Many years ago I was shocked when I realized that not all pastors have a strong gift of leadership. While that is okay, it is important to understand this to avoid confusion or frustration because of pastoral expectations and limitations.

Of course, technically, anybody who has a follower is a leader, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to the gift of leadership as shown in Romans 12:8. Those with this Romans 12 leadership gift, in my opinion, have the ability to influence people way beyond the reach of the four corners of a church building. Many pastors who only have the grace to function with hands-on ministry approach to personally touch those who are part of their congregation are sheep pastors. In contrast, leader pastors have a grace and vision to develop leaders who will in turn develop other leaders and beyond. The difference between these two types of pastors is in their goals, objectives and methodologies, not in their love for people, which is great. (If a pastor in either category doesn’t love their congregation, they are not a true pastor or shepherd.)

Because of a lack of understanding between pastors who fit in these two different categories, they tend to hold a negative view of each other and can be judgmental. I found that there is a need for both of these pastor-types as leaders to make the body of Christ effective. A best-case scenario is to have a senior pastor of a congregation with a strong gift of leadership and have support pastors who fit in the sheep pastor category.

Based on my observations, here are some generalizations that contrast between sheep pastors and leader pastors. (Although these cannot fit each pastor exactly, they are meant to be thought-provoking.)

1. Sheep pastors only have a vision for the people they see. However, the leader pastors’ vision goes beyond their present membership. Sheep pastors cannot wait to personally love and minister to each and every person in their congregation. Leader pastors are motivated to expand the reach of their congregation, as well as positively affect their present congregation.

2. Sheep pastors personally touch every member. Leader pastors invest their time in potential leaders.  Sheep pastors personally visit every sick member, hold everyone’s hands when they are discouraged, do the bulk of the church counseling, and are on-call day and night to meet the needs of the people. Living like this will not leave much time to develop other leaders. On the other hand, leader pastors attempt to invest the bulk of their time with the potential leaders who will eventually expand the church and reach more people.

3. Sheep pastors produce happy followers. Leader pastors reproduce other leaders. Sheep pastors only produce other followers because they do not have a strong gift of leadership. Leader pastors, on the other hand, reproduce other leaders like themselves who are, in turn, able to serve others.

4. Sheep pastors want to comfort their flock. Leader pastors want to challenge their flock. The leader pastor is always looking for ways to challenge and enlarge the hearts and gifts of the congregation. They are never satisfied seeing folks operate under their full potential.

5. Sheep pastors desire a great family church. Leader pastors desire an advancing family army. The goal of the sheep pastor is to have a nice, happy, congregation with a strong fellowship and community; the leader pastor desires the former but with the additional goal of turning them into a fighting and advancing army for the glory of God.

6. Sheep pastors comfort the disturbed. Leader pastors disturb the comfortable. The sheep pastors’ goal for their flock is to comfort them and console them regarding their issues and fears; the leader pastors’ primary motivation is to move the congregation out of their comfort zone and get them to believe God for great things.

7. Sheep pastors create a comfortable environment. Leader pastors create a compelling environment. They look for a “wow” moment every time they preach, teach, counsel or coach in order to impart passion to fulfill the “Great Commission” of Christ.

8. Sheep pastors protect the status quo. Leader pastors challenge the status quo. Leader pastors are continually attempting to increase the capacity and vision of the people they lead. They are called to push people to the fringes of their normal boundaries. On the other hand, sheep pastors desire to make people feel content any contribution they make regarding the investment of their time, life and finances.

9. Sheep pastors ask the question: “What for?” Leader pastors ask the question: “Why not?” Sheep pastors need a good reason to go beyond the present structures and limitations of their church mission and culture; if that in any way is challenged the sheep pastor asks, “What for”? Because they are always questioning the present structures and limitations of their church culture and mission, leader pastors continually ask, “Why not?”

10. Sheep pastors desire stability and predictability. Leader pastors desire fluidity and creativity. Sheep pastors are not wired for risk and change; thus, they desire stability and predictability in their ministry. Leader pastors, on the other hand, do not want to be put in a box and constantly desire fluidity and creativity in how to “do church.” They continually adapt and change their methodologies without compromising the message of the Gospel.

11. Sheep pastors are slow adopters. Leader pastors are outliers who operate at light speed. Sheep pastors’ primary desire is to protect and guard the sheep against new ideas. Leader pastors are outliers who are constantly ahead of the curve and, therefore, waiting for others to catch up. Sheep pastors travel on paved highways, whereas leader pastors are pioneers who take the road less traveled.

12. Sheep pastors attempt to limit change. Leader pastors attempt to create change. Sheep pastors are afraid of the unpredictable and are terrified of chaos. Leader pastors thrive in divine chaos and live to provoke change in thought patterns, ideas and methodologies.

13. Sheep pastors put their feet in the water. Leader pastors ride the wave. Lead pastors intuit what God is doing and saying in the future so their congregation can also be able to ride the wave. Sheep pastors often wait until the water is calm and the wave is gone before they enter the water.

14. Sheep pastors maximize their day. Leader pastors strategically maximize their tomorrows. Leader pastors invest much of their thought life envisioning what the future should look like so they can plan ahead. They often see five to ten years ahead and live in forward motion while enjoying the present process. Sheep pastors limit their vision to feeding their sheep day-to-day and week-to-week.

15. Sheep pastors desire to be liked. Leader pastors desire to be respected. Many sheep pastors are primarily motivated by being loved and liked by their congregation. This results in their taking fewer risks and taking much pain in spending time with them, preaching messages they know the church will enjoy. Leader pastors are like lions that do not lose sleep at night worrying about what sheep think of them. Although they love and are willing to die for the sheep, they would much rather have their respect than desire to be everyone’s close friend. This is because respect is more important to get a congregation to move forward than socializing and friendship. Although, it is best to have both elements in a church, which is why it is important to have sheep pastors in a church who can do this to bring balance to the church.

In closing, the best thing a leader pastor-type can do is to nurture and release sheep pastor-types in their congregation to serve in a support role with them. This will help leader pastors not get bogged down with activities that will drain their energy and compromise their creativity, passion and vision.

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