This is our sixth blog post discussing the topic of plurality leadership in the local church. The first three entries surveyed the biblical datathat favors the model. What follows is our third installment addressing the practical benefits of having a team of pastors at OCF.
People get attached to their spiritual leaders, especially when that leader is the head pastor of their church. Indeed, whole congregations often take on the personality of a senior leader who instructs and inspires them, Sunday after Sunday, through the teaching of God’s Word.
What happens when that leader leaves?
Change is a fact of life. But change becomes problematic when a local church is led by one individual who does all the preaching and who functions as the key leader of the congregation.
Plurality leadership significantly lessens the negative effects of pastoral transition on a local church community. This is one of its great advantages. We have experienced this first-hand at OCF on a number of occasions.
OCF has lost at least six of our pastor-elders during my twenty-two years on the team. Reasons have varied: retirement, termination, divorce, relocation. Some transitions were more difficult than others (Michael Martin’s move to Baltimore comes to mind). Most challenging was the loss of our founding pastor, some eighteen years ago.
Duke was a highly gifted speaker who had guided OCF from a small Bible study group to a church of nearly 150. When he stepped down, one long-time member exclaimed,
“Duke can’t leave! OCF is the church of Duke, just like the Lutheran Church is the church of Luther!”
Duke’s departure clearly placed OCF in a very tough position. Few churches of 150 survive the loss of their founding pastor.
Fortunately, Duke had a vision for plurality leadership. In fact, Duke and I (and our families) had dreams of pastoring a church together back in the early 1980s, when we were both doing youth ministry at Community Baptist Church (now Journey of Faith).
Our dream came true in February of 1996, when I came on staff as a co-pastor at OCF. By the time Duke left in 2000, we had gathered together a team that included (in addition to myself) Dan Olson, Denny O’Keefe, Ed Arriola, Brandon Cash, and Stan Yetter.
The loss of our founder was still a tough one—primarily because of the relationships we share as fellow-pastors. But OCF’s plurality approach provided us with a “deep bench,” so we managed the transition quite well. We shifted around ministry responsibilities and continued to grow to become the church of 600+ that we are today.
“Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). But (as I am reminded every time I look in the mirror) Jesus’ undershepherds do not remain the same. And we do not remain forever.
Someday Joe might leave OCF to go on tour with the Rolling Stones. At any moment Brandon could submit his resignation to play second base for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hutch and Denny might leave us to play together on the PGA tour.
Seriously, leaders come and go. Change is a fact of life. However, as we have experienced first-hand over the years at OCF, plurality leadership significantly lessens the negative effects of such a loss on congregational life and ministry.
Perhaps, just maybe, Jesus knew this, when he set up he plurality model some two thousand years ago. Ya think???