Spiritual leaders with management skills are in demand. The executive pastor is a solution that churches are increasingly utilizing. Whereas executive pastors were once an underground movement, David Fletcher, in an interview on the subject of the executive pastor, comments, “I think things are changing now. The position has been accepted.” Churches have launched this contemporary team leadership paradigm, with or without clear guidelines for it or knowledge about it.

There are several compelling reasons for the present study. Overburdened senior pastors and inadequate church leadership structures will continue to give rise to solutions such as the SPEP team. There is insufficient extant knowledge about the SPEP team. Especially of interest, there is a research gap regarding the contextual factors and relational dynamics affecting the viability of this paradigm.

The problem facing the typical senior pastor of a successful ministry results from the growth which occurs because of his faithful labor. Inevitably, problems arise: ever-growing expectations are often unintentionally placed upon him; burnout or a sense of inadequacy moves in; and the church, in need of leadership, plateaus. Dr. Fletcher’s interviewer comments,

It is no secret that pastors of large and growing churches are overburdened with tremendous pressures, and the executive pastor, according to Fletcher, serves as a gatekeeper and helps relieve stress on the senior pastor so they can focus on what they do best—preaching, teaching and casting vision.

Here the pressure results from a limitation of gifts, abilities, and capacities in relation to the growing size or systems of the church. One church leadership researcher who works with executive pastors through Leadership Network puts it this way:

What’s driving this issue at your church? At the root, there are two basic, interwoven answers. Growth and/or pain. The system has outgrown the team as it is currently structured and gifted. Staff, whether Senior Pastor or other team members, is feeling the stress. Often the board makes note of this and wonders: Is there another way? Also, it is usually a Senior Pastor’s initiative to seek a solution such as an Executive Pastor.

One contributor to the tension is the gift mix of most senior pastors. Christian researcher George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors. The result is that these churches tend to supplement this lack with a gifted leader.

Some churches seek to meet this vital need for leadership by the creative development of a split pastoral office: the SPEP team. The strategic delegation of a large part of what was traditionally the senior pastor’s role to another faithful leader can “save” the senior pastor from being overtaxed, return to him the time and energy he needs to invest in his primary tasks, and bring about a healthier direction and accountability for the ministries of the church. The importance of complementing the senior pastor has been found to be a recurring theme in studies of executive pastors. Wes Kiel, in one of the few circulated unpublished papers on this subject, comments about the executive pastor’s job description:

The working definition under which I operated contained the following elements:

1. Has primary responsibility for coordination and supervision of the staff.

2. Is seen as being ‘second in command’ behind the senior pastor.

3. Has some program responsibility of his/her own.

Compensating for the senior pastor’s weaknesses or limitations is critical. Most senior pastors initially sense the call of God to shepherd, and especially to teach the word. If they are successful in these areas and God sovereignly blesses, growth will occur, bringing with it a management crisis. An appropriate organizational mechanism is crucial if a growing church is to break through this growth barrier to her mission of fruitful ministry in the world. Is there biblical warrant for the SPEP team model? Theologians agree that there is room for creative structural forms within the general framework of Scripture. This application of delegated authority and oversight is consistent with the principle behind the New Testament diakonos, whose role was to bring relief to the elders’ workload.

This contemporary paradigm has been illustrated by various analogies, one of which is that of a marriage. The home is managed by two leaders, sharing the load with differing roles, with one carrying the ultimate responsibility for the leadership office (the senior pastor). This allusion to marriage, referenced by both ecclesiastical and marketplace writers, illustrates the power, trust, and community involved in the best of SPEP teams. This team has also been referred to as a “leadership couple.”

It becomes obvious, then, that the position of executive pastor is entrusted with a lot of responsibility and a great deal of power. The senior pastor shares power and authority in the fullest sense to enable the executive role to truly work. If he does share it, the executive pastor must be a faithful steward of that trust. Therefore, to be effective, the SPEP team needs to be highly relational. Further, the church must be ready to follow this contemporary design in staffing. Poor choices in motives, gifting, personalities, and timing could easily contribute to the failure of such a team, and consequently create loss for the church of God.

In summary, though the executive pastor’s role may appear unclear to many parishioners, his deployment is a reality in many of America’s megachurches. This need-driven office is particularly connected to the abilities of the traditional primary leader of the church’s staff, the senior pastor. The executive pastor’s role is to fill in the management side of the pastoral office to ensure the accomplishment of the church’s mission while avoiding overtaxing the senior pastor.

Statement of the Purpose

In an effort to effectively lead the people of God in the fulfillment of their God-given mission in the face of church growth and cultural change, larger churches are increasingly deploying this contemporary paradigm for senior leadership. Currently, there are only a few guidelines for doing so. With the critical need for church leaders to guide their congregations into successful kingdom advancement, and with the team ministry model having support in Scripture, the SPEP team paradigm is vital to the effectiveness of the church of Christ in fulfilling her mission. David Fletcher’s study proved his hypothesis via multiple case studies confirming that, “there is a functional need for an Executive Pastor to facilitate policy and vision implementation in Elder-led churches and that the position of Executive Pastor administers a church government that represents Christ and His teaching.”

The purpose of this study is to add to the knowledge base regarding the executive pastor. It explores the factors, contextual and relational, that make for a legitimate and successful SPEP experience. Drawing from the actual experiences of executive pastors reported in focus group interview settings, and supplemental interviews with their senior pastors and several other high-profile executive pastors, this study seeks to discover: How did the executive pastor office evolve? When is it appropriate for a church to move to an SPEP leadership team model? What are the core spiritual, attitudinal, and pastoral- administrative competencies? What is the job description, and what adaptations were made? What are the “rules of marriage,” the relational boundaries and overlaps of each team member’s domain? What are the primary causes of success or failure for the senior pastor and the executive pastor in their work? Is there evidence among senior pastors and their executives that the team model has been a success?

There has been little formal literature directly addressing the office of the executive pastor (EP) until the present year, 2004, which saw significant research on this subject. Nor is there any published manual on the philosophy of ministry or guidelines for executive pastors. Wes Kiel’s unpublished work, referenced earlier, comes the closest to this. While job descriptions for executive pastors continue to evolve, the essentials appear to include: supporting the senior pastor in the implementation of the church’s vision and being accountable directly to him; overseeing the functioning of the church staff (or at least part of the staff); and helping formulate and administrate the strategic plan for the church (which might include financial management). Can we confirm the validity, main functions, and essential relational dynamics of this office?

Primary Research Questions

The present study has been guided by the following research questions:

  1. What was the church and staff context in which the particular SPEP team came into being? How has it evolved?
  2. What are the top priorities for each team member in job performance and in relational development and maintenance?
  3. What are the reasons given for claiming satisfaction/success or dissatisfaction/failure in working with the SPEP leadership model?

Significance of the Study

First, church leaders in growing or large churches could be helped by some navigational soundings when facing a senior level staffing decision of this kind. Responding to need, many have been or may be tempted to put an executive pastor in place in a less than careful fashion. The experience and insights presented in this study certainly help churches considering this senior staff model to avoid making the worst mistakes. Of particular interest is the relational dynamic involved in any SPEP team.

Even if a church has a growing staff and high quality elders, the responsibility for overall vision, direction, and teaching/preaching usually falls to the senior pastor. In order to maintain that priority it makes sense to consider a co-pastor to help with the administrative, staff-management overload. The insights gleaned in this study should be helpful for pastoral staff and church boards who must decide when and if this move is needed, what to look for in such a leader, as well as how to proceed or not.

Second, senior pastors and executive pastors, together with their elders, board leaders, and management teams, can profit from the experiences and insights recorded here to help them develop, support, and nurture the SPEP’s relationship.

Third, those already engaged in the paradigm (executive pastors and senior pastors) do not have all the answers about it. This study contributes to the SPEP team knowledge base which is critical for the clarification, refinement, and discovery of causes of difficulties, and for encouragement to forge ahead with the SPEP paradigm. The evidence of this need was manifested in executive pastors’ responsiveness to the Leadership Network’s Executive Pastors’ Forum, which was held periodically during the 1990s. As one executive pastor stated, “

[That] points to my second motive for being here. When you look around there is not any literature on this. I would hope we could pool our experience in inventing these jobs, so they could get up to speed a little faster.”

Fourth, parishioners may be helped to embrace new leadership paradigms, realizing that such models are not inherently unspiritual, but actually helpful to the cause of Christ. Further, it may assist them to join in the vision-casting and healthy use of church systems to see ministry succeed. A prevailing mindset among church members, which wrongly insists on the senior pastor being the one to “touch” everything, must give way to more appropriate thinking. The SPEP team leadership model takes delegation to the next level, for the good of all involved.

It is the premise of this study that the SPEP leadership team is a contemporary paradigm that is compatible with Scripture, and viable and useful for growing churches in America. Consequently, it will be strongly argued that certain understandings and guidelines must be followed for it to be deployed successfully.

Definition of Terms

Senior pastor: The senior minister of a church, in the traditional sense; the primary teaching shepherd and leader, especially the leader of the multiple staff ministry and the primary vision-caster. When people ask, “Who is the pastor at First Church?” the senior pastor is named even if there are six pastors on the staff. This type of leadership might be reflected in the ministry of James in the Jerusalem church in that he apparently was recognized as one outstanding among the elders, a leader among equals.

Executive pastor: An administrative pastor; especially in the present context, a co-pastor or senior associate pastor of the church. He is responsible for the governing side of the ministry to ensure the implementation of the church’s vision (including things like staff accountability, ministry effectiveness, and fiscal oversight).

Staff: The employees of the church, usually distinguished as ministry staff (those who direct ministry areas of the church, e.g., Children’s Director, Missions Coordinator, Women’s Ministry Director), pastoral staff (formally called “pastor” of some ministry area, e.g., Pastor of Visitation, Youth Pastor, etc.), and administrative or support staff (including secretaries, business managers, custodians, etc.) Some churches also distinguish between paid and unpaid ministry staff.

Church context: The interrelated conditions in the life of the church in which something exists or occurs; the history and condition of the church as relates to attendance (growth, decline, turnaround), stewardship (general rate of member service as well as giving), staff (size and types), and senior leadership (gift mix and tenure), and spiritual atmosphere.

Priorities: The essentials (attitudes, activities, and private disciplines) which cannot be neglected in a field, job or relationship; the values or behaviors that are non-negotiable.

Relational factors: Interpersonal dynamics that “actively contribute to the production of a result.” In this case the contributing behaviors and attitudes needed to maintain the connection of the SPEP team. Various issues surface: trust, loyalty, accountability, etc.

Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction: The state of being happy or pleased, or of not being so. Which attitudes, actions, decisions, and results contribute to personal and team fulfillment or discouragement? What increases or decreases team dysfunction? What lends itself to individual team member energizing or depletion?

Success/Failure: Can be subjective, depending on the interviewee. In the church, success is measured in numerous ways, and not all measurements are spiritually sound. Nevertheless, certain indicators in the New Testament can help us. Conversion growth, spiritual maturation, involvement in the Christian cause, and the development of unity in purpose would be considered excellent outcomes according to Scripture. These outcomes can be measured to determine the success of ministry strategies.

Chapter Overviews

Chapter two provides an extensive survey of the extant literature relating to the executive pastor and the SPEP team leadership model. Chapter three delineates the methodology of the present study: the design of the study, the interview structure, and an assessment of the study. Chapter four presents the findings, with extensive quotations and charts, as each research question is discussed in turn. Chapter five provides a short summary and discussion of the findings, a discussion of dogma as it relates to the SPEP team, and suggestions for further research.

Chapter Two—Literature Review

This chapter provides an extensive survey of the extant literature relating to the executive pastor. This, of necessity, requires a consideration of critical leadership issues for senior level leaders. An apologetic for church management is provided. Issues of church size and the evolution of staffing, as well as team theory, are examined, all of which contribute to the pastoral context of co-leadership. Finally, the emergence of the SPEP team as a contemporary church leadership paradigm is discussed.

Church Ministry, Growth and Staffing

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11)

And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let each exercise them accordingly: … he who leads, with diligence. (Rom. 12:6, 8)

For the fulfilling of her purpose, the church has been graced with gifts from the Holy Spirit. Though the categorization of spiritual gifts varies, it is obvious that there are gifts for leading the church. These leadership gifts involve both speaking and managing tasks (e.g., prophecy, teaching, administration, and pastoring). But gifts are not the only factor that helps the church move ahead. Human personalities that utilize these gifts and other acquired skills, spiritual dynamics of renewal or apostasy, and historical and cultural circumstances under the sovereignty of God all play a part in the effectiveness of the church in advancing the Kingdom of God at any point in time.

American churches are in an interesting period. Congregational sizes and diverse demographics have made church staffing an important issue. In the last century, third world cultures have experienced more in the way of renewal and evangelistic growth than the West has. The resulting gigantic congregations may be led in a “cell” or “military” style. American Christianity has some large churches as well. Though some of these churches may have grown by revival, they are more often led in a way that reflects a corporate style. Pastoral staff roles and titles are more diverse than they were forty years ago. Churches and ministries now have staff dedicated to the business and management dimensions: information technology director, minister of stewardship, and church administrator. Marketplace wisdom on leadership and management, often on the cutting edge and ahead of the church, is filtering into the church. Although some underlying presuppositions of the corporate model may be harmful to the church environment, nevertheless there is wisdom to be gleaned. Such concerns will be addresses below in the section on church management.

The Changing Context of Church Ministry

Consider the complexity of managing congregational size in many local churches. In 1980 Lyle Schaller, parish consultant for the Yokefellow Institute of Richmond, Indiana, and prolific author on church growth and church management author, offered the following grid concerning Protestant church size:

Average Attendance at Worship                   Percentile               Type

35                                                                              25%                  Fellowship
75                                                                              50%                  Small
140                                                                            75%                  Middle-sized
200                                                                           85%                  Awkward-size
350                                                                           95%                  Large
600                                                                          98%                  Huge
700 or more                                                          100%                 Mini-denomination

According to Schaller, an American Protestant church in 1980 with over 700 in attendance was considered huge. Ninety-five percent of all American Protestant churches were 350 or below in attendance. Perhaps it is the proverbial growth “ceiling” that led him to refer to the “awkward-size.” The term “mini-denomination” was not merely an expression of humor, but reflects the fact that congregations of large proportions tend to become regional pacesetters.

By the 1990s the demographics had changed for North American churches. Church growth and leadership expert Gary McIntosh demonstrated in a 1999 study, shown below, that by that time there existed two higher categories of church size than those listed by Schaller.

Chart on North American Church Attendance in 1999

(To view chart, please see original PDF below article)

Here we find that churches with attendance figures of 800 and higher constitute only two percent of all churches in the United States. An attendance of 1,000 or higher places a church in the unique top one percentile. These developments in church growth raise some challenges for larger churches. For example, what must change in leadership styles, staffing, ministry plan, and management to accommodate these developments? What can be safely borrowed, or modified, from marketplace philosophy, corporate theory, and best practices, in order to facilitate effective leadership in larger congregations?

The Emergence of the Executive Pastor

It is the premise of this study that the senior pastor/executive pastor (SPEP) leadership team is a viable one. Written material specifically dealing with the “executive pastor” is growing, yet remains insufficient. As of 2004, there were only two other doctoral dissertations specifically dealing with the executive pastor. There has been some profiling work done by seminary professors and executive pastors themselves. Interestingly, the qualities needed for the office of executive pastor consistently indicate strengths required for a complementary “right hand” to the senior pastor.

Fifty years ago, assigning a pastor a specific administration title was unheard of. “Church administrator” was thought of, but the pastoral dimension was excluded. Recently, the terms “administrative pastor” and “executive pastor” are more commonly found in the literature. A significant work on formal church staffing was Marvin Judy’s The Multiple Staff Ministry, published in 1969. Judy refers to an “executive minister,” but by this he simply means the senior pastor as the “boss.” Harold Westing’s Multiple Church Staff Handbook, (1985) does not mention the executive pastor. The second edition (1997) not only refers to the executive pastor, but also includes it in an evolutionary chart. The chart covers church staff trends from1920 to 2000 and indicates that before 1970, most church ministry staff were hired for pastoral care, music, and Christian Education. After the 1970s business administrators were included, as well as specialists in youth, college and career, children, and singles. The 1980s saw further specialization in ministry assignments to include activities and recreation, volunteer overseer, and executive pastor. The 1990s brought even more specialization that were further influenced by the corporate model, including media/communications, senior adults, and brokers. The last term may or may not be considered ministry staff. In addition, some parachurch organizations have created financial planning ministries.

Kenneth Kilinski and Jerry Wofford, a senior pastor and a business school professor, respectively, authored in 1973 what became a standard text on church administration. Their work may have been one of the earliest to use the title “executive pastor” in any church staff/administrative text. In charting staff acquisitions, they suggest adding a full-time associate (usually a pastoral generalist) in a congregation of approximately 900 parishioners. In addition, when attendance reaches 1,000, a full-time business manager is recommended. By the year 2000, the existence of the executive pastor position had become prevalent in the literature.

To summarize, the co-leadership paradigm of the SPEP team is a contemporary development designed to help senior pastors cope with complex, changing management situations in the megachurch environment of America.

The Issue of Leadership

It occurs to me that perhaps the best test of whether one is a qualified leader, is to find out if anyone is following him. —D.E. Hoste

It is a premise of this study that the executive pastor is more than just a church administrator or assistant pastor. While church administrative literature does not always distinguish these offices, the terms and titles convey meanings.

Consider first the term “assistant” which means “to give support or aid” and especially “supplementary support or aid; help.” Being an assistant pastor could mean doing some of the same pastoral duties as the leader, or completely other tasks by assignment. Compare now the term “associate.” The noun means a “partner, colleague, or companion.” The adjective “associate” means, “closely connected, closely related, and having secondary or subordinate status,” as in “associate professor,” which ranks above an assistant but below a full professor. Whether it is clearly stated or not, clergy, at least, tend to think in these ways. An assistant pastor (often an intern or a retiree) would be seen as support ministry staff. Associates could be seen the same way, or may be considered close to equals. Obviously, there are no linguistic absolutes regarding the use of these terms. Also, churches may not give much value to titular distinctions. Certainly, the position title is not always a reflection of an individual’s skill level. However, according to common use among clergy, an associate would more readily be considered to replace a senior pastor than an assistant would be.

How the titles impact the issue at hand is as follows: depending on the church’s structure and philosophy, a senior pastor/executive pastor team would probably be considered an associate team. If the executive pastor was designated a “church administrator,” this would be operationally considered an assistant role. The title “administrative pastor” could imply the same idea. This point is confirmed by McIntosh’s comment on a staff leadership chart:

By superimposing the different breadths of oversight, one can see that the senior pastor clearly stands in a much different position than the rest of the staff, no matter how large the church grows. Executive pastors of very large churches come the closest to having the same breadth of oversight as the senior pastor. Still, even in those situations the senior pastor continues to have a slight edge in oversight, or at least the congregation tends to perceive it as so. (Italics added)

It is this “breadth of oversight,” or ownership of the overall pastoral ministry that brings us to the leadership issue. Few would dispute that the pastoral role includes leadership. The shepherd leads the sheep in and out, feeds, protects, and disciplines. Hence, if the leadership team includes an executive pastor, he must possess the qualities and competencies of a leader appropriate for the task and the partnership.

General Characteristics of Leadership

A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. —Harry Truman

Authors both Christian and secular concur regarding the need for leadership. For example, J. Oswald Sanders states, “God and man are constantly searching for leaders in the various branches of Christian enterprise.” Marketplace leadership consultant Warren Bennis agrees. “There are 240 million Americans, and we’ve tried for a couple of decades to get along without leaders. It hasn’t worked very well. So let’s admit it: we cannot function without leaders.” Noel Tichy, a world-renowned business guru and mentor to General Electric’s Jack Welch, and not without spiritual influence, insists that healthy and growing companies must have teaching leaders, that is, leaders who develop more leaders. In fact, for Tichy, leaders are teachers. This sounds similar to the Pauline attribute of church overseers in the Pastoral Epistles, “able to teach.”

Further, both religious and marketplace organizations know what leadership looks like; it means having followers. Both types of organizations would distinguish between leading and managing. A common proverb is that the manager is making sure we climb the ladder; the leader is making sure the ladder is against the right wall. This is “doing things right” versus “doing the right things,” a distinction made between managers and leaders, respectively. Bennis compares the two thus: managers administer, leaders innovate; managers maintain, leaders develop; managers focus on structures and systems, leaders focus on people; managers rely on control, leaders on trust; managers watch the bottom line, the short range, whereas leaders watch the horizon, the long range. The leader’s vision and inspiration makes possible the “getting people to like it” part of Harry Truman’s statement.

Obviously, there are crossovers in both areas, and the lines of demarcation are not always rigid. However, we can see the difference in emphasis, and this difference is critical for effective pastoral leadership in large or growing churches, especially once they grow beyond 1,000. Such pastoring needs to be more high-level (leading), as opposed to detail-driven (managing). We must distinguish here the leadership/administration dimension from the purely pastoral. Shepherding has to, at times, involve details. An executive pastor would need some skill in both leading and managing. He must help lead the team with vision, without micromanaging, and still be able to hold them to the implementation of the vision via accountability and performance goals.

Some of the most creative thinking on the subject has come from the marketplace, where authors may have Christian motives or not. Interestingly, the secular authors keep discovering principles which should bring their leaders toward the spiritual qualities that are familiar in Scripture. Christians would affirm that Jesus was the model of righteous leadership. Out of His life come qualities like vision, integrity, servanthood, and reproduction. Business writers such as Robert Shaw, Warren Bennis, James Kouzes, Barry Posner, and Burt Nanus focus on the same qualities. Robert Greenleaf, Charles Manz, and Alan Briskin approach it more philosophically, encouraging self-examination, servant attitudes, and a broader consideration of the spiritual side of one’s employees. Charles Manz, for example, on the wisdom of famous persons, finds in Jesus an example of what he thinks is good business leadership: avoidance of hypocrisy, developing others, and mercy in dealing with subordinates, just to name a few. According to business wisdom there are three important attributes which are relevant to spiritual leaders, as well.


Integrity and trust are constant themes in the new leadership literature. These must be “givens” in the Christian context. But the business world is fighting to get its leaders to buy in to consistency, honesty, and integrity, which is commonly defined as doing what you said you would do. Robert Shaw describes the integrity issue as one of three imperatives that develop cumulative trust: achieving results, demonstrating concern, and acting with integrity. Each of these three is vital to trust development, which he defines as “the belief that those on whom we depend will meet our expectations of them.”

Kouzes and Posner report their findings on popular response to the statement, “Management is honest, upright and ethical,” among workers in the USA, Canada, Japan and Europe:

Office workers      This is very important (%)     This is very true (%)

Canada                                           87                                              36

United States                                85                                              40

European                                       80                                             26

Japan                                              72                                             16

Even if the USA fares a little better in morale about leadership, the results have serious implications for the need for integrity in an already fragile climate. Business and politics, not to mention the institutional church, have all contributed to its decay.

The discussion of integrity in leadership is strategically placed here at the beginning because it is so critical in Christian as well as secular organizations. “Choose out from among you seven men of good reputation” the apostles said, in order to give them leadership. Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, insists that of the qualities he looks for in leaders and potential staff, integrity, or character, is first and foremost. Since team playing involves so much mutual trust and support, those who see ministry as teamwork will put the utmost value on character, integrity, and honesty.

From the business side, integrity means consistency, and thus in the following ways:

What we reveal to others reflects what we know.

What we say is aligned with how we behave.

Our behavior is consistent across situations.

Our behavior is consistent over time.

 For companies, this means sticking with plans and demonstrating values. Even some CEOs who came in as perceived “hatchet-men” gained immense admiration over time because of their integrity. They dealt honestly, fairly, and consistently to get the job done. And they achieved results.

Bottom line results are important in business, but also in the church, though they are harder to define in the latter. Teams consistently look for skills to contribute to the success of the team. Churches tend to be more merciful in terms of bottom line results and productivity. Some of this is good in terms of corporate atmosphere, but it is not always healthy in terms of being overly tolerant. There are times when the church needs to replace or remove workers. Dealing with this in a spirit of grace is definitely a learned skill and requires wisdom. Corporate style assemblies seem more aggressive in this regard than most. Willow Creek, for example, monitors, evaluates, and “rearranges the furniture” as needed, especially in the case of character flaws and gift-task mismatches.

There is, however, a growing trend among business practitioners and authors away from cut throat strategies toward servanthood, caring, concern, team dynamics (such as consensus and empowerment), and investing in and developing team members. An excellent philosophical journey into the human side of management is found in the work of Briskin. His idea of the soul is by no means biblical, but he challenges management to consider the fuller human side of employees. He looks negatively at several historic social and management discoveries, such as the management theory of getting the most out of a worker by sheer financial pressure. He refers to this paradigm as the “Gospel of Efficiency.” Briskin’s point is that there are deeper stirrings in the heart that need to be considered. He appeals to management to consider the emotional culture that working together creates. Certainly, integrity with compassion is a requisite for pastoral leaders, including executive pastors. Message and action must be consistent if a leader is to have legitimate power, and the church, mission-driven as it may be, is wise to honor its most valuable resource—people.


Without losing sight of the bottom line, business authors say that workers need leaders who inspire vision. Kouzes and Posner assert, “When leaders do their best, they challenge, inspire, enable, model, and encourage.” Here we see the needs of the follower considered. Note that most people want to be productive, even if, at times, the motive is greed or self-esteem.

Being challenged is a recurring theme in leadership literature: the challenge of a vision of something better. Modeling and inspiration provided by leaders give followers something to strive after. Also important in this regard is caring by encouragement and enablement. Encouragement includes recognizing contributions and celebrating accomplishments (thanks, praise, rewards, and tokens thereof). Enablement includes fostering collaboration and strengthening others (empowerment, training, etc.) Interestingly, in a survey of 1,500 managers from around the country evaluating 225 leadership values and traits, the perceived priorities were as follows: integrity first, competence second, and leadership (inspiring, decisive, directional) third. Kouzes and Posner conclude that the majority of us want leaders who are honest, competent, forward-looking, and inspiring, with “caring” falling under the inspiration category.

Vision is a big contributor to successful leadership. Church leaders have spoken much about the power of vision and values. A true leader is adept at communicating the picture of a preferred future (vision). He then embraces and shares the values (guiding principles) that are strategically needed to get there. Finally, he models and inspires by living and working consistently within those values. This is recognized more deeply on a spiritual level, because for Christian leaders modeling has a moral dimension as well.

The overriding need of the church, if it is to discharge its obligation to the rising generation, is for a leadership that is authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people love to be led by one who knows where he is going and who inspires confidence. They follow almost without question the man who shows himself wise and strong, who adheres to what he believes. Spiritual, because a leadership that is unspiritual, that can be fully explained in terms the natural, although ever so attractive and competent, will result only in sterility and moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Sacrificial, because modeled on the life of the One who gave Himself a sacrifice for the whole world, who left us an example that we should follow His steps.

This issue of vision and inspirational leadership has also been examined in terms of exceptional qualities in the leader, over and above acquired skills. The term “charismatic leadership,” first used by Max Weber, the world-renowned sociologist, refers to persons “set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least … exceptional powers and qualities … and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.” This occurs across faith boundaries, of course, but certainly charismatic gifts in the persons of Christian leaders, have graced the church in history and today.

There are two interesting points about charismatic leadership. First, leadership author Jay Conger asserts that charisma can be “routinized.” By this he means that the charismatic leader’s legacy can be continued. He suggests five ways to do so: (1) an administrative apparatus that puts the leader’s mission into practice, (2) “transferring” charisma through rites and ceremony, (3) incorporating the message into oral and written traditions, (4) selecting a similar successor who is committed to the leader’s mission, and (5) continued identification and commitment to the charismatic’s original mission.

This has great relevance to the ministry of the church, both in embodying the mission of Jesus Himself and in sustaining the vision and values of effectual churches in the Kingdom. Further, does not an executive pastor also find power by embodying the mission, vision, and values of the leadership of a church, especially of the senior or founding charismatic pastor? In fact, the five steps given by Conger fit appropriately with the actions of larger churches with senior pastor/executive pastor teams. The executive pastor helps put systems in place to fulfill the vision, often brought or molded by the senior pastor. The traditions are recorded in vision and values statements which drive the systems and keep the church on target. When a successor is found, even from the outside, he must be aligned with the vision for the transfer of power to work.

The second point of interest about charismatic leadership is the idea of its liability. James Collins, author of Built to Last, suggests that charismatic leadership is a liability because when the charismatic leader leaves, the company typically suffers. Too much has revolved around his persona, presence, and abilities. Collins and his associate examined thirty-six companies in two sets of eighteen. One set consisted of prevailing corporations, while the parallel set consisted of merely surviving companies. Consistently, they found that the surviving companies had been built with charismatic leadership. Once the leader died or left, the companies stalled. The others were led by what Collins refers to as “clock-builders,” as opposed to the charismatic “time-tellers.” Time-tellers are impressive because they can always tell the time. Their insight is remarkable but short-lived. Clock-builders, on the other hand, are steady, methodical leaders who work to preserve core values in a company, but at the same time stimulate progress. They are not locked into tradition, and they figure if everyone can tell time, all the better. The kingdom of God is not limited by mortal weaknesses, yet God allows natural laws to prove true. How often it is that “next generation” does not sustain the vitality and health of the former. Collins’ insight is particularly pointed, in that the difficulty may lie with the charismatic leader’s own shortcomings rather than the team that follows him or her. The executive pastor is usually expected to complement the senior, and in regard to the liability of a charismatic senior, the EP may be the linchpin for the church’s longevity and vitality.

Collins’ work also has implications for leadership in cases of “discontinuous change.” Such change is radical and non-sequential, brought about, for example, by a new CEO, as in Jack Welch’s turnaround of General Electric. The ship is sinking, so we radically overhaul everything to save it and make it seaworthy again.

Discontinuous change is qualitatively