Leading with faith: The three archetypes of church leadership

by Church Times

By Oyewole Sarumi PhD

The Church, like any organization, thrives on strong leadership.  Effective leadership in the house of God isn’t about wielding authority, but about inspiring and guiding God’s children towards a shared purpose – fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  However, leadership styles vary.
Throughout scripture, we find countless examples of leadership. From Moses guiding the Israelites through the wilderness to Paul establishing churches across the Roman Empire, the Bible offers a rich array of leadership styles and lessons.  In today’s complex world, church leaders face a multitude of challenges, demanding a nuanced approach to leadership.
This essay explores the vital role of leadership in the church, examining three distinct archetypes: the Solo or Solitary Shepherd (Shepherdless Flock), the Silo or Siloed Shepherd (Tower of Siloam), and the Super Shepherd (Spirit-Filled Shepherd) – analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, and impact on the church community.
By understanding these styles, church leaders can cultivate a more effective and inspiring ministry. Furthermore, we will draw parallels to biblical narratives and offer practical guidance for church leaders seeking to embody Christ-like leadership.

The Call to Lead: A Biblical Perspective

Leadership is not a mere title bestowed upon a few; it’s a call to serve. In the Bible, we see numerous examples of leaders who served their communities with dedication and compassion. Moses, entrusted by God to guide the Israelites out of Egypt, exemplifies courageous leadership (Exodus 14). Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the king, displayed initiative and vision in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 1-2). These leaders understood their responsibility to guide, inspire, and empower their people toward a shared purpose.
In addition, leadership in the church is not about wielding authority or seeking power.  Jesus, the ultimate leader, modeled servant leadership.  He washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:4-17), emphasized humility (Matthew 18:4), and laid down His life for His flock (John 10:11).  True leadership in the church reflects this spirit of service, empowering and guiding others towards spiritual growth and fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
*Defining Leadership:*
Leadership in the Church isn’t about worldly power.  It’s about serving God’s people, as Jesus himself modeled: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).  Leadership is about fostering a vibrant community of faith, nurturing spiritual growth, and equipping believers to spread the Gospel message.

The Solo Shepherd: A Burdened Path

The Solo Shepherd, like Moses before encountering Jethro (Exodus 18),  attempts to carry the weight of ministry alone.  Driven by a desire for control and a fear of delegation, they overburden themselves, leading to burnout and hindering the growth of the church.  Proverbs 29:18 reminds us, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint, but blessed is the one who keeps the Law.”  Without a clear vision and shared responsibility, the church community suffers. We can also draw a parallel to a leader like King Saul, who acted out of insecurity instead of trusting God’s guidance (1 Samuel 13), the Solitary Shepherd risks leading the church astray.
*Biblical Example:* King Uzziah, despite his initial success, became prideful and attempted to assume priestly duties reserved for the Levites (2 Chronicles 26). He became a solitary leader who refused to take advice from his lieutenants. This disobedience resulted in his isolation and ultimately, his downfall.
Example: A senior pastor, accustomed to micromanaging every facet of church life, struggles to delegate tasks and empower volunteers. This stifles creativity and innovation, leading to a stagnant ministry and discouraged volunteers.

The Silo Shepherd: Knowledge Hindered

This kind of leadership – The Siloed Shepherd are knowledge hoarded, and ultimately blessings hindered leaders. The Silo Shepherd, like Korah who challenged Moses’ leadership (Numbers 16), operates in isolation, hoarding knowledge and resources. Information, intended for the benefit of the church, becomes a tool for control. This creates a culture of secrecy and distrust, hindering collaboration and communication.  Proverbs 15:22 advises, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Silo Shepherds, by restricting information flow, stifle growth and hinder the church’s ability to reach its full potential.
They laboured to hoard knowledge and resources.  Information that could nurture and equip the congregation remains locked away, hindering spiritual growth and fostering a sense of division. This approach mirrors the scribes and Pharisees who focused on religious rules rather than the heart of the Law (Matthew 23).
*Biblical Example:* In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the servant who buried his talent represents the Siloed Shepherd.  He fails to share his gifts and resources, hindering the potential of the Kingdom of God.
Example: A worship leader refuses to share praise and worship resources with other ministries, hindering collaboration and a unified worship experience.

The Super Shepherd: Empowering the Flock

The Super Shepherd, like Jesus who empowered his disciples (Mark 1:17-20), embodies the spirit of collaboration. They are empowering and leading with love. They create a culture of trust and transparency, where everyone feels valued and has a role to play.  Super Shepherds understand the power of delegation and coaching, empowering members to take ownership and unleash their full potential for ministry.
They recognize, as Paul did, that “the gifts we have are different” (Romans 12:6) and encourage each member of the congregation to use their unique talents for the glory of God.
Biblical Example: Nehemiah, a skilled leader, empowered the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 2).  He delegated tasks, provided a clear vision, and worked alongside his people, fostering a collaborative environment.
Example: A lead pastor establishes a leadership development program to equip volunteers with skills and knowledge to lead various ministries. This fosters a sense of ownership, innovation, and a thriving church community.

Some guiding principles for Super Shepherds include:

Self-Awareness: Reflect on your leadership style, seeking honest feedback from trusted colleagues and mentors.
Delegation with Trust: Identify tasks that can be effectively delegated, empowering volunteers and creating space for your strategic thinking.
Open Communication: Foster a culture of transparency where information flows freely and concerns are openly addressed.
Investment in Discipleship: Invest in programs that equip members with the skills and knowledge needed to serve effectively.
Celebrating Successes: Recognize and celebrate the achievements of individuals and ministries, fostering a positive and motivated church community.
Continuous Learning:  Leadership is a lifelong journey. Stay abreast of best practices and trends in ministry leadership.
Embracing Technology: Utilize technology to streamline processes, facilitate communication, and empower members to contribute their gifts.

Leading the Way: A Vision for the Future

The future of the church hinges on cultivating Super Shepherds who empower their flock. Churches can invest in leadership development programs that focus on delegation, communication, and coaching.  Additionally, promoting a culture of collaboration and open communication will encourage information sharing and break down silos.

Remember

Church leaders are not CEOs, but shepherds entrusted with the care of God’s precious flock. Also, church leaders that will succeed should get ready to be challenged and questioned by their followers. Any church leaders that refused this or legislate that they are beyond being questioned or corrected are not running the Church of Christ, but a Cult!

Leading Like the Good Shepherd

Leadership in the church is not about titles or personal agendas. It’s about emulating the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). By recognizing the limitations of the Solo and Silo Shepherd styles and embracing the principles of the Super Shepherd, church leaders can create a vibrant, collaborative, and mission-driven ministry that empowers all its members to serve with joy and purpose.
As John Maxwell states, “A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Let us strive to become Super Shepherds, leading the flock not with a controlling hand, but with an open heart, fostering a community where every member can contribute their unique gifts and talents to the glory of God.
Blessings 💯❤️

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