We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.
Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk
Saturday, February 9, 2013
A Good Pastor Makes for a Happy Church - Really?
If only it were that easy. There is no question but that the leadership style and the personality of the pastor is one important factor in church health. That statement, however, is equally true of the followership style and personality of the congregation she serves. Churches are a blending of personalities, sometimes inherently quite healthy and sometimes not so much. Thus, the same pastor with the same personality can have a healthy, happy relationship with one church and then move on to a relationship in the next church that turns out to be dysfunctional. A church, by the same token, can get along very happily with one pastor but then not the next.
Interestingly enough, the listed characteristic overlooks the presence and influence of the Spirit in a congregation's life. Before all else, a church where the whole leadership of the congregation, including pastoral, is mutually committed to spirituality is a church that is more likely to be healthy and happy.
It is lists like this, to be frank, that infect pastors with both hubris and anxiety. In spite of this list's fixation with pastoral leadership, church health is not all about the pastor. It is about a healthy relationship between a church and its pastor grounded in the Spirit. That is a three-way relationship. In this relationship, church members exercise significant leadership, the pastor knows when to lead and when to follow, and the Holy Spirit is a Presence in the interpersonal and institutional dynamics of the whole congregation. Things are not all sweetness and light in such a church, but on any given Sunday morning its sanctuary will hum with health and its singing will be infested with the Spirit. Without a good pastor, a happy church will not happen. Without a good church, it will not happen. Without the Spirit, it cannot happen. Amen.