Why the Church has a Shortage of Leaders

It’s because we are weak in the doctrine of vocation. Consequently, the way many churches are run does not develop or attract leaders.

This is not to say there are no good leaders in the church. Quite the contrary. But it is to say that it is often extra hard to become a good leader within the context of a vocation that is structurally connected to the church.

These words, from a book I read a few years ago on marketplace ministry, are worth pondering:

As a whole, the modern church has not created nor attracted strong leaders. Meanwhile, the marketplace attracts and produces leaders by the truckload.

Gifted leaders gravitate to opportunity, challenge, and learning environments offered by businesses. They are repelled by the small vision, autocratic leadership [take note — I think this is more common in the church than we realize!], lack of objectivity, chaos and foolishness that characterize many church environments.

The best leaders avoid the political environment as well because of its small-mindedness, blind ambition, dishonesty and inability to address real issues [again, note that he is speaking in generalities]. In church and politics, there is often little recognition or reward for effective leadership. But in business, leaders find their natural environment. They are almost always welcomed, rewarded, groomed, and given opportunity.*

This doesn’t need to be the case. Business should and will always be a natural environment for developing leadership. But the church can and should be as well.

If you read the Old Testament, in some sense leadership is a major theme that runs throughout. The judges and kings of Israel were leaders, and we have example after example of good leadership and bad leadership.

Further, God says in Jeremiah 3:15 that he will give the church “shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and insight.” This is in contrast to the shepherds that scatter God’s people and rule them harshly and for their own personal benefit (Jeremiah 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34).

Again, I’m not saying that the church has completely failed in developing leaders. There are many, many solid pastors and other leaders throughout the church. But I am saying that we haven’t done nearly as good a job as we can — and should. We need to do better. And, perhaps, it is actually prophesied that this will continue to happen more and more (Jeremiah 3:15; Isaiah 32:1-2).

The key to doing better is to recover the doctrine of vocation. Ironically, by recognizing the value of all vocations before God, we gain the framework for understanding what effective leadership really looks like in the church and how to develop it better.

*Marketplace Christianity: Discovering the Kingdom PurposeĀ 
of the Marketplace 
  • Ted

    could it also be that church today isn’t necessarily biblical? That was Francis Chan’s comment as he left the megachurch he started. He masks his reasons for making such a bold statement but if you watch enough youtube videos of him, you’ll get them.

  • Ken

    Matt, thanks for this. Almost fell out of my seat while reading this because this is how I feel about the church today.

    Btw, do you know the title of the book the quote is from?

  • http://www.praybuddy.com Chris Gagner

    Could it be that church is ran so much like a business today that people don’t see the “service” in serving in church? It just feels like any other job. If the church’s passion was to feed the poor, and reach out those in need, more people would be willing to serve. But they focus on entertaining their guests on Sunday mornings. We’ve lost focus on what really matters.

  • Terry LeTourneau
  • Discouraged

    While I’ve seen decent vocational leaders in the church, many churches seem to shy away from embracing leadership from those who are not in vocational ministry. Serving is an element of leadership, but when people are asked only to serve and never trained to lead, we will continue to use our leadership skills in the secular community, where there is encouragement. In the church, pastors and elders often seemed to feel threatened if they can’t control every detail of a ministry. It is in parachurch organizations that I have seen lay people empowered to lead and serve the Lord and people in the way God has gifted them to lead and serve.

  • DennisS

    Weak on the doctrine of vocation? I think it is much more a lack of discipleship.

    Chris Gagner has it right (above) – we lack real purpose in what the church attempts to achieve. This is from a lack of vision, not lack of pointing people toward ministry roles.

    We need more purpose to what we do, more serving and less sitting. We need more personal involvement and more true caring for others (rather than self). Get this right and people will be so touched they will flock to ministry – but not ministry as it is currently designed (as Ted notes above).

  • Matt

    Ken and Terry: Yes, that’s the book. Marketplace Christianity.