The State of Clergy: Invigorated Engagement

This is the third in a series of articles on the spiritual/psychological state of clergy. The two previous articles are found on the Pinnacle Blog.

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7, NRSV

There are some people in every generation who just seem to “get it.” They appear to be the right people, for the right leadership opportunity, at just the right time. They turn out to be exceptional leaders, who stand in the gap, inviting others into a new expression of…well, whatever organization or movement they are leading.

When we hear descriptions of this kind of leader, most of us secretly despair, believing those kinds of leaders are few and far between (in other words, not us). Fortunately, this private musing is erroneous. Some people are born leaders, while others learn leadership. Give the challenges of leading churches in this North American context, even the most naturally gifted pastoral leaders must learn and sharpen their skills and gifts. Everyone can be or become an effective pastoral leader. Where there is a calling and a will, the way forward appears.

Invigorated engagement is the spiritual/psychological state of these clergy. They are energized by the particular challenges native to pastoral leadership in 2015 and beyond. Here are some of the characteristics of these invigorated and engaged clergy we observe.

• They have moved through the Developmental Response Continuum (See Shift, Chapter 2), passing through crisis, angst, and grief over the demise of church-as-we-have-known-it and moved on to church-as-it-is-emerging. These pastors are not overly constrained by what was. They are forward looking, intrigued and energized by how the Holy Spirit is re-forming us (The Church). They look for the opportunity in Church shifts, rather than be sucked into despair. These pastors are at the Proactive Adaptation place on the aforementioned continuum, eagerly engaging the question, “What now?”

• These pastors are energized by the leadership challenge of shepherding the congregation through the developmental stages toward holy experimenting and proactive adaptation. They believe this is valuable, faithful, and fruitful ministry. They want to help disciples move to where they are open to fresh winds of the Spirit. They see their calling as shepherding forward movement in the spiritual/psychological perspectives of their congregations. This sophisticated leadership endeavor is an exciting challenge for them, seeing great possibilities therein.

• These pastors are willing to accept the high risks associated with leading adaptive change. They have counted the cost, recognizing leaders grow vulnerable when leading change, chosing the pearl of great price. They recognize the congregation may balk, or they may push too hard, or they may get acculturated and not challenge enough. They realize they could be “uncalled” by the same congregation who invited them to lead. Recognizing all this, these invigorated pastors engage the leadership challenge anyway. They take the long look…at the end of all things they want to look back and be able to know they led faithfully and courageously. They accept the high risk environment of pastoral ministry as simply part of the context at this point in time.

• These pastors are informed and guided by the best aspects of their denominations, while not being constrained or totally defined by their denominations. These pastors have moved to a place of being Christian first, followed by their tribe’s expression of our faith. They hold broad perspectives, seeing their ministry as part of God’s movement in the world, not simply an outpost of the home office. They are for the kingdom of God, as expressed through the nuances of their branch on the Christian family tree. They recognize the post-denominational nature of our context and engage people in the essence of our faith. They harvest the best of their denominations, while living freely into the Christian story.

• Finally, and most importantly, these invigorated engaged pastoral leaders live with vitalized, living faith. They recognize the extreme nature of effective pastoral leadership now, along with their personal leadership inadequacies (recognizing that no one is prepared for what’s needed now), turning to God. Then God does what God tends to do when disciples turn to God with a few fish and loaves. God multiplies our assets until the need is met. Invigorated engaged pastors readily and frequently engage prayer, reflection on scripture, holy conversations and whatever other spiritual disciplines and opportunities they might find – knowing their vocational lives depend upon it. Their faith is not theoretical. Their faith is real and life-giving.

So, may we lay aside anxious fear.
May we banish learned helplessness.
May we embrace the pastoral leadership opportunity of our times with invigorated engagement.
May we trust God with our vocational lives.
May we believe that God will do with our fish and loaves what God does.
May we find that God provides everything God’s Church needs to live as faithful and vitalized faith communities, with too many fish and loaves leftover for all the world’s baskets.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA