The Church Still Needs Strong Leadership

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Leadership and administrative practices are crucial to spiritual movements. John Wesley’s gift of administration provided the framework that allowed the Methodists to sustain their growth.1 Referring to Wesley as a “truly inspired administrator,” Charles Bryant writes, “Wesley could take the smallest number of barely literate and socially uncouth persons and organize them into a solidarity force that” would last forever.2

Although George Whitefield was by far the more popular evangelist of the era, the movement Whitefield established did not last. Reflecting on the longevity of Wesley’s efforts, Whitefield writes, “My brother Wesley acted wisely–the souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”3 Noting the essential nature of administrative leadership, the late Robert Rayburns says, “Many churches have been seriously damaged . . . by well-meaning and spiritually minded men [and women] who have never learned the principles of effective management.”4

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR

In the summer of 2012, I became the Executive Pastor of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in Tennessee. Until this time, I had held an associate position (at the same church) with traditional pastoral responsibilities. Stepping into my new role, I quickly realized that my theological education had not equipped me with the tools I needed to provide administrative leadership for a large church. I never will forget how nervous I was the evening of my first finance committee meeting. That night, we were preparing the church’s multi-million dollar budget.

Talking with other pastors, I discovered that they too felt ill equipped for their administrative responsibilities. We decided to form a community, sharing our successes, mistakes, and failures. What our small group found is that by learning from each other we became more effective in our individual roles. Accordingly, we have decided to organize a consortium of practitioners and thought leaders for the benefit of God’s kingdom. Distinctively, our collective employs the expertise not only of clergy but also of lay church leaders. We have discovered that these men and women often have more training and experience in administration, finance, and HR than we do.

Seedbed’s Church Leader Collective envisions an international community of pastors, executive directors, academics, consultants, and lay leaders who benefit by sharing ideas, best practices, trends, and personal insight. Every week we will equip you with articles, podcasts, and resources that will make you a more effective Church Leader. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and expertise with us. Contact the collective at churchleadercollective [at] seedbed.com.

Follow the Church Leader Collective here.

1. Stanley J. Rodes, From Faith to Faith: John Wesley’s Covenant Theology and the Way of Salvation (James Clarke & Co, 2014), xii.

2. Charles V. Bryant, Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts: Building Up the Body of Christ Through the Gifts of the Spirit (Upper Room Books, 1991), 64.

3. George Whitefield, qtd. In Kenneth J. Collins, John Wesley: A Theological Journey (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003), 123.

4. Robert G. Rayburn, Forward to Management for the Christian Worker by Olan Hendrix (Santa Barbara, CA: Quill Publications, 1976).

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Thad Austin is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a PhD candidate at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and William and Edie Enright Fellow at The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. Thad also serves as Editor of the Church Leader Collective for Seedbed. Thad served as Executive Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In his free time, Thad loves to travel (41 countries and all 50 states, thus far), hike (has hiked the 1,100 miles between Pennsylvania and Georgia), sail, and spend time with friends.

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