In case you haven’t figured it out, you are stuck with me for another year
as your pastor. That means you are stuck with my limitations and my strengths
for another year. Some of you are probably happy with that, others would like a
person with different strengths and weaknesses. That’s okay. People have
different needs, different wants, and different ideas of what religious
leadership should look like.
Actually, today’s bible passage is exactly a discussion of that. Imagine
that Jesus is sitting down with a group of people and talking about what they
expect the Messiah to be like. And the fact is that some people preferred the
serious style of John the Baptist – they liked that he didn’t eat much, that he
didn’t drink alcohol. He approached life like a funeral, expecting people to be
solemn and respectful. Some people thought the Messiah should be like that. But
others thought there had to be something wrong with him to act like that – some
even said he had a demon.
Other people liked the style of Jesus who ate with sinners, drank with tax
collectors and socialized with all sorts of people. He approached life like a
dance, and invited others to dance along. Some people thought the Messiah
should reach out the outcasts. But others saw his actions as irreligious, not
serious enough, too much like the sinners themselves. So they called him a
drunk and a glutton.
So here is Jesus having this discussion with people and they are giving
their feedback about what the Messiah should be like, as Jesus reminds them,
that some people would complain about the Messiah no matter what he was like –
they would point out all the flaws and never be happy. If invited to the
funeral, they wouldn’t be serious and respectful; and when invited to dance,
they would sit there like lumps on a log. Jesus is trying to challenge them to
open their minds and see that he really is the one sent from God.
As I was reading it, I began to reflect upon pastoral leadership and
honestly about the kinds of people we put into other leadership positions like
lay leader and Ad Board chair.
What if we take Jesus’ discussion here as the beginning of a discussion
about all of the leadership in church?
For example, you have two choices in a pastor. One is a pastor who is like
John the Baptist, strict in his religious observances – fasts, never laughs,
doesn’t dance, and comes at life and religion with a very serious approach. The
other is one who is like the Human One who eats and drinks with sinners, who
visits the bars, who dances to music, and likes to laugh. Life and religion are
a source of joy to be shared with everyone.
Which would you pick? What would you complain about with each? Turn to your
neighbor and tell them which one you would pick! [wait]
Of course all of know that that really isn’t enough information is it?
Could you really pick a pastor just based on that? Well, you could but it might
not work out very well.
When Jesus tells this story he is really inviting us to a discussion about
what really matters. Is it the outward signs or is it something different? Is
it something deeper?
So a couple of months ago I went to two training seminars that talked about
demographics and one of the things that people study is what different types of
people look for in their religious leaders. In fact, the studies are so
detailed that they can tell based upon what block you live in what you probably
look for in a pastor and in other church leaders. I know, that is a little
frightening – in the information age, people know so much about us. But my goal
isn’t to scare you. Actually I want to look at the top six major demographic
groups in Buchanan and tell you what they are looking for in church leadership.
So for example, I can tell you that the largest demographic group in
Buchanan likes pastors who graduated from a well-established school of theology
and from the “School of hard knocks”.
They want a person who has expertise and commonsense. They want someone who
works closely with the church board but does not take over. They want a pastor
who listens carefully to all points of view, and seeks advice of the lay
leaders. They expect the pastor to be on call 24/7 and to be a good caregiver
of the people.
Similarly, our third largest demographic group in Buchanan likes pastors
who are ordained by an established denomination and are primarily approachable
They want a pastor who not only visits in homes and hospitals, but is also
an excellent administrator, who is more like a CEO and can run a business or a
Our fifth largest demographic group has a little different perspective.
They are pretty open to different kinds of leadership styles.
They prefer a pastor who preserves harmony, who is sensitive to different
generations and acts as friend, counselor and facilitator. They are capable
preachers and administrators but don’t have to be the best.
Do you hear the differences start to emerge? This group doesn’t care so
much about the CEO approach, of even how they work with the board. This group
wants the pastor to be their friend.
Where things really get different is our six largest group. This group
wants a pastor who has a live and let live attitude and has let go of all the
sacred cows of churchy institutions.
The pastor has to be laser focused on servant evangelism and helping
disciple young adults. The pastor works with the people individually and in small
groups to help people shape a do-able and portable spiritual life for
themselves and their families.
So this last group really doesn’t care about administration at all, they
want a person who disciples them and teaches them how to live a spiritual life.
And all the traditions respected by the first few groups can go out the window.
Turn to your neighbor and tell them which of these groups you most agree
As you can see, no one person can be all of these things. So what has to
happen is that churches either will never attract certain types of people, no
matter how hard they try, because they leadership style just isn’t right, Or –
the church lay people, you all, fill in the leadership gaps and become the bridgebuilders
who reach to those other groups.
So we need lay people who meet the needs of the first group that have
expertise and common sense, who listen carefully to everyone’s point of view.
We need lay people who are approachable and friendly, who are excellent
visitors in homes and could run a company. We need people who are concerned
about the church’s harmony and are sensitive to different generations, who can
be a person’s friend and counselor. We need people who question tradition and
are willing to toss it aside, and we need people who are willing to meet with
people individually and in small groups and help them figure out a spirituality
that fits their busy lifestyle.
So the next time you complain about your pastor, or about one of the other
church leaders, think about that. While you might not like it, it may be
exactly what another person is looking for in a leader.
Also, before you complain remember that all of that is outward stuff. Kind
of like Jesus says, all of that is about the personality of the leader. Are
they more like a funeral or a dance?
But what we really need in our church leadership is people who first and
foremost love God. People who look to Jesus as their ultimate leader, as their
messiah. You can have the right personality all day long, but if you don’t have
that, then there is a problem.
Of course since I am not perfect, I will fail you. Since our other church
leaders are not perfect, they will fail you too. The delight here is that Jesus
is ultimately our leader – and he tells us some very specific things about his
style of leadership. “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying
heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me (he doesn’t
say we won’t have work to do). I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest
for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”
So when I fail, when the church leadership fails, look to Jesus. After all
our religion really is about following him, not following me, or our board, or
All Demographic Summaries are from Mission Impact Guides, V2.0 From
MissionInsite, LLC available through www.missioninsite.com