Leadership in a “Fishers of People” Context

Recently, Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, wrote an editorial for our conference publication called, “Keepers of the Aquarium or Fishers of People.” The article got my leadership juices flowing and I started thinking specifically about pastoral leadership in a “fishers of people” context.

Pastoral Leadership In a “Fishers of People” Context
By Randy Willis

Tom Salsgiver recently wrote an article challenging congregations to evaluate themselves to determine whether they are “keepers of the aquarium” or “fishers of people.”

Keepers of the aquarium “care more about their members than those outside the church” while fishers of people understand that their mission is “to bring in those who are unchurched.” There is a world of difference between these two sets of values. “How you answer that question,” Tom concludes, “will determine whether you live – or die” as a congregation. I believe we must be a “fishers of people” community!

The article has caused me to reflect on what pastoral leadership might look like in a “fishers of people” context. Tom notes that expectation of pastoral leadership is very different in the two types of congregations. In keepers of the aquarium settings, pastors are expected to be “personal chaplains for their members,” taking care of the members. In “fishers of people” settings, pastors are free to lead the church to transform their communities for Christ.

How might a leader in a “fishers of people” context use his or her time? I believe leaders must prioritize their time, giving primary attention to the following areas …

  • Cultivating one’s own spiritual growth and development. Leaders cannot be catalysts for spiritual transformation in others if they are not being spiritually transformed themselves!
  • Developing one’s own leadership gifts. Leaders must be learners!
  • Investing adequate time in sermon prep for sermons that are transformational, not just informational. Life change is a core value for transformational leaders!
  • Growing a leadership culture in the local church. Transformational leaders don’t lead alone; they know it takes a crew to complete a mission!

These four areas should ideally comprise most of the pastor’s time. Remaining time may be used for various ministry projects, administrative tasks, meetings, emergency pastoral care (routine visitation would take place as able with the majority of visitation being handled by members), as well as involvement beyond the local church (community, district, conference, etc.).

The Church is God’s means to bring God’s hope and transformation to the world. In order for that to happen, leaders must lead their congregations to be “fishers of people”!

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