April 23, 2003 is a day that Natalie Gilbert will never forget. On that day, when she was 13 years old, she was scheduled to sing the national anthem for the 2003 NBA Playoff Game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.
As she stepped forward in front of a crowd of 20,000 fans and began to sing, she forgot the words! Embarrassed and not knowing what to do, an unlikely hero stepped forward. Maurice Cheeks, then head coach of the Blazers, came to her aid. He lifted the microphone to her mouth and sang along with her (although out of tune) and helped her finish the song.
Midway through the anthem, the entire crowd began to sing and finish the anthem as well.
Our Senior Pastors are much like young Natalie. They are standing on stage in front of the crowds in need of help, in order to accomplish the God-ordained task at hand. The Executive Pastor can and should be the #1 support that the Pastor has. In order to be of great help to your Pastor, here are several tips that will help you be successful in your role right from the start! These tips come directly from God’s Word, Exodus 4:14-31, and are from one of the first XP’s—Moses’ brother Aaron, the Levite.
Tip #1—You must have a relationship with God and the pastor
In Exodus 4:14, God asks Moses, What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? What is revealed in this verse is that the person that God was appointing to support Moses had a close relationship with God and Moses. In Jewish tradition, a Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. This tribe served particular religious duties for the Israelites and had political responsibilities as well. They were traditionally pledged to God’s service.
You can’t be effective as an XP without a real, authentic relationship with God and pledge yourself to Him. After all, you’re doing His work! Executive Pastors carry the responsibility of ensuring that the practical needs of the church are met. In essence, we are the hands and feet that enable the vision and spiritual growth that your pastor preaches and teaches about. XPs also have to ensure that policies and procedures are implemented efficiently, in order for the church to operate with excellence. It’s impossible to carry that load without talking to God and receiving guidance, direction, and protection from Him.
The XP position is not one for the weak. Oftentimes you, as the XP, hear the murmuring and complaining within the church before the pastor does; this is due to the fact that you are the one that is known for planning and strategizing how to accomplish the vision. They know you have a high level of authority and will voice any and every concern they have, which is often negative. It can, at times, be discouraging.
With that said, your encouragement and strength is found in God and not your own abilities. Your skill level is not enough to sustain you while doing this great work. God and God alone is that source. As you seek to be successful in your role, start by ensuring that you have a real, authentic relationship with God. Otherwise, you’ll end up lost—personally and professionally.
Not only do you need a close relationship with God, but you also need a close relationship with your pastor. The text also reveals this closeness in verse 14. The text mentions that they are brothers! I believe that God was sovereignly providing Moses with someone that had an intimate knowledge of who he really was. This close relationship is one that you, as an XP, must be intentional about cultivating through time with your pastor. This closeness is cultivated during work hours, but, more importantly, during non-work hours.
It happens while watching sports together, family get-togethers, one-on-one lunches, and at any other time that you can find to spend with your pastor. It’s particularly important because it allows you to make decisions, even tough ones, which you know he’ll support because you understand his heart. It also allows your pastor to understand who you really are, as well. He’ll begin to know your strengths and areas for opportunity, both personally and professionally. A pastor and XP that have a close relationship are a confident duo that can do great things for God, together, as leaders in His church!
Tip #2—You are the “vision carrier,” not the “vision caster”
In Exodus 4:15-16, God told Moses that He would tell him what to say and, in turn, Moses would tell Aaron. Aaron’s role was to communicate that vision to the people. God could have spoken to Aaron directly, as He did later in Exodus 4:27; however, we serve a God that understands order.
Moses was chosen by God to lead Israel. God made it clear that Moses was to cast the vision to Aaron and then Aaron to the people. This is a clear model of “organizational chain communication” to leaders and members of a church—or any organization for that matter. First, the leader must get the other leaders on board; then, those leaders must embrace the message and take it to the rest of the group.
As XP, you can’t get ahead of your pastor and confuse your role as being the “vision caster” instead of the “vision carrier.” God didn’t purpose you to do that! Embrace your role and you can be successful as an XP. You must be able to handle hearing the vision first, as vast as it may be, and then find a way to internalize the message and share it with the appropriate people. Later, in Exodus 4, we see Moses sharing everything that God had given him with Aaron. He didn’t hold back. He was comfortable sharing God’s words and miracles with Aaron because he was confident that Aaron could handle it.
Your pastor should be able to trust you in the same way! Oftentimes, people have an issue being “second in command.” Foolish ambition can cause people to be out of God’s will for their lives. Being ambitious is not wrong; however, it’s when we are ambitious without God’s direction that we can fail. A pastor and XP with clearly defined roles as “vision caster” and “vision carrier” can do great things for God, together as leaders in His church!
Tip #3—Find a way to be an “encourager” to your pastor
In Exodus 4:14, God tells Moses that Aaron will be glad to see him. To put this in the proper context, the two brothers had not seen each other in forty years. Imagine not seeing your brother for that long; naturally there would be some awkwardness or distance between you. Even worse, imagine knowing that your brother was a fugitive on the run for murder!
If we tell the truth, there would not only be awkwardness and distance, but skepticism as well. Not so with Aaron! He shows us in verse 27 how to look past the baggage and embrace the leader with open arms. Imagine how encouraging it must have been to Moses for his big brother, who could have looked down on him for his past sins, to kiss him on the cheek.
This encouragement was the “ice-breaker” that allowed Moses to share with Aaron all that God had spoken to him and shown him. As you serve with your pastor, find a way to encourage him. Leave him written notes, send text messages, speak well of him to others, or whatever creative gesture you can think of. An encouraging XP creates an atmosphere of trust! This trust allows the pastor and XP to work together on a high level and enables them to do great things for God!
The three tips shared are the tip of the iceberg! I truly believe that God has purposed you for your role as XP and that you and your pastor can accomplish great things together for His kingdom!