Our first three posts surveyed the biblical data supporting plurality leadership:
1. The churches in the New Testament were each led by a team of pastors.
2. Jesus’ teachings about divine Fatherhood and natural fatherhood most naturally support the plurality approach.
3. Team leadership best reflects (and models to the congregation) the relational heart of the Christian faith.
We turn now to consider some practical reasons for having a plurality of pastors at OCF.
Even if the Bible supported a variety of approaches, I would still opt for a team of leaders over one lead pastor. Plurality leadership benefits both leaders and church members in some very important ways.
Team Ministry Undercuts “Celebrity-ism”
A colleague of mine was hired to consult with the elder board of a Southern California megachurch with a large ministry and a massive campus. These leaders wanted to make sure that Walt understand their church’s “cultural DNA” at the outset. With great pride they informed him, “This whole ministry is designed to serve and support the gifts of one man.”
American culture used to have heroes. A hero is a person whose life serves as an example for others. Abraham Lincoln was a hero. So was Martin Luther King, Jr.
Few of us have heroes anymore. We have traded heroes for celebrities. A celebrity is a bigger-than-life person whose followers generally have no lives of their own. They live out their lives vicariously through the lives of their favorite celebrities.
Celebrity-ism is patently foolish when your favorite celebrity is a Kardashian. But it is downright dangerous when he is a spiritual leader whom you put on a pedestal and imagine to be a sinless saint of some sort.
Israel cried out, “Give us a king!” (1 Samuel 8:6). Against his will, God gave his people what they wanted. A real superstar. Saul was the handsomest and tallest man around (9:2).
That didn’t work out very well, did it? It never does.
The antidote to celebrity-ism is shared ministry. The following story from my own pilgrimage as an OCF pastor pretty much says it all.
I love to teach the Bible. But when I finish preaching on Sunday, I am spiritually exhausted and emotionally vulnerable. One morning after the service I was walking up an aisle to leave the auditorium. Someone ran up and told me how much they liked the message. They concluded, “I just love it when you preach, Joe!”
I began to feel pretty good about myself. Until I walked through the lobby toward the front door, where I heard someone say to Denny O’Keefe, “When is Brandon preaching again? I really like it when he preaches.”
Ouch! After I got over myself, however, I thought, “Exactly! This is precisely why we have a teaching rotation on Sunday mornings. At OCF no one becomes a celebrity.”
We all have our preferences and favorites, in every area of our lives. But where OCF’s preaching is concerned, we hope that you will learn to come to church for the message—not for the messenger.
Hear the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian leadership. Bonhoeffer shares timeless truths that are painfully fitting for an evangelical culture that continues to be enamored with large, visibly successful ministries and big-name church leaders:
“Every cult of personality that emphasizes the distinguished qualities, virtues, and talents of another person, even though these be of an altogether spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community; indeed, it poisons the Christian community. The desire we so often hear expressed today for ‘episcopal figures,’ ‘priestly men,’ ‘authoritative personalities’ springs frequently enough from a spiritually sick need for the admiration of men, for the establishment of visible human authority, because the genuine authority of service appears to be so unimpressive.” (Life Together, 108, my italics).
Note the italicized phrase: “a spiritually sick need for the admiration of men.” Powerful stuff. But so very true.
You won’t find spiritual celebrities at Oceanside Christian Fellowship. But you will find plenty of heroes. OCF’s heroes are the spiritually mature Christians in our midst, whose lives serve as an example to the rest of us: the O’Keefes, the Yetters, the Schramms, the Hutchisons, Margy Emmons, and many more!
Astute readers will notice that I failed to mention our #1 spiritual hero, whose life will always be a perfect example to the rest of us at OCF. Interestingly enough, he would have been labeled a failure as a megachurch pastor. His congregation dwindled from thousands to just eleven guys during the course of his ministry. But we will always be proud to call him our Senior Pastor at Oceanside Christian Fellowship.
His name is Jesus. He is our hero. And someday he will even become a celebrity of sorts: “Every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Next week we’ll consider a second benefit of the team approach, namely, the accountability it provides for those in pastoral leadership.