In Part 1 I noted that a church devoted to the Gospel as the core message and proclamation will be a church in which grace is central in all things. We noted a progression that takes place in churches devoted to the Gospel:
Grace -> Inclusion -> Diversity -> Differences/preferences -> Conflict
The more grace is offered the more diversity a church will experience and logically, the more conflict will follow. Now, I use the word conflict, not as a negative one, but as a positive (or at least necessary) outcome and means toward even more grace. Think about it: the greater the diversity, the more grace is necessary. So it becomes grace upon grace. Grace abounds in a church like this.
So, pastors- and the people of the church- are called to a difficult challenge (that only God can accomplish). In a diverse congregation the pastor must lead in a way that honors the Lord and brings unity to the Body. However, too many people (pastors included) believe this means that we simply maintain status quo. Certainly this is the easiest way, but it is not God’s Way. As a pastor, I know that when God speaks to me regarding my congregation, I must obey- regardless of what I think.
Here’s how I describe the constant role of the senior pastor:
Preserve the core AND (at the same time) stimulate progress and innovation.
I’m indebted to Jim Collins for helping me grasp this coexisting task of great leaders. First, the role of the pastor is to constantly preserve the core. By definition, to be core, to be essential means that it is not be open to change- never. It means it never has been changed and never will be. If it is non-core, however, it must be open to change (or it has, by default, become core). This is the stuff heresy is made of- either core issues becoming non-core or non-core issues becoming core. This is how the Church has moved forward for 2,000 years: Preserving the core while stimulating progress and innovation. Any great church will be devoted to the core (and be united around the core) and we will not allow non-core issues to divide. This is a Spirit-led strategy of leadership for a pastor and the leaders of any great church.
Of course the challenge comes when we start talking about what is core and what is not core. How do you define what it is core? And we all respond in unison: “The Bible is our authority!” How do you know (biblically) what is core and what is not core? Let’s look at that in Part 3.