By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Loyal pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)
One of the great needs of our generation is that of leadership. In every area there is a need for men who are leaders of men; there is a need for men in politics with the ability to lead. This same need is found in the home, community, school and yes, far too often, the church.
Actually the Bible seems to teach that the real "call to preach" is, after all, a call to leadership. Bible preaching is simply soul winning; the commission to preach the Gospel is to every creature. If one can preach the Gospel to one, that is good. If he can preach the Gospel to two, that is better. If he can preach the Gospel to 10,000, that is even better. Yet the fact remains that the commission says, "to every creature." This means that in the Bible sense all are called to preach.
What, then, is this "call to preach" about which we talk so much? Really it is a call to leadership. God's call to Moses in the burning bush was a call to leadership. God's call to Abraham to leave the Ur of the Chaldees and seek for a city "which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" was basically a call to leadership. God's call to Gideon as he threshed wheat behind a wine press was simply a call to leadership. God's call to Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land was basically a call to leadership. Since all Christians are to be "preachers" (that is, soul winners), the final deduction is that what we term "the call to preach" is simply a call to be a leader of other Christians. We oftentimes think of the call to preach as being a call to be a public speaker. Nothing could be further from the truth. Preaching the Bible is simply telling others how to be saved and winning unsaved folks to Jesus Christ. To some, however, is given that Divine call to lead other Christians. Such was the case of Paul, Peter, Moses, Elisha, and others.
If the aforementioned be true, then every man who is called to preach the Gospel is, in a real sense, called to lead. Hence, a great portion of the pastor's time should be given to developing leadership abilities.
The tragic truth is that oftentimes when a man surrenders to preach, he really stops preaching. Many fine laymen have become effective soul winners. They rejoice so much in this privilege they believe God wants them to preach. Hence, they give up their soul winning and become public speakers. Actually, they are giving up Bible preaching for the public speaking field. Then, what is this call? It, of course, includes public speaking and preaching the same Gospel to many that one had preached to a few. In order to do this effectively, however, the pastor must become a leader of men.
1. Such leadership is God given. There are many suggestions, ideas, short cuts, etc. that can help or improve one's leadership abilities. Yet, the ability to lead men for God is first and foremost a gift from God. Someone has said, "When God calls He qualifies." Gideon was not a natural leader; neither was Moses, Paul, or Peter. These all received from God a supernatural gift of leadership. Oh, how the ministry needs it today. It is most significant that the two greatest men in the Bible were not possessed with what we consider the gifts necessary for being great preachers. The greatest leader of the Old Testament was Moses. There are those who think that apart from Jesus Christ Moses is the greatest man who ever lived. Yet, Moses had an impediment of speech. The "gift of gab" was not his. He was not the extrovert that we think preachers ought to be, but the gift of leadership was his. He stands out like a mountain in the Old Testament.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the Apostle Paul is the greatest person mentioned in the New Testament. Paul wrote the Corinthian church and reminded them that they said his speech was contemptible. It is interesting that the great lights in the both Old and New Testament were men not gifted with public speaking abilities. The men who do the great works for God are not necessarily the best speakers or the best preachers. They are, without exception, great leaders who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Let the busy pastor take time for supplication with God, asking, yea begging, for this vital gift.
2. Magnify the office of pastor. Though the pastor should not magnify himself, he certainly should magnify his office. There is no position in the world higher than that of the pastor of a New Testament church. If people respect it as such, it will be because the pastor magnifies it as such.
I can recall how difficult it was for me to visit a funeral home or a hospital in the early days of my ministry. I simply felt unworthy. Especially was this true of visiting a hospital when the doctor was present. I would feel that he was so much more important than I that I should not bother him. Then one day the realization came to me that the office of the pastor is more important than that of a physician. Subsequently, instead of timidly tip-toeing into the room and giving preference to the doctor, I now take time to realize that my presence is more needed than his, and I act accordingly.
Just a few months ago I was visiting a hospital where a dear lady was about to have surgery. The doctor was in the room preparing for her needs just before surgery. He informed me that he was busy, and he asked me to step outside. Realizing that the lady would lapse into an unconscious state momentarily, I suggested that I pray first. The doctor seemed very upset when I insisted that he step outside and wait while I have a prayer with the lady. Hence, we sought the help of the Great Physician before she was placed in the hands of the local physician. Of course, the pastor should not be presumptuous in such cases and should exercise care and courtesy, but he should realize that his is the most important ministry to perform and that he fills the greatest office in the world. When the office of pastor is magnified as such, leadership will come more naturally.
Preacher brethren, the pastor is somebody. He, himself, in the flesh is just an unworthy, undeserving sinner saved by grace, but that unworthy, undeserving sinner saved by grace placed in the position of pastor of the New Testament church makes him the most important person in all the world. Let us never forget it.
3. The leader should know the follower. The Apostle teaches us that not many wise are chosen to be leaders but that God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Could it be that God planned it this way so the leaders could be chosen from followers and so that the leader could know the heartbeat of his followers? It was said by Ezekiel that before he became a leader among the captive people he first "sat where they sat." He became a captive that he might know how to lead captives. He wept that he might know how to lead those who weep. He was not fully qualified to lead the people until he first had been one of the people. This is, no doubt, why God usually chose His great men out of the rank and file. Most of the apostles were humble fishermen, and other Bible leaders were men of humble backgrounds.
Perhaps this is why our Lord Himself came to earth in the form of a man and took upon Himself infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood. He, thereby, could know the heartbeat of all ages and could more compassionately enter into our suffering.
Not long ago I was visiting in a home. A lady came to the door and informed me that her husband was an alcoholic and she was rearing her boy alone. She immediately recognized me as being Pastor of First Baptist Church and was so honored and pleased that I would come by and see her. She invited me in, when suddenly her countenance fell and she began to apologize for her meager and humble furnishings. Immediately I reminded her that my mother had reared me alone and that our houses were not nearly as nice as was hers. Her face brightened as she realized that I had one time sat where she was now sitting. In a few moments I won both the lady and her son to Jesus Christ and I baptized them both the next Sunday morning.
No doubt many of us have wondered why as children living in poverty we could not have the luxuries of others. What we saw through a glass darkly, however, we now see face to face as we realize that God was preparing us to lead people. If we would be leaders, we must first know the follower.
4. Give due credit to the follower. Most people will give servitude to a leader in whom they have confidence and whom they can trust. Such a leader is always ready to share credit and glory with the follower. Just as a follower needs a leader, a leader needs a follower. Sincere gratitude should be expressed by each to the other.
5. The leader should identify himself with the follower. A wise leader of children will often tell of his childhood experiences thereby reminding the child that he was once a child. This identifies the leader with the follower and makes each feel closer to the other. The successful pastor who has known poverty should be ready to admit to his people to this fact and relate stories that will identify him with the follower.
I often speak of such things as hog-killing time, my banking the wood stove, the cranking of the old jalopy, etc. Again and again I have had people say that as I was relating a story that was like theirs they felt we had lived the experience together and thereby they felt closer to me.
6. The leader should assure the follower. Someone has said the pastor should not be constantly be reminding his people how unworthy he is; someone might believe him. Certainly our people should know that we feel unworthy, but they should not mistake this for a feeling of incapability. The pilot who comes out of the cockpit and asks the passengers, "Does anyone know where we are?" will not keep his job for long! He would never say to those boarding the plane that he is not much pilot and that he feels so unworthy and incapable to fly the plane, but if they will pray for him, he will do the best he can! He does not remind them that there are many others on the plane who could do a much better job than he! Neither does the successful pastor remind his people of his inadequacies! While letting them know that he feels unworthy, he nevertheless generates in them confidence toward him and his ability. In other words, he should convince the people that he knows what he is doing, that he knows where he is going, and that with God's help, he is capable of leading them.
7. The leader should watch his posture when he is before his people. The ministry could certainly borrow from the military in this respect. The pastor should walk like a leader, sit like a leader, stand like a leader, and his very presence should generate confidence and assurance in the hearts of those who follow him For years I have practiced walking to the pulpit. Such a walk should be one of dignity and propriety. I practice sitting in my chair on the platform I want to walk like a leader, sit like a leader, and stand like a leader. How important this is!
I have also examined my own nature and have found that certain body positions, hand gestures, etc. create in me certain moods. Hence, if I would create a particular mood, I should be careful to use the posture, gestures, etc. that would help in doing so. Some readers may find this a bit trivial, but no one should find trivial the importance of a leader standing, walking, and sitting with definiteness, propriety, dignity, and care.
8. The leader should use his voice properly. Certain voice fluctuation and tone can aid or hinder leadership. It is quite common to hear a public speaker raise the last syllable of each sentence. This usually takes away the definiteness of the statement and places a subconscious question mark in the mind of the hearer. In fact, such statements oftentimes sound more like questions. It is alarming how unimportant speaking seems to be to a leader. The singer spends many hundreds of hours in voice training and voice care. Why shouldn't the speaker do likewise? Many pastors could increase their leadership ability by learning more about the care and use of the voice.
9. The leader should use his eyes effectively. He should learn that one of the most important contacts he has with the follower is the eye contact. Hence, the eyes should not be shifty, but they should be sincere, direct, and honest. Many sincere and would-be-successful pastors leave a void in the mind of their congregations because the eye contact is absent or the eyes do not carry a ring of sincerity and earnestness.
10. The leader should not admit professional weaknesses. When one goes to the doctor he would prefer not to hear the doctor say that he himself is a physical wreck. When a surgeon stands above a patient before surgery and says, "Pray for me, I don't feel worthy to perform this operation," the patient is hardly possessed of complete assurance. Now the pastor may confess to his people certain weaknesses, but these should not be professional weaknesses. People should feel that he is capable of doing the job and fulfilling his responsibility. They should feel that he is a trained and qualified leader. Now a doctor may say that he is stubborn, but the patient would still be assured. The doctor could admit to having a temper or being impatient, but he should certainly not admit professional weaknesses to the patient; neither should the pastor.
11. The leader should do first what he expects of the followers. When I was in the 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper, two men headed up our division as generals. One was James Gavin. We called him "Gentleman Jim." Every time the division jumped, he was the first man out of the plane. We were proud of him; we respected him. We later had another general who did not jump. He somehow did not go over so well with the paratroopers. We wanted someone to lead us, not push us. The same is true of God's people. They need someone to say, "Follow me as I set the example." I have always tried to give as large an offering as any of my people give during a financial drive. If a pastor expects his people to go soul winning, he first should go soul winning. If a pastor expects his people to give, he should give. If a pastor expects his people to be faithful, he should be faithful. The leader should do first what he expects of the follower.
12. The pastor should dress like a leader. The pastor should know appropriate dress. This is not to say he should always wear a black suit or a navy blue suit. He should, however, on occasion, know when and how to wear both. On occasion, the pastor may wear sport clothes. Care should be exercised in choosing such occasions and, of course, this would vary with the age of the pastor. As a younger pastor, I dressed more conservatively than I do as a middle-aged pastor. When I was barely past twenty, I was pastoring a Baptist church full-time. I found it necessary to discard the clothing of a twenty-year-old in order that I might convince my followers of my maturity. If a youth becomes a policeman, he should wear the policeman's uniform If a youth becomes a pastor, he should dress accordingly with the maturity and dignity of a pastor. As a pastor approaches and enters the middle years, the need for establishing his maturity is lessened; hence, he may find himself more able and desirous of wearing more youthful clothing. Much care should be taken, however, so as to avoid being excessively flashy and gaudy. The pastor should know when and where to wear sport shirts, slacks, dress suits, formal attire, etc. The congregation should grow to expect the pastor to be appropriate in his dress at all times. Not only will this generate confidence in the follower, but also in the leader himself.
13. The leader should not tell his problems to the follower. For a number of years now it has been my privilege to help younger and less-experienced pastors with their problems and to counsel with pastors across America. When these men ask me how my church is doing they always receive an optimistic answer, for if I would help them, I must earn the right. If I went to a pastor and told him I was having church problems and asked for his counsel, he would hardly come to me and ask my counsel when his problem arose. A leader must learn to take his problems to the One Who is called Wonderful,. Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Extreme care and caution should be taken in sharing problems with the follower. This is especially true when the problem involves something that is within his sphere of leadership.
14. The leader should never appeal to the sympathy of the follower. People rally to inspiration, not the seeking of sympathy. It is folly for a pastor to stand up and tell of his problems and burdens and ask the people to follow him because he is heartbroken. This will lead to frustration and failure. People follow dynamic leadership, not heartbroken failure.
Fortunate is the church member who has a leader for a pastor. The people should feel that when the pastor walks in "everything's all right in the Father's house." There should be a feeling akin to the way a child feels when his daddy is at home at night. The pastor who has learned to be a leader will exude assurance and confidence to his people. Fortunate is the pastor who has received this gift and who has developed it. Fortunate is the member whose pastor has done so.
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