Assuming the Leadership Role by Dr. Dan Beller

Assuming the Leadership Role: The Journey from Chaplain to Pastor
Dr. Dan Beller

Click here to read Dr. Beller’s bio.

Assuming LeadershipWhile the new pastor may be the leader by position, he may not in actuality be the true leader of the church. Many pastors function as “chaplains” (pastor without proper Biblical authority); that is, they perform the “priestly functions” such as preaching, performing weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. They are available when needed, whereas a pastor who is the true leader is the one to whom the people look for direction. He is out front showing the way and the people follow. Most pastors begin as “Chaplains” and move toward being the true leader (pastor with proper Biblical authority). This process is often painful and will sometimes take five or more years (much shorter if the pastor is the founder of a new church).

It is good for a new pastor to realize that he is dealing with basically two groups in the local church: The “pioneers,” the members who were in the church before the pastor was assigned to the church, and the “homesteaders,” those who were added to the church after the pastor was assigned. The “homesteaders” identify with the present pastor and will follow him more readily. The “pioneers” are more reserved until the present pastor “proves himself.

The following are some observations and suggestions to help make the transition easier. (1) He may be happy and fulfilled just to remain “chaplain.” (2) He may plant a new church, with the mother church plan, and go and pastor it. (3) He can perhaps get permission from the “old guard” privately and initiate certain things. He must consult with those who have “veto power.” (4) He must not try to destroy those in control or he will probably destroy his own influence.

In the process of transition from chaplain to leader, there must be an exercise of much prayer and wisdom. If there is a “patriarch” (male Spiritual leader) or “matriarch” (female Spiritual leader) in the church he must spend time with that person and get backing for those things he hopes to accomplish. If a deacon and wife have great influence in the church the pastor must communicate properly with them and pray for their support and backing. If there is a rich person in the church who has strong influence, and even “veto power,” the pastor can teach on the subject of having a proper motive and attitude in giving. He should teach that the Lord’s tithes and offerings should be given without strings attached or ulterior motives.

Here are some definite steps a pastor can take in making the transition from “chaplain” to “pastor”: (1) Begin as chaplain. (2) Realize that the new people will see you as the leader. (3) Remember that the “pioneers” are won to the new pastor slowly and perhaps one at a time. He must watch for their words of acceptance and may have to prove in several ways that he does really love them. Sometimes they can be insecure because of past hurts. The new pastor must be willing to wait for an opportunity to win these “pioneers,” usually during a time of crisis. This may be during a time when they are sick, have marriage or home problems, economic problems, have had great disappointments, or at the death of a loved one. (4) Build personal credibility by caring, being consistent and being ethical. (5) Deal with the “pioneers” lovingly, as elders. (6) Teach that the local church ministry should be based on God-given gifts, talents, and abilities, as opposed to “seniority.”  Discourage elections, as such, and lead the people toward appointments of leadership positions based on their gifts and abilities. (7) Expect the majority backing of the church within five years. Do not resign under pressure and leave the majority who are supporting you just because of a disgruntled minority who are against you.

Additional note – The pastor must lead the church to grow. He must set the priorities on growth and refuse to allow other “good” things to pull the church away from its commitment to growth. This is the starting point – if the pastor is not committed to leading the church to growth, most likely growth will not occur. For some pastors this price is too high to pay. They will busy themselves maintaining the programs of the church and doing many other “good” things that do not produce growth.