Effective leadership starts in the home. As professor Howard Hendricks used to say when I was in seminary, “Christianity that doesn’t work at home doesn’t work.” And leadership that doesn’t work at home certainly won’t work in the church.

Home Management Basics: Fidelity and Control

The Pastoral Epistles make it clear that a pastor must be above reproach in family management. He must be “the husband of one wife” who “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” and “having children who believe*, not accused of dissipation or rebellion” (I Tim 3:2, 4; Titus 1:6). This is no easy management assignment!

Marital fidelity requires God’s grace and constant vigilance, especially in a pastorate that involves regular marriage counseling. A leader must stay well connected to his wife. The romance must not die. And all related sin must be killed: pornography, any sinful use of media, all forms of heart lust, and all emotional flirting must be ruthlessly mortified. Your wife must be your intimate ally. Even when you’re both listing and riding a bit low in the water, she must remain your forever dreamboat.

Control of your kids is a window into your management expertise. Children under control are marked by a timely heeding of your spoken word and a general attitude of respect toward others (including siblings and, especially, mom). You shouldn’t have to cajole or bribe, and your wife should not be the go-to disciplinarian in your home. When my wife, Sue, was home alone with five young children, she knew that simply reminding them of my eventual return would help bring them back in line. Managing kids is about exerting patient, loving, and yet firm control.



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Church Revitalization Basics: Fidelity and Control

Yes, you say, but how is this relevant to revitalization? Surely the rudiments of qualified biblical leadership are relevant to any pastoral context. And fidelity and control, critical to effective church leadership, are especially germane to replanting.

First, a pastor must show fidelity toward the existing congregation. Those who are languishing are often a bit hard to love and hard to shepherd. They want the church to grow, but without any real change. Thus, it’s easy to wish they’d just leave – or, at the very least, tithe quietly. But that’s not fidelity. Christ loved His church and He calls us to do likewise, indiscriminately, passionately, for better, for worse. Loving Christ’s bride, even when she’s riding a bit low in the water, is basic to effective church revitalization. And how we love our bride is how we will love His bride.

But control is vital as well. This failing congregation must be recruited to a new vision. Some will resist, some will undermine, some might even lead the charge for your removal. But you must patiently, lovingly exert a firm leadership hand as an agent of change. You must help them adopt new measures that will attract new members, without letting the church spin out of control due to competing visions pushed by unruly members. Managing your own kids is vital because the way you manage your kids is the way you’ll manage God’s children.

Perhaps you’re untested as a revitalization pastor. Maybe it’s all you can do to show up Sunday morning with a decent sermon. In any case, you’re unsure if you can “bring it,” managerially speaking. Fidelity and control are tall orders. So what can you do?

  1. Address personal weaknesses.

First, as one leadership guru put it, look in the mirror instead of the parking lot. Whatever the particulars of your congregation, the only person you can change is you. Be willing to confront your weaknesses. I’ve been a senior pastor for over 25 years and recently faced my weakness regarding church structure. I’m now leading our church toward a structure with clearer accountability and better systems. Addressing your weaknesses as a leader and manager is essential to the health and growth of your church.

  1. Evaluate marital goals.

Second, get away for a marriage retreat. Go for at least three nights, and evaluate your family life from all angles: communication, intimacy, parenting, finances, spiritual lives, passion for Christ. Ask your wife to be brutally honest with you, and then play the man – don’t lawyer up when she complies. Before you return, set some modest home management goals together. Sue and I have made it a habit to get away regularly, and, though we’re both listing a bit these days, the retreats have kept our relationship fresh, vibrant and fun.

  1. Set biblical goals.

Finally, take a half-day personal retreat to evaluate and improve the management of your church. Every year, I set goals which I review with my elders and staff to help me stay on course. Start by asking God for his grace and strength. Christ said he would build his church and his grace is sufficient to enable you to do just that. Then set at least ten goals: five to help you be faithful, and five to help you manage your congregation into a new day.

God’s word is clear: Effective church leadership starts at home. “If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” May God bless your efforts to lead your family and your church alike.

Note that control is the emphasis in Titus 1:6, even though modern translations render the adjective pista as “believing.” A far better translation, following the KJV and Geneva Bible, is “faithful” (see Mounce and Knight on the Pastoral Epistles).