Several years ago, Paul Borden consulted with the leaders of the Susquehanna Conference. The Matthew 28 Initiative, a strategy for transforming congregations, developed out of that experience (read more at Growing Effective Churches).
I’ve written about Centre Grove UMC’s experience with Matthew 28: see Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative (the before) and The Matthew 28 Initiative In Review (and after). See also the recent article on the cover of the conference’s newspaper.
Borden’s book, Direct Hit: Aiming Real Leaders at the Mission Field, is a good manual for Matthew 28. The book shows pastors how to lead churches to become outward-focused, focused on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s what transformational leadership is all about. Borden states, “Your purpose as a church leader is to lead a congregation to find those strategies and tactics that will enable followers to effectively reach those lost and dying people with the good news” (28).
An outward focus is essential. In fact, Borden says, “Congregations have two types of customers,” primary and secondary …
Primary customers are the ones who are not yet part of the congregation because they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Secondary customers are the disciples who are already involved in the congregation. (33)
Since it’s natural for churches to turn inward and focus on “secondary customers,” there will naturally be barriers to becoming outward-focused. Borden lists some barriers to leading change in inward-focused congregations, including the fact that “Most pastors do not see themselves as leaders.” Further, pastors often “perform in an environment where faithful endeavor is honored, but fruitful results are not expected or demanded” (20-21).
Borden argues …
few pastors have taken seriously the role of leading an entire congregation to change from conducting ministry for personal consumption to conducting ministry for the purpose of transforming the community that surrounds it. (22-23)
But that’s exactly what must be done. Borden states, “Healthy congregations are outward-focused, and they maintain that focus against tremendous forces that are constantly encouraging an inward bent.” That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These churches “are led by pastors and a team of leaders who are clear about their mission and focused on achieving a vision” (22).
So, what are the behaviors of transformational leaders? Borden discusses several …
Passion is highly important. It “comes from God’s work in our lives,” and is “at the heart of all effective leadership” (31).
Courage is also essential because leading change is never easy!
The control of established congregations by people who do not want to grow and are unwilling to give up privileges of membership is the biggest problem faced by those desiring to lead congregational change. The movement from an inward focus to an outward focus, with rare exception, demands a major shift in who controls the behaviors of the organization. Tackling this major issue demands courageous leaders who are willing to risk all for the sake of the Great Commission. (34)
Transformational leaders must also be missional.
The command to make disciples requires an entirely different kind of leader than one called to oversee current disciples and perhaps grow congregations by reaching others who are already disciples. The most effective pastors today are missionaries at heart. (38)
I love that phrase: “missionaries at heart.” If pastor’s are going to be transformational leaders, they must be missionaries at heart!
Transformational leaders are also positive; they do not feel the need to use guilt or coercion. They simply cast vision.
Positive leaders are constantly showing disciples what God can do and wants to do, and how God is delighted to use disciples to bring about the kingdom of God. These leaders do not lead by compulsion, using guilt to get people to serve. Rather they cast vision, assume the best, and then develop new leaders and disciples who have been convinced that they can do many things in time and space that will have eternal value. (41)
Borden devotes two chapters to vision and creating a sense of urgency. Borden writes, “Vision is derived from the passion of a leader who has a prophetic fire burning within the soul to accomplish something significant for God” (45). Borden details how pastors can effectively develop and communicate the vision.
Borden also gets practical in helping congregations move forward and suggests recruiting three teams for the development phase: a prayer team, a vision team, and a team of leaders to implement the change.
Leading change, and transforming congregations, is not easy, but for the church to truly be faithful to God, it’s work that must be done. Borden states, “The whole purpose of congregational transformation is to get congregations once again fulfilling God’s mission” (57).
Direct Hit is built on the belief that churches ought to be about the mission of making disciples of Jesus and that pastors must lead churches to be passionate about, and devoted to, that mission!