Leadership in the church is no less crucial its health and growth than it is in any institution. Everything rises and falls on leadership. That may sound very "secular", but check out the many instances in the Bible of how leaders impacted their nations, churches and families both in positive and negative ways.
For reasons perhaps only He knows, God's design is for there to be human leadership in those institutions.
Yet here are some realities in the church:
- Not everyone in a leadership position is either gifted or called to lead. I've met lots of square pegs in round holes. Just because someone has the title doesn't mean he can. And if he can't, that poses a genuine threat to the future of the church.
- Some who are called and gifted but are in churches where they've been hog-tied. They want to lead. God's given them vision. But there's a refusal among the sheep (or the deacons) to follow a shepherd. Rural churches often are plagued by this. I've tried pastoring a church where there was a small control group who battled me. Those kind of churches are legion in my denomination.
- Some leaders have no clue what it means to lead like a shepherd. Sheep are led from the front and follow the shepherd. They scatter when a shepherd tries to push them from the rear. They see themselves as the 4th person of the Trinity and never know what it means to love those they are called to serve. Those kind of pastors are common in many churches. Shepherds "serve" and are willing to give their lives for the sheep.
- Other pastors see themselves as hired staff with a temporary position and their current church as a stepping stone to something bigger and better. So they really never bond with their congregation and always have their resumes out. With every pastor the church takes a step forward, and with his exit two steps back.
- Some pastors are just plain lazy. Maybe they've got a comfy job and are satisfied with the status quo. Maybe they've got just a few years left until retirement, so they're short-timers mentally and spiritually. In any case, they need to move on if they're not going to lead.
- Some have outlived their effectiveness. That's a snare for older pastors. Personal growth hasn't been a priority. They remember how it was in the old days and think nothing has changed. So the church stagnates while the culture moves on by.
So what to do when there is a real problem (as opposed to perceived) leadership stalemate or vacuum? Do you leave and find another flock? Maybe. But first I'd ask some questions.
- Is this the historical pattern for this church? Is there a constant power struggle that never ends? Do we change pastors more often than what seems right? If so, why is that, and am I part of the problem or part of the solution? (Maybe that last one isn't such a good question because it's rarely answered objectively.) Fact: some churches are never going to change. Power struggles are ingrained in their congregational structure and DNA.
- What's the vision the leadership has for the church? Where are we going? How are we going to accomplish our mission? (Note the use of the word "we", not "you".) Ask the pastor or elders or whoever leads. If you can't get a real answer guess what? You got your answer. Better yet, ask this question before you ever hook up with a church. It'll save a lot of heartache later.
- Is there a real chance things are going to change and get better? If not, then you should consider making a quiet exit. But if there is a chance, then pray and serve and encourage the leaders. The last thing the church needs is for people to bail when God's about to make a difference. Revivals are a God thing, and you don't want to miss out on it. But if you're part of the problem, maybe revival won't come until you leave.
I realize that some of my comments and suggestions put some in a quandary. You're in a denomination where the hierarchy moves pastors around every few years. The facts, however, don't lie. The healthiest churches have long-term pastorates. The good news is that some denominations are catching on to that and changing their policies.
But for you in independent, non-denominational or autonomous churches (like Baptists) the same holds true. Yet I doubt the average length of stay for a Baptist pastor is 3 years. That tells me there needs to be some real introspection regarding our views of leadership within the leaders and the congregations.