Leadership Savvy Doesn’t Make a Pastor

Leadership Savvy Doesn’t Make a Pastor by CHASE REPLOGLE for The Gospel Coalition

I never liked the title “pastor.” My plan was to practice law and pursue politics. I was fascinated with leadership, and all those career tests told me I had a knack for it. But unexpectedly, at a youth summer camp my junior year of high school, I felt a distinct call to become a pastor.

When I informed my high school debate coaches that I wouldn’t be pursuing my college debate scholarships and would instead be attending a small midwestern Bible college, one pleaded with me: “Why would you throw away the gifts God has given you?” Like her, I imagined pastoral work would be pedestrian and marginal—a sacrifice of my potential and plans.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Our Hope in Leadership

The late-21st-century landscape of Christian ministry turned out to be dominated by abundant optimism in the potential of leadership technique. Pastors were dropping their “senior” titles for the more relevant “lead pastor” label. They no longer had studies—they had “offices” or “board rooms.” Responding to this trend, my Bible college rebranded its “pastoral theology” degree as a “church leadership” degree. Leadership jargon was everywhere. There were leadership conferences, leadership books, leadership podcasts, leadership magazines, and leadership development pipelines. Everyone seemed to be talking about leadership.

For most, our leadership interests were grounded in a genuine desire to be better pastors and build healthier churches. Mine were. Being a pastor is hard and often includes responsibilities far outside our original expectations. If learning to be better leaders helps us become better pastors, who wouldn’t take up that task?

Upon being hired for my first church job, I promptly opened my Moleskin journal to the back page and wrote in a box at the top: “Leadership Lessons.” I was constantly scribbling down these bits of leadership wisdom, imagining they were the insights I would someday need to lead my church.

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