John Currie: Leadership Flows From Preaching

As Told to Jessica Hanewinckel

I think we sometimes bifurcate unnecessarily preaching/pastoring and leadership. But you don’t bolt leadership onto preaching. Preaching is primary, and it drives your leadership so that leadership is an organic outflow of a faithful preaching ministry. They have to be integrated. It’s not as though you’ve got two different priorities. Instead, one leads to the other.

The fundamental commitment for a pastor is to be an expositor of the Word of God. Their job is not to put their own agenda into the Word. Instead, their job is to expose God’s agenda from the Word. And so, a pastor is most fundamentally committed to Christ-centered exposition. If they are capturing the revelation of God’s great purposes for his prescribed pattern of living for his people, then he preaches that word as he exposes what the Scriptures say, and makes the implications in life clear and concrete. 

That’s going to lead people into God’s purposes. You’re going to see the implications of the Word of God start to transform them. That’s how leadership flows out of preaching. We step into the leadership practices of creating structures and systems in the church that equip people to live out the Word of God that’s being preached. While pastors don’t control the fruit in people’s lives or the church’s life, they can never be content with the status quo of spiritual development, of ministry development, or on the mission of Christ in the world. Pastors should be concerned that God’s people are making progress in the great purposes he has planned for them.

We have to be careful we don’t equate our effectiveness in leadership with numerical success. The numerical growth of the church is up to the Lord. Instead, we should look at whether people are seeing, believing and loving Christ more than they were, growing into the image of Christ more than they were, and being equipped and mobilized to do ministry to one another and to the world for Christ more than they were. These are the marks you get of the growth of the church and the growth of the Christian.

We are in a bit of a leadership crisis in believing churches. A lot of the very sad stories we’ve had in the last few years around failures of leaders can really cause people to distrust leadership. They need to hear that there’s a better way—that leadership by appointment of Christ, in union with Christ, that imitates Christ, is a better way of leadership. You see pastors either abdicating leadership or becoming authoritarian in their leadership, and neither of those is Christ. There is a need to give pastors and their people a Christ-centered model of leadership that is stalwart, stands for the truth and is willing to lay down its life for Christ.

John Currie
John Currie

John Currie is professor of pastoral theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he teaches preaching and leadership, as well as an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His most recent book is The Pastor as Leader: Principles and Practices for Connecting Preaching and Leadership (Crossway).