The Church Needs Preachers, Not Leaders

By Graham Glover

Sometimes I feel as if I should be having a vocational identity crisis.

I’m pretty sure that I was taught by the church, guided by the Holy Scriptures, that my primary responsibility as a pastor is to preach the Word of God. This preaching takes many forms: sermons, teaching, counseling, and presiding. But no matter the form, my vocation is first and foremost about proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. He is the source, the subject, and the object of everything I do as one who holds the Office of the Holy Ministry.

If I fail to preach, I fail to do my vocation. Plain and simple.

Why is it then that every time I turn around these days I am being told that the church’s problem is that it needs better leaders? It’s all about leadership I hear. Strong leaders. Effective leaders. Entrepreneurial leaders. Leadership – leadership – leadership! If I’m not a good leader I can’t be a good pastor.

For example, my sermons are probably ineffective because I’m not a strong leader. My teaching likely isn’t relevant because I lack leadership skills. My counseling is not sought because I fail in exemplifying the traits of an effective leader. The sacraments I preside over are inconsequential because they are not couched in the leadership vision of the mission statement of my ministry (whatever the hell that means).

In other words, because I am not a good leader, I’m not a good pastor.

Or so the story goes.

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But this is a popular story. It’s a story that continues to be told, in the parish, in the Army, and I’m pretty sure, in the academy. And the more that hear this story and subscribe to its narrative, the more convoluted the Gospel will ultimately sound to them.

For the Gospel is not about leadership, it’s about forgiveness. The Gospel is not about training leaders, it’s about baptizing sinners into the name of the Triune God. The Gospel is not about how strong or effective I am, it’s about what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

The church doesn’t need better leaders, she needs better preachers. Sinners don’t need an executive or administrator, they need a proclaimer of God’s Word. They don’t need a secularized version of a pastor, they need someone who is fully immersed in and deeply committed to Word and Sacrament ministry.

So no, I’m not called to be a leader. I am called to be a preacher. And the church doesn’t suffer because she has poor leaders. She suffers only when her preachers fail to preach.

So preach on my fellow preachers – and leave that leadership nonsense to others.

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