ROAD RULES by the Rev. Anthony Payton
Those who know me, will tell you that I am big on leadership. I believe leadership is fundamental to business, community, home and the church. “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” is a basic principle that I live by and a principle that is applicable across every spectrum of life. However, leadership in the church is tricky business. It is a tight rope walk. It was not designed to be that way, but the human factor has to be taken into consideration in every case and on every level in the church; particularly within the pulpit.
As a pastor, I learned how to be number two long before I became number one. I shaped my leadership skills under Pastor Jesse White and refined them under Pastor Ternae Jordan. I have learned to keep my desires and dreams in check as I served the senior pastor. I did this not because my anointing or calling was less, but because it wasn’t my time and God still had a lot for me to learn.
Recently, I went on vacation and I turned everything over to my Assistant Pastor Kim Curry. Kim has the anointing and calling to be a number one—a senior pastor. However, he has served faithfully as a number two. In the 16 years that he has been a member and subsequently pastor; I haven’t had one problem from him. Now, there have been times where we haven’t agreed on some things, but he always voiced his concern in a respectable, intelligent and private manner; where on many occasions he was right. He has been and continues to be my right hand. He is one of the leading successes I have in my 17 years of pastoring.
Every pastor desires and deserves a faithful second. However, in many instances, the congregation doesn’t have that same view. They only see the senior pastor as the leader. When this is done it weakens the church. Paul had Timothy, Titus and Luke. The church moved forward in a mighty way, because of the depth of the leadership bench. The people followed and there wasn’t a spirit of competition, but rather one of cooperation.
Why? They realized that it wasn’t any one individual’s church. It has and shall always be Christ’s church—His bride. This is Kim’s view and, as a result, he has made his bones in the trenches of everyday ministry and not just Sunday morning preaching; and there lies the rub. Many of today’s young ministers master in preaching and not participation. They stand in the mirror and rehearse sermons, but they flunk Service 101. This is particularly true in the African American church.
White pastors go on six month sabbaticals and the church moves forward. However, I have known African American pastors who have had their cars driven to the church, in their absence, so that people would continue to come and give. That devalues the senior pastor’s leadership and all of the leadership of any given church. We are to come, give and worship, because God is still in the house and we have a Christ salvation not a pastoral salvation; which is no salvation at all.
Getting young ministers and congregations to understand this vital leadership principle is key to the health of the African American Church; particularly any church in general. Senior pastors must create an environment that contains a bench full of leaders who are prepared and that starts with the senior pastor’s second. It is the responsibility of the senior pastor and congregation to insure the continuity of the church’s leadership through the development of the next generation’s leaders. We must mentor them, the church must accept them and they must be willing to be taught. Young aspiring pastors must recognize that submitting to a senior pastor doesn’t subjugate their anointing or calling, but strengthens it. You are not being asked to give up something, but placed on a path to grow up, and thus, become profitable for the ministry.
I thank God for Kim Curry and his faithfulness to God, myself and Come As You Are Community Church. Great is his reward in this life and the life to come. His service has been second to none and that is not only in my absence, but also in my presence. He knows my heart, he has my back and he still has his own anointing. Our church family must continue to learn to love and appreciate this gift from God. We are blessed to have him on second.
The Rev. Anthony Payton is pastor of Come As You Are Community Church in Fort Wayne.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9 print edition.
Category: Spiritual Matters