First and foremost, a Christian leader is a Christian. This is ultimately at the core of the Christian leader, his conversion and commitment in Christ. It is leadership that emphasizes the character of God, the proper motives, the need for the Holy Spirit and the willingness to be a servant of God. In his book Being Leaders: the Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership, Aubrey Malphurs reminds the reader that leadership starts with servitude and humility, with love ingrained in all that is done. He stresses that the leader must know himself before attempting to lead someone else. It benefits us to know ourselves, our personal vision, and what our leadership and ministry styles are. The goal is to be true to ourselves and what God is making us to be. We must remember that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. Conflict often comes when there is a struggle for the reigns of leadership within the church. Paul calls us to be unified as a church body for the cause of Christ, "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10 NASB) Divisions unfortunately are inevitable but they can be minimized if the church keeps in mind the fact that Christ is at the helm of the ship. Leadership philosophies need to align with one another so that there is no confusion as to where Christ calls the church to go. " For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV)
The Call to Pastoral Leadership
Pastors are called to shepherd the flock. Timothy Witmer says that "shepherding" is at the heart of biblical leadership. Shepherds are to know their sheep, feed their sheep, lead their sheep and charged to protect their sheep, following in the footsteps of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In Matthew chapter 9, as Jesus walked through the cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming the gospel and healing He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus saw them disoriented, hungry, confused, thirsty and spiritually lost. The people did not know where they were. They could not feed themselves. They could not find water. They were totally lost and did not know the way back and there was no one to lead them. When Isaiah described lost men he said, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way." "Sheep can be disagreeable, dirty, stubborn, exasperating animals. Former sheep rancher W. Phillip Keller observed that 'No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, than do sheep.'" People need a humble shepherd with an eye on the Chief Shepherd to lead them back to a place where they can be safe, fed and can receive the shepherd's full attention.
The Role of the Pastor
The primary role of a pastor is to feed the sheep with the Word, to preach. MacArthur says that, "Through the preaching of the Word comes the knowledge of the truth that results in godliness." Preaching also encourages the believer to live in the hope of eternal life, enabling them to endure suffering and hardship, "After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'" Preaching though is only one of the roles a pastor must take a leading role in. The pastor is also responsible to lead by example in worship, training disciples, leading the direction of the church and keeping careful watch over the sheep, warning them of danger.
In 1 Peter 5, Peter is exhorting the elders to serve God willingly, shepherding the flock that He has given to them. He says, "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock." It is by the will of God that pastors are called to His service, He is the ultimate authority. There are other things mentioned by Peter in these verses that are also important. "Exercising oversight" means that the pastor should be shepherding with the big picture in mind, understanding threats, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses. This is not to be done "under compulsion," meaning this needs to be done willingly. The pastor should not be under compulsion by some outside group or because of lofty personal ambition to shepherd a flock but willingly do it because he is compelled by the authority of God to do so, when he can do nothing else. Paul said, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." He was compelled by God to preach! Another word Peter uses here is "eagerness." Words like eagerness and voluntarily truly characterize the called shepherd. He also says that shepherding the flock should not be done for "sordid gain" or by "lording it over those allotted to your charge." To lord something over someone is to come down on them. It is a term closely associated to intimidation and domination. Those words characterize so many ministries that exist today. There are many megalomaniacal rock star pastors that long for bigger and better book deals, have body guards that usher them on and off stage and those that seek to abuse their congregations weekly, chiding them for wanting to go deeper in the Word. These pastors do not want to hear from you and they do not want your opinion. They just want you to get in line and do what you are told. That is not how a pastor shepherds the flock of God. The authority comes from the Word and when the pastor speaks the Word, that is the authority.