FIRST-PERSON: They pointed to me

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (BP) -- I'll never forget a meeting I had with the leadership team in my church. The congregation had recently called me to be their pastor and we were still working out the kinks. How are decisions made? How do the deacons and committees relate to the leadership team? Where do I fit in?

In the midst of the discussion, I asked an honest question, "After Jesus and the congregation, who has the most authority in the church?"

Truth be told, I was convinced the real power rested in the hands of committee chairs -- nothing could really be accomplished without their approval. But when I asked that question, each person in the room pointed to me. They said I had the power, and their words rested heavy on a young pastor's shoulders.

Of course in a Baptist church, after Christ, a local congregation has the power. Still pastors have a lot of authority, and it can be wielded wisely or poorly.

Let's be honest: Regardless of your church's exact leadership structure, the man behind the pulpit has great influence. There's a reason Teddy Roosevelt referred to the presidency as a "bully pulpit." The person with the microphone has the people's ear. God, spare us from bully pastors.

The apostle Peter wisely told a group of first century pastors to "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not domineering over those in your charge … but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2–3, ESV).

I've been a full-time preaching pastor for over 10 years and in pastoral ministry twice that long. There are moments when I'm tempted to tell staff and even church members to "fall into line." I'm tempted to want people to believe my opinion is the best opinion. I suppose you could say I'm tempted to be a domineering pastor.

Peter's words are profoundly instructive today and deeply encouraging. I want to fight the temptation to be domineering by seeing myself, primarily, as a co-pastor with other staff and lay leaders of the church I'm privileged to serve. I aim to be slower to speak than I might naturally be to ensure the volume is turned up on other leaders.

More than anything, I want to model myself after Christ, who led with marvelous humility. The one leader in history who had the right to dominate His followers chose instead to lay down His life for them.

Aaron Menikoff is senior pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Ga., and a member of the Greater Atlanta Baptist Network's administrative team.
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