As a pastor I cannot lead from a distance. I’ve got to be present with the people.” Pastor Andre Ascalon of the First Seventh-day Adventist Church of Newark, New Jersey (USA) shared this statement with me. It made a real impression. As a pastor he ministers to two congregations yet he lives two hours away from his churches. Despite the distance, he is always present with his congregations at least twice a week including prayer meetings. He rarely accepts invitations to preach and teach outside of his churches because he wants to be close and available to his members.
As a pastor he ministers to two congregations yet he lives two hours away from his churches. Despite the distance, he is always present with his congregations at least twice a week including prayer meetings.
The Newark church has shown impressive growth in both its membership and financial resources. As a result of challenging his members to make their place of worship representative of their God, church facilities have been improved and upgraded. Pastor Ascalon is also committed to helping members extend their ministry to the local community. While there may be many varying factors that contribute to the growth and vibrancy of life in this church, I’m convinced that the steward-leadership of the pastor plays a significant role in the growth experience of this congregation.
The Apostle Peter indicated that when Christian leaders administer and exercise their responsibilities, they are doing so on behalf of God Himself, the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4). The idea of representing God through the gift of leadership is highlighted further in Peter’s reference to the biblical concept of “calling” (1 Pet. 5:10). Leaders are in the business of influencing people to live according to God’s purpose, which means they are being called to be His agents of positive change in the world. The leader’s call to guide God’s people is a privilege and an honor but never a right. I saw this demonstrated in the Christian leadership of Pastor Ascalon’s ministry.
The Shepherd Motif
In Scripture, steward-leadership finds expression in the imagery of the shepherd and the principles of “shepherding.” In fact, Peter seems to understand these two ministry concepts of “stewardship” and “shepherding” as one and the same reality (1 Pet. 5:4). For Peter, Christian leaders (pastors and elders) are shepherds who, on behalf of God, lead “His flock,” the church. Shepherds lead from the front. They are “willing” leaders, and they take the initiative to lead and provide direction. They know God has called them to their assigned leadership role. They are assertive, they demonstrate a total commitment to the task, and lead by example (1Pet. 5:2-4). This is steward-leadership.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”
The Leadership Reality
Leadership is not without its challenges, and Peter understood from his own experience. As a result, he reminded elders of the importance of humility in Christian service (1 Pet. 5:5). Humility has to be a ‘constant’ in steward-leadership.
Peter also reminds Christian leaders of Satan’s desire to destroy them and those they are leading. But there is good news. In the midst of these tests and sufferings, Peter reminds the steward-leader to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Moreover, God’s grace is sufficient to restore steward leaders when they fail. God’s grace will make them strong when they are weak, and it will keep them upright and firm when they slide (1 Pet. 5:10).
The beginning and end of steward-leadership is God. Leadership is never a destination but a process where God is continually working out His purposes in our lives. As steward-leaders we are partners with Him. We are not alone. God is with us!