Columnists Heart & Soul

For the past 20 years, we've heard "Pastors must be leaders." Denominations and conferences reward the strong, the bold, the visionary.

That has caused frustration, often unspoken, among many pastors I know. God called them to shepherd his people, yet they don't feel like visionary leaders.

"I'm not that good at setting vision," one pastor confided. "I feel weak as a leader." I shook my head in bewilderment; his congregation has thrived and grown under his care.

The current assumption is that pastoral leadership means being a strong organizational leader. But many pastors play a different role, just as powerful: thought leader.

We know about the organizational leader: setter of vision, builder of systems, raiser of money, achiever of goals. But a pastor can be a thought leader: sower of ideas, embodier of virtues, persuader of truth.

An organizational leader concentrates on budgets, vision, and systems. A thought leader concentrates on lifestyle, communication, and ideas—where they came ...

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